Rabbit – Foraging

All the information has been compiled for the benefit of foraging for your rabbit, please follow all advise given, as feeding your rabbits the wrong plants can have devastating effects. If at any point you are unsure about something, it is always best to leave it.

 

A few simple rules to foraging:

  • Avoid popular dog walking routes, for the obvious reasons.
  • Don’t pick leaves that have diseases, are covered in mildew, have clear or obvious insect activity or have been part eaten
  • Be careful when picking from the side of roads, many plants can be covered in pollution from the cars, and lorries that use the roads.
  • Always wash forage before feeding your rabbits what you have picked.
  • Arable fields are likely to have been sprayed with insecticides and other chemicals this is an important thing to bear in mind when foraging. Even if plants are outside of the field they could still have been caught with insecticide due to bad weather conditions.

If in doubt always leave it out, never pick something if you are unsure of what species of plant it is. The wrong plant can have devastating effects, some are poisonous and some are toxic.  

A simple list of what you can feed your rabbits:

  • Birch The Birch tree is easily distinguishable, the bark is easy to tell due to colouring and texture. The leaves are small and similar to that of a weeping willow. Birch is rabbit safe, and has some medicinal qualities, it is thought to be a natural pain killer. The bark and leaves are diuretic, known to stimulate the kidneys and metabolism, it also has anti septic and antibacterial qualities. It is always suggested to check with your vet prior to feeding your rabbits birch if they are on any medication due to the medicinal properties it has.
  • BramblesBrambles are thought to help regulate bowel issues within rabbits, some people advise that when changing a rabbits diet to introduce brambles as well. Rabbits can be fed the whole plant, however always look for thorns on the branches prior to feeding them to your bun, they may become tangled in their fur and cause injury.
  • CleaversAlso known as Goosegrass or Sticky Weed. It is thought to help heal wounds and cuts on rabbits, however it is also known to be a laxative and should be fed in small quantities.  The plant produces seed in the form of balls, which can stick to the coats of animals, it therefore can cause tangles and mats in rabbits with long hair.
  • ColtsfootThe leaves of Coltsfood are high in calcium, magnesium and sodium. Due to the high mineral content it should be fed sparingly. It is a great source of calcium for rabbits with dental problems, as well as a tasty treat.
  • Common MallowCommon mallow flowers in the early summer, there are many different types of the mallow plant, such as musk mallow and lavatera which can be fed to your rabbits as well. The whole plant can be fed to your bun, it is considered an astringent, and is thought to be good for respiratory problems. It should not be fed to often, just given as a treat in small quantities due to its laxative effect.
  • Cow ParsnipThis plant belongs to the carrot family, it is easily identifiable and unlike many other plants of the carrot family is not toxic or dangers to your rabbit. Other members of the carrot family are Hemlock and Cow Parsley, they are both very similar and difficult to tell apart. Hemlock is one of the few plants that is extremely toxic. It is advisable to avoid Cow Parsley due to the similarities in the two and avoid picking Hemlock by mistake.
  • DandelionDandelions are plentiful throughout summer and spring. They are a fantastic treat for your rabbit, they can cause upset stomachs when fed in abundance, therefore rabbits should only receive small quantities. Rabbits can have the leaves, stem and the flower of the dandelion plant. It should always be fed fresh, as wilted dandelion leaves can cause bloat.
  • Dock Dock leaves should only be fed in early spring due to the Oxalic acid and tannins being higher when the plant is in flower, the seeds of the flowering dock plant are toxic, so never feed your rabbit dock leaves when the plant is in flower. Rabbits should only have dock leaves once or twice a week as they have a great vitamin C content, they are high in oxalic acid.
  • Garlic MustardGarlic mustard is high in Vitamins A and C and is a mild diuretic for your rabbits. It is a biennial plant with leaves all through winter in the first year and flowers, and produces seeds in the second year. It makes a very tasty treat for your buns.
  • Hawthorn – Hawthorn is a great medicinal treat for rabbits, as part of the rose family, they can eat most of the plant, however it is suggested to avoid the berries as they contain hard seeds. As always, please check with your vet prior to feeding Hawthorn if your rabbit is on any medication.
  • HazelHazel is a yummy treat for your buns, they loves chewing on the brances, and the leaves are safe for them to eat. The wood is great for their teeth. The hazel tree looking similar to the Alder tree, yet the Alder tree grows what look like tiny pine cones.
  • Pineapple MayweedThere are two similar plants to Pineapple Mayweed, Mayweed and chamomile. They are all closely related and are all safe to feed your rabbits. Like Chamomile it has calming properties although not as great. It is still a wonderful treat for your rabbits.
  • PlantainThere are a few varieties of Plantain, most commonly known are Ribwort Plantain or Plantago Lanceolata. It has soothing and healing qualities, it also contains very high mucilage capabilities making it a great gut soother.. It is considered useful during bad moults. As with all new foods, it should be introduced gradually to your rabbits to avoid causing gut upset.
  • VetchVetch is part of the pea family, it is a great source of protein, calcium and vitamins. always introduce vetch slowly, and in small quantities due to the high protein content.
  • WillowWillow is again easily recognisable and is a great treat for your rabbits. It is a very powerful medicinal plant, rabbits can have all parts of the plant, the bark is great for keeping their teeth trim.
  • YarrowYarrow thrives in dry conditions, so when everything else is looking slightly worse for wear yarrow can usually be found. It is a great astringent and diuretic plant. It is known to have antiseptic properties for urinary problems. Always ask a vet if your rabbit is on any medication before feeding any plant which is thought to have medicinal properties.

As with all new foods, introducing it slowly into your rabbits diet is imperative as to not avoid any gut upsets. Although some of these plants are thought to have medicinal properties, in the event of illness it is always advisable to consult qualified veterinary advice.

 

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