Monday, March 19, 2012

Bunny Snacks

Something that worked really well for us this winter was our system of drying and storing foraged goods for the bleak winter months. These provide additional nutrition, entertainment, and are a moral boost to nature's little foodies. It's amazing how excited they get!

I went to the local thrift store and bought up all the random cotton pillow cases I could find. Each pillow case was for a different type of foraged good. One day I went to a lady's property (at her invitation) and harvested the alfalfa plants growing in her hay pasture. Those bags filled two pillow cases once dried. To dry them, I just set them out in old cardboard box lids in the garage, and the heat did the trick. Another day, we offered to prune a neighbor's damaged apple tree, and kept the branches for the buns in a pile. They adore apple bark! I saves a couple pillow cases of maple leaves, another favorite, fennel plant tops in another, corn stalks (not very nutritious, but they entertain), and one with willow shoots and leaves, and dried hibiscus flowers. These 8 pillow cases have been adequate for me to provide tasty nutritious treats that are natural foods for rabbits, and have kept their spirits up when they were confined by snow and bad winds this winter.

The advantage of the cotton pillow cases is that they breathe, and so they don't cause the contents to mildew. I put the willow and maple leaves in fresh and set them up off the ground, and turned the bags a few times, and they dried out just fine. They're really easy to transport and store. If you are short on space, you can just hang them up in the garage (just don't run your car in there, or the exhaust will compromise them- our garage is our shop, so it's no threat).

I will warn you to research the different food your forage for buns. There are some that are great, and others that will make them sick. Contrary to what you might think, rabbits have as sensitive a digestive track as horses, and if their gut flora gets off they can die quickly. Things like willows are right in between, according to the research I did online: If you give them too much they will get sick, so only give them willow 2 times a week. I opt for once a week, since I have enough other things to offer them. They get treats every other day in addition to the pellets, grains, and hay.

I also try to maintain some medicinals for them: strawberry leaves and raspberry shoots. You can read up on them on various forums. The two I frequent the most are homesteadingtoday's natural food for rabbits thread, and the yahoo group 'Meatrabbits'. 

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