The wild rabbit actually originated from Spain and Southwest France. Rabbits were first brought to England in the 12th Century. They were kept in captivity as a source of meat and also for their fur. These rabbits were farmed as a source of income.
However, when a few managed to escape the confines of their warrens, they began to multiply and became so common that there was no sense to the rabbit farms any longer.
These rabbits were able to establish themselves quite well in Britain by living off the vegetation and fighting off predators. Although they were originally from a warmer climate, they adapted quite nicely to the cooler climate. They continued to reproduce consistently.
The wild rabbit is a herbivore who survives by eating grasses, flowering plants and leafy weeds. However, a wild rabbit will also eat all vegetable matter and chew on tree bark during the winter months, when there is a lack of growth for grasses and leaves.
To make their diet more beneficial, a rabbit will consume its faecal matter to reuse the nutrients that are lost when they defecate. This instinctive behaviour is done because they do not obtain enough nutrition from the foods they find.
During the late afternoon, or grazing period, the wild rabbit will eat voraciously for the first half-hour of eating. During the second half-hour, they will be more selective in regards to the grasses and other items that they are consuming.
At his second and slower eating time, the rabbit will defecate quite frequently, with these being truly waste matter. These are the faeces that the wild rabbit will not eat again.
If the rabbit feels no threats from other sources, such as predators, weather or humans, the wild rabbit will remain outdoors and eat the foods it finds for possibly many hours. The rabbit will not vomit, no matter how full they become. Due to the physiology of the digestive system, they are unable to.
The wild rabbit is an opportunistic eater. This means the rabbit will eat the foods that are available to him. As an opportunistic feeder, the wild rabbit will also eat nuts, seeds, fruits, bark and roots.
If available the wild rabbit will also eat some cruciferous plants. These would include Brussel sprouts and broccoli. Being a herbivore would mean that the wild rabbit or even domesticated rabbit does not eat any type of meat. Their diet can be minimal, which is why they will try to eat as many plants and grasses and hays as they can find.
Technically, what researchers have found is that the rabbit will eat and eat, most often over-eating during the months when the vegetation is growing well.
The wild rabbit burrows into the ground for a safe place to live. These tunnels that are made have separate rooms for sleeping and nesting. These warrens or tunnels are completed with multiple exits for a quick escape if danger approaches, or if they are being chased.
Wild rabbits may live in a large group or colony. They, too, are social creatures.
The wild rabbit, no matter how hungry it becomes, does not eat meat. Their sensitive digestive systems can not digest meat. Since they are unable to digest meat, it will make them sick. This is why you will see wild rabbits eating or technically grazing on grass. The farmers that have wild rabbits around them will tell you that the wild rabbit will eat all their fresh greens.
The digestive system of a wild rabbit is one that is developed for digesting large amounts of fibre and a small number of proteins. Domesticated rabbits obtain their protein from the pellets that are fed to them daily. The wild rabbit on the other hand finds grass stems in the warrens around them. The truth about wild rabbits is that they eat large volumes of grasses and hay.
You might find that the wild rabbit struggles to find food in the winter or the colder months. The main diet will include twigs, barks and woody plants. Some of their favourites that they will eat pieces of wood from include oak, sumac, dogwood and birch.
In the winter, a wild rabbit is going to go further and work harder to find food to eat. For wild rabbits who do not have humans providing Timothy hay for them, they will feed on the low-nutrient wood parts of a plant. This includes buds, twigs and even the bark of the tree.
Another food item that rabbits will feed on is cecotropes. The cecotropes they search out are not difficult for them to find. These would be their night faeces. The softer droppings they leave. They do this because there are still nutrients in the faecal matter. The rabbit will eat this faecal matter, and be able to get the nutrients out of it as they digest the faeces.
This sounds disgusting to a human, but for the rabbit, it makes logical healthy sense. Eating their faeces does help keep their digestive system healthy. These cecotropes will also provide the rabbit with enough energy to allow them to play and be active.
If you are feeling nice, it is okay to leave a pile of twigs and leaves, or even bark in a pile for the rabbit. You would need to put this out of the way, yet in an area where you have seen evidence of rabbit activity.
Be sure to tell any children to not feed the rabbits. This could cause the rabbit to feel intimidated and then he will run away.
Tips For Feeding A Wild Rabbit
If you see a rabbit, you could get to your kitchen and grab some food. However, it is best if you know how to feed a wild rabbit and what to feed them. Some of these tips will also include ways to help the wild rabbit survive through the winter.
You could put up a shelter for the rabbit. This could be a box that is mostly enclosed. Placing a small bundle of hay within the box will give them a place to rest.
For food for a wild rabbit, you could place some food right outside this shelter. The foods that a wild rabbit is going to appreciate include twigs, grass, and good-quality hay. It would be easy to suggest stopping at the pet store to pick up some pellets, however, this could cause some difficult conversations with others.
When you willingly give a wild rabbit the extra items that they are unable to find outdoors, this could make them become dependent on you. They will not work to find their own food when it is needed. This is why the best advice is to stick with the leaves, twigs, bark and other bits of wood. The wild rabbit loves the roots of fresh grass.
You do need to remember that leaving some food out for the wild rabbit, even twigs and leaves and such could possibly draw the attention of other wild animals. This too can lead to issues around your home.
If it is at all possible, make an area out in the furthest area of your yard, or a corner of your garden. This will still give you the opportunity to feed the rabbit, yet keep them far enough away from the home in the case of other wild animals being attracted to the stash of grass, leaves, twigs or bark.
Even in the winter, you can make piles of tree bark such as from the birch tree, small twigs and possibly any hay you find, and lay these in certain areas. At least this way, you will know that the cute bunny is actually getting some food into its system.
The key is to be cautious and smart about feeding a wild rabbit. After all, you do not want to become a wildlife preserve in your backyard because you began to feed one rabbit. The best plan is to leave the pile or stack of items once or twice a week. This will still mean that the rabbit will need to go search out some food for himself and not rely solely on your generosity.
If you are ready for it, you could supply more than the wild food items that a wild rabbit would eat. Give them a couple of pellets one day, maybe bits of greens another time later in the week. In this manner, you know that they are getting some variety, and fresh greens during the cold winter months would make a rabbit so happy.
Finding fresh greens throughout the winter is one impossible task for many parts of the United States for a wild rabbit.
Again, be careful to not feed so much that the wild rabbit refuses to go out in search of his or her own food. This is why feeding daily would not be a healthy thing to do for a wild rabbit. They may be eating well, however, they will stop trying for themselves. If for some reason you were unable to leave food for a week or two in the winter this wild rabbit who has now become dependent on you will likely pass away from lack of food.