Rabbits and guinea pigs are natural foragers. In the wild, they don’t stick to one type of grass, flower, weed, or herb. They eat a bit of this, a bit of that – foraged food based on what is available seasonally. Without this variety, they can suffer a lack of trace minerals and other nutritional components. Forages for guinea pigs and rabbits can add interest to your small animal’s standard fare, too. The best food is also an activity. They need to bite, chew, and crunch.
Our Top 5 Forages for Small Animals:
- GRASS. Without grass there would be no hay, so we’re pretty big fans. Timothy, orchard grass, meadow, fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, and Italian ryegrass, and wheat grass are common options. The back yard is the easiest way to give guinea pigs and rabbits the excitement of foraging for themselves. Be sure to supervise time outside, provide a safe enclosure to protect from predators, and keep your small animal cool to prevent heatstroke.
- WEEDS. Let your rabbit take over yard work this weekend. Dandelion may be a pest, but is good for digestion and high in vitamin C. You probably have some conveniently located right in your backyard. Other tasty weeds that are good forages for rabbits include yarrow, white clover, oxalis, chickweed, and cleavers.
- HERBS. Herbs are a fun way to add something new, plus a nutrition boost, to your small animals’ meals. Our own house mixes are pretty great; we only use organic and wild crafted herbs and flowers. But this time of year is perfect for growing herbs right in your own backyard, too! Parsley, basil, mint, cilantro, and dill are popular with the pigs. Don't forget nettle; it's awfully good for a lot of stuff. Find out why plantain is, too. And can't forget Vita-Licious.
- FLOWERS. Go wild! In addition to dandelions, rose petals, hibiscus, marigold, lavender, and pansies are safe forages for guinea pigs and rabbits. Just be sure to avoid buttercups, foxgloves, holly, primrose, and nightshade. Give your friend a bouquet (and take the guesswork out of feeding flowers) with our Flower Power Berry Boost blend. Because we all need to feel special sometimes.
- BERRIES. Forage is possible even in the winter, when outdoor vegetation is scarce. You can pick up berries at your local supermarket for a special treat year-round. Or try our Berry Burst for a real taste and texture party. We've combined raspberries, cranberries, blackberries, raspberry leaf, and blackberry leaf. Yum.
A few rules of thumb with feeding forages for small animals:
- Stay away from forages that could have possibly been sprayed with chemicals. This includes anything growing next to busy roads.
- Avoid feeding if not 100% sure what a wild plant is. Some safe forages, like yarrow, can be easily misidentified as toxic lookalikes, like hemlock.
- Skip grassy areas that may have been used as a bathroom by dogs, cats, or wild animals.
- Introduce and new foods gradually to avoid upsetting the gut. And be cautious if your small animal has any special dietary needs. Herbs, for example, are often high in calcium and should be limited for bladder sludge-prone pets.
As small animals get more attention from the veterinary and nutrition communities, there is an increase in knowledge about just how much variety these little friends need to stay truly healthy. Plus, would you want to eat the same things your entire life? Small animals crave different textures and flavors. A varied diet including safe forages for small animals can help them truly thrive.