Making Winter Forage

This time last year I was writing about all the rabbit safe plants that I found in my garden for Scamp to enjoy. I’ve been picking leaves again and Scamp’s been enjoying them, but I know shortly autumn will turn them all pretty colours and that will be it for tasty leaves until next spring. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was some way to store them up so Scamp could eat them all year around? Well, maybe there is. My experiment with making my own hay proved that it was possible to store tasty summer grass for eating later (I’ve made several more batches since), so why not do the same with other plants.

I started by collected a pile of tasty looking leaves. Look for green healthy looking ones without blemishes (or bugs) and collect them on a dry day.

Dandelion, thistle, strawberry, hazel, ginko, raspberry & basil leaves

Don’t forget to get your bunnies approval, there is not point going to the trouble of drying and storing leaves your bunny won’t eat. Scamp gives all these a pass on the taste test. I divided my pile in two, half for his supper and half to dry out.

Just checking the flavour!

The leaves for drying, the ones Scamp hadn’t eaten, I spread out on a tea tray on top of a couple of sheets of kitchen roll:

Then I popped them in the airing cupboard where it is warm and dry. I wasn’t sure how long it would take, but it was surprisingly fast! In just 4 days they looked like this:

It’s surprising how much they shrink! The Ginko leaves (which are thicker) needed a couple more days but everything else was dry and crispy. But the big question is, do they still pass the bunny taste test?

The answer is yes, Scamp seems just about as excited about dry leaves and the fresh ones. So I’m going to be drying a lot more leaves to provide tasty, home grown, rabbit food full of vitamins and completely free!

Other was to Dry Plants for Your Rabbit

There are several ways to dry out leaves for storage:

  • Leave them somewhere warm and dry like I did … I put mine in the airing cupboard! It takes 4-5 days to dry them out.
  • Lay them out outside and let the sunshine do the work. The drawback is you need sunshine! You may want to stretch a bit of clear plastic above them to keep the rain off.
  • Use your oven. You can dry leaves in an oven on the lowest heat setting, or better yet, save energy and just use the leftover heat after you’ve cooked something. The downside is you can’t fit much in at once and something can be a little stinky. I doesn’t take long though (about 15minutes), we did this with Scamp’s first greens when he was a tiny baby.
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12 Responses to “Making Winter Forage”

  1. shell may says:

    That is so great to know! Scamp is just the cutest thing. There is a wild bunny in my yard every night that munches on a patch of sweet grass. Reminds me of Scamp.
    xx, shell

  2. Rose says:

    What a great idea! They sure look tasty, I know my bunny would like them! Im just a little concerned about gas? By keeping them for so long do they not become more gassy? Like they say you should never pick grass for bunnies and leave it any longer than 6 hours?

    Love the photos!

    • Tamsin says:

      Hi Rose,

      I think the six hour idea may be because if you left a big pile of grass it would go damp and mouldy on the bottom, where the air doesn’t circulate – like grass clippings on a compost heap. But if you picked it and spread it out somewhere warm and dry it would turn into hay instead. If you think about it, hay is just grass that has been cut, left spread out in a field to dry out and turned occasionally to let the air circulate!

      The important thing is to not pile it up too thickly when you lay it out to dry so that the air can get around it. You’ll be able to tell the difference as these went dry and crispy and smelled nice like hay rather than slimy/smelly like gone off vegetables. Storing it in something breathable like a cardboard box or paper bag will also make sure any left over moisture can escape.

      Some bunny owners find that dried leaves are actually less gassy and bunnies that can’t tolerate fresh vegetables can eat leaves.

      If you are worried about doing it your self though, you can buy pre-dried leaves, for example here: https://www.galensgarden.co.uk/galens-shop/galens-garden?cat=10

      Tamsin

  3. Jow says:

    Hi, im new dad :p for my little bunny… I would like to know.. Can rabbit eat soybean leaves or mung bean leaves?

    Im dont want to try to give them as i am new with rabbit.. Im afraid if they might sick or something…

    Alfalfa in my country quite expensive so i would like to make another forage for them…

    • Tamsin says:

      I’m really not sure about either of those two so best not to risk it. Grass (like horses/cows eat) is best for a rabbits main diet and you can dry that yourself if you can’t get it fresh all year around and can’t get hay (dried grass).

      Horses are a good guide for rabbits, generally if it’s okay for them to eat then it would be for a rabbit.

    • Karan says:

      Once your bunny reaches about 6 months old, you should not give it alfalfa hay as it is not grass but a legume. It is too high protein content for an older bunny. I occasionally give mine a alfalfa cube, but they usually don’t eat much of it. I would look up toxic plants for rabbits on the internet such as
      http://www.rabbit.org.

      Karan

  4. Angie says:

    Hi Tamsin. Scamp looks like a wild rabbit. He is a handsome boy!! We live in france on a 3ha little farm and have many wild european rabbits….i have raised a few but returned them back to the wild. I would so love to keep them all!!!, but do have 2 domestic rabbits Jaryd and Jenny. I have not read all through your wonderful site, so you may know this already, but did you know that wild rabbits know exactly what to eat and not to eat?, right from 3 weeks old when they appear from the nest they know exactly what to eat. They also know the medicinal plants for any little illness they might have, their very own little doctors. Unlike domestic rabbits who are not so discerning, a wild rabbit will never poison itself. I was under the impression that most wild animals would have this very strong instinct, but apparantely not…but the wild rabbit does. I have also successufully treated one wild rabbit for myxomotosis with homeopathic remedy especially made for this awful illness. You do have a wonderful and very informative site and shall enjoy carrying on browsing through.

    • Tamsin says:

      Hi Angie,

      Thanks for commenting. Scamp is a wild rabbit – I handreared him. The original plan was to release him but he ended up much to tame – as you can see.

      I heard about the wild rabbits good food instincts recently, I think it’s meant to be related to their mums milk – the foods that she eats effect the milk and give them information on what’s safe for them to eat. It would make sense as they cover such a large geographical area the plants that are available and safe to eat must vary a lot.

      I’ve noticed Scamp have different food preferences when he’s unwell, so I can easily imagine them self medicating on different plants. I often wonder what all these plants smell like with their sensitive noses – they must be able to detect much more than we can comprehend.

      Tamsin

      • Karan says:

        It’s unusual for a hare to live long as a baby. I tried hand raising some Arctic Hare kits and they all died. Did your rabbit have a white dot in the middle of its forehead? I think most kits have this dot and then it goes way. The color of your rabbit is agouti and hares are this color. Don’t mistake it as being a hare because of the color. Did you have to feed the rabbit as a baby? Hares are born with fur and are able to eat solids shortly after birth even though the mom does continue to feed them. I wish my little charges had lived. They are so cute. All baby rabbits are cute!

        Karan

        • Tamsin says:

          He’s definitely a rabbit not a hare. His eyes were closed and he had very little fur when I got him. Handrearing is tough, he was the only one of a litter of five that made it. A few of them did have a few white hairs on their forehead, and he still gets one or two sometimes.

  5. Pat says:

    Thank you for all the brilliant suggestions. I have dried quite a lot of various grasses and leaves. What is the best way to store it p l e a s e ?? Does it need airtight or not. Plastic tin or paper storage??

    Thank you
    Pat

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