DRAFT List of Safe Plants for Rabbits

Maggie_J(z5 Ontario)July 4, 2007

DISCLAIMER: To the best of my knowledge this list is accurate and the plants listed are safe for domestic rabbits; however, I will in no way be responsible for any negative results from its usage. Each individual needs to familiarize himself with a plant before feeding it to rabbits, and to this end the botanical names as well as common names are given.

Plants marked * are ones that I believe to be safe but have not fed to my own rabbits as yet, usually because of lack of availability. All the others I have fed to my rabbits on numerous occasions. Some plants have the notation (etc.) following the botanical name; this indicates that there are many similar plants that are also possible good sources. Usually these plants are well-known fruits and herbs that come in many varieties.

All plants should be fed fresh or thoroughly dried never in a wilted or frosted state. This list is by no means complete, but I hope it will serve as a draft for discussion and a useful resource for those who prefer to feed their rabbits as naturally as possible.

I hope you find this list helpful. Please post any additions that you have, and I will undertake to update this list from time to time.

DRAFT FOR DISCUSSION: Safe Plants for Domestic Rabbits

alfalfa Medicago sativa Above ground parts

apple Malus domestica(etc.) Leaves, branches, fruit, exc. seeds

basil Ocimum basilicum Above ground parts

blackberry Rubus villosus(etc.) Above ground parts

borage* Borago officinalis Above ground parts

cat-tail* Typha latifolia Leaf stalks

chickweed Stellaria media Above ground parts

chicory, wild Cichorium intybus Above ground parts

clover, red Trifolium pratense Above ground parts

clover, white Trifolium repens Above ground parts

comfrey, common Symphytum officinale Leaves, best dried

dandelion Taraxacum officinale Above ground parts

goldenrod* Solidago canadensis Leaves

grape Vitus labrusca(etc.) Leaves and vines

green amaranth Amaranthus hybridus Above ground parts

lambÂs-quarters Chenopodium album Above ground parts

lemon balm Melissa officianalis Above ground parts

maple, silver Acer saccharinum Leaves and branches

maple, sugar Acer saccharum Leaves and branches

mint Mentha piperita(etc.) Above ground parts

nettle, stinging* Urtica dioica Above ground parts

pear* Pyrus communis(etc.) Leaves, branches, fruit, exc. seeds

plantain Plantago major Above ground parts

purslane Portulaca oleracea Above ground parts

raspberry Rubus strigosus (etc.) Above ground parts

redroot pigweed Amaranthus retroflexus Above ground parts

round-leafed mallow Malva rotundifolia Above ground parts

shepherdÂs purse Capsella bursta-pastoris Above ground parts

sow thistle,(annual) Sonchus asper Above ground parts

sow thistle (Perennial) Sonchus arvensis Above ground parts

strawberry Fragaria vesca (etc.) Above ground parts

sunflower Helianthus annuus Above ground parts

willow Salix nigra(etc.) Leaves and branches

yarrow Achillea millefolium Above ground parts

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I have heard that Oak was poisionous to rabbits, but my rabbits LOVE it! They live in a dog run and 3 different types of oak leaves fall in there and they eat them all. So, I guess Oak isnt really poisionous is it?

    Bookmark   July 5, 2007 at 2:25AM
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Maggie_J(z5 Ontario)

There are a lot of plants like that. It could be that only certain parts of oak are toxic to rabbits. It could be that only leaves in a state of wilt are toxic. That is pretty common, to find that the fresh leaves or fully dried leaves are okay, but wilted ones are going through a process that makes them toxic. It also could be that someone assumed oak leaves were toxic and once it was on one list it got added to others.

This whole area of safe versus toxic plants is one where we have to reinvent the wheel. People used to know what to feed their rabbits, but a lot of the information has been lost in the few decades since pelleted food hit the market.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2007 at 8:21AM
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bruglover(Gulf States)

A couple notes about your list. My hobby is human wild edibles.

