Rabbit with bag of peas

Can rabbits eat peas?

Find out appropriate portion sizes of peas to give to rabbits, nutritional benefits of peas for bunnies, and the dangers of giving too much.

For some, peas are our favourite vegetable; little bright spheres of taste to enliven a plate of food. I’m not actually in that camp – I’ve never liked them, from childhood. I’m more like Lola, who declares to her older brother Charlie, ‘Don’t even think about giving me a pea… …they are too small and too green’ (you can find the delightful Charlie and Lola children’s books here). But I’m unusual. Most kids and adults wolf them down. But what about your fluff-ball pet bunny? Can they also wolf down peas safely? (If you’re wondering about mange-tout, look here)

Is it safe to give peas to rabbits?

Rabbits can eat fresh, green peas safely in small quantities. Like other legumes, giving too many peas to a rabbit could lead to stomach problems including gastro-intestinal stasis. A portion size of peas for an adult rabbit would be no more than a couple of tablespoons a day.

The nutritional benefits of peas for rabbits

Peas do provide some important nutrients for rabbits (though they can also get these through other foods). However, as the table below shows, peas aren’t suitable as the major food for bunnies, which should always be hay.

IngredientPeas per 100gRabbit daily nutritional requirements per 100g of feedComments
Water78.9 g
Energy81 kcal
Protein5.42 g12-17 gPeas are low in protein compared to what rabbits need. This is one reason why it shouldn’t be the main food for bunnies.
Fat0.4 g2.5-5 gPeas are low in fat, which is good as bunnies thrive on a low fat diet.
Fibre5.7 g14-25 gRabbits need a lot of fibre in their diets to keep food moving through their digestive system. Without fibre, it all blocks up and creates problems. Peas don’t provide enough fibre. Rabbits need hay, which is high in fibre, with some greens like peas as additions.
Carbohydrates14.4 g< 20 gRabbits need a relatively low carbohydrate diet. Peas are not particularly low in carbohydrates, and over a third of these carbohydrates are in the form of sucrose (sugar). Too much sugar can play havoc with the delicate digestive system of rabbits, allowing bad bacteria to build up and painful gases causing GI stasis.
Calcium25 mg500 mgRabbits need a low calcium diet, as they are prone to developing extremely painful kidney stones. Peas are lower in calcium than Timothy hay, their main food source, so are fine.
Iron1.5 mg30-400 mgPeas only provide a little of the iron that rabbits need in their diets.
Magnesium33 mg30-300mgPeas provide good levels of magnesium for rabbits.
Phosphorus108 mg400 mgPeas can provide some of the phosphorus needed by rabbits.
Potassium244 mg6,000 mgPeas can contribute a little to the potassium that rabbits need each day.
Vitamin A765 IU1,000-1,200 IUPeas are quite good for vitamin A, which rabbits need.
Vitamin C40 mgNoneRabbits don’t need vitamin C (their bodies make vitamin C). The vitamin C in peas won’t harm them, but it won’t help them either.
Vitamin E0.13 mg5-16 mgPeas don’t provide much vitamin E for rabbits.
Vitamin DNone80-100 IUPeas provide none of the vitamin D that rabbits need.
Vitamin B complex2.76 mgNonePeas provide some vitamin B, but rabbits don’t need vitamin B. Their bodies make all that they need.
Zinc1.24 mg5-15 mgPeas provide some zinc.
Selenium0.0018 mg0.005-0.032 mgPeas provide a little of the selenium that bunnies need.
Table of nutrients of fresh raw peas compared with rabbits’ nutritional requirements. Pea nutrition taken from USDA

As you can see from the table, peas aren’t suitable as the main diet for rabbits. They don’t provide enough fibre, and are too high in sugars. But in small quantities they do provide some of the other nutrients that rabbits need, like vitamin A and magnesium.

What are the dangers of peas as the main food for rabbits?

What might happen if you fed too many peas (or, even worse, only peas) to your rabbit? Your bunny could develop a range of problems:

  • Although peas have some fibre, rabbits need lots of fibre. The fibre helps food to move through their intestines. Put simple, if there’s no fibre, the food blocks up (gastro-intestinal stasis, or GI stasis). This is extremely dangerous for rabbits: if you suspect your rabbit has GI stasis, consult a vet at once. Rabbits need their main food to be high in fibre, like hay.
  • Peas are high in sugar. Too much sugar upsets the delicate balance of the digestive system (find out more here). It encourages bad bacteria to grow in the intestines, particularly the caecum. This in turn means that food isn’t digested properly, and causes gases to build up, which rabbits find extremely painful. In turn, this can also lead to GI stasis. This is why, even if peas aren’t the main food you give rabbits, you still need to be cautious in the quantities and not give too much.
  • Peas are low in protein. If you tried to feed rabbits mainly with peas, they wouldn’t have enough protein to build and maintain their muscles.

What is a suitable portion of peas for a rabbit?

A safe portion daily of peas for a rabbit is about 1 tablespoon for every 2lb (1kg) your rabbit weighs. A rabbit like a minilop typically weighs anywhere from 4-6 lb as an adult, so a safe portion size is no more than 2 or 3 tablespoons of peas.

Do rabbits like peas?

Rabbits are like humans – different from one another! Just as I don’t like peas, but other members of my family love them, so some rabbits will gobble up peas, and others will sniff, turn their noses up and hop away.

Can rabbits eat dried peas or cooked peas?

Don’t feed dried peas to rabbits, as this can increase the danger of GI stasis. Rabbits can eat cooked peas, but they won’t be as good for them as fresh raw peas.

Can baby rabbits eat peas?

You need to be careful with young rabbits with every new food. For the first six weeks, baby rabbits should be depending on their mother’s milk. After this, they transfer to hay (and a few pellets). Only later can other foods be introduced, and it is best to do this a little at a time, and one new food at a time. This is because young rabbits have extremely delicate digestive systems that can be easily upset.

Can you feed peas to rabbits every day?

It is best to include variety in the food you give rabbits. The best diet for rabbits is one based on unlimited availability of hay and water, with up to an eggcup-full of rabbit pellets, and a handful of fresh greens (such as herbs like thyme or other green vegetables) every day. In addition, they can have a small treat (eg a small portion of fruit) each day.

Conclusion – can rabbits eat peas?

Rabbits can eat peas safely in small quantities. A suitable portion is about 2 tablespoons of peas for an adult rabbit. If rabbits eat too many peas, it could lead to dangerous intestinal problems.

Check out these other posts

Find out more about rabbit nutrition here.

We have a post on the digestive system of bunnies here – take a look!

Herbs can make a great addition to your rabbit’s diet – check out which herbs are safe for rabbits here.

Posted by Jonathan