From an early age, I have struggled to allow my pets to live in a hutch or cage. As a little girl, I didn’t want to be separated from my pets. Later I came to see that I value freedom for my pets. So with every pet that I take, I check very carefully whether I can adapt the living environment so that they can walk around freely through my house and/or garden.
Different Pets Same House
When we had rats, there was relatively little that we had to adjust for their freedom. But after our rats came two rabbits and a year later two chickens and I had to put in a little more effort to make everything safe and suitable. Of course this is about securing cables, walls, wallpaper, skirting boards and curtains, for example. Yet there is also another, for me more important aspect, that comes with letting rabbits and chickens roam freely. Both chickens and rabbits are susceptible to disease and disguise it like this as the best. Some plants are very good for them and others very, very bad. Some animals transmit diseases to them. Some weather conditions are not so good for them.
When I just dived in and started looking for all the information I needed to create a good living environment for them, I sometimes felt that I had overplayed my hand, until someone asked me two very simple questions.
Do your rabbits eat enough and do they defecate regularly?
Do your chickens lay an egg every day?
If your answer is yes, then you can basically assume that they are healthy and nothing is wrong. And then I came to my core question of how I could ensure that they would stay healthy and strong. And that answer was found in my garden.
Find The Answer In The Garden
On the internet you can find a lot about plants that are poisonous to rabbits and chickens, but also plants that are good for them. My garden has slowly but surely undergone the transformation from an ornamental garden to an edible garden. For example, the boxwood turned out to be very poisonous, just like a rhododendron or cherry tree and I slowly exchanged it for a butterfly bush, Jerusalem artichoke, sunflowers, marigolds, cornflowers and a rose bush. These plants are a valuable addition to their daily food and a boost for their immune system.
People who come to us for the first time are often surprised to find a rabbit lounging on our rug, or to find a chicken curiously looking in through our window to see who is visiting. I don’t think it will ever become completely normal how we live with our animals. But my children and I do enjoy it intensely and for us this is life the way we want to live it.