I frequently feed goldenrod (Solidago spp) to my rabbits, stem and all, the root too if I pull the plant up. They love it; I've seen nothing in the literature that indicates any parts are toxic to people. I realize this doesn't mean they're safe for rabbits.

Stinging nettle (Urtica spp): Nettle hay was used to feed cows in Europe. Very nutritious. It's dried first, to lose the sting. This is also a vitamin-rich human edible, dried or cooked, and does contain some protein. I would dry it before I fed it to rabbits.

Prunus species (plum, cherry): Not on your list, are known to have toxic leaves when they're wilted. To be on the safe side, I wouldn't feed those fresh, either.

Thistles (Sonchus, Carduus, etc.): Many varieties of thistle roots can be eaten by people, so they may be ok for rabbits. I give my rabbits the central leaf vein, stripped out (wearing gloves, lol) not the whole thorny leaf.

Florida betony (Stachys floridana): common lawn weed in SE Louisiana, edible by people also, leaves, stems and tubers, and my rabbits love it.

Blackberry/raspberry (Rubus): My books state that the leaves can be used as tea (for people) but should be dried first; don't know if that applies to rabbits. They can be thorny, also. I would probably not feed them.

Yarrow I would feed sparingly, same as human use.

Violet (viola spp) leaves, stems, flowers: Safe for people, I'd think they're ok for rabbits, too.

I would not feed comfrey as it is known to contain a human liver toxin, unless you know that rabbits are unaffected.

Regarding oak, the acorns are edible by people but contain a lot of tannic acid, which has to be leached or it'll upset your stomach and damage your kidneys. The leaves may contain a lot of tannic acid, also, I am not sure.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2007 at 12:28PM
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Maggie_J(z5 Ontario)

Bruglover, thanks very much for the input. It is exactly the kind of helpful comment we need to refine this list.

I'm glad to hear from someone who has fed goldenrod to rabbits frequently. I will amend it to read "above ground parts".

Good point about drying the nettles first.

I totally agree with you about not feeding prunus species.

There are two varieties of Sonchus(sowthistle)on the list. The rabbits are not bothered by the spines.

Blackberry/raspberry leaves are fine fresh or dried. Mine eat them all the time. They also eat the tender stems, spines and all. These have been an almost daily item for the last eight months of so.

I agree with feeding yarrow sparingly. I'll add a note to that effect.

I haven't fed viola. It turned up on one list of unsafe plants, although it "should" be a safe one. I'm hoping to see what the cottontails do with it.

Comfrey has a long history as a good food for rabbits. Very high in protein. Mine won't eat it fresh presumably because of the hairs (but spines don't bother them. Go figure!) but like it dry. It is mentioned in most rabbit raising books as okay, and I have found nothing contradicting this. I feed it dried only and sparingly, mostly due to a limited supply.

I share your doubts about oak. Obviously, some rabbits eat it without problems, but I am a bit hesitant. I only have one oak tree and it is so far back in our bush that it is not worth the trip.

Thanks for adding Florida betony to the list. I'm afraid the list so far is very regional (north east). I'm wondering now about other types of betony.

Anyway, I think we have made a good start. If we proceed with caution, I think the rabbits will do fine. I try not to add more than one or two new plants a week in case of problems, but so far all has been fine. My buns have never looked better. I bred the does this week and will be interested to see how that goes. My rabbits are still getting some pellets, but many days they hardly touch them. I'm feeding a five gallon bucket full of greens for three rabbits and probably will increase this shortly.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2007 at 7:43AM
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bruglover(Gulf States)


All Stachys species, their leaves, stems and tubers (but not small roots) are supposed to be edible by people. Some are cultivated for the tuber, called Chinese artichoke. I've only seen one that grows here, Stachys floridana, or Florida betony (aka rattlesnake plant, the tuber looks like the rattles). They are related to mint and look a lot like mint, with opposite leaves, square stems, and mint-like flowers at the top. A plant called "wood betony" is not a Stachys afaik.

It's so great that you have included the scientific names; we do that on the wild edibles board I read, so we don't make mistakes and get sick.

