Monday, July 4, 2011

Rabbit Feeding

I don't feed my rabbits pellets. Rabbit pellets, like dog food, are fairly recent on the scene and animals have done fine without them for thousands of years previously. Also, rabbit pellets must be purchased.

Instead, I feed my rabbits good quality hay and assorted greens and vegetables. With ten rabbits instead of two, I find that my yard does not provide enough greens for the bunnies. In addition to what my own property supplies, I forage for them on empty land (caveat: to be entirely on the legal side of the fence, you have to have permission from the property owner to do this, even if you are technically removing invasive weeds).

In springtime, the pickings are easy. In the Central Valley, where we live, springtime runs from about November to March. It's been summer for a while, no matter what the calendar says. Plus, most landownders plow the land in late spring as the weeds start to dry out. Pickings now are slimmer.

Favorites at this time include wild grape as well as the weeds below.

This is purslane. As a succulent, it contains a lot of water, which helps keep bunnies hydrated in hot weather. Also, people can eat it, though I haven't tried.

In the center of the photo above is sow thistle. It starts growing early in the year and is going to seed now. However, the plant stays green even while the seeds are ripe (unlike the trusty mustard family plants the rabbits were eating earlier in the year).

This is prickly lettuce, the forebears of our familiar salad green. They are also starting to go to seed at this time, though they will dry out as their seeds ripen. The bunnies especially seem to love the flower buds at the top of the stalk.

Chicory is a relative of the dandelion, familiar and also beloved of bunnies. I find chicory difficult to identify until it flowers. It has beautiful blue flowers, unlike anything else growing in this area right now. It will bloom through the summer, so I am looking forward to harvesting more of it for the bunnies. When it flowers, it sends up long, leafless stalks for the blooms, with the leaves as a clump at the bottom. Since the rabbits like the leaves best, I pull the whole clump.

These greens help augment what I feed the bunnies out of my own garden, like squash leaves, late radish leaves, dandelions, grasses and clover.

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