Many animals are kept for a food supply, to make money, or just because it is fun to have animals around. One of the most popular animals to keep fits that bill on all accounts is rabbits.
They are cute animals and easy to keep as pets as they require little space. They will eat just about anything, especially any garden surplus. However, that does not mean that they should be fed absolutely anything. I was given a whole tray of eggplants the other day, but I was not sure if they would be good for rabbits…
So, can rabbits eat eggplant?
Yes, rabbits can eat the eggplant fruit in moderation. They shouldn’t be allowed to eat any of the leaves or stems of the plant. These parts are toxic to rabbits.
Some rabbits can react to even small amounts of eggplant. It is, therefore, best to try feeding them with a tiny amount initially to see if they can tolerate it.
How does the toxic part of the eggplant affect rabbits?
The aubergine or eggplant (Solanum melongena) is a plant that belongs to a group of plants called the nightshade family (Solanaceae). Most of us will be familiar with the reputation of a plant called the deadly nightshade but other members of the family include tomatoes and potatoes.
Despite being a member of this deadly plant group, the fruit can be eaten by rabbits in small quantities.
However, eggplant flowers, stems, and leaves are high in solanine.
High doses of solanine will cause a rabbit to develop solanine poisoning. Symptoms of solanine poisoning include abdominal pain, diarrhea, reduced breathing, vomiting and heartbeat rate, fever, or low temperature (hypothermia).
These symptoms could cause the rabbit to die as there’s no way for them to get rid of the solanine without letting it go through their system – they can’t vomit so the poison can only come out one end and has to be digested first.
Are there benefits to feeding rabbits the eggplant fruit?
Small quantities can be beneficial for rabbits as it has many minerals, vitamins, and nutrients and is high in dietary fiber while being low in sugar and acid.
Rabbits are unable to produce vitamins (i.e. vitamin C) naturally. So, the iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, manganese, and vitamins K, C, E, and B that are in eggplant are beneficial.
However, the elevated starch levels will cause problems if they eat too much.
The Main Micronutrients in Eggplant Fruits
There are, as we said before, many nutrients in eggplant. Some of the main nutrients include:
- Manganese which helps to boost the immune system, contributes to bone and connective tissue health, and wound healing.
- Antioxidants that help prevent cellular damage.
- Vitamin B5 which assists the metabolism and the functionality of the adrenal glands.
- Vitamin B6 which contributes to the metabolism of amino acids and the synthesis of hemoglobin.
- Folate helps to assist cell growth.
Are all eggplants good for rabbits?
Many varieties of eggplant are grown around the world and are an integral part of the cuisine, especially in the United States and the Mediterranean region. Eggplants are actually a type of fruit, although, they are often thought of as a vegetable.
- Chinese eggplant
- Globe eggplant (American eggplant)
- Filipino eggplant
- Italian eggplant
- Japanese eggplant
- Thai eggplant
These are only a small selection of the many different types. Their appearances may be slightly different however, the benefits and certainly, the dangers of these plants for rabbits are the same.
Can young baby rabbits eat the plant?
We think of rabbits as that easy-to-keep animal that is not fussy about how it is housed or what it eats.
However, young rabbits, like many young animals, have a more sensitive digestive system and can be a bit fussy. Eggplant on its own does have a slightly bitter taste. Although unpleasant for many, some rabbits do love the taste.
Feeding eggplants to young rabbits can be beneficial as it will aid their development. It is beneficial due to the high nutrient and vitamin content, as we said earlier. However, the quantities given to the young rabbits must be tiny.
Giving eggplants to your baby rabbits can help supply enough nutrients for their growth.
Does it help to cook the plant?
There are many ways that eggplant can be cooked. Although cooking does not remove the danger involved with eating this plant, it does remove much of the goodness and benefits of the plant.
So, yes, they can eat cooked eggplant in small quantities, but it is not as beneficial for them.
When we cook this plant for ourselves, we normally season and possibly add herbs (i.e. basil, parsley, thyme, etc.) and spices to enhance the somewhat bland flavor.
When cooked like this it is no longer suitable for rabbits to eat. Why? Because the eggplant absorbs a lot of flavors – from the spices and herbs – and fats while cooking. Rabbits can’t eat highly fatty foods and don’t like overly spicy foods.
Should rabbits be kept away from eggplant that is growing in the garden?
It is always great to see bunnies running free rather than enclosed in a small hutch.
It is also always a good idea to try to keep your bunnies out of the veg garden since they will eat just about everything. Good idea for cleaning the garden of debris left after harvest, but not so good if you want the veg.
However, if you are worried about them eating the poisonous part of the eggplant then do not worry. Rabbits are clever animals they are aware that the stalk, leaves, and flowers of the eggplant are bad for them.
They will, however, nibble on the eggplant fruit itself. Where it is a possibility that rabbits might have access to the garden it is a good idea to plant anything that is precious at higher levels. This will keep precious items away from their reach.
Alternatively, a sturdy fence will keep them out.
Having asked if rabbits can eat eggplant, we have discovered that yes, they can but with certain caveats.
Firstly, while they can eat and, for the most part, thoroughly enjoy the actual fruit, they should not be fed any other part of the plant. The leaves, the flower, and the stalk, especially the small part that is attached to the fruit should not be eaten by rabbits.
The problem is that the eggplant is a member of a group of plants called nightshade and has a substance called Solanine.
This substance can affect the animal’s breathing and heart rate. It can lower the rabbit’s body temperature and give them abdominal pain that could lead to diarrhea. These effects could potentially lead to the death of the rabbit.
So, rabbits can eat the fruit of the plants as it has lower quantities of the harmful Solanine. However, it is best to keep the quantities small (think treat-sized) to prevent any problems.
To gain maximum benefits from the nutrients and vitamins it is best to feed the rabbits with raw eggplant rather than cooked. Cooking reduces the efficiency of the nutrients.
Gordon is a British homesteader established in Spain, growing large amounts of veggies and fruits. He also has a high degree of self-sufficiency as he is procuring his own water, wood, and solar energy.