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Are these safe for buns to eat?

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Augustus&HazelGrace

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I'm not sure which of these I have in my yard but I will take a closer look tomorrow. Are these a bunny safe food?
 

Preitler

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First ones look like dead-nettles (lamium), good rabbit food. When you rub them they (at least the species growing over here) have a rather distinctive smell, not really good, but easy to remember.

I haven't ever read about a rabbit that was used to a diverse diet of greens and weeds getting poisoned, there is very little that can kick a rabbit out of its boots anyway, and they are pretty good at avoiding that. They evolved to survive anything botany throws at them. There's such a thing like reading too much on the internet on topics like this ;)
 

Augustus&HazelGrace

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Thank you! I just know that like there are certain woods they cannot chew on and things like iceberg lettuce they cannot have. So I make sure that I and no one else gives them anything I don't know what it is or if it's bunny safe. I ran out of dandelions in my yard and I have a TON of these in my yard but I didn't know if they were ok to give.
 

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Actually, truly domesticated breeds of rabbits have mostly lost their ability to instinctively know what is and isn't safe to eat, heh. However, if it is in fact deadnettles, those ARE rabbit-safe. As with any wild food, be sure they haven't been exposed to pesticides or insecticides and introduce them gradually at first to make sure there's no tummy upset.
 

Augustus&HazelGrace

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I gave them all a piece this morning and they hate it only one ate it and still, she really didn't like it. One completely knocked it out of my hands. So, back to trying to find something else in the yard that's bunny safe. ugggh o_O
 

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ROFL.

Try again tomorrow. Maybe leave it in there for them to inspect and perhaps come around on. Usually if you can get one to eat it, others who see that will then be willing to try it. I had half my herd look at me like I was flipping NUTS for trying to feed them rose petals, yet now they're little crack fiends constantly jonesing for more! All it took was seeing the other half the herd eating them, lol. Silly rabbits.
 

Preitler

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Right, try again. Rabbits don't indulge into new stuff, they take a nip and wait if there are any ill effects, another nip the next day and then they start eating it eventually.

I was somewhat disappointed too when I offered my bunnys banana, *sniff*"gosh, human, stick this stuff wherever you want, we don't touch it" :D

Actually, truly domesticated breeds of rabbits have mostly lost their ability to instinctively know what is and isn't safe to eat, heh.
Imho, it isn't breed or genetics, but the way they were raised and fed. Pellets are a very recent invention, a spinoff of meat farming, very convenient but not at all natural. Hay too was just a way to bring lifestock through winter, not so much a staple food. Note: I do not say that "natural" means better or healthier, it has it's own risks and drawbacks (it is cheaper though ;) ), there are several equally good ways to feed rabbits adequatly.

Genetics and instincts didn't change much in that short time. But if they didn't learn to use those instincts growing up it's like me trying to speak french, my brain didn't grow up with it and I actually can't hear certain subtleties, I could still learn it somewhat given time and chances to practice that don't involve getting me into situations I wouldn't come out alive. Same with rabbits, they are capable to gain that abilities (I've never heard of a starved escapee).
 

Preitler

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Oh, another thought: Make munching, plucking motions with your hand for some time at stuff you want them to try, that gets the message across that it's edible and not just random stuff you enjoy stuffing in their face. They learn from each other, if one or you finds it yummy in my experience they are more likely to try it.
 

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You could also try getting on their level and eating it yourself if it's something safe for humans. Weird as heck, I know, but if they trust you then it may just work! (It does not work for random varieties of pet store grass hay that two certain young bunns reared on alfalfa refused to eat on the grounds that it wasn't alfalfa >.> I still tried, though!)

I suspect you're right, Preitler, that it's more that domesticated rabbits don't pass down "safe/unsafe" knowledge from one generation to the next. Mom eats what humans give, so babies eat what humans give. There's no opportunity to communicate ancestral "don't eat this!!" knowledge. I never stopped to think whether it was a genetic or learned knowledge but now that you've brought it up, learned makes much more sense.
 

