Rabbits have teeth that grow all their lives. To keep those teeth from getting too long, rabbits must chew on hard materials to wear and break the teeth off. If they do not, the teeth would continue to grow until the rabbit could not eat or close its mouth. Nature gave the rabbit a strong urge to chew.
In the wild, rabbits and hares are constantly nibbling on hard food like stems and bark. If their teeth did not grow, over time rabbits would have no choppers, the teeth would be worn down to stubs. In captivity, rabbit keepers have to assure their charges always have a supply of something tough to gnaw.
At Phoenix Farm, the angora rabbits all have a short plank of untreated pine board in their cage for resting on and munching. As an added treat, I cut fruit wood branches for them. Apple is the staple. We have a couple hundred apple trees in the orchard, a nearly endless supply of fresh trimmings. Rabbits prefer their wood fresh. They like to chew off and eat the sweet, juicy bark. My rabbits are so spoiled they turn their noses up at dried out tree cuttings.
The angoras’ absolute favorite is pear wood. We only have four pear trees so the supply is more limited. They get very excited when they smell fresh pear wood. Rabbits also enjoy nibbling cuttings from the highbush blueberry plants, poplar wood, lilac and crabapple. The fresh, organic wood often has lichen attached, a growth of symbiotic algae and fungus that is harmless to rabbits.
Because my rabbits like fresh wood so much, I figured other bunnies would as well. Many people keep rabbits in city or suburban environments with very limited access to organic fresh wood cuttings. So several years ago I began offering the wood for sale in my online stores and named the product Organic Wood Gnawers. They have been a real hit. I have many happy little bunny customers who have nibbled through hundreds of pounds of trimmings from the trees.
The wood must be pruned anyway to keep the trees healthy. When I sell Gnawers I go out to the orchard, no matter the weather, to gather fresh wood. I’ve even cut apple wood in a snow storm on Thanksgiving Day to fill an order. At least, instead of chipping the prunings up for compost, I sell the wood and make a little money from the farm to help pay the land taxes. Everyone is happy.