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Raising rabbits in the tropics.

 
Nicholas Sanders
Posts: 7
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Hey you all! So I am in Yucatan Mexico starting my own sustainable homestead and business on a little hacienda that I am renting. I haven't been very active on this site, but I have been reading all the post about rabbits thoroughly. Lots a great information that I am so appreciative that people are willing to share. So after some extensive research on here, other websites and learning about the local commercial farming of rabbits, I am ready to dive right into raising rabbits for profit. I know of restaurants in the nearby city that are interested in the meat and the manure can sell for a good price in this region. I am wondering what suggestions or good advice people might have for raising rabbits in the tropics? I am planning on keeping the rabbits in tractors. I have plenty of space for them to be moved around. I also have plenty of large mature trees that I can use to shelter the tractors in the heat of the day. Its also a great solution for me since I am currently at a rental and will be moving my operations for my own land over the next few years. I am also in a remote area with limited resources. Finding organic feed is just impossible out where I am. I can probably pick some up from a city a hour away, but its not going to be reliable. The plan is to feed them only from things found on the property and garden. So I wondering what tropical plants could the rabbits eat as a staple. I planning on expanding the garden for rabbit feed. But I wonder about thing like bananas, papaya, epazote, etc. Not just the fruits, but the plant themselves. I just asking because most advice, instructions and articles are from the perspective of growers in regions much farther north than I am. I curious on what info I might be missing for the region and conditions that I am facing. I appreciate any insight!
 
Becky Leppard
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Hi,
I live in Florida and feed my rabbits greens. Yes rabbits love the leaves from banana stalks, as well as sugar cane leaves. Moringa is a wonderful thing to grow for feeding yourself and the rabbits and to keep them healthy. Rabbits in the tropics can get worms from being on the ground so that is something to watch out for.

I feed my rabbits weeds that grow around like dandelion and Spanish needle and thistles. They also love wild grape leaves, maple and butterfly bush. I have a lot of flowering ginger in my yard that grows wild and blue sky vine that grows verociously. I also planted comfrey and edible hibiscus for them. There is a forum on FB called Backyard Meat Rabbits that has many members that answers lots of questions.

Best wishes.
Becky
 
Tina Paxton
Posts: 283
Location: coastal southeast North Carolina
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Rabbits are a great homestead livestock choice!

Some thoughts:

1. Get your breeding stock from local breeders who raise them in the same fashion as you are planning if at all possible. The benefits to doing this are several: 1) the rabbits will be acclimated to the heat (if they come from an air conditioned rabbitry it will take them time to adjust to outdoor living) 2) if they are used to being raised on the ground you won't have the issues that can come with adapting "off the ground raised rabbits" to being on the ground -- coccidia is a biggy in this regard. "Tractoring" rabbits has the benefits of them being able to forage much of their own food but some people (Daniel Salatin for example) experience higher loses to coccidia for the first few generations until they develop a herd that are resistant

2. Know what your initial stock is used to eating. That is your starting point. If they are used to commercial pellets, you will need to start with that and transition them to forage/fodder slowly. If they come already used to eating at least some forage/fodder then you won't have as long to get them used to it. But it is still good to know what they've been getting as each new food needs to be introduced SLOWLY. They need to develop the gut flora to digest the new food or they will get a killer stomach ache...and I mean, literally, it will kill them.

3. Begin to identify the plants (weeds, herbs, scrubs, trees) in your area and determine which are good for rabbits to eat. My "rule of thumb" is if it is safe for horses, it is likely safe for rabbits. There are conflicting lists of "safe foods" on the internet and in books. It comes down to testing a plant on your rabbits and see. A general practice is to have a "test bunny" to try new foods on -- one rabbit that is not as critical to your breeding program as the others that you can risk feeding a new plant to see if it will eat it and won't die if they do. That might sound terrible but it is better to lose one than all and for many plants the only way you will know if it is good for forage is to go this route.

4. I've mentioned "forage" and "fodder". Those words get used interchangeably by some. I try to keep them separate. "Forage" is food I gather from the garden, yard, and beyond that I bring to the rabbits. (My rabbits are not tractored so they can not forage on their own but "forage" could also mean that which tractored rabbits have access to from inside their tractor.) Fodder is either sprouted grains or grains grown to "grass" stage and then fed to the rabbits. You can find much information on the internet about growing barley fodder for cattle, goats, and rabbits. I find the fodder process to be very troublesome in my environment because the humidity leads to mold very quickly and mold is deadly to rabbits. I've given up on it and am just planting lots of things that I can cut-and-carry to my rabbits -- things like mulberries and willow and roses and brambles....daylilies...hibiscus...and lots and lots more...
 
Abe Connally
Posts: 1502
Location: Chihuahua Desert
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If it gets hot where you are, you need to consider underground shelters for your rabbits like this: http://velacreations.com/blog/352-rabbit-dwelling.html



 
Tina Paxton
Posts: 283
Location: coastal southeast North Carolina
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Abe Connally wrote:If it gets hot where you are, you need to consider underground shelters for your rabbits like this: http://velacreations.com/blog/352-rabbit-dwelling.html





Abe, I like the sketch and the link but in the link the underground portion of the rabbit enclosure is made