Clover or trefoil is a popular fodder crop native to Europe, North America, and Asia that has yellow, white, purple, or red dense headed flowers, and mainly trifoliate leaves with some species having more leaves on their stalk.
This plant that belongs to the genus Trifolium in the family Fabaceae, the bean, pea or legume family. There are over 300 species with some species including white, red, yellow, purple, sweet, crimson, zigzag, lesser trefoil, hare’s foot clover, T. subterraneum, T. alexandrinum, among others.
However, of all these species, the most cultivated ones are the red and white clovers that serve as animal feed either in hays or pastures, sometimes together with ryegrass. However, honey bees may also use this plant’s nectar in making honey.
Can rabbits eat clovers?
Yes. Rabbits can eat clover, including red, white, and other species. This fodder plant’s leaves, stems, stalks, flowers, or even roots are safe. One source notes that roots are better for bunnies being more fibrous.
Nutritionally, clovers have proteins, iron, calcium, vitamin C, manganese, sodium, and vitamins A, C, K, among other nutrients.
While it is maybe a popular fodder for other animals, this is not the same to bunnies because of the following reasons:
1. It is high in proteins
High proteins will result in more uric acid or urea production, which will strain their kidney, affect the microflora balance in their cecum, and worsen food motility in the intestine (GI stasis).
Also, the high protein will fatten your rabbits. Therefore, give it to those lactating, growing, or in case you want them to add some weight, especially skinny ones.
2. High in calcium
It is high in calcium, and since calcium absorbed is influenced by the amount available in their diet, there is a risk of excessive absorption that will strain their kidney in eliminating it. A rabbit weight about 2.5kg needs about 510g of calcium daily.
Furthermore, since most of the urinary tract stones have calcium, it may worsen their production as well as the formation of calcium sludge. Avoid it if your bunnies have a history of urinary stones or calcium sludge.
3. It is low in fiber
Unlike grass hay like timothy Grass, which is very high in fiber that will promote the teeth wearing and healthy digestion, clovers have less fiber. Instead, go for other hays like orchard grass, oats, Bermuda, and meadow.
Therefore, owing to the above reasons, only feed your bunnies a small amount of clover, alfalfa sprout, or their hay. Don’t replace it with grass hay that should account for the more significant portion of these pet’s diets.
Large amounts of fresh clover can result in stomach upsets, diarrhea, gas, and bloating (quite painful) that may come with gurgling noises.
Feeding clover to your rabbits
You already know that they should eat it sparingly. Additionally, mix it with other plants and veggies and begin introducing it gradually as you check if it causes any stomach problems.
Furthermore, like any other plant material, ensure it is free of pesticides, herbicides, or insecticides as they may harm your pet.
Finally, while baby rabbits can eat clovers, only give them after they have weaned fully, i.e., after they are at least 12 weeks old. If younger, stick to alfalfa and other pellets, mother’s milk, and water.
Will wild bunnies damage clover?
Yes. Wild and domesticated rabbits can eat clovers, especially during winter, when there is a limited choice of what they can eat. Therefore, if you are growing it in your garden, limit access to your bunnies and use other means of keeping wild rabbits away.
Some of the ways to use in stopping damage by wild bunnies include the use of repellants, fencing, traps, shooting, and so on.