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Growing my bunny food

 
pollinator
Posts: 270
Location: Haiti
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forest garden rabbit greening the desert
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I'm having a rabbit and chicken house built and will start with three meat rabbits and expand from there. This is my first time raising rabbits in the tropics, and is like to grow all I can to feed them. If course the common fruit and veggie options, but I've also recently ordered the following seeds:

Amaranth (for the leaves)
Perennial peanut (primarily a ground cover, but I understand it's also a nice treat for the buns and chicks)
Black oil sunflower (will be one of their primary staples, I believe)
Nasturtium

I also recently planted a mulberry which will hopefully soon provide some for them.

Additionally, I was given some cuttings of some local forage grasses that rabbits seem to like. Hay isn't something that can be bought around here, so we have to improvise.

What other things should I be planting? Trying to keep them happy and reproductive! :)
 
Posts: 465
Location: Richwood, West Virginia
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I recently learned this:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbit#Digestion



Because it's called a nighttime thing I guess it doesn't matter if rabbits are raised on wire off the ground because it occurs in their nighttime quarters.
 
gardener
Posts: 3111
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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forest garden trees urban
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If Jerusalem Artichoke and comfrey will grow there,  plant some.
J-chokes are beloved by bunnies, and super easy to grow.
The sunflowers are in the same family,  but the black oil variety is usually an annual,  and you have to fight the birds for the seeds.
I would grow both.
Comfrey
My bunnies dont care for mulberry leaves,  but they have a lot of other choices.
Maybe find out if Moringa is OK for bunnies.
It's high protein and  I think it grows in the tropics.
 
Priscilla Stilwell
pollinator
Posts: 270
Location: Haiti
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forest garden rabbit greening the desert
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William Bronson wrote: If Jerusalem Artichoke and comfrey will grow there,  plant some.
J-chokes are beloved by bunnies, and super easy to grow.
The sunflowers are in the same family,  but the black oil variety is usually an annual,  and you have to fight the birds for the seeds.
I would grow both.
Comfrey
My bunnies dont care for mulberry leaves,  but they have a lot of other choices.
Maybe find out if Moringa is OK for bunnies.
It's high protein and  I think it grows in the tropics.



I looked into comfrey, but I don't think it will grow here. Jerusalem artichokes weren't on my radar. I'm now looking for viable seed (since I have to have things shipped).

It appears they don't love moringa. A shame, since I have access to a lot of moringa!
 
gardener
Posts: 1711
Location: South of Capricorn
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i am semi-tropical, so i may have some cooler things than you can grow, but worth a shot-
mulberry is excellent. I would consider growing as many mulberries as possible for forage and for you as well.
I plant the following for rabbit forage, at any given time one bed in the garden is: peas, sorgum, black oats, forage radish (like a daikon but not much root), millet, amaranth. I think you might do best with sorgum and millet considering the heat.
I also have started scouting out what is available, here when my garden is stalled i go to the parks with bags and scout out dandelion-type weeds. I clean out my aunt's yard in exchange for what's growing there.
There is a local coop that produces meat rabbits and chickens from donated kitchen waste (fresh things to rabbits, cooked food to the chickens). It's a bit of work but if perhaps you have access to the kitchen waste from the school where you live, it might be something to consider, then you only have to plan heavily for when school is out of session.
My rabbits eat very well from my kitchen waste (we eat lots and lots of veggies). What I pull out of my garden (bean and pea vines, etc) goes into the rabbit hutches as well. Worst case scenario, if I can't find food for them I have seeds I can sprout for them (peas, sunflowers, wheat berries, sorgum) or I have contact with the local fruit/veg store to take what they are throwing away. When it is corn season and they have lots of cornhusks (bunny crack!) I am there every few days picking up their trash.

(edited to add: bunnies have weird taste. keep trying different things, I know at the beginning mine ate everything, then got picky, then occasionally change their mind. Don't lose hope!)
 
Priscilla Stilwell
pollinator
Posts: 270
Location: Haiti
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Forgot to mention I do have sorghum seeds coming too. I need to get more pallets to fence in another garden section since the current small veggie and flower garden is pretty much maxed out and we have hundreds of goats wandering through from the community.

I plan to farm Black Soldier Flies for the chicks. There should be enough waste from the students to keep a constant flow of them if I set up 3 or 4 buckets with ramps for the larvae to crawl out to the waiting mouths of the chickens. We're only starting with 4 chickens. The house is 12x16, so it should be quite ample for this many, but we want to go slowly rather than introducing any problems.

I have jack beans planted which are beginning to cover the fence of my original veggie garden, and which are quite good for bunnies. We also get a lot of sugar-cane scraps that I use for mulch in the garden (from the guys selling pieces of fresh cane for snacks on the street). I know the inner core has a lot of sugar (clearly), so I assume too much should be avoided, but does anyone know if the outer hard part is suitable for them to chew on?
 