The tall purple bull thistle, Cirsium vulgare, can be eaten by people, with the thorns removed, and the root is edible. I have taken the leaves, which get huge, stripped out the center vein, and stir-fried it. Yum. Since it's a foreign invasive noxious weed, that's a great thing to do for the environment - cut it off from the root with a shovel before it flowers, so it doesn't spread.

That's very interesting, that rabbits are not bothered by the thorns on raspberry leaves.

I used to live up north, but I don't remember a lot of the weeds, wasn't my hobby then. I think you folks have bedstraw, Galium species. People can eat that when it's young, so maybe rabbits can.

Polygonum species: Lady's thumb is one. All Polygonums are edible by people when young although some are too spicy. Polygonums are pretty easy to identify. Where the leaf grows out of the stem is a papery, fringed sheath on the stem at the joint. Japanese knotweed, an awful invasive weed, young shoots are edible by people, but only cooked afaik. Said to be tart like rhubarb. It used to be a Polygonum, I think they reclassified it.

Burdock: Arctium species, the root is edible in the first year before it flowers, afterwards it gets tough. The Japanese call it gobo, sometimes it's in the store, it's just burdock root. The leaves are not edible. As kids we collected the seeds into a ball to toss at each other, lol.

Magnolia species - Down here the big Southern magnolia, Magnolia virginiana, is everywhere. The flower buds and flower petals are edible by people, and no part of the tree is downright poisonous. It's what I give our bunnies to chew, small branches. I think the ornamental Japanese magnolias are the same species (?).

It's very interesting that you've read not to feed Viola spp. Maybe it's an example of something okay for people, not okay for bunnies? It has a lot of vitamin A and C. Roots should not be eaten, something about a medically active substance in them.

Lactuca species: I am pretty sure you have these, looks kind of like sow thistle, with milky juice, lower end of leaves with "ears" that clasp the stem, sort of dandelion-like flowers, can be blue, yellow or white. Not thorny, though. Down here Lactuca gets 8 ft tall. Same species as commercial lettuce, and also called wild lettuce. Very edible by people, and our rabbits like it.

Smilax species: Common names cats briar, bull briar, bamboo vine. Big thorny vine with oblong or somewhat heart-shaped leaves, and climbs with tendrils. The tender shoots and young leaves are edible by people in quantity. My rabbits' opinion on Smilax is so-so.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2007 at 10:31AM
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I used to run a rabbitry program at a school in Hidalgo, Mexico and we usually gathered forage for our rabbits from the field, until we planted so much alfalfa that it was faster and easier. Curly Dock was one of our rabbits' favorites. In Mexico, it's known as lengua de vaca (cow's tongue).

Before that, in another location, I would often feed banana leaves, as able to obtain them. Even the stems were relished by the rabbits.


    Bookmark   July 6, 2007 at 12:05PM
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Maggie_J(z5 Ontario)

Thanks, Bruglover and George, for the additional information. I had a long reply in the works the other day, but lost it in a power failure. :(

George, curly dock - Rumex crispus - can be fed to rabbits when it is young, but it is not advised to feed it after it sends up the flower stalk and the seeds should NEVER be fed. They are peported toxic to poultry as well.

Does anyone know if hops - Humulus lupulus - is safe for rabbits? I have heard that the young shoots can be eaten by humans.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 7:47AM
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Maggie_J(z5 Ontario)

I am about to post an update on my natural feeding program. I'm bumping this up so that it will be handy for reference.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2007 at 4:59PM
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Dibbit(z7b SC)

Because wilted redmaple leaves are toxic for horses, I would double check on the other maple species - I THINK wilted silver maple leaves have recently been added to the "toxic for horses" list. It may also be that fresh leaves are fine and that all are fine for bunnies.

Acorns are not recommended for horses, but may be OK for bunnies. Certain species, again, may be OK - people can eat them, some only after a fairly extensive leaching process, and some almost "out of hand". I don't know how that translates to leaves.

