Grow Your Rabbit's Green's
'Greens', the broad term often used to describe fresh food bunnies eat, includes vegetables, herbs and a few fruits. These 'greens' provide vitamins, minerals and fibre for your bunny all wrapped up in a tasty package. There are a wide range of vegetables and plants suitable for rabbits but there are a few that are poisonous so check before feeding your rabbit.
Growing your own greens has several benefits, its cheaper, the vegetables are fresher and you know that no pesticides have been used. Even if you don't grow all your rabbit's fresh foods just a few can provide a tasty addition. You don't need a garden or green fingers, everyone can give this ago!
Here are a few plants to get you started...
If you have grass already growing in your garden then you can cut it for your rabbit using scissors. Don't feed grass cuttings from lawn mowers as these rapidly start to ferment.
If you don't have a lawn, or your rabbit doesn't have access to it, then you can grow your very own pot/tray full of grass. You will need: Compost/Soil, a tray/pot, grass seeds and water. Choose a compost/soil that doesn't have any added pesticides, ones labelled 'organic' are the best choice or just dig some up from your garden. A seed tray or any sort of plant pot will be suitable, if you are growing the grass outside where it rains or you aren't confident about giving the right amount of water then make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom of the pot/tray so that it doesn't get flooded! Standard grass seed from your local garden centre will be fine, avoid wild flower/meadow mixes as they may have poisonous plants mixed in with the grass.
Fill your pot with soil leaving about 3/4 inch (1.5cm) gap at the top. That's so the soil doesn't fall out or float out when you water. Then sprinkle the grass seeds on top, try to sprinkle them evenly so they end up spaced roughly like the diagram on the right, don't worry if you don't get it quite right though.
Water so the soil is damp not swimming, its easiest to use a watering can with a sprinkler (a flat end with lots of little holes in) or a spay bottle rather than a jug. Next put the pot/tray somewhere sunny either outside or on a windowsill. Within a couple of weeks you should have baby grass. You will need to check daily that soil stays damp and water when necessary. Once the grass has grown you can put the pot in your rabbit's home for him or her to nibble on.
Dandelions are often classed as weeds but they are many rabbits favourite food. The leaves also make a tasty addition to human salads. You may already have dandelions growing in your garden or know someone that has, in which case you can pick them for your bunny. Don't collect them from the side of roads though as they will have pollution from cars.
Dandelions have lovely deep green leaves and bright yellow flowers so will look nice growing in a pot on your windowsill. If you are growing them outside and don't want them to spread to the rest of your garden plant them in pots and cut of the dead flowers before they turn into seed heads.
Plant the seeds about 1/4 of an inch deep and a couple of inches a part. Water regularly so the soil stays damp. If all the seeds germinate you may need to remove some of the plants that pop up so there is enough room for the others to grow. These little plants can be fed to your bunny. A flowerpot that is 6 inches across will probably only hold one adult plant. Once the leaves are long enough you can start cutting them to feed to your bunny. Just a few plants can provide a regular supply of leaves for your bunny.
Carrots can be grown in the ground or in deep pots. Rabbits can eat both the orange root and the green tops.
If you don't have room to grow whole carrots you can just grow the tops from existing carrots. Cut the top inch of a carrot and place it in a shallow saucer of water on the windowsill. The top will start to sprout new leaves which when grown can be fed to a your bunny. This won't a very large supply of 'greens' but enough for the occasional treats.
To grow whole carrots plant the carrot seeds about an inch apart and 1/2 inch deep, then water them. It will take a few weeks for them to start growing but water them regularly so the soil doesn't dry out. As they grow you'll need to thin them out (remove some of the seedlings) until they are about 3 inches apart so that the others have room to grow. Show more seeds every 3-4 weeks and you'll have a constant supply of carrots ready to pick.
If you sow your carrots in neat rows you'll be able to tell the difference between them and any weeds that spring up.
People and rabbits can eat both the leaves and flowers of nasturtiums. They also look great in flowerbeds and in pots on windowsills/boxes. Soaking the seeds in water overnight will help them germinate faster. Then plant them 1/2 inch deep and about 8 inches apart. You can start them closer together if you have space to move some of the plants elsewhere later. If you are growing them outside wait until after the last frost. Water them regularly but don't soak them too much.
You can buy parsley in a pot ready grown from a garden centre and then you will just need to water it regularly. If you have space in your garden you can take it out of the pot and plant it, otherwise it can grow happily on your windowsill.
You can also grow parsley from seed. It takes quite a long time to germinate, 3-4 weeks, so don't panic if nothing happens for a while! Sow the seeds about an inch apart and cover with a sprinkling of soil, keep them moist but don't drown them. You'll need to thin out the plants as they get bigger, to about 8 inches apart. Some varieties of Parsley can grow quite big; so check the label on the seeds you choose to see how much space you will need.
Like Parsley you can grow basil from seed or buy it as a plant from a garden centre. If you are sowing seeds plant cover them with about 1/4 inch of soil. Basil can grow quite big so check the label of the seeds/plant you buy to see how much room is needed. Wait until after the last frost to plant it and if you want it to survive the winter you will need to dig it up and bring it inside.
There are many different types of mint like peppermint, spearmint and apple mint. Avoid Pennyroyal as this is meant to be harmful to rabbits. Mint can spread quite aggressively so f you don't want it taking over your garden it is better to grow it in pots. Like other herbs you can often buy it as a plant as well as seeds. Make sure you water it regularly and put it somewhere sunny.
Feeding the Greens to Your Bunny
Once your greens have grown its time to introduce them to your rabbit's diet. If your rabbit isn't used to fresh foods you need to introduce them slowly. Start with small pieces, for example a couple of small dandelion leaves or a section of carrot and gradually add more. Keep an eye on your rabbit's poo, if it turns runny feed less. Occasionally a particular plant might not agree with a rabbits tummy so if small amounts of a food produce runny poo and this does not improve try a different 'green'.