Wen we first got our meat rabbits we did what most people do and went and got hay and pellets. Because I wanted the best diet and well, because I’m cheap, I started researching safe plants I could to feed my bunnies. I knew things like clover, dandelion, plantain and raspberry leaves were safe but I was curious about what else I could forage for. Rise and Shine Rabbitry has some excellent articles on feeding rabbits. Their article on feeding rabbits naturally can be found here. Rise and Shine Rabbitry has a ton of great articles on raising meat rabbits and I highly recommend anyone wanting to raise rabbits either for meat, show, or just for pets check them out.
I’m lucky enough to live close to the river and a hiking trail so finding safe greens is easy for me. I take my little clippers out with me on my walks and come back with a bag full of healthy greens. Most days my rabbits get a mix of raspberry leaves and branches, willow, mulberry leaves, grape leaves, plantain, dandelion, nettle and clover. Since I’ve been feeding my rabbits this mix they have stopped eating hay completely. They look and act so much happier and healthier. Fair warning though, once they see you coming with their greens they will be lined up at their doors demanding to eat!
Knowing the health benefits of what I’m feeding my rabbits is equally important to me. I also want to stay away from using any type of chemicals or pharmaceutical medication if I can and especially since I’m raising these rabbits to eat. Luckily I found an amazing list of medical herbs on…you guessed it...Rise and Shine Rabbitry! I love this list of medical herbs so much that I have it printed out and saved in a binder for handy access. You can find this article here. Dandelion, raspberry, and nettle are all beneficial for increasing milk production in nursing does. Plantain is a great starter food for young kits as it does not cause digestive issues. My babies always fight over the plantain first! Willow helps with intestinal issues and also is a natural coccidiostat.
When we first got our rabbits it was early spring and between the weather and the stress of moving they all ended up with snotty noses. I took 4 capsules of echinacea ( found at almost any store) and boiled in a gallon of water. I then added it about 1/4 echinacea water to 3/4 their normal water. Echinacea is a stimulant for the immune system and also is a broad spectrum natural antibiotic. Within a few days I had happy healthy rabbits again. Echinacea is something I have since added to my herb garden and I add a few fresh leaves every now and then just to help boost their immune systems.
I do still give the rabbits a small amount pellets to which I add some black sunflower seed for shiny healthy fur. I have also started to cut extra greens for my rabbits to dry for winter use. After all, I want healthy rabbits year around and besides, I’m cheap remember? I may have to supplement the rabbits with some hay this winter but the more I can forage and dry for winter use the better. I highly encourage you to step outside and take a look around you. You may be surprised just how much FREE food you can find for your rabbits!