I would think that fruit tree prunings, except prunus, would be acceptable, but maybe only apples, which should include the crabapples. Most nut tree prunings might be OK too - walnut might be an exception.

I know the wild bunnies here eat the wild violet leaves that are acting as a ground cover in a nearly-wild end of a flower bed, especially in the spring, but in summer as well. Since it's a viola species, I can't see why the cultivated ones aren't OK, but make no guarantees!

If you could get hold of a farming/homesteading/rabbitry book dating from before say 1940, and certainly from before the 1900's, I ould think there would be pretty extensive plant lists that are good, and safe, for bunnies. Do the Foxfire books cover bunnies, as they would absolutely NOT have storebought feeds?!? I would imagine that almost any plant that can be foraged from the wild for human consumption would be OK for rabbits, but may be wrong....

    Bookmark   September 14, 2007 at 7:46PM
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Here is the list in Carla Emory's Encyclopedia of Country Living.

Beans and bean vines (not soybean)
Beets: both top and root
Bermuda grass
Blackberry bush leaves
cabbage: some okay, too much causes health problems (goiter)
Canadian bluegrass
carpet grass
carrot: root and tops
cereals (if fat free and fresh)
cheeseweed (malva)
clover: any but sweet clover
cow parsnip
fescue: red, etc.
filaree (stork's bill)
Grains: all types, unless dirty, damp, or moldy
grapefruit: all parts (not too much)
Grass/lawn clippings, grass grains: as long as they bear no insecticides
Hazelnut leaves
Jerusalem artichokes: tops, stems, or roots
Kentucky bluegrass
kohlrabi: all parts
lettuce: all kinds
meadow fescue
Milk: fresh or sour
napier grass
oranges: all parts (not too much)
orchard grass
panic grass
peas and pea vines
potato: not peelings or sprouts or leaves
prairie grass
redtop grass
rhodes grass
root vegetables
rye, rye grass
sheep sorrel
sorghum grains
sprouted grains
sudan grass
sunflower leaves or seeds
sweet potatoes: vines or tubers
turkey mullein
turnips: all parts

NOT GOOD for rabbits:
arrow grass
bracken fern
castor beans
chokecherry leaves or pits
jimson weed
johnson grass
lima beans
miner's lettuce
moldy bread or moldy anything
potato leaves, sprouts, or peels
rhubarb leaves
soybeans or soybean vines
sweet clover
swiss chard (which is odd, because these are very similar to beet tops, right?)
tomato leaves

What do you think? I was especially curious about the different grasses that she says are okay. Has anyone fed lawn clippings to their bunnies?

    Bookmark   March 6, 2008 at 12:25PM
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Dibbit(z7b SC)

As far as I know, Swiss chard is just a variety of beet that doesn't grow a fat root, only leaves, but I might be wrong there.

I MAY be confusing it with Johnson grass, which is on the no-no list, but I might be careful about Sudan grass - if I am remembering correctly, it can be toxic to horses and cattle in general and especially under certain circumstances, mostly having to do with periods of rapid growth, as is Johnson grass. Since Johnson grass is a millet family member, I would add that to the no list, also.

And mesquite beans are very edible by people and cattle/horses, so I don't know if the no listing means all parts of mesquite trees or if some are OK and some not.

I am a little surprised about amaranth being on the no list, as the young leaves are edible by humans - it may be the seeds (which again, are fully edible by humans) or older leaves are bad for rabbits. Pig weed, if it's the same as here, is a type of amaranth, as I recall - at least the red-root pig weed is.

Since they are growing "wildly" here this time of year, winter weeds are on my mind - I am pretty sure chickweed is OK, but what about henbit or the other common weeds - I have heard one called artillery weed here, since it shoots its seeds out when they are ripe and the pod is disturbed?

    Bookmark   March 6, 2008 at 1:25PM
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Carla Emory has a couple of paragraphs about home-grown rabbit food:

"The old-timers who wintered their rabbits on food they'd grown themselves fed them such things as stock beets and cabbage in winter as well as their grain and hay. So can you. Pea and bean vines can be cured like hay and make an excellent hay substitute or supplement.

