Weeds: Food For Rabbits
I recently acquired three female bunnies. Being a Manure Maven, and an avid gardener this was bound to happen. They were at Creature Safe Place in Fort Pierce Florida. They had been rescued. I adopted them. What I knew about bunnies that day you could write in a line or two.
I have been reading. I have learned a great deal, but I was having trouble figuring out what a bunny might eat in the wild. I have a great deal of land left wild, and weeds, weeds, weeds. I like the idea of supplementing the bunnies hay diet with things they themselves might graze on if they were out foraging for themselves. No matter what key words I typed in searches I could not find any information on rabbits’ native diets. My friend Wyn at Creature Safe Place lent me a book she had on her shelf. American Wildlife & Plants A Guide To Wildlife Food Habits by Alexander C. Martin, Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson. Ah ha!
I live in the South Eastern U.S., and my rabbits are some kind of domestic bunnies most closely related to Cottontail Rabbits, so I am focusing on the plants we have here, that suit Cottontails rather than Hares or Jack Rabbits which don’t live here anyway, and this list is not by far complete as bunnies faced with shortages of tender herbaceous plants will supplement with twigs and bark from many types of trees. This becomes necessary in colder states than mine where they might chew up some Dogwood, Wild Cherry, Sumac, Red Maple, or Grey Birch saplings. There are many leaves growing in my vegetable garden that the bunnies really like too; Arugula, mints, though not Pennyroyal, and Basil and Mustard Greens for instance. I will give them a Collard leaf every now and then, which they so far enjoy, and Wild Grapevines, and Hibiscus leaves and even an Hibiscus flower, or Squash blossom, and Mulberry leaves.
What I found out from my reading is that bunnies eat a lot of grass and weeds! Here is a list: Crab Grass, Panic Grass, Blue Grass, Sheep Sorrel, Clover, Blackberry, Greenbriar and Plantain which is not by the way the one that looks like a banana. I have included pictures of those plants so that you can recognize them when you see them. Most of us have at least a few of these plants growing on our property. I have been pulling them out of my soil for years. Lucky I am not a more effective weeder. Now I get out every evening with scissors and a colander and trim and rinse my weeds for the bunnies. Try some of these, see which your bunnies really love. I noticed from day to day their favorites change, but clover is an everyday favorite.
There are lots of vegetable treats you can give to bunnies as well, but in smaller quantities than weed grasses and leaves. My bunnies love a piece of tomato, and when I harvest and cut a pineapple I save skin pieces for them. They really love crunching that down. Anything with a lot of sugar or a lot of moisture needs to be given sparingly. I have also fed them cucumber and melon, and carrots which they like, and asparagus which they don’t much care for at all. I have found complete lists of vegetables on the internet that are o.k. to give to bunnies. I have printed several for my own reference. Since some are contradictory I don’t give any vegetables that are contra indicated on any list even if they are listed as o.k. on another list. It is important to learn these things because some of the vegetables that should be strictly off limits to bunnies might surprise you, like corn for instance. It can cause an impaction in the digestive system of the rabbit and kill it.
I really like the weeds and leaves right out of my garden because I can be certain that no pesticides were sprayed directly on my property. Everything I have read about feeding rabbits vegetables has come with a warning about avoiding vegetables sprayed with pesticides.
Good weed hunting. I hope your rabbits enjoy!