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Dehydrator Drying

Dehydrator Drying

Drying forage for herbivores using a Dehydrator

Why use a Dehydrator?

When you remove the moisture from foods they keep for longer, and you don’t need to use any preservatives in the process.  A dehydrator costs around £1 for 24 hours to run but most foods can be dried in 4-6 hours, equivalent to 25p per batch.

By dehydrating herbs, vegetables, grasses and fruit when there is a glut, you should have plenty for the winter months.  Drying your own also means you’ll have dried forage that you could not buy in the shops.

Drying Vegetables

My advice is to cut the vegetables into pieces that will dry evenly.  I remove the leaves from the stalk of green vegetables and shave strips off of root vegetables.  If you try to dry the entire leaf, either the leaf part will dry and shatter, or the stalk will be too damp.

I’d recommend quartering broccoli stems length-ways and then into thinner sticks.  The instruction manual will tell you to blanch vegetables but you don’t need to do that when drying for forage.

Herbs, Leaves and Grasses

As these are most abundant during the summer months you can dry them in the sun.   Most people won’t need to use the dehydrator during the summer.  I only use the dehydrator for leaves when I want them to dry flat (most leaves will curl up when dried naturally).

Dandelion flowers are best dried in a dehydrator as they go to seed rapidly once picked.

You can make a soft green grass forage in the dehydrator that you pets will love you for.  Your pets will benefit from the higher vitamin C and chlorophyll levels.  Rabbits fed on a mainly grass diet miss out on these in the winter months.VonShef rectangular dehydrator
Shop on Amazon for VonShef Dehydrators

You can also buy VonShef dehydrators on EbayHome Dried Vegetables

Kale, carrot, apple & celery dried in the VonShef dehydrator.
Average price around £40

Drying vegetables and herbs reduces them from 90% moisture to 10% moisture.  Vegetables with a high initial moisture content can be particularly disappointing.  Cucumber, lettuce and celery, for example, will shrink to a tiny percentage of their original size.


Herb Drying

Herb Drying

Herb drying is the easiest and cheapest way to provide a variety of forage for the winter months when fresh herbs are not available.

I am fortunate that we have a local community allotment which I volunteer at.  In exchange for weeding I get to take home the weeds which I dry for use in the gift baskets I make for charities.

When the weather is good I dry in a hanging mesh rack which has several layers and allows good air flow.  For bunches of herbs, especially if you’re drying indoors, hanging racks for utensils such as the one made by Kitchencraft, make good herb dryers.  Stackable mesh racks used to dry cloths also make good indoor herb dryers as they can dry a lot of herbs in a small space.  They are all pretty easy to find on Ebay or Amazon

Useful herb drying kit on Ebay

Hanging Mesh Dryers

Flower & Herb Dryers

Square Mesh Stackable Racks

Herb drying kit on Amazon


SaveHerb drying in a hanging mesh rackHerb drying on a flat mesh rackFresh young dandelion rootHerb drying is pretty easy to do but you need to remember a few golden rules:

  • Dry pieces of the same thickness together – separate thick stems from thin leaves
  • Make sure the material is clean before drying
  • Make sure all herbs are completely dry before storing.

Dried Dandelion & FenugreekHerbs will shrink when dried, to around 10% of their original weight.  Roots will have to be washed and dried before drying in a low oven.

Storing Dried Herbs

Keep dried herbs in a cool, dry place.  If they sweat in a plastic container or get damp in any way they will quickly develop mould.  You can safely store herbs for a year after drying.

Good plants to grow for drying

The best plants to grow are those which produce more forage than your furry family can eat fresh.  Alfalfa grows very vigorously but it can only be fed in small amounts or as a balancer for cereals as it is high in calcium.

If you have Cleavers growing locally you should dry as much of the young plant as possible.   It will grow back the following season if you allow some to seed.  It a seasonal plant, growing only for a few months.   Once it seeds you would not want to feed it.

Golden Rod is a great herb for animals that are off colour. It will grow back even bushier if you take out the top shoots.

Harvest willow herb and groundsel young too.  They can get diseases (characterised by orange or white marks) as they get older.   Apart from that they will seed everywhere if left.

German Hay

German Hay

German hay is an important part of the cultural heritage of the Alpine and Pre Alpine regions.  The Germans take their hay very seriously!  Their ancient meadows are protected by law. They harvest, dry and bale the grasses and wild plants with great care.

Many German pet food companies focused on healthy forages for small pets when UK companies were still peddling ‘pretty coloured bits’, and they’re still ahead of the game in many ways.

Zooplus, a German pet product retailer, also operates in the UK and is a reliable source of German hay and forages.

German Hay from ZooPlus UK

Click on any of the images below to purchase (affiliate links)

Mühldorfer Country Meadow Hay 15kg
Muhldorfer Meadow Hay

JR Farm Mountain Meadow Hay 2.5kg

JR Farm Mountain Meadow HayCountry meadow hay from the mountains of Bavaria.  You’ll find this in the equine section so it is better value for money than pet hay.

Mühldorfer Country Meadow Hay is excellent value for money and compressed into a handy small bale.

