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What preferably perennial plants could be used for rabbit fodder?

 
Posts: 105
Location: Western Kentucky - Zone 7
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I am pre-planning a homestead, and while I have raised rabbits before in the past, what plants (preferably perennials) do y'all use to make up a meat rabbit's diet?
 
Posts: 136
Location: Appalachian Mountains
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We raise ours without outside purchased feeds,  We cut our own hay, with a scythe or a string trimmer, rake and toss and fluff it (teddering) for 3 days or until totally dry,  Feel of it, you will know when it is ready.  This goes into huge bags I make out of double bed sheets and into a waterproof enclosed cargo trailer we use for storage or the hay racks over the goat stalls in the big barn,  Rabbits get this in racks free choice, always, and it  is the majority of their diet. For protein, several plants stand out for us here in North Carolina mountain area.  Wild giant ragweed, Jerusalem Artichoke tops, both of which are fed fresh or dried as hay.  They also thrive on lamb’s quarters, a bit of root crop daily (wash it well), and we feed a small piece of butternut, pumpkin, or Hubbard squash daily.  If we have older, mature yellow squash in summer, we feed a bit of those too.  They always get an assortment i summer, dandelion, freshly cut grass, white clover, pea vines (which I also dry for winter feed), young dock, a little basil keeps them wormed.  Also give them pumpkin seed when we have it from the garden.  We make sure they have fresh water at all times and a small salt/mineral lick up in the hay feeder to keep it dry.  They also get a small amount, maybe a quarter cup of sunflower seeds daily.  For larger breeds, maybe a bit more.  They thrive on this diet and are very healthy,  If I had it, would feed moringa leaves, honey locust leaves and bean or pea leaves.  The trick is to give them a wide assortment and watch them to see what they prefer and then up the amount of that if you can, just a little.  This will change daily sometimes, as they get their nutritional needs met and may have lack of other things.  

The Jerusalem Artichoke tops and also the giant ragweed (aka: Greater ragweed) are almost equal to alfalfa in feed value,  You could also grow vetch, Austrian pea and other things for them.  They love radishes and radish tops are much higher in protein than turnip tops, which they also will eat.  Not too much on the turnip and radish tops, very high in oxalic acid and there should just be a balance.  Too much can upset their tummies.  Carrots and apples should be a treat, not a main food source,  Anything sweet can upset them if they get too much,  so easy on the fruit.  No seeds out of that fruit either.  Every now and then (I try to do it several times a week), cut some tulip poplar or elm or apple branches for them to chew on, there is something in the bark they need and it keeps their teeth worn down properly.   They will also eat fresh elm leaves.  Oak leaves are astringent and medicine for them in case of diarrhea, but not much, maybe a leaf or two,  A little honeysuckle is also a medicine plant for them, and I give them a sprig or two every now and then.  
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Feye, that was a great answer!
I only have pet bunns,  and I feed them primarily purchased orchard hay.
I will suggest willow and pear branches, as well as chicory and comfrey leaves.

I knew they loved jchoke, but I never realized it was so nutritious.
 
pollinator
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Faye, I think your rabbits eat better than I do. Do you deliver?
 
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Location: North Carolina, Zone 7b
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The rabbits that I "have" are wild eastern cottontails that about devastated my winter garden. I thought it might be of interest to note which plants they went for, since they are the wild ancestors and presumably know what's best for them and how to take care of themselves, right? This is winter time and most of the plants I mention below stay evergreen in zone 7, i.e. available year round. So here we go, the "Top 10" on the winter diet of eastern cottontail rabbit in my garden:

1. Parsley. Parsley. Did I mention parsley? To the ground. Like it has never been there.
2. Kale. All kinds and varieties of kale, especially younger, tender leaves.
3. Red sorrel - they are very, very fond of it!
4. Green onions (I thought it was odd, but they absolutely mowed all of them to less than half height)
5. Yarrow foliage (not the colored cultivars of yarrow, which I also have growing and which they did not touch, but the native wild white yarrow, Achillea Millefolium)
6. Leaves of wild mulberry tree seedlings
7. Rose stems/branches - thorns, leaves and all. I was supposed to do my winter pruning in January but alas, there is not much left to prune. They got all stems within their reach that were new growth of the summer.
8. Entire canes of blackberries and raspberries. Blackberries seem to be preferred somewhat, but now both are gone.
9. Branches of young blueberry shrubs.
10. Chickweed (I don't cultivate it, it grows on its own around here and is considered a weed, albeit edible, and they seem to like it quite a lot)

I am a little mad, to say the least.. but I digress.

