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FORAGING FOR WILD PLANTS -free food for rabbits

RESPONSIBLE FORAGING

  • Do not uproot plants.  All wild plants are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and it is illegal to uproot any plant without permission from the landowner or occupier. 
  • Only pick plants that you recognise and know your rabbit will eat.
  • Pick plants from areas where there are large patches of the plant.
  • Always pick in moderation so that plenty is left for others to enjoy.
  • Be careful not to damage other vegetation when collecting forage.
  • Picking wild plants to sell or for any other commercial use can be considered to be theft.

 

Picking wild plants is a source of anxiety for many owners because of the perceived dangers of plant toxicity, contamination by weedkillers or dog urine and the possibility of introducing infection. In reality the risks are very small and are outweighed by the benefits of feeding wild plants. Wild plants are nutritionally balanced, palatable and free. This is not good for the manufacturers of rabbit food that wish to sell their product. The information that the some manufacturers provides can enhance the anxiety that owners feel when they pick wild plants. In reality, a diet of muesli mix or even pellets or nuggets is less enjoyable for the rabbit and more likely to result in obesity or other health problems than a diet of wild plants.

 

Eating freshly picked plantsWhich plants to pick

Rabbit have evolved to eat a wide range of plants including the shoots, roots, leaves, stems, flowers, fruit and seeds. Fresh grass is their natural diet and grazing is their preferred method of feeding. Grass is easily picked. It is a source of digestible and indigestible fibre and is a balanced source of calcium and phosphorus. The moisture content provides water. Some sort of grass should be offered to rabbits each day, either by allowing them to graze or giving them hay or freshly picked grass. Rabbits also enjoy a variety of other wild plants and, for most of the year, wild plants are an excellent food source for rabbits.  A variety and abundance of suitable plants can be found in gardens, along verges, footpaths, hedgerows and on waste ground. There is a small danger of picking plants that have been sprayed by weedkillers (the plant would be dying) or contaminated by dog urine (unpleasant but does it really matter?) or a small possibility of introducing infection or tapeworm cysts but these risks are tiny. Plant toxicity is the main concern and is covered in more detail elsewhere. The best approach is to find five or six plants that can identified confidently and stay with those. My favourites can be seen here. Illustrations and lists of suitable plants are available on the internet and in books such as:

Foraging for rabbits

Foraging for Rabbits by Twigs Way. The book can be found at http://shop.rabbitwelfare.co.uk/product/foraging-for-rabbits-by-twigs-way/.

This book is essential for all rabbits owners that pick wild plants for rabbits It also describes how to dry plants to feed to rabbits during the winter when fresh food is scarce

 

 

 

Rabbit NutritionRabbit Nutrition by Virginia Richardson MRCVS

This book was written in 1999. It is written by is rabbit owning vet and author who collects rabbit food and knows some of their medicinal properties. 

The book can be found at www.thehayexperts.co.uk/rabbit-nutrition.html