A rabbit eats some basil.

Can Bunnies Eat Basil? Bunnies and Your Herb Garden

Bunnies are great pets. They are cute and have great personalities. However, as a responsible pet owner, you need to know the best diet for them and what not to feed your bunnies. Can bunnies eat basil?

Let’s start with basil. Basil is the most common and versatile herb around. Basil is always present in home gardens or kitchen counters. You can find basil everywhere. Basil is so versatile you can add it to almost any dish. If they are suitable for you, can they also be good for your bunnies?

Yes, basil is safe for bunnies to eat. Just remember to give your pets a balanced diet daily. You can combine basil with other vegetables high in Vitamin A like Broccoli and Spinach. You can combine these vegetables with a cup daily for every 4 lbs. of body weight. Lastly, if your bunnies are trying basil for the first time, make sure you are introducing them gradually. (1

Read along to know about the health benefits of basil. You will also gain insight into healthy food to feed your bunnies and food that you should never give your bunnies.

Why Is Basil Good For Your Bunnies?

Can bunnies eat basil? They sure can! It's good for them!
A sprig of basil is tied neatly and left on the counter. Don’t give your rabbit string.

Basil or scientifically known as Ocimum basilicum L., belongs to the same family of mint and other similar herbs. Basil is originally from Central Africa and Southeast Asia. (2)  

There are many types of basil. The common ones are sweet basil, purple basil, lemon basil, Thai basil, and holy basil.

Aside from traditionally using basil for cooking, it is also used to extract the aromatic essential oil. The oil is used for many purposes like perfume making or used as an insect repellant. 

According to Yvette Brazier of Medical News, basil has many great health benefits. Like any green leafy vegetables, basil is rich in antioxidants like anthocyanin and beta carotene. Antioxidants help with stopping free radicals in damaging healthy cells. (3)

Based on studies, basil may help with inflammation and swelling. It means basil has the potential to aid in treating various diseases like cancer. Basil is also proven to have anti-microbial properties. 

Basil is also rich in potassium, vitamin A, and beta-beta carotene. These vitamins and minerals are essential to maintain a healthy bodily function.

Basil – Nutritionally Speaking

Here’s a table of the nutritional composition of basil. (4)

Energy (kcal)1.76Selenium, Se (mcg)0.02
Protein (g)0.1Vitamin A, IU (IU)65.62
Total lipid (fat) (g)0.03Carotene, beta (mcg)39.09
Carbohydrate, by difference (g)0.43Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) (mg)0.05
Sugars, total (g)0.01Cryptoxanthin, beta (mcg)0.57
Fiber, total dietary (g)0.28Lycopene (mcg)2.75
Calcium, Ca (mg)14.79Lutein + zeaxanthin (mcg)8.05
Iron, Fe (mg)0.29Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid (mg)0.43
Magnesium, Mg (mg)2.95Niacin (mg)0.05
Phosphorus, P (mg)3.43Vitamin B-6 (mg)0.02
Potassium, K (mg)24.03Folate, total (mcg)1.92
Sodium, Na (mg)0.24Vitamin K (phylloquinone) (mcg)12
Zinc, Zn (mg)0.04Folate, DFE (mcg_DFE)1.92
Manganese, Mn (mg)0.02Fatty acids0.2

As for your pet bunny, it may like or not like eating basil. The reason why basil is a favorite herb is because of its distinct taste and aromatic smell. Although some bunnies may be okay with eating basil, some may not be fond of eating it due to the strong smell.  Don’t worry; the lemony compound found in basil will not hurt your bunny.

Now that we know that basil is safe for your bunny, you can plant them in your garden without worrying if they will munch and chew on them.  However, it would still be highly suggested you keep them in a pot where you can move your herbs just if your bunnies are overeating them. (5)

Basil is so easy to grow. I grow it year-round indoors with a small LED light, and it just keeps blooming and growing. A great hardy herb you can grow with medium light and lots of water. Use it for cooking things like pasta sauce and chicken, for feed it as a supplement to your rabbits!

What Is A Healthy Diet For Your Bunnies?

Although basil is good for bunnies, this should not be their primary source of food. Bunnies in the wild would eat a combination of fresh and dry plant material.  They eat primarily fresh or dry leaves. 

Sometimes they also eat tree barks, tender twigs, fruits, and seeds. Taking this into account, let’s discuss the suggested daily diet for an adult bunny. (6)

  1. Grass or Hay 85%

Hay is high in fiber, and it has protein and plenty of trace minerals. Another fact about hay is that it is also good because it is low in sugar, starch, and fat.

Hay is good because it is both coarse and fibrous. It is essential because bunnies continuously grow their teeth, and chewing hay helps keep their teeth worn naturally. The fiber in hay is also essential in good gut health.

