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Edible weeds to feed your house rabbits

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Are you making the most of the edible weeds in your garden? House rabbits and other herbivores love the freshness and variety of common weeds found in most backyards. As always, be very sure that the lawns and gardens have NOT been treated with any pesticides or other chemicals before harvesting these edible greens.

Weeds are typically higher in phytonutrients than cultivated crops (phytonutrients are plant compounds associated with positive health effects). Cultivated plant foods typically have had at least some of the nutrients bred out of them in favor of higher yields, increased cold tolerance, etc. Weeds have a higher content of vitamins, minerals, important antioxidants, antimicrobials and anti-inflammatories.

Wild foods are oftentimes valuable adjunct therapies for a poorly bunny, guinea pig or other pet. They are not a substitute for proper veterinary care, of course, but they can offer your pet additional nutritional support and beneficial phytonutrients.

When searching for wild greens, don’t harvest from roadside areas that have likely been contaminated by exhaust fumes, and avoid foraging in very brushy areas frequented by wildlife (weeds may have been contaminated with wildlife droppings). Introduce any new foods to your pet's diet in small amounts at first, and always provide very fresh greens, as wilting or fermented plants can cause potentially life-threatening GI distress.

Most lawns are lousy with common blue violets, plantain and dandelions, and goosefoot, thistle, purslane and yarrow are not uncommon (note: pets and humans should NEVER eat the root nor seeds of the violet, as these are poisonous. African violets are not in fact true violets, and are also not edible.

Evening primrose, aka ‘moon primrose’ is a prolific flowering plant, and Echinacea (aka coneflower) is another beautiful flowering plant – both are edible and provide healthy nutrition.

Wild carrot, aka “Queen Anne’s Lace’ is another plant which is completely edible, although it has a deadly lookalike in the Hemlock plant. Be sure that what you are harvesting in Queen Anne’s Lace; when in doubt, don't offer it to your pets - there are plenty of other, more easily recognizable weeds out there.

If you would like to grow your own weeds, you can either harvest seeds from non-chemically-treated plants or order seeds online. If you are concerned about the plants spreading to where they are not wanted, you may plant them in pots.

You cannot beat the convenience – or economy – of stepping just outside your door and harvesting a healthy salad of greens for your house rabbit (or yourself). Be aware that all of these greens can be dried for winter use, either spread on paper toweling in a non-humid area, or else in an inexpensive food dehydrator.

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