You know you’re a Certified Rabbit Nut when your self-worth is determined by how much your bunnies like the puzzle toys you’re making for them. Further disturbing evidence? Piles of dried vegetation, half-chewed cardboard boxes, and polyester ribbon littering your kitchen counters. So here’s my current level of success, according to my four-legged food critics.
The Back Story
Last year when the pandemic eliminated my commute plus most other things I do besides my day job, I started putting together hand-made puzzle toys for Finnegan and Moraea. My goal was to provide daily rabbit enrichment that was fun, healthy, and low cost. This kind of “buntertainment” is not only a blast for the rabbits, it also diverts toothy energy that might otherwise be devoted to chewing my baseboards and cabinet corners. My sneaky hidden agenda was to get the guys to linger by my desk and thus brighten up the start of each workday.
The basic 3×3″ box is filled mostly with orchard grass. That’s a healthy hay: not exactly treat-worthy, but better than standard fare because the puzzle toys are the only time they get it (their all-you-can-eat hay buffet only serves timothy). To the hay I add, in layers, something more enticing, which varies each time I make new toys. I wrote a previous post that gives full instructions on toy prep, if you’re interested in trying it yourself.
In the first batch of toys I made, the “good stuff” was a little bit of Oxbow timothy cereal and some dried flowers. Bunny Bytes has four kinds of flowers available : rose petals, clover, calendula, and lavender.
Binky Bunny also sells several mixes by Floppers Garden . These are a bit richer than just plain flower petals, colorful and tasty-looking. A lot of bunny people must have thought the same, because most varieties are sold out. Confession: I am partially responsible: I bought the last of two kinds. Hopefully they’ll soon restock them. In the meantime, if you’re interested, better get your order in!
I was quite pleased with this recipe. The forage mixes look appealing and satisfy my criteria for a very healthy snack. Here’s how the critics responded:
Moraea: Yum! I think it’s great, as long as Finnegan does the work to chew the puzzle box open. The holes you cut aren’t big enough to get my head in there so I can reach the bottom. You don’t expect me to work that hard to get at it, do you?
Finnegan: Meh. If I’m energetic and looking for something to do, it’s fine. Otherwise, I’ll just go nap, thanks. Call my agent if you come up with something I can really sink my teeth into.
It was clear from the less than stellar Round One reviews that I needed to up my game.
As I was ordering other supplies from Chewy, I decided to see if they had anything in their inventory that would satisfy my “healthy treat” criteria. I discovered a brand called Rosewood Naturals that makes several different foraging mixes, so I purchased some of each kind.
For my second batch of puzzle toys, I tried just one of the Rosewood products, the “Nature’s Salad” mix. The response to this recipe was notably more enthusiastic:
Moraea: Yum! I think it’s great! And Finnegan is a lot more reliable about opening up the box for me, too.
Finnegan: I’ll make time for this stuff! I’ve got it on my Outlook calendar every morning at eight and I accept no delays. I may even come back looking for seconds later in the day.
Here’s a video of puzzle toy recipe #2 consumption.
Time to Celebrate?
The buns seem satisfied, but I’m not. Here’s what’s still bugging me.
What’s in this Stuff?
Their enthusiasm was a little off the charts. That prompted me to go double-check the ingredients in “Nature’s Salad.” What I remember seeing when I bought it was marigold, parsley, nettle, dandelion and such, but the fine-print reality was a bit different.
Top three ingredients: “Pea flakes, oat flakes, wheat flakes.” Further down there’s “plantain, wheat, puffed wheat, puffed maize.” I didn’t have my glasses on when I was making the toys so I didn’t notice. Grains — particularly corn — are the nutritional equivalent of potato chips for a bunny. Perhaps a better name for this stuff would be “Nature’s Croutons.”
I’ll go ahead and use what I have of this blend but probably won’t be buying any more of it. It’s too starchy: a good reminder to be careful when you buy treats.
I’ve noticed that despite the resounding enthusiasm for Round 2, it’s relatively short-lived. Instead of hanging out with me, they’re soon wandering off for a nap. I’m guessing that they’re either getting full pretty fast from that rich food, or actually sifting through for the best bits and leaving the rest, or both. The forensic data is inconclusive. Either way, my evil plan to keep the buns awake and engaged has been foiled.
On the Bright Side
In spite of how tasty these toys are, they don’t incite furry fisticuffs.
Bunny Bytes makes some beautiful puzzle toys (see the “Nifty Gifty”) that I buy for special occasions like bunny birthdays. They contain whole “cookies” which are made of grains, with fruit, pumpkin or potatoes — and sugar. I see a lot of squabbling for ownership between bonded pairs when I give them out, even when I provide two. The iron clad rabbit rule: the orchard grass is always greener in the other bun’s puzzle toy.
But you can see in the video above that even when Moraea elbows in on Finnegan, he doesn’t make an issue of it for these toys. Perhaps because, though starchy, this mix isn’t very sweet.
The Fluffy Tail of This Blog Post
Though Puzzle Toys Round 2 received more rabbit raves than its predecessor, I’m not happy with the nutritional content, nor the fun-then-done attention it gets. So this Certified Rabbit Nut will just have to continue her search for the elusive hand-crafted Perfect Puzzle Toy.