Kale, alternatively known as leaf cabbage is a type of vegetable taxonomically referred to as Brassica oleracea which is cultivated primarily for its edible leaves. Its leaves can be green or purple, and they can be bumpy, curly, plain or be ‘leaf and spear.’
Nutritionally, kale contains about 84% water, 4% proteins, 2.5% fiber, and about 1% fat. It also has vitamin A, C, K, B1, B3, alpha-linoleic acid, folate, lutein, phosphorus, calcium, potassium, zinc among others.
Their benefits include having powerful antioxidants such as kaempferol and quercetin that are beneficial, they help lower cholesterol that may diminish the chances of getting heart disease, aids in fighting cancer, and so on.
With all these benefits and essential nutrients, is it safe to give your bunny kale and what amounts is enough?
Do rabbits eat kale?
Yes. Rabbits can eat kale including in your garden. Most bunnies will enjoy nibbling it. Now that it is clear they can eat this leafy vegetable, what about quantities?
Bunnies should eat one cup of leafy greens for every two pounds of their body weight daily. It is recommended that you mix at least three different types of leafy greens. However, there are a few things you need to know before you begin giving your furry friends this kale every day.
First, it has oxalic acid. Oxalate or oxalic acid, when consumed, binds with minerals such as calcium and iron to form calcium and iron oxalates that can occur in the gut, kidney or other parts of the urinary tract. It is also associated with “tingling of the skin, and the mouth,” notes Rabbit.org.
Therefore, oxalates can increase the chances of having kidney stones and reduce mineral absorption if the binding occurs in the gut. Sources 1, 2 and 3 states that consumption of foods high in oxalate can cause autism and vulvodynia.
The actual quantity of oxalates in kale is conflicting with the U.S. Department of Agriculture stating that they contain about 20 mg per 100g serving which translates to approximately 13mg per cup of chopped kale. This is contradicted by the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health which puts it at 2mg per cup making it low.
In small quantities, rabbits and even human beings can handle oxalic acid without the possibility of any of the possible problems we have stated.
Secondly, there are chances this veggie can cause stomach upsets and other digestive problems. This is not a problem of only kale but several other veggies. Your bunnies may suffer from diarrhea, bloating, constipation, gas among other issues.
Finally, since it does not have much fiber, yet the rabbit’s typical diet has a lot of fiber with low sugars and fats, you can give them a lot of kale.
Giving kale to bunnies
If you are introducing your rabbits to kale for the first time, begin with a small amount and monitor for signs of gas pain, soft feces or diarrhea.
As already stated, they can eat a cup for every two pounds of their weight. The best practice is to mix several of these leafy greens (at least three types). In your list, try to reduce the number of those that have high oxalic content.
While introducing veggies, ensure you do not introduce a different one in less than three days. Furthermore, always vary the specific leafy greens you give them. This will keep them enchanted and happy.
Finally, wash them before to remove any chemicals such as herbicides, insecticides or pesticides that may be present.
Can rabbits eat kale stem?
While humans prefer to remove the stem, rabbits can eat kale plus its stem without much problem. It is not harmful or toxic. Therefore, you don’t have to remove these items.
What about cooked or frozen
There is no problem giving your bunnies frozen kale as freezing them will help keep their texture. However, not all leafy greens can be frozen as some may lose their natural appearance and form when frozen.
There is no need for cooking them as this will make them lose some of their fiber, and they make become much harder to digest. Any cooking ingredient or preservatives used may be harmful too.
As the debate of the amount of oxalic acid that kale has goes on, you should know that whole amount of fresh foods should account for about 15% of the total food you give your bunny. This will include treats such as non-leafy vegetables that rabbits can eat as well as permitted fruits.
You may come across a few sites warning you against giving your bunny’s any kale due to the high oxalic acid content. The content is not as high as we have seen. Also, you can opt to be feeding them these veggies occasionally.