Price as of 05/02/2017 ( £1.13 – £1.20 / kg)JR Farm are long standing producers of hay and herbs.  From the reviews, there seem to be seasonal fluctuations in quality so maybe try a single bag in the first instance and check the reviews.

Price as of 05/02/2017 ( £2.80 / kg)

Bunny Fresh Grass Hay 3kg

Bunny Fresh Grass Hay

Mucki Mountain Meadow Hay 1.6kg

Mucki Mountain Meadow HayBunny Fresh Grass Hay is a hand-picked mixture of the first and second crop of untreated meadows from the southern German Allgäu.

My favourite German hay by far.   The 3kg bag is larger than the image suggests.

Price as of 05/02/2017 ( £5.00 / kg)Harvested from the Bavarian mountains where the old mountain meadows contain a variety of plants.

The hay contains twenty plant species which adds variety and taste.

Price as of 05/02/2017 ( £4.37 / kg)

Bunny Hay from Protected Meadows 2.7kg

Bunny Hay from Protected Meadows

Bunny Fresh Grass Hay Special Editions 3 x 2kg

Bunny Fresh Grass Hay Special EditionsGrown in untreated meadows in a conservation area where it is harvested late in the season to prevent disturbance to nesting wildlife.  Regular mowing helps create a wide variety of plants.  Dried in warm air to preserve colour and flavour.

Price as of 05/02/2017 ( £5.55 – £7.40 / kg)Hay which has seasonal herbs, flowers and vegetables added.

Available as Winter Pack or Summer Pack

Price as of 05/02/2017 ( £4.50 / kg)

Natural Bedding or Litter for Rabbits & Guinea pigs

Natural Bedding or Litter for Rabbits & Guinea pigs

Rabbits and guinea pigs create a lot of waste litter!  Some councils force owners to take rabbit waste to the dump.

Allotment holders welcome rabbit and guinea pig waste so you can dump it on them instead!  They will use it to make great compost and grew food even more cheaply.

Using a natural bedding like straw or hemp is what I would recommend.  It means you can compost it and use the compost to grow more food for your pet.

I hope you are lucky enough to have a local farm, stables, farm or equine supplier within reasonable traveling distance.  Transport permitting, you can simply buy large bales of bedding direct.  Otherwise you’ll have to bite the bullet on the carriage cost.   These heavy and bulky bales weighing up to 20kg.

On the plus side, buying in bulk means you don’t have to buy very often.  It is way cheaper than picking up small bags at the local pet shop or supermarket.

Wood shavings, although a natural bedding, are not the best litter for rabbits and guinea pigs.  Some shavings and sawdust can contain volatile oils and are slow to rot down.

Straw pellets, chopped straw and cellulose litters on the other hand are ideal, and make good compost.

Natural Bedding but has it been treated?

Bedding and Litter - NedzBed

Some litter and bedding for horses is sprayed with disinfectant or essential oils to deter horses from eating the bedding.  Is this a good thing for rabbits or guinea pigs?

I feel that plain, untreated litter is preferable.  Both rabbits and guinea pigs have close contact with their litter or bedding and groom themselves frequently.

Anti-microbial sprays may also interfere with the composting process by harming the beneficial organisms involved in the process.  On the other hand, medicated bedding offers a level of protection, especially in warmer weather and may help deter flies.

Rabbits and guinea pigs usually don’t eat their bedding if you give them ad lib, good quality, hay.   I only use a medicated bedding if eating floor litter or straw is a problem.

Floor and tray litter

Floor and tray litter absorbs urine but must also feel comfortable underfoot.   Guinea pigs  can get sore feet when housed on hemp straw without a softer layer of bedding on top of it.  I recommend you use more than one layer on the floor of the housing.  The urine can then drain away into the base layer whilst remaining dry.  You may prefer to use another bedding, for example cellulose bedding like Megazorb, either as a top layer or instead.

Straw Pellets and Chopped Straw Bedding





Cavianthus Miscanthus Straw Chopped No
Dengie Medibed Wheat Straw Chopped Disinfectant
Equinola Rape Straw Chopped Essential Oils
Megazorb Cellulose – Wood Pulp Flakes No
Porta Pellis Wheat Straw Pellets No
Nedz Bed Advanced Wheat Straw Pellets Yes*
Nedz Bed Original Soft Wheat Straw Chopped Yes*
Nedz Bed Pro Oil Seed Rape Straw Chopped Yes*
Raviera Rape Straw Chopped No
Raviera Pro Rape Straw Chopped Sterilised

Zooplus affiliate linkStraw pellets are a natural litter or bedding that rot down well

Porta Pellis wheat straw pellets are a completely natural bedding or litter available from Zoo Plus.  I’ve used them to make excellent compost and added soaked pellets to the soil where they rotted down nicely.

Cellulose Bedding

Made from wood pulp or cellulose fibres, cellulose bedding is hygienic, compostable and mainly dust free*.

Megazorb, a natural bedding used for horses, is also suitable for rabbits and guinea pigs.  It is available in 85 litre sacks from around £15 delivered or less if you collect from your local horse feed merchant.