Tereza Okava
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fence in that sorgum! it is sweet and everyone loves it. Maybe find some surgical tubing and some sticks and make yourself a slingshot in the meantime!!!

i would give the rabbits sugarcane leaves, but not any part of the stalk (here they are skinned, like with a veggie peeler, and then run through the mills whole, so there is not a difference between the inside and outside).  
 
Priscilla Stilwell
pollinator
Posts: 270
Location: Haiti
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Tereza Okava wrote:Maybe find some surgical tubing and some sticks and make yourself a slingshot in the meantime!!!



Ordered this last week. It should arrive around the same time as the seeds: https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B07MQN37TZ?ref=ppx_pt2_mob_b_prod_image
 
pollinator
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Twigs and prunings might provide enough roughage to make up for the lack of hay, and chewing on them will help the rabbits keep their teeth trim. Just make sure the tree isn't toxic. I don't have the full list of safe trees for rabbits, but I know maple and willow were both on the list. Also, bramble branches like raspberry or blackberry work well.
 
William Bronson
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Pear and apple branches are THE most desired bunny treats at our house.
They are meh on maple(box elder) .

Let me clarify that I have only been listing healthy foods.
In my experience, bunnies love sugary foods as much as humans.
Banana, apple, berries of all kinds are all very occasional treats.
Banana is what we use to get an escaped bunny to present itself for capture, it's that good to them.
We have bunnies as pets,so we don't even feed alfalfa hay, just orchard grass hay, for fear of too much protein shortening their lives.
Meat rabbits on the other hand, might "benifit" from a less restrictive diet.
I imagine that sugary foods like banana and sugarcane might fatten bunnies quickly.
This might make for a fatty meat,  and they still need  fiber to keep their guts moving, but it expands the choices we might want to consider.

At my house I have insisted that any new rabbits would live outside and eat strictly from the yard.
No more pets, only manure makers.
A very different but still nice lifestyle.
 
Priscilla Stilwell
pollinator
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Location: Haiti
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Well, I'm in Haiti, so apples and pears will be hard to come by. But I'll experiment and research.

I understand that the green coconut husks can be quite good for them. And any part of a banana plant.
 
Posts: 15
Location: Nelson, VA
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I have grown the majority of my own bunny food for years, but I'm in a completely different area than you. I would say two of the most important things to consider are calcium/phosphorus balance, and getting enough long fiber in their diets to prevent ileus and gastric stasis since hay is not available to you. You seem like you're on the right track. I would also consider protien levels vs fat in these foods. Rabbits make the most protien rich milk of any livestock and need very high levels to keep the mother in weight and the offspring growing at a decent rate to reach desired butcher weight. Especially in pregnant and nursing animals, if a doe isn't getting enough protien she will start burning fat, known as ketosis, and this can be a problem. A lot of toxins are stored in fat, and if she's burning too much fat it can poison her, a  deadly condition known commonly as pregnancy toxemia in sheep. I grow a stand of birdsfoot trefoil as a high protein, high fiber source for pregnant and lactating does. I don't know if that's an option near you but it's a great legume for rabbits and ruminants. Beware of high sugar and high fat foods like fruits and nuts. Most of a rabbits diet in the wild is grasses and weeds, nuts and fruit aren't a large percentage of their natural diet. All that extra fat can compound the problem of pregnancy toxemia, especially in late pregnancy when the does stomach is smaller because of the large litter and kits she's carrying. High protien food at that time is a must because of the limited amount of food her stomach can hold.

The calcium phosphorus ratio is important too, too much calcium can cause a lot of issues from urinary stones, vitamin deficiencies and neurological issues. Too little can cause problems as well such as dental disease, and hypocalcemia. I strongly urge you to consider the nutritional needs of your animals based on biology and their own lifestyle as well as your goals, then formulate a diet that will meet those requirements.

I am worried about the lack of hay...95% of a rabbits natural diet is hay. One of the most common health issues in rabbits I saw as a vet tech was ileus and gastric stasis caused by a lack of hay and fiber, and urinary stones caused by an uneven calcium phosphorus balance. I would urge you to grow a lot of weeds or for ages like dandelions, spinach, native grasses, chicory, etc to replace the hay in their diet. Plantain stands are excellent for rabbits as well and highly productive. Certain woods like apple twigs, raspberry brambles, etc (in my area) are often used to supplement fiber. Maybe there are some in your area that would be safe for rabbits?

I wish you the very best! Feeding my rabbits organically was a very informative and enriching experience, I hope it will work out for you as well! Feel free to message me if you have any questions 😊
 
pollinator
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I haven't been keeping rabbits for long, but their favorite is clearly pigeon pea. It grows nice big perennial bushes, and is really high in protein. They also eat banana leaves and moringa in smaller amounts, and sorghum grain as a snack. And any bean leaves are great as well.
 
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