Hay is the closest natural food source of rabbits in the wild. Always make sure you have hay available for your bunnies. In case they don’t eat it, they will use it to make a nest or play with it. You can never have too much hay.

  1. Green Veggies 5-10%

Your bunnies also need fresh food like green veggies. For an adult bunny, this is a cup of green leafy vegetables given at intervals throughout the day. The green leafy vegetables are for added vitamins and minerals.

Fruits are rich in sugar and starch. Therefore, they should be given sparingly. They are great treats for your bunnies but should not be part of their daily food. (7)

  1. High fiber Pellet 5%                     

In nature, rabbits do not have access to pellets. Pellets should not take the bulk of their daily diet. Some pellets in the market contain animal fats and are high in starch. Make sure you choose only those that are primarily made of hay. Avoid pellets that contain seeds, nuts, and fruits. (8)

Always remember that aside from giving your bunnies a balanced diet, they also require constant access to clean water, and they need to have plenty of exercise.

What Food Should You Avoid Giving your Bunnies?

WARNING! Do not feed your rabbit anything poisonous!
WARNING! Do not feed your rabbit anything poisonous!

Besides providing a good diet as a responsible pet owner, you also need to know what to avoid giving your bunnies. For example, although they are herbivores, it does not mean you can give them all types of vegetables. 

As a general rule, your bunnies should not eat food that is high in starch and sugar. Some plants also have high alkaloids. Alkaloids are compounds that plants naturally produce as a defense against animals that eats them.

According to Karen Sullivan of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals or PETA, these are the food you should never give to your pet bunnies; (9)

  1. Yogurt Drops – Yoghurt will promote an overgrowth of harmful bacteria in your bunny’s digestive tract.
  2. Starchy Food – Examples of these are your bread, crackers, cookies, pasta, oats, and cereals. Aside from being starchy, these food are also high in sugar. You also need to avoid giving your bunnies potatoes and other starchy crops. Starch and carbohydrates will not be suitable for their digestion. They will be bloated and cause an upset stomach.
  3. Avocado – This is highly toxic to rabbits. They contain a compound that may cause cardiac arrest in your bunnies.
  4. Chocolate – As with cats and dogs, this is highly toxic to rabbits.
  5. Walnuts – Never give your rabbits nuts, especially those that are high in fat content like walnut.
  6. Rhubard – this is high in alkaloids and is toxic to most animals. Never give this to your pet bunny.
  7. Peanut Butter – This is high in fat and sugar. You should not give it to your bunnies.
  8. Silverbeet – Although a green leafy vegetable, it should not be part of your bunny’s diet. They are toxic if given in large quantities.
  9. Cauliflower – This can cause bloating in your pet bunny. Give this vegetable in moderation.
  10. Hamster Food – Hamster is not in the same family as rabbits. They have different nutritional needs, so avoid substituting hamster food for your bunnies.
  11. Meat – For obvious reasons, rabbits are herbivores. Giving them meat will cause them stomach problems.

The Final Thought

Basil is a wonderful herb that should be in everybody’s garden and herb collection. They are not only great for cooking, but it also has plenty of health benefits. Basil is safe for bunnies to eat. They should be able to enjoy them. Basil may be suitable for your bunny but should not be their primary food source. Your bunnies need to be fed with plenty of hay and a variety of green vegetables to have a healthy balanced diet. 

  1. What to Feed Your Rabbit, https://rabbit.org/what-to-feed-your-rabbit/, Accessed March 19, 2021
  2. James E. Simon, Basil Fact Sheet, https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/CropFactSheets/basil.html/, Accessed March 19, 2021
  3. Yvette Brazier, Health Benefits of Basil, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266425#nutrition/, Accessed March 19, 2021
  4. University of Rochester Medical Center, Basil Nutrition Facts https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=76&contentid=02003-1/, Accessed March 19, 2021
  5. Khloe Bowen, Can Rabbits Eat Basil, And Facts You Should Know, https://www.hairstoncreekfarm.com/can-rabbits-eat-basil/#:~:text=As%20we%20mentioned%20that%20a,doesn’t%20contain%20any%20toxic./, Accessed March 19, 2021
  6. Hay! The Grass Roots, https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/rabbit-care-advice/rabbit-diet/hay-grass/, Accessed March 19, 2021
  7. Suggested Vegetables and Fruits for Rabbit Diet, https://rabbit.org/suggested-vegetables-and-fruits-for-a-rabbit-diet/, Accessed March 19, 2021
  8. Dana Krempels, Ph.D., What Should I Feed My Bunny?, http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare/diet.html/, Accessed March 19, 2021
  9. Katherine Sullivan, Avocado, Cereal, and 13 Other Foods You Should Never Feed Your Rabbit, https://www.peta.org/living/animal-companions/foods-rabbits-shouldnt-eat/, Accessed March 19, 2021

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