Welcome to the world of Hollands! I'm sure you have received advice from many people on how to keep your rabbits healthy and happy; well I'm going to add to that list of ideas by telling you about some things
we use in our rabbitry. These are practices we use every day and seem to work in our program.
I have read a lot about herbs and treating certain ailments with herbs; all this made so much sense to me since rabbits are natural herbivores. Herbivores means they are plant eaters. Rabbits in the wild graze all day or night on a variety of plants that are available to them, with each plant providing different vitamins and minerals that are important to their diet. When they become ill they eat certain plants or herbs to get over that illness. Rabbits that live in captivity do not have access to these plants or herbs, and while pellets may be fully balanced for their diet, it's not a bad idea to add a little variety. We don't like the same food everyday do we? Plus, it is up to us to figure out what they are lacking when they don't feel good.
There are many benefits to feeding herbs. In general rabbits love herbs and they can help prevent or cure many mild ailments. The herbs you feed your rabbits are not the dried ones that you find in your cabinet but are actually clippings off real plants. Growing your own herbs can be a fun, challenging project. Feeding them to your rabbits can be a healthy supplement to their regular diet, and if you are growing them yourself you know that there are not any unnecessary chemicals that can be harmful.
Herbs can easily be grown in your own garden, tub or even window sill and most grow fairly easy. There are MANY herbs that are beneficial but these are a few that I raise.
My top favorites are Comfrey, Parsley, Mint, Chamomile, Rosemary and Sorrel. Some of these are easier to find than others but keeping a few of these around can pretty much cover most ailments. Some can be found at your local garden center, if not available there you might have to locate an actual herb gardener in your area or even search online.
There are several other things I keep on hand at all times in case I have a bunny that doesn’t feel good: yogurt, old fashion oatmeal, and various herbs (Comfrey and Parsley especially helpful). You don't have to grow every herb, just pick out a few that you think your rabbits could benefit from and start from there.
NOTE: Keep in mind that giving anything new to any bunny needs to be given in SMALL quantities at first to make sure there are no adverse reactions; and use extreme caution when giving anything to young rabbits. We have a rule in our house NOTHING green to anyone under 6 months old.
Comfrey is a very hearty plant that is good for healing, bone formation, ill bunnies, stress and weak bunnies, respiratory expectorant. Anytime we have a bunny that looks like they are feeling just a little bit bad we give them a piece of a Comfrey leaf. Unless it is something serious, this usually gets them back on track.
Parsley is another “fix all” that I like to keep available. Parsley is one of easiest to find in seeds or plants and is great for fertility in bucks, productivity in does, blood circulation. I use it for anyone that is a little “off”, any digestive disorders or anyone that seems a little down. Internet research says it is also good for urinary problems, and roots can be used for constipation and obstructions of the intestines, but I have not had to use it for these yet.
Mint smells great and pretty easy to grow! I laugh at my dogs when I have mint where they can reach it, every time they walk by my mint plants they reach over and lick the leaves! Mint can be good for firming loose stool, decreasing nursing doe milk flow during weaning, and help prevent mastitis.
Chamomile can sometimes be harder to find but is good pain relief, calming a nervous rabbit like when visitors are around or during travel. It is also used for an eye wash for weepy eye but I have never personally had to use it for that.
Rosemary is good for weak or exhausted rabbits. It helps their circulatory system, nervousness, and is good for cold weather.
Sorrel – Living in Texas where it is very warm in the summer Sorrell is very hard to find, I actually had to get a plant from a friend to get my start. It is a very hearty plant and good for cooling and soothing, it makes nice treat in the summer heat.
Strawberry is a beautiful plant and as a whole plant is antiseptic and cooling. Leaves are rich in iron and are supposed to prevent miscarriage. Externally can be used for inflamed areas, rashes and sore eyes
Raspberry is actually a bush. It is good for the prevention and treatment of female ailments like retained afterbirth and can improve condition during a doe's pregnancy.
Blackberry, another bush, can be used for pregnant does, summer cooling, stimulate appetite and diarrhea
These are a few other popular herbs that I do not actually keep around but may be easier to find in your area of the United States than some of the other herbs.
Chickweed is used as an anti-inflammatory, helping heal cuts, and to aid the molting rabbit.
Echinacea – helps immune system as a stimulate and broad spectrum antibiotic. In lower doses it’s a stimulate, and in higher does it acts as an antibiotic.
Ginger – helps infertility in bucks
Marjoram (Oregano) is good for coughs, inflammation of mouth and throat . It is also good for digestive problems, uterine discomfort, and calming nerves
Herbs to avoid are Chives or anything from the onion family.
I mentioned earlier that I keep yogurt around. Yogurt is very beneficial because it puts back in the rabbit the good bacteria that keeps everything working right. If I have a rabbit that just doesn't seem to be eating right or just a little “off” I give them about ½ cc to 1 cc of any flavor of yogurt (I stay away from the flavors that have fruit chunks) if it's anything minor this usually gets them back on track. Yogurt or an herb almost always takes care of any digestive issue.
Hay is VERY important in our program. I NEVER leave the house without hay, I have gone to shows before and forgotten feed but never hay. Every rabbit in our barn gets hay at least every other day, but some get it everyday i.e.: babies, from the time they open their eyes until 5-6 months old, anyone not feeling well, anyone molting, any that just arrived from a trip, or visitors. Feeding hay can cut off a lot of ailments before they ever have a chance to begin.