"In season, rabbits like anything green, but you must be careful not to feed them plants that are outrightly poisonous, such as chokecherry or rhubarb leaves, or potato peels with sprouts or the ones that have been in the sun long enough to get even the slightest touch of green. Other greens are only mildly poisonous in the uncooked state such as pigweed, amaranth greens, spinach, comfrey, and Swiss chard--but for a creature with a small body weight like a rabbit, especially a young rabbit, these can be a problem too. Much of the reason that people develop a fear of growing their own rabbit food, or have had bad experiences with home feeding of rabbits is that they don't understand how very many greens, wild or domestic, are not fully safe to feed rabbits, and which are. Before feeding a leafy green or herb for the first time, check the list under "Edible for Rabbits" below, to see if there is a warning of any sort about it. Stick to feeding them human-type salad greens unless you know for sure a wild one is safe. If cooking is advised for a green or category of greens (the amaranth family), don't feed it to rabbits who, of course, would be eating it raw. If it's in the least toxic, don't feed it to them. If it might have chemical residues in it, don't feed it to them.

"I plant extra rows of lettuce for them. And when I weed in the summer, I take along a bucket to put the pulled edible weeds for rabbits. Feeding this way you never have to buy a rabbit pellet and they do fine. When fed home-grown stuff, they'll grow a little slower (and more normally) to that 2-lb. butchering size. But it's far cheaper, and I have organic meat because conception on, they've been nourished with home-grown foods and greens, or hay and grain from a source I know is chemical-free.

"Vegetables/Greens/Fruits: A combination of grains is better than a single one. A combination of veggies and greens plus grain and hay is better yet. Let your rabbits do some of the picking and choosing. They'll choose what they need. They'lll love much of what you offer of this sort, and it's a nice way to tame them--hand-feeding them some veggie treats. For pregnant and nursing does, variety is especially important. Offer the vegetables or leafy greens in season (the longer the season, the better). Garden and kitchen vegetables and fruit scraps can be included also, as long as they're not on the unhealthy list. If you're just starting to supplement a rabbit's diet in this way, go slowly at first until your bunny gets used to it. Limit what you feed so that surplus doesn't rot in the cage. Rotting surpluses are good for chickens or pigs, but not rabbits. In fact, rabbits can get sick from eating partly spoiled greens. Garden vegetables for rabbits, as for people, are mostly water. Greens are water plus lots of minerals and vitamins. Root vegetables are higher in energy supplied, lower in the mineral-and-vitamin department."

    Bookmark   March 6, 2008 at 1:42PM
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Wow, THANK YOU everyone! This is exactly what I've been trying to find. We have a large farm and make hay but have been buying bunny pellets (which seems ridiculous)! We've just begun trying to produce a lot of our own organic food (meat rabbits included). I've learned so much from this site, still have far to go, and truly appreciate all of your contributions here! I'll keep lurking n learning... Happy almost spring!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2008 at 6:43AM
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HI Maggie. I haven't been over hear for a while (but do bump into your posts frequently at Homesteading).

Just wanted to say thanks to you, CelerySusan, Dibbit and a few others for putting together this thread. Very helpful, very informative, and very time consuming for you to compile, I'm sure. Since our feeding philosphies are similar, this list is rather indispensable, as I'm trying to learn the flora in these parts, but the loads of info gets a little overwhelming, and doesn't specifically go over what's good bunny food and what isn't.

My plan is to make a personal library by listing and researching for pictures of each plant specimen to help me better familiarize.

Thank you, so much for your time in creating this list.


    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 10:29AM
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I recently saw someone selling pine cones on eBay as a snack for rabbits, chinchillas and guinea pigs. She washes them, bakes them and dries them. Does anyone know about the safety of feeding pine cones as a snack? Why would they need to be baked? Thanks

    Bookmark   July 20, 2008 at 1:53PM
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    Bookmark   April 18, 2011 at 3:38PM
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