• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Feeding Grass to Bunnies

 
C Wilkes
Posts: 10
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I began my first rabbitry just a few weeks ago and am expecting my first litter in around 10 days. The does will raise their litters in hanging cages until the young are big enough for a rabbit tractor. So far, in all of my research, I haven't seen much addressing feeding grass to rabbits until yesterday. The author of the book said that feeding greens to rabbits under the age of 4-5 months can be harmful and even kill babies. Polyface and many others raise their rabbits on grass and they don't seem to have any problems. But I would love someone else's input. When is the appropriate age to introduce bunnies to grasses and vegetables? And what about feeding hay vs fresh cut greens?
 
Ian Petrie
Posts: 15
Location: Tuffnell, SK. Zone 3B
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I feed my rabbits grass, weeds, hay and veggies along with pellets and have never had a problem. I've read that grass actually helps rabbits digest the pellets better. The best way to introduce new food to anything is slowly, with observation and one new food at a time. Grass, clovers and plantain are pretty safe bets to start.
I think if you're feeding the mother a diverse diet including veggies and fresh greens her milk will be richer and help the young ones adapt quickly to a broader diet.
 
kadence blevins
Posts: 595
Location: SE Ohio
32
books goat hugelkultur rabbit tiny house wofati
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
rabbits are just like other animals and things that people do. people also say how you just cant do tons of things us permies do, and there we go and do it just fine and with good results.

i have rabbits and feed lots of greens. the key thing is to make sure you dont have toxic plants. i know what paul says on chickens and toxic plants but rabbits have been raised completely away from the ground, and as you read from plants 100%, so majority of the time i would not trust it to them to neccesarily know what to eat and not eat.

i HIGHLY reccomend this thread (and forum section) on natural rabbit feeding. the woman who runs the forum does 100% natural feeding with only some grain supplement for her colony for years and does great.
http://rabbittalk.com/safe-plants-for-rabbits-list-t55.html

the second thing is not to just drop them into it. you wouldnt like it if someone took you from eating sugary cereal three meals a day to eating a raw foods diet overnight. give them a small handful each day for several days.. then a big handful for several days, then two big handfuls several days... watch that no ones looking off and that poops arent getting too wet or any diarrhea. poops wont be hard dry pellets like pelletized feed only rabbits but they should still be firm and well formed and not sticky like.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
Posts: 2413
46
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Leporids are funny little wee beasties...with many of us in love with them in many ways, and also confused about there proper husbandry. I was told by more than one Mentor if you can raise wild baby rabbits to over a year in age...you have the "knack," for working with wildlife rehab. Its funny that you could get them to even six months and then still loose them all in a matter of hours or few days...mysterious.

With domestics, I must agree with the rest about them being pretty o.k. with most grasses. What I have learned with many small rodents and many (especially neonates) that they are naturally "coprophages," and many must often consume the pellets of the mother (or a mother) to be able to digest greens and survive. Without this they may even present as doing well and then suddenly surcumb to bloat or some other strange sudden death. The "inoculation" of enzymes and intestinal flora/fauna from the mothers does seem to be crucial.


Regards,

j
 
C Wilkes
Posts: 10
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thank you, everyone! It seemed right that bunnies can eat greens but I didn't want to take any chances. The resources are a big help, thanks again!
 
Tina Paxton
Posts: 283
Location: coastal southeast North Carolina
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've been raising rabbits for 2 years now. When I first got my starter stock, the breeder told me quite emphatically NEVER to feed ANYTHING but pellets. She was even against hay for the most part. Which is just silly. Now, you can do well with feeding a diet of pellets and hay. BUT, that is not really very "permie" so... I can tell you that it is perfectly possible to feed your rabbits (even meat rabbits) a pellet-less diet. Let me emphasis though -- it requires a transition period! You can not just start giving them a load of greens -- they WILL bloat and WILL die if you do so. You start with one leaf -- yes, one leaf. Then two. Then three. For each new type of fresh food (forage, fodder, veggie scrap) you start small and work up. The rabbits' digestion depends hugely on the microbes in the gut to digest and that takes a bit to develop. While you are adjusting the rabbits, you can be identifying all the weeds and plants in your yard/lawn/garden/woodlot and determining which are rabbit edible and which are not.

My rabbits get a small amount of pellets, daily sprouted grains (wheat/oats/BOSS/flaxseed), daily freshly collected grasses/weeds/clovers, willow a few times a week (I've just planted 60 willow starts that will next year become a major part of their diet.) I've also planted mulberries and roses for the rabbits.

