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Garden Plants That Are Safe for Your Rabbits and Guinea Pigs

You can harvest a variety of garden plants/weeds to feed either rabbits or guinea pigs. In bad weather, when the animals are confined to their huts, they will appreciate a handful of mixed cut grasses with the built-in weeds. However, they prefer relatively short grass to thick, long grass. The supply of wild plants will of course depend on the season, with the largest selection available during spring and early summer. Check before feeding plants that they are not likely to be poisonous. If you’re at all in doubt, the best approach is to ignore any plants unless you’re absolutely sure they won’t harm your stock. As a general guide, the following are all safe to use as food:

Bramble (Rubus fruticosus): Rabbits especially like the young leaves. You can also offer older leaves, but make sure no thorns remain attached to the stems if they are fed as well. This is not a problem if one of the thornless cultivated varieties is available.

Chickweed (Stellaria media): There are several forms of chickweed and their distribution can be rather localized. It is a lush plant that grows under good conditions, however, and produces tiny white flowers.

Clover (species Trifolium): Not easy to gather in bulk as it often occurs sporadically in a grassy area and usually feeds on grass. It is also often present in hay.

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara): This plant and its flowers are readily taken by rabbits and guinea pigs. Grows in all types of soil.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale): Easily grown from rootstock if desired. You can offer both the flowers and the leaves, but preferably with other species, since this plant is said to have a laxative effect. As the summer progresses the leaves tend to fade and brown spots may appear on the surface. It is probably best to avoid leaves in this situation. Kept in a sheltered and moist environment, however, the plants continue to grow through most of the summer and into the fall. Other, similar plants that are normally available a little later in the season are various forms of Sowswort (Sonchussp.) and Nipplewort (Lapsana communis).

Red sedge (Senecio vulgaris): A common weed that can act as a purgative, but is often infected with a white or reddish fungus on the undersides of the leaves. Do not use plants affected in this way to feed rabbits and guinea pigs.

Mallow (Malva sylvestris): More likely to be found in a rough grassland area than the average garden, but still useful for food purposes.

Plantain (Plantago species): Various forms are recognized and the plants are sometimes described as ‘Ratstails’ because of their long heads that develop in late summer. Some types have wider leaves than others.

Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris): Traditionally used by rabbit breeders as a natural means of preventing scavenging, this plant is quite unobtrusive when in flower. It has small white flowers, followed by characteristic triangular seeds on the central stem.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium): Also known as Milfoil. This plant has delicate feathery leaves and a compound flower. Yarrow is most prominent in late summer.

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