So it looks like during the winter months, a lot of fruit and berry plant prunings could be put to a good use!

 
pollinator
Posts: 609
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Tanya Nova wrote:The rabbits that I "have" are wild eastern cottontails that about devastated my winter garden. I thought it might be of interest to note which plants they went for, since they are the wild ancestors and presumably know what's best for them and how to take care of themselves, right? This is winter time and most of the plants I mention below stay evergreen in zone 7, i.e. available year round. So here we go, the "Top 10" on the winter diet of eastern cottontail rabbit in my garden:

1. Parsley. Parsley. Did I mention parsley? To the ground. Like it has never been there.
2. Kale. All kinds and varieties of kale, especially younger, tender leaves.
3. Red sorrel - they are very, very fond of it!
4. Green onions (I thought it was odd, but they absolutely mowed all of them to less than half height)
5. Yarrow foliage (not the colored cultivars of yarrow, which I also have growing and which they did not touch, but the native wild white yarrow, Achillea Millefolium)
6. Leaves of wild mulberry tree seedlings
7. Rose stems/branches - thorns, leaves and all. I was supposed to do my winter pruning in January but alas, there is not much left to prune. They got all stems within their reach that were new growth of the summer.
8. Entire canes of blackberries and raspberries. Blackberries seem to be preferred somewhat, but now both are gone.
9. Branches of young blueberry shrubs.
10. Chickweed (I don't cultivate it, it grows on its own around here and is considered a weed, albeit edible, and they seem to like it quite a lot)

I am a little mad, to say the least.. but I digress.

So it looks like during the winter months, a lot of fruit and berry plant prunings could be put to a good use!



I've noticed the wild rabbits in my yard will go for the dandelion leaves first, clover and other vegetables second. The ones I've eaten have a sweeter taste to them than farmed rabbit meat. I haven't done a controlled test yet to see if it's the dandelions giving them that flavor.
 
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I've had good luck with mulberry, the leaves are full of protein and my rabbits love gnawing on the bark.
 
William Bronson
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Thats funny,  my buns don't much care for mulberry.
I've tried it myself, its not great, but its way better than the horribly bitter chicory that they seem to love.
 
Posts: 110
Location: Ohio
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Hay, hay and more hay.
Orchard grass, alfalfa, timothy and a little clover will go a long way. A rabbit can live almost exclusively on hay and a mineral block.
After that, dandelions, plantains (plantago), blackberry canes and mulberry trimmings. Sunflowers and oats. Kale too. Parsley. Anything in the rose/apple family.
 
Faye Streiff
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Thanks for all the comments.  I forgot to mention mulberry leaves, as they are a complete protein.  Glad someone else thought of it.  I never knew rabbits liked radishes until the wild rabbits “mowed” an entire row I had planted.
Was just reading on a site about a farm in Africa where they collect the urine and poop (poly panels slanted underneath cages and a rain gutter to drain into buckets) and sell for high prices.  They sell it as liquid bunny fertilizer, as they strain it into jugs for marketing.  More money made on the liquid fertilizer than on the rabbits themselves.  Of course, we all know what a great fertilizer it is and anyone raising rabbits is surely using it themselves for that.  What a great idea to market that product!  
 
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Great answers already. My rabbits also enjoy mulberry, they are not thrilled about moringa (and I'm finding it fussy in 9b, so not sure how it would do in zone 7). In terms of perennials, I think that's really it. Everything else I do is annual with an extended season (chicories, dandelion/catalonia, all types of basil and mint-- here shiso gets crazy out of control). They do enjoy the asparagus fronds when I have to cut them back.
I also grow fast-growing vines specifically for them to eat (chayote, native squash, bitter melon, loofa, etc).
 
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We have a farmstead and keep rabbits, in addition to baling and storing our own grass hay in the summer (we supply horse/cow people and keep our own to use) there are a lot of plants around that I harvest to supplement our rabbit's forage. I have a long list of plants I researched at one time, some of which I use and some of which I never have, I'll see if I can find it and write something up, but in the meantime, I'll emphasize blackberries - not just the leaves, but the canes, are a wonderful staple for our rabbits. With a lot of things, you have to be careful not to give them too much, but blackberry canes are excellent bulk food for them, helps their digestion, and if you have invasive "wild" blackberries like we do, its great to have another use for them besides harvesting berries or simply tossing the canes on the burn pile.

Most things in the rose family, including cane berries, make good forage for rabbits. Our rabbits seem to really enjoy raspberry trimmings as a treat but we don't have nearly as many as we do blackberries, which they don't ever seem to tire of. You can harvest leaves and canes during the growing season and dry them up to store as "hay" supplement for winter, too.



 
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