Oh, and the kits (baby rabbits) start sharing their momma's food (including fresh goodies) as soon as they leave the nestbox. Momma inoculates them with the bacteria from her gut via her poop so they are prepared to digest the same foods she has been eating. Thus, it is important that you have already acclimated the doe to the diet you what the kits to eat. No need to wait until they are 6 months old. There is no logic to that...

A few resources:

Feedipedia.org = a great and growing resource for what foods are good for livestock feeding. They don't always mention if rabbits can eat it but if horses can eat something, you can be 99.9% sure rabbits can.

Beyond the Pellets = an ebook available on Amazon that gives good, researched, information on feeding rabbits a non-pellet (or less pellets) diet.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
Posts: 2413
46
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Tina,

Thank you very much for sharing your insight and experineces. It is good to read what others have been told (that is misguided) and how they made there way to a more "permi-feed" oriented program. I would just augment your observations a little, if you wouldn't mind...

...it requires a transition period! You can not just start giving them a load of greens...


Well...kinda true...

Rabbits (Leporidae) in general, like many other animals, especially rodents, can have what is called "food shyness." This is part of a survival mechanism of general caution of anything new. They do also need to adjust their digestion.

Your guidance of "one leaf" is ultra conservative, as the animals do not need us to tell them what is "safe or not safe to eat." So if a rabbit is caged (as many are) and have only the food you provide, they can have digestive issues if provided food is switched to quickly from "dry" to "wet." Kits are not the only age group that can benefit for "gut loading." I am not sure if you read what I already shared, but many animals are natural coprophages and this is a way in rabbits to "condition" them more rapidly on to a more natural diet.

Transition can be as rapid as 24 hours, yet 48 to 72 is safer, assuming you have droppings from established and healthy rabbits.

Again, thanks for sharing your experiences.

Regards,

j
 
Tina Paxton
Posts: 283
Location: coastal southeast North Carolina
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Jay C. White Cloud wrote:Hi Tina,

Thank you very much for sharing your insight and experineces. It is good to read what others have been told (that is misguided) and how they made there way to a more "permi-feed" oriented program. I would just augment your observations a little, if you wouldn't mind...

...it requires a transition period! You can not just start giving them a load of greens...


Well...kinda true...

Rabbits (Leporidae) in general, like many other animals, especially rodents, can have what is called "food shyness." This is part of a survival mechanism of general caution of anything new. They do also need to adjust their digestion.

Your guidance of "one leaf" is ultra conservative, as the animals do not need us to tell them what is "safe or not safe to eat." So if a rabbit is caged (as many are) and have only the food you provide, they can have digestive issues if provided food is switched to quickly from "dry" to "wet." Kits are not the only age group that can benefit for "gut loading." I am not sure if you read what I already shared, but many animals are natural coprophages and this is a way in rabbits to "condition" them more rapidly on to a more natural diet.

Transition can be as rapid as 24 hours, yet 48 to 72 is safer, assuming you have droppings from established and healthy rabbits.

Again, thanks for sharing your experiences.

Regards,

j


Rabbits ARE coprophages. It is how they fully digest their feed. They must cycle their feed twice through or they will not get the full nutrient content of the food.

If you are starting with rabbits, as I did, that have not been conditioned to eat fresh foods, then you absolutely must start slowly. Once you have your breeders conditioned to fresh foods, you don't need to worry about the kits.

You are assuming the presence of rabbits who are accustomed to eating non-pelleted foods and being able to use their poop to inoculate the rabbits not yet accustomed to a fresh diet. I'm assuming the lack thereof. Two very different situations.
 
Terri Matthews
Posts: 468
Location: Eastern Kansas
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
MIL did well with her rabbits

Every morining she would pull a handfull or two of weeds and grasses out of her flower garden and give it to her momma rabbits. This kept the flower beds looking nice and gave a bite of vitamin-rich foods to the rabbits.

As soon as the bunnies left the nest they would start mouthing the grass. The momma got most of it but the bunnies got a taste as well. Once they were old enough they would chow down as well.

The thing it, RABBITS STRUGGLE WITH SUDDEN DIET CHANGES! If you drop a pile of greens in front of a rabbit they will eat themselves into diarrhea. If a bunny gradually works up to the same pile of greens he is fine. Her baby rabbits did great, but if you give a baby ANYTHING diarrhea it is dangerous.

I have no idea how to gradually introduce a weaned rabbit to greens, as I have never seen it done. I HAVE seen rabbits introduced in infancy, and they gradually went from using grass as a toy to using it as a side dish. And, they were fine.

 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic