Nettles are a common weed that can be found everywhere. As a rabbit owner, you may wonder whether rabbits can eat nettles. Fortunately, rabbits can eat nettles. So don’t worry if your rabbits have nibbled on nettles in the garden. Surprisingly, they actually benefit from it.
Rabbits can eat nettles in various forms, including fresh and dried. Rabbits seem to be immune to nettle stings. Therefore, rabbits can easily eat them without the need to cook them to neutralize the poison and stings. A rabbit can eat a nettle from the garden as long as it has been washed and has not come into contact with chemicals, pesticides, or waste. You can also offer rabbits blanched nettle leaves, dried leaves, or nettle tea.
Feeding your rabbits nettles can have a positive effect on their nutrient intake and health.
Nettles are rich in vitamins, minerals, and essential acids. They fight free radicals and can help to reduce blood sugar levels, inflammation, and blood pressure.
You can safely give rabbits a handful of fresh nettles 1-2 times a week as part of their diet.
Can rabbits eat nettles?
There are numerous herbs, weeds, and other plants that rabbits can and will eat. Fortunately, stinging nettle is one of the weeds that rabbits can eat without hesitation. This is a blessing for many rabbit owners.
Nettles are common in the wild, especially in areas where it rains frequently.
Nettles belong to the nettle family (Urticaceae), which includes the well-known stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) and small nettle (Urtica urens), as well as several other nettles.
We usually regard this plant as a weed, although it is frequently used in food and medicines. Nettles are even a staple food for many herbalists.
Wild nettles in your garden should not be used in your cooking unless you know how to harvest them. However, you can safely feed the herb to your rabbit.
Rabbits do not seem to be affected by the sting of stinging nettles. This is quite an evolutionary advantage, considering how common the herb is.
Humans and other animals cannot safely handle or consume nettles until prepared. Rabbits, on the other hand, can eat a nettle plant without any problems.
Are Rabbits Allowed to Eat Nettles?
Rabbit owners are advised to include fresh greenery in their rabbits’ diet. This not only ensures a varied diet but also a diet full of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.
Of course, you should only provide your rabbit with healthy nettles that are free from fungi, parasites, and any chemicals.
When you remove nettle weed from your garden, you should inspect it for such contaminants. Also, clean them in water before feeding them to your rabbits.
Nettles are very easy to cultivate if you want to grow your own plants specifically for your rabbits. Just make sure they don’t spread too much. There’s a reason they are classified as a weed.
Do Rabbits Eat Nettles?
Wild rabbits eat a variety of grasses, herbs, and weeds. These include stinging nettles, found in many places worldwide where wild rabbits naturally live.
At this stage, it is not sure whether rabbits have developed immunity to the sting of stinging nettles. The immunity could also be a coincidence or luck.
A domestic rabbit will happily eat any nettles it finds in your garden. This also applies to any other plants they come across.
For example, if you have dandelions in your garden, your rabbits will happily eat them.
So, if your rabbits are allowed to run around outside, you should make sure that there are only safe plants there.
The plants themselves should be safe for rabbits. They should also not be treated with substances that are toxic to rabbits.
Can Rabbits Eat Nettle Leaves?
The poison-filled hair-like structures of the stinging nettle are found on the plant’s stem and the leaves. These are the needles that release poison when touched and cause the burning sensation that many people are familiar with.
There is only a slight difference between the needles on the leaves and those on the stem. Rabbits can eat both the leaves and the stem equally well and also the nettle flowers.
The leaves are the first thing your rabbits will nibble on. You can pick a handful of leaves from the main plant and feed them to your rabbits.
This way, you preserve the plant and can harvest more leaves when the leaves grow back.
How to Feed Nettles to Rabbits
Now that we have clarified that rabbits can safely eat nettles, let’s talk about how to incorporate nettles into your rabbits’ diet.
There are several ways you can offer nettles to your rabbits.
Dried Nettles for Rabbits
Dried nettles are safe for rabbits to eat. Nettles are also safe for human consumption if cooked or dried.
Prepared nettles are usually available in both health food stores and pet stores.
We recommend buying dried nettle specifically for pets or carefully checking the ingredients of foods for human consumption for additives.
You can also dry nettles yourself. There are two approaches to do this:
- Hang the nettle upside down in a dry, cool place. Depending on the climate, you should leave them for several days or a few weeks. The weed will then dry on its own.
- If you live in a humid place, you can dry the leaves in a dehydrator. Clean the harvested nettles in water and allow them to dry before starting the drying process.
Once the nettle is dry, chop it up and mix it into your rabbit’s food. You can also store the nettle long-term in an airtight container.
Fresh Nettles for Rabbits
Rabbits can eat nettles fresh from the garden. After washing the nettle, you can provide your rabbits with a handful as a treat or with their usual food.
A rabbit should be given about a handful of fresh vegetables and greens per day. Nettles belong to plants that can be a regular part of a rabbit’s diet, along with other vegetables.
If you are worried about the thorns, you can crush the leaves with the flat part of a knife.
Cooked Nettles for Rabbits
Nettles can be prepared in various ways. Note that the nettle does not need to be cooked for a rabbit to eat it.
However, the cooking process breaks down the stings and poison, making the nettle harmless for human consumption.
The only way nettles should be cooked for rabbits is by blanching. Blanching involves immersing the nettle parts in boiling water.
- For rabbits, you should blanch the leaves for between 30 seconds and 5 minutes. However, the longer you cook the nettle, the greater the risk that it will turn to mush.
- Once the nettle is cooked, remove it from the boiling water and place it directly in an ice bath. This shocks the nettle and stops the cooking process immediately.
- After blanching and cooling, you can feed the leaves to the rabbit.
- You can also freeze the nettle leaves and defrost them as required. This makes them an ideal meal addition when fresh greens and vegetables are hard to find.
Stinging Nettle Tea for Rabbits
Nettle tea is one of the few forms of nettle that is commercially available for human consumption.
You can also buy nettle tea for your rabbits. Just read the ingredients list and make sure that only nettles or other plants that are safe for rabbits are used in the mixture.
You can boil nettle tea from both fresh and dried leaves that you harvest and prepare yourself.
Technically, the water in which you boil the nettle leaves is also a form of nettle tea. However, it is not as strong as the one brewed in a teacup, which your rabbits may prefer.
You can make nettle tea for your rabbits as follows:
- Steep dried or fresh leaves in boiling water for 5 minutes.
- Remove the leaves.
- Allow the tea to cool.
- Offer your rabbits a saucer of delicious nettle tea.
This way, you can encourage your rabbits to drink more and increase their nutrient intake.
However, you can also achieve this with other types of tea. In general, tea is usually suitable for rabbits as long as it is caffeine-free and contains no additives such as milk or sugar.
However, make sure that the plant from which the tea is made is non-toxic to rabbits.
Purple deadnettle (Lamium purpureum) bears a remarkable resemblance to stinging nettle, apart from its striking purple flowers.
Yet this plant is not a stinging nettle at all. Purple deadnettle belongs to the labiate family, which is also harmless to rabbits.
In addition, purple deadnettle lacks the stinging bite of stinging nettle. Growing purple deadnettle can, therefore, be a safer alternative.
This is especially true for rabbit owners with dogs, outdoor cats, or small children. However, purple dead nettle can quickly get out of control and take over a garden if not kept in check.
Unlike stinging nettle, you can get purple dead nettle from a nursery or buy the seeds online.
Other Types of Nettle
The stinging nettle family (Urticaceae) comprises over 2000 different species. The genus to which the stinging nettle belongs, Urtica, comprises almost 40 individual species.
Not all of them are found worldwide. However, you can find a few of them in your garden:
- Common nettle (Urtica dioica)
- Small stinging nettle (Urtica urens)
- Tufted nettle (Urtica membranacea)
- Pill nettle (Urtica pipulifera)
If you cannot identify a plant, you should not give it to your rabbits to eat. Just because a rabbit is an herbivore doesn’t mean it can safely eat any plant.
Make sure that the nettle you are feeding your rabbits is really a stinging nettle and not one of the other species.
To be sure, you can take part of the plant to a nursery for identification. You can also discuss the inclusion of nettle in your rabbit’s diet with your vet.
Benefits of Nettles for Rabbits
Nettle is hailed as a potential superfood because of its antioxidants and richness in amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.
Not only does this provide a rabbit with a healthy dose of necessary nutrients, but it also helps their bodies fight off free radicals.
Strange as it may sound, stinging nettle actually has anti-inflammatory properties. Ingesting nettle can help with internal inflammation such as arthritis or other joint swelling.
Rabbits also have a sensitive digestive system and gastrointestinal tract.
Sometimes, intestinal inflammation is a symptom of internal restlessness. Eating nettles, whether fresh, dried, or as a tea, can help to alleviate these symptoms.
Reduces Blood Pressure
Phytomedicine has established that extracts from nettle leaves can lower high blood pressure.
The mode of action is complex. Nettle contains substances that help relax the blood vessels and reduce the beating force of the heart.
These two factors lower blood pressure. Nettle is well suited to treating high blood pressure, a symptom of an unknown health problem.
Ingesting nettle also helps the rabbit’s body to eliminate excess water and salt, which helps to lower blood pressure.
Control of Blood Sugar Levels
Nettle is being researched as a means of lowering blood sugar levels. The extracts are being compared to the effect of insulin on the body.
Diabetes is not common in rabbits. Obesity can be a problem, especially if keepers offer too many fruit treats, which can encourage the development of diabetes.
Including foods such as nettle can help prevent blood sugar spikes.
Ingesting nettle is undoubtedly one way to improve the health of your rabbits. Nettle is rich in the following nutrients:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin K
- Various B vitamins
- Vitamin A
- All essential amino acids
- Oleic acid
- Linoleic acid
Conclusion: Can Rabbits Eat Nettles?
Nettles don’t just have to be an annoying weed you remove from your garden. It can be part of your rabbit’s diet.
Not only can rabbits eat fresh, untreated nettles, but they also benefit from the wealth of nutrients contained in the herb.