We officially planted our ‘human’ garden last week although sadly I have little hope for it as its suppose to be perfect weather for Hades again this year. Anyway, in lieu of this I figured a post about a perfect garden for your rabbits to help reduce feed costs and to support your herd medicinally was warranted.
The below herbal medicinal recommendations are made with the common sense that if your rabbit is ill you should seek veterinarian advice. Also, the main dietary staple of your rabbits diet should be a good quality timothy hay followed by pellets and/or leafy, dark greens. I could go into a whole other post here but I will just direct you to the link instead which has all the info you need on feeding your rabbit on a diet of greens and hay and any vitamin/mineral balances you need to watch for. Click here. A variety of vegetables should be the next most important with fruits following. Fruit tree branches on the other hand make a great treat/chewie for your rabbit. A good rule of thumb is to avoid feeding foods high in starch and sugar (legumes-i.e. beans & peas, potatoes, high amounts of fruit), in oxalic acid (spinach, mustard greens and parsley), and in the onion family (chives, garlic, leeks, onions). Once every 2 weeks would be plenty for these groups. Just say no to store-bought rabbit treats or rabbit food with more than just pellets (more on this later but it is essentially a big waste of your money). On a side note here is a complete list of all plants toxic to rabbits such as rhubarb. Unless I mention it below be sure to check to make sure it’s not toxic before you plant it!
All plants listed here can be grown for daily medicinal or dietary supplementation without side effects when feed in amounts of a few leaves per day or 1 tsp. per 5 lbs. of body weight unless otherwise noted.
Recommended fruits & veggies that most people can grow:
(Dark, leafy) Lettuces, kale, herbs (as those listed below), cucumbers, bell peppers, carrots, tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries, blueberries, apples, turnip greens, radish greens, beet greens, alfalfa, grapes, broccoli rabe, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage.
- Banana (if in your growing zone) – High in Vitamin B12 and potassium, it encourages weight gain and stimulates appetite, use the peel, fruit or dried (no added sugar) forms.
- Basil - Leaves can be rubbed on insect bites to reduce itching and inflammation. Leaves can also be used to help support immune system for something such as snuffles (rabbit cold).
- Blackberry – Use leaves and fruit to help soothe rabbits in hot climates as it increases circulation. Good for pregnant does and for stimulating appetite in anorexic rabbits.
- Chamomile – Good for calming stressed rabbits (especially during travel and at shows). Also good pain reliever internally or externally. A tea can be made to feed rabbits or to use externally for weepy eye.
- Clover - A tasty ‘sedative’ for rabbits.
- Comfrey - A digestive aid and helps with wool block. In extreme doses, comfrey can cause diarrhea. This is a very powerful overall healing herb. It is known for speeding up healing of all kinds, including bones. Great for weak or sick rabbits (such as those getting over snuffles, heat stroke or travel stress). Active ingredient is cholin, a compress can also be applied to bruised or sprained areas. Use a partial leaf as it is very large.
- Dandelion – Don’t necessarily need to plant this one as most likely it has already turned up in your lawn. Just make sure when you pick dandelion for your rabbits the lawn or field hasn’t been treated with any pesticides or herbicides. Also best to avoid dandelions within 10 feet of a road or in a heavy dog population area. Very nutritious plants for rabbits in general. The bitter milky sap stimulates the working of all glands, including the milk glands of lactating does. The plant has both laxative and astringent qualities and helps regulates the bowels. Good for bladder infections, lactating, liver problems, inflammation and respiratory problems. Also helpful to prevent or ease wool block.
- Echinacea (or Purple Cone Flower) – Good as a 3-5x/week supplement for overall immune system balance.
- Garlic - Only use strictly as medicinal as it is part of the onion family. This is a strong ‘natural antibiotic’ as well as antiviral, anti-parasitic and anti-fungal. I’ve tried a rosemary/garlic blend with a kitten (upper respiratory) before and it worked great. Have not tried it in rabbits and good luck trying to get them to eat it. Would probably have to hide in a treat or fruit.