Jenny Durling

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Hay too was just a way to bring livestock through winter, not so much a staple food.
I think about this all of the time. Everyone says a rabbit's diet should be 80% hay. I have a hard time believing that wild rabbits are out there eating dried up grass if green grass and leafy edibles are available to them. My vet (and he IS and exotics vet) says they need hay for their teeth. With pellets rabbits apparently just chew up and down but with hay they chew in a figure 8 and that wears down their teeth. Does anyone know if green grass/weeds/veggies required the figure 8 chewing? Natasha is a hay-eater but Rocky would apparently rather starve than eat hay. I have to doctor up hay with a spray of apple juice or mush up banana in it to get Rocky to eat it at all. I'd love to stop with all that if green grass and leafy greens will do the tick.
 

Preitler

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Rabbits evolved to eat grass, weeds etc., it's what their teeth are made for. I don't feed much else whenever available. Getting them to eat hay when winter comes sometimes takes some time, I start with rather tasty stuff that has lots of weeds and nettles in it. When outside they munch some dry stuff too now and then.
Hay is just conserved grass (dead grass outside in winter isn't conserved but detoriated), the next best thing to the real stuff, and it is easy to digest - no slow introducing hay, like with greens, it's a safe fallback when there are any problems. Also, there is practically no risk to bring in diseases with it - I try to only gather green stuff where no wild rabbit population exists. Hay can be stored for months, I need to get forage every single day, no matter what weather. I wear out my rubber boots in about 3 years, it's not only because of the rain but also the tick issue.

As I said, "Natural" doesn't necessary mean more healthy, or better. There is more than one good way to feed rabbits in a healthy way, and the way I do it for sure isn't convenient or even possible for most pet owners, I'm kind of an oddity here, known as the guy with basket and scythe.

That 80% number referrs to the most common diet of hay, veggies and pellets. Veggies aren't ideal rabbit staple food, but a great addition, and so are pellets. Hay ensures that they get the fiber they need, and that their teeth get worn down.
Did you try different kinds of hay? There are huge differencies.
 

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It's the long strands of fiber in the hay that cause the figure-8 chew that wears all their teeth at once. I don't think leafy greens really help there, but I suspect that long grasses might (someone might want to double-check me on that though).

If you do go trying different hays, 3rd cut timothy is the only hay that 7/7 bunns I've had deemed delicious, even the absolute pickiest two. 2nd cut orchard is deemed "acceptable" by my pickiest bunns.
 

Jenny Durling

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Rabbits evolved to eat grass, weeds etc., it's what their teeth are made for.
I completely agree with this. So you go out an forage for their greens. What all are you getting for them? We are on 5 acres and I have a ton of grasses and weeds to choose from. I also have an organic garden with 12 raised beds and they get things from there: Brussels sprout leaves, cilantro, kale, parsley, lettuce, carrot tops, mint and other herbs. What I'm trying to figure out is what, if anything, can replace hay completely.

I have tried multiple varieties of hay. They are on some pretty soft Timothy I bought a bale of at the moment. Natasha eats it my it's more of a litter box topper as far as Rocky is concerned! It doesn't seem to matter what variety I provide, Rocky has zero interest in it unless it's dolled up with something. I'm not looking for ways to make him eat hay. I'm trying to find out if hay is truly necessary and what can replace it completely. It just seems unlikely that rabbits are out in the field eating dry plants when green ones are available and I've never heard for wild rabbits with dental issues. Of course, wild rabbits may simply not live long enough to have issues but I kinda think nature would provide a way for them to keep their teeth ground down naturally.
 

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If you're sitting on 5 acres, then I don't imagine you'd have any trouble at all following in Preitler's footsteps. Foraging for fresh grasses in lieu of hay is absolutely unsustainable for the majority of rabbit owners and I imagine that's the main reason we say that hay is so important. In addition to (obviously) feeding stuff that's rabbit-safe, look for the longest possible stalks/grasses. The long pieces have dental benefits that very short pieces just don't (hence why the compressed hay cubes (treats) aren't a good substitute for hay).

I can't say with certainty that replacing hay 100% is a good idea... but what I would recommend is replacing hay with foraged grasses for a few months and then making sure your vet checks out the teeth thoroughly the next time one of your rabbits goes in for a routine check-up or something. If they're maintaining a healthy weight and healthy teeth, then I would deem the no-hay experiment a success.
 

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