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Wednesday - July 15, 2009

From: Shiro, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pests
Title: Food for wild rabbits in Shiro TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

There are usually 1-2 cottontail rabbits sharing our 4 acre habitat that are suffering due to the lack of new growth caused by drought. Is there anything I can plant after this summer that would provide a good vigorous food source for them, especially during the summer? I have plenty of area available, sun and shade.

ANSWER:

Usually when we get questions about rabbits (and deer!) eating, it has more to do with what they will NOT eat because they are laying waste to the homeowner's garden and prize plants.

One of the Smarty Plants team said that a vegetable garden comes to mind. From our viewpoint, just about everything in a vegetable garden is non-native to North America and probably so highly hybridized that the original plant would be unrecognizable. However, it is a good idea. We went hunting for the answer to your question, and found that most websites on rabbit food had to do with pet rabbits, and usually involved advertising for the pellets commonly used for pets.

However, from a website whowhatwherewhenwhy?com we found What Do Rabbits Eat? From this, we took an excerpt:

"Rabbits are true vegetarians. Herbivore is the scientific term.

Rabbits mostly eat grass and leafy weeds. This food contains high amounts of cellulose, which is difficult to digest. To counteract that problem, rabbits eat their own feces. They pass two different kinds of solid waste, one of which is soft pellets that the rabbit immediately eats after passing. This helps them to get more of the nutrient content from their food in the same way cows do by chewing their cud. As nauseating as that sounds, rabbits do not have the ability to vomit.

Pet rabbits eat timothy hay, rabbit food pellets and fresh vegetables. Talk to your pet store owner to make sure your rabbit gets a completely balanced diet with all the required nutrients. One of the benefits of keeping outdoor rabbits is a constant supply of fertilizer for your garden and flower beds.

So, what to rabbits eat? Leaves, grass, plants and their own poop."

Okay, that was probably more than you ever wanted to know, but you did ask. 

The main thing that we learned is that rabbits will nibble grass, tree bark, flowering stems and small leafy plants. They need some cover nearby the spot where the food is, because bunnies are a favorite food of hawks. Another point is that they need water. One suggestion was to feed them wet lettuce leaves, but if you are depending on their eating from the wild, perhaps an intermittent sprinkler that would wet the rabbit menu, or just a big fairly flat bowl, like a birdbath but not on a stand, would be a good choice. And if you find yourself with more rabbits than you thought were around, and some passing deer, raccoons and possums, don't say you weren't warned.

 

 

 

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