- Kale - Actually low in oxalates (in opposition to what was previously thought) so it is a ‘super food’ for rabbits just as it is in humans.
- Lavender - A late birthing doe will benefit from a little lavender in order to naturally speed the process. DO NOT use on does pre-delivery date as it may cause pre-term delivery or abortion. It is a mild diuretic as well as mild tranquilizer. Lavender Cotton (Abrotonum foemina, Chamaecyparissus) is a specific medicine for internal worms. Applied as a poultice externally it can help reduce swelling, pain, neutralize insect bites & stings, help burns or act as an antibiotic. Helps repel insects, treat abscesses, fungal diseases, sores, sunburn, dermatitis and wounds.
- Licorice Root - Effective to reduce pain in an arthritic rabbit for its cortisone-like properties.
- Marjoram - Useful for coughs, snuffles and other respiratory ailments.
- Mint - Can be given to the doe when weaning babies to help dry up the milk. Give for 4-7 days. Also helps reduce chance of mastitis. Don’t feed to pregnant or nursing does or young babies. Used for colds (snuffles), eye inflammation, prevent urinary problems, stimulate bile flow so are useful for colic and similar conditions. Cautions are to avoid prolonged use, it can irritate the mucous membranes.
- Nasturtium - Highly antiseptic, both leaves and flowers are edible and use up to 4 leaves.
- Oats - (Rolled) Helps to increase fiber and reduce diarrhea when switching feeds, from travel stress or when weaning babies. Helps increase weight.
- Parsley – Rabbits love this but feed only once per week at most since its high in oxalic acid (best would be every 2 weeks). Rich in iron and copper, contains apiol which is useful in the treatment of urinary problems.
- Papaya (if in growing zone) – Stimulates appetite, encourages a healthy coat and aids in digestion. Most commonly seen in tablet form to help prevent hair balls but you can buy (or grow) the fruit to feed rabbits as well. You can feed dried bits of papaya just be careful as commonly dried fruits are coated in added sugar which you want to avoid.
- Peanuts (or peanut butter) - Encourages a healthy coat and can stimulate the appetite but use sparingly as rabbits don’t commonly eat nuts. Best baked in homemade bunny treats since they are a ‘treat’. See rabbit treat recipe here (peanut butter or other items can be substituted in at your discretion, get creative!).
- Raspberry Leaves – Good for helping with labor and getting the labor going if they are over the due date. Either a tea (1 part tea to 3 parts water) or raspberry leaves can be giving to the doe to ingest. Remove tea water after she kindles. Do not feed to pregnant does before their due date. The leaves are an astringent and are also helpful to get a rabbit to start eating again if they have been off feed.
- Rosemary - Good for weakness. Helps stimulate circulation, digestion, and good for cold conditions. Good for repelling mites and fleas.
- Sage – Reduces lactation in does when weaning. Helps with digestion. Avoid feeding to pregnant does as it is a known uterine stimulant.
- Slippery Elm Bark - Given in the bark form you can let the rabbit nibble (great for a chew toy) at will to help ease and prevent tummy discomforts.
- Sweet Potatoes – While I discourage against high starch foods, raw yams can be used to help put weight on rabbits quickly. Use daily for at most 2 weeks at a time.
- Thistles - Great to stimulate the appetite. Use with saltines to bring rabbit back from brink of death when sickness related to intestinal illness.
- Thyme - Helps with worms, diarrhea, and digestion. Can be uterine stimulant in high doses so avoid giving to pregnant does.
- Uva Ursi - Great herb for bladder infections as it works best in alkaline environments (aka bunny urine!).
- Willow Bark - Helps with digestion and reduce diarrhea. Helps to relieve pain.
An extensive listing of herbs and their herbivore uses can be found here.
Some additional all natural remedies…
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Use 1 tablespoon per 1 gallon. Helps to acidify and reduce ammonia build-up in urine (aka-smell).
- Baking Soda: Use as a paste by mixing with a little water to reduce bleeding if you cut a toenail to short.
Flowers of (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), (Photo credit: Wikipedia)