I was a Petsmart recently, considering whether I should purchase one of those pressed alfalfa wheels for the rabbits. The wheels are pretty pricey, so I did some research on wild greens that rabbits can eat. Turns out, rabbits can eat many of the edibles humans have identified and consumed themselves. This means that common weeds like dandelion, clover, horseweed and so on, are great treats to feed your rabbits and expand their diet. Now, this does not mean that we have replaced our rabbit’s diets with just wild greens. Rabbits still require roughage, which is what hay provides. Some rabbit owners choose to replace their alfalfa pellets with wild edibles and fruit/veggie waste from their kitchen. This I haven’t tried yet, since I want to raise these rabbits “by the book” as to say, before I start trying to cut costs.
This initial post will have some images of the actual plants I forage in Central Texas. Remember, I am not an expert. This is what works for me. Some plants do look similar to one another and may be toxic, so do your absolute best to ensure the wild plant you are foraging is safe to eat.
Horseweed (left): this plant grows in abundance at the edges of abandoned lots. The seeds have a tendency to grow quickly on land disturbed by human activity (such as construction or clearing of land). I usually pick the top half of the horseweed plant off if I’m going to feed it to my rabbits as is. If I am going to dehydrate the leaves, I go ahead and pick a good amount and strip only the leaves. These dry in a few hours and I mix the horseweed into my rabbits’ alfalfa pellets.
Horsemint (right): usually found in meadows, Horsemint grows tall in the grass and easy to spot due to their pale purple/purple flowers. The plant smells faintly of mint and its petals, when dried and steeped in hot water, make a nice tea. Dehydrating horsemint will definitely fill your home up with a delicious, sinus opening scent. I have mixed dried horsemint in the alfalfa mix and have also fed it as is to the rabbits.
Dandelion: a beloved weed amongst homesteaders, dandelion can be enjoyed by humans and their rabbits. The yellow flower, leaves and tap root are edible and bitter to the taste. The dandelion that grows here is scraggly but loves the trash clay soil of lawns. I haven’t fed too many dandelions to the rabbits yet. They haven’t been that abundant on my side of town this year.
Clover (left): a ground covering plant, clover spreads itself among our St. Augustine grass rather thickly. I pick the tops off easily and feed the clover as is to the rabbits. When the rabbits are out on pasture, they eat all the young clover first and then take a nap.
Tree saplings/sprouts: I actually just did this today. I went ahead and pruned some volunteer tree saplings growing in our grass. The leaves and stem are still tender and my doe jumped on them immediately. I will have to double-check and make sure that my future saplings that I pick from fields are safe to eat as well. Who knows, some trees might actually be dangerous to consume. This is why I encourage you to check and double check anything wild before you put it in your mouth.
Wild Grass: This is probably the most abundant plant during spring. By summer, at least here in Central Texas, the grass dries up into a perfect straw material. Wild grass, if scythed or clipped with a grass clipper while green, can be dried on racks and in about 2 weeks, become hay that you can store and feed to your rabbits later. I used this method in late spring to collect about a month’s worth of hay for my rabbits, reducing my initial cost by a good amount. I’ve kinda been elbowing my husband to consider buying a small scythe in order to cut the lawn grass and use it as another means to feed the rabbits. He insists we can only get it if we go out and cut the grass at abandoned lots. I’m not sure the city would be too pleased with that.
DO NOT feed lawn clipping to your rabbits. The grass is cut up by the lawnmower blades so much that it quickens the fermentation process. Feeding fermenting lawn clippings to rabbits can cause them to become ill and die.
Thistle (left): there are many different types of thistle out there, but the one that grows tall and thick here in Central Texas is bull-thistle. Bull-thistle has sharp leaves and a puff ball purple flower. They grow at the edges of forests and lots like many of these other plants. I only give my rabbits the thistle flower, not the sharp leaves for fear that they might hurt themselves trying to eat it. So far, they seem to enjoy munching on them.
Sunflowers (right): We have a load of volunteer sunflowers growing in our law right now. They stretch and tower high towards the sun. Just a few days ago, the wide yellow flowers bloomed and I went ahead and fed the smaller of them to my rabbits. They ate all the petals but left the middle part untouched. I haven’t tried feeding them raw sunflower seeds yet, but at their bulk price, it may not be worth it right now.
Dewberry leaves (right): Dewberries are cousins of the blackberry family. The berries are edible and the leaves can be dried and steeped to make tea. I go ahead and pluck young leaves off the dewberry plant and feed them as is to the rabbits. Dewberries have a lot of thorns on their stems, so I avoid feeding those to the rabbits for fear that they may hurt themselves. I don’t feed too many of these leaves to the rabbits at this time because the dewberries are starting to dry up in the hot Texas sun.
I recommend checking your state or local wild edible guides and resources to identify these and other edible plants. If you live in Texas, this website might come in handy: Foraging Texas.
As always, be kind and tender to one another.