You can buy similar bedding from pet manufacturers such as Supreme (Tumblefresh), Back 2 Nature and Carefresh (Natural) in smaller packs.

*Dust can occur when the sacks are transported but any dust is removed before leaving the manufacturing facility.

Megazorb -A safe natural bedding for rabbits and guinea pigs

Carefresh Natural on Ebay - affiliate link

Hemp Bedding

Hemp straw is used as a bottom layer in stables to absorb moisture, leaving the top layer of bedding dry.   I’ve used it successfully as an under-bedding for rabbits and guinea pigs in the past.

Chopped hemp straw absorbs ammonia, which it then releases to the plants grown in that compost.

The main brands of hemp bedding I know of in the UK include Aubiose (French) and Hemcore (UK grown).  Although they are fine as under-litter, I prefer Hemparade (Siccofloor) (Dutch) available from ZooPlus which is softer than the others.  You can also buy small packets for the pet market (from Friendship Estates) as Hutch Hemp and Hugro (German)Hugro Hemp Bedding from ZooPLus - affiliate linkHugro Hemp Pellets from Zoo PLus - affiliate linkHUgro Hemp Mat from Zooplus - affiliate linkI like using hemp which is softer underfoot, especially for guinea pigs.   You can buy Hemp pellets (Aktiv Streu) and hemp felt matting (Nager Floor) from ZooPlus.   You’ll find that hemp products in general compost  pretty well. You can also use the hemp mats to grow your own turf rugs for easy grazing indoors.

Dried Grass

Dried Grass

Fresh grass is the prefect food for rabbits and guinea pigs.  Dried grass therefore provides a handy and nutritious forage as part of a balanced diet.  It is also great combined with our herb mixes, single herbs, cereal grasses or flowers.

If you have the storage space, and plenty of small furry pets, it pays to buy the bulk bales.

For those without a local feed or equine merchant, you can still buy large bales of dried grass from some online stores. That way you can also have them delivered directly to your door.

Graze-On and Readigrass come in 15kg bales, much cheaper that buying 1kg bags even with delivery.

Readigrass  is available in large bales for horses and smaller bags under the Friendly  label for rabbits, guinea pigs and other small pet herbivores.  Graze-On is only available in 15kg bales.Readigrass pure dried grassGraze-On dried grassFriendly Readigrass for small animals

Nutritional Value of Dried Grass

The horse and rabbit products, Readigrass and Friendly Forage, have different nutritional breakdowns.  The small animal version is higher in fibre 28% and lower in protein 12% than the horse one.  The horse product has 21% fibre and 15% protein.

Readigrass and Friendly Forage dried grass are only 3% moisture, making them prone to leaf-break.  This is not dust, just broken dried grass powder.  This is useful for making cookies or syringe feeds so don’t waste it.

Graze-On has a dry matter of 90% which is similar to hay.  It has 14% protein and 25% fibre,  almost in-between the other two.

Like fresh grass, dried grass has the perfect balance of nutrients for  small furries.  The calcium to phosphorous ratio is around 2:1 and it is also a good source of Vitamin E, Beta Carotene and Vitamin C.

The grass is mechnically dried which preserves the green colour, aroma as well as the chlorophyll content.

Cider Vinegar

Cider Vinegar

Cider Vinegar - Organic with motherRaw Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) is a complex naturally fermented food.  It has been used since antiquity for its healing properties.

Cider Vinegar – Beneficial or Old Wive’s Tale?

Vinegar is an old condiment.  According to The Journal of Food Science “The earliest known use of vinegar dates to more than 10000 years ago”.  Vinegar has been used  throughout history for preserving fruits and vegetables.  Many housekeepers  today still swear by vinegar and bicarbonate of soda.

Reader’s Digest have an article on the many and various uses of vinegar in general.

What is the Vinegar Mother?

The vinegar ‘Mother’ shows the vinegar is ‘alive’ and not pasteurised.

Dilution for rabbit drinking water

Dilute by adding 1-2 teaspoons per litre of drinking water.  Offer the resulting ‘bunnyade’ several times per week in a separate water bottle.  This makes sure the rabbit likes the taste and can choose to drink it or not.

The malic and acetic acid in apple cider vinegar have antimicrobial properties which makes it useful to feed if a rabbit or guinea pig is off colour.

Nutritionally it is good source of minerals, although not much else, and it does not contain sugar.

Cider Vinegar Guinea Pig rinse

You can use the same dilution to rinse your guinea pigs coat after shampooing.

Vinegar for Cleaning

Cider vinegar is too expensive to use as a hutch cleaner, but you can use white vinegar instead.  Many people use white vinegar to clean their hutches for its ability to remove calcium deposits.  Vinegar is also good at removing odours.

You can use cider vinegar to clean your water bottles to help prevent green algae in the summer months.

You can use it if your house rabbit wees on the carpet.   First sponge with plain water, soaking up the excess with a towel.  Sprinkle bicarbonate of soda on the stain.  Mix one part white wine vinegar with one part water and spray on to the bicarbonate of soda.  It will fizz up so let it settle down for a few minutes before soaking up the excess again.  Finish with clean water and dry the carpet as before.