May 8, 2012

Can I feed that Weed to my Rabbit?

     I have found myself quite torn this week between researching what fresh picked weeds to feed my rabbits and researching what snorkeling masks will be good for our summer vacation! The masks can be rather expensive, so I got discouraged...the Weeds win! Mostly because they are free, and I have a surplus! And well...the garden needs weeding :) I do like instant gratification!
   I have found a great rabbit forum online, if you are a rabbit enthusiast I highly recommend checking them out! Great people with lots of friendly advise and information. Please see links at the bottom of the page! When I dive into a project I try my best to read everything I can about the subject...but I have to admit the best available information seems to come from the hands on experience of real live people, not just the experts! I have found so much shared knowledge in Forum Users!  I am part of a few forums really, that I use fairly (for the koi ponders out there), Rabbittalk for the rabbitries out there, and talkbudgies/talkcockatiels, for all your pet bird needs. When using a forum you will find people from all over the world from the simple novice to an expert, all walks of life...all sharing there advise with you...and with such pleasure! I just love forums for if you haven't tried registering with a forum in your area of interest or hobby, I really wish you'd give it a shot...there is so much to learn out there! And share!!!!  You may be surprised how much you enjoy it! 
Florida betony
     So back to the weeds! I was reading about natural feeding and foraging for the in Central Florida, the one thing we are NOT lacking in, is a healthy variety of lawn weeds! So out came my camera and a quick trip was taken around the yard for weeds that grew in plentiful that could become a supplement staple in the diet of my bunnies! I found a quick dozen I needed to check out!

    I know some may not seem like weeds, like the passion flower and the wedelia, but if the conditions are right these are two of those plants that, by mid summer you are swearing at and condemning to a good dose of round up...not that I ever would.....use the round up that is :) But none the less I have such a surplus of some particular plants...that it would be fabulous to be able to share my xtra's with the bunnies....After all...who doesn't love work with a purpose...I'd be killing two birds with one stone...(did I just say that?) What a horrible expression...when you think about it.... Okay, two jobs would be getting accomplished, my yard would probably be the most weed free it has ever been and the rabbits would be getting fed, and I would be saving money on rabbit's a win, win, win!!!!! Here are the main staples in my own yard that I hoped were safe for my bunnies to eat: I have successfully fed the following items to my rabbits without ill effects or have researched to there safety or not. By far the greatest treat to date has been the Mulberry leaves! SAFE!

 We started with feeding the fruits, which they loved, then once I researched some more, I learned the twigs are a great treat as well for gnawing on, and they happily strip the bark off as many as they can as quickly as they can! All prunings are now kept...After confirmation from a the great Rabbittalk forum, I tried the Mulberry leaves...they were a hit also! Especially right now, as they have huge new-growth leaves....the buns come a runnin'.  Another crazy weed in my yard that I'd love to knock down a bit is the Spanish needle, Bidens bipinnata. SAFE!

 I have a tender place in my heart for it, since the butterflies seem to swarm it in the summer....I leave a little area growing that forms a large mat, not only do most use it as nectar food, but it a a host plant for the Dainty Sulphur butterfly and at night I think they gather under it for protection too! So it STAYS...but it readily escapes this secluded area and pops up EVERYWHERE!  After reading more about it, I found that we can also benefit from it ourselves! I cooked us up a batch...hmmm, "like spinach" they said...I think "not". The husband says I just don't know how to cook it. LOL, he is "the cook" in our house (thank goodness) time he will try cooking it like greens with bacon fat! How fun is that! The third weed/plant that has become quite a nuisance since planting is... Wedelia, wedelia tribobata.  SAFE

 I do love the way it jumps, runs, and blooms throughout the shady areas, making for a wonderful woodland setting...but it can get way out of bounds once the Florida summer rains this will be a huge staple for rabbits. It took a little research on this one, but I found some research that had been done on food supplements for rabbits that included this plant. I have posted a link: Though it appears the nutritional value is not high, it will still give my weeded Wedelia purpose! I just hate pulling out such huge clumps of a vibrantly living plant....even if it is a nuisance, so being able to use it for a fiber source for the buns will make it worth it! The fourth plant on my ...please please let my rabbits be able to eat it list is the passion vine!  I will never live without one, but the runners are poppin' up everywhere...and though the Gulf Fritillaries and Zebra Longwing can keep it somewhat in check, sometimes through the summer, huge amounts of vines have to be pulled out of the crape myrtles before they suffocate! Some vines just get away from us Southern Gardeners that way :) The passion flower I have is the native passiflora incarnata. NOT determined SAFE

 I have frequently shared the flowers with my Koi....and they love them, and I have read that the fruit and flowers are safe, but as of this writing I have been unable to confirm that the rabbits would be safe to eat the foliage! I have read conflicting the jury is still out. To error on the side of caution I will hold off until I can confirm if they are safe or not.....Maybe one of you have some personal experience with this one! Leave a comment and let me know! The last flowering weed I have allowed to grow in the garden, and is getting out of hand quickly is Florida Betony, Stachys Floridana SAFE (picture above) This is a nice easily pulled weed I often shared with the chickens to....Nice to know a few animals will benefit from it now!

       There are still quite a few others I need to confirm before trying, but given the list of safe plants for the rabbits and the few I researched on my own, my buns should have more than a dozen foraging items available just from our backyard. Please do..share with me the common weeds or plants you supplement with for your rabbits!
       On a side page is a great compilation LIST OF SAFE plants from a great gal , Maggie, from Rabbittalk: (Did I already mention what a great forum that is)  LOL....Some are from her personal experience, having fed her own rabbits and the rest are known to be safe, but with anything...please don't take our word on it, do some research of your own, make sure you identify your weeds correctly and above all..know your bunnies and study their behaviors. Now when you rabbit lovers take a walk around the yard and pull a few weeds...don't forget that one person's weed is ...well....another rabbit's dinner!  They will thank you for it! Thanks for stopping by my page...please leave me a message so I know you passed through! And if you haven't already....don't forget to spread some seed!       - janine

Isaiah 40 6-8:
"All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it;  surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever".