Two weekends ago my husband and I decided to go on a day trip and attend the Herb Festival in Asheville, a 2.5 hour drive away from where we live. We thought it would be a great opportunity to learn more about herbs and find a few new options for our bunnies. As you may know, we love to offer a large variety of greens to our bunnies. Plus, we have been searching for a local supplier of dried herbs and this was our chance to discuss our ideas with herb farmers in person. Naturally, I thought this was the perfect time for me to wear one of the shirts from our campaign last year to help out the House Rabbit Network – if a shirt with a rabbit design won’t start conversations, nothing will (so I thought).
It was a beautiful day and we went from booth to booth, asking people what they thought would be a great addition to a rabbit’s diet. And that’s when it became pretty clear that rabbits are not the favorite animals of herb farmers. They didn’t want to know what rabbits LIKE to eat, they want to find out how to keep rabbits AWAY. Ha! Thinking about it now, it really was like a bear walking through an area full of bee hives! Too funny. Nevertheless, we found a bunch of herbs and other plants that we don’t feed our bunnies yet, but that could be added to our rotation of veggies. Most of them would have to be grown in a planter or backyard, since they are not easy to find in grocery stores.
We thought we’d share our findings with you all. Here we go:
Mint – There are many different cultivars of mint. At the festival, we found chocolate mint, pineapple mint, peppermint, and grapefruit mint. They are all edible for humans and rabbits. Bunny’s favorite is probably home-grown peppermint.
Lemon Balm/Melissa – Related to mint, but it deserves to be mentioned on its own. Lemon Balm smells really good and Bunny enjoyed the dried variety in the past. This will definitely be added to our garden! Grows well in pots, too.
Thyme – Can be fed in small quantities. All kinds are edible, but the common thyme is best for the bunnies. Thyme must be an acquired taste – not many rabbits like it, but it’s worth a shot.
Angelica – We purchased one of these plants for the bunnies to try. There isn’t a whole lot of information about angelica out there, but it’s on the safe food list for rabbits, although it might not be a favorite.
Burdock – This probably wins the most-unusual award for today! The whole plant is edible, but it is recommended that you remove the seeds first, because they can easily get tangled up in the fur and we all know those bunnies wouldn’t enjoy THAT grooming session. Apparently, burdock was the inspiration for velcro.
Alpha Calendula – If you only pick one new plant from this list, make it this one! Bunny loves the dried flower buds (we ordered them for him a while back) and we can’t wait to see how he reacts to the fresh ones. We bought one of these at the festival and are waiting impatiently for it to bloom. Calendula, also known as pot or common marigold, is anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial.
Hibiscus – There was one vendor that had dried hibiscus at the festival. When we offered it to Bunny, he acted like I do when you offer me expensive chocolate! Ha! Seriously, hibiscus is a natural diuretic and not only tasty (according to Bunny), but also a beautiful garden plant.
Stinging Nettle – Nettles are a healthy addition to any rabbit’s diet. We’ve been feeding the JR Farm variety from our shop regularly, but many rabbits also like them fresh. If you let them wilt just a little, they won’t sting any more. Stinging nettles are really easy to grow!
Sweet Annie – This is a completely new herb for us and the bunnies have yet to try it. It’s safe in small quantities and can be fed every now and then. Might help avoid gas.
American Hazelnut – We were especially excited to find hazelnut plants at the festival! The bunnies can eat the leaves and the sticks and we humans can eat the nuts. Perfect! Bunny was a bit skeptical when we first offered the leaves, but eats them happily now.
Hops – With that name it must be good for rabbits to eat! At the festival we learned that hops has a calming effect on the body and may relieve pain.
Lavender – Rabbits can definitely eat lavender, but it might not be a favorite due to the strong smell and taste. However, it has a calming effect on the body and might help with stomach issues.
We bought calendula, burdock, angelica, and a hazelnut shrub that weekend (plus the dried hibiscus and some other things for us humans).
As always, new things need to be added to a rabbit’s diet slowly and one at a time. Many potted flowers available at stores were not meant to be eaten (even though they are edible), so those are best purchased as seeds or from a pesticide-free source. Please consider feeding the fresh or dried plants only. We recommend feeding small amounts of different herbs and other greens and not to give any one thing in excess.
Hope this list gives you some new ideas and if you have any to add, we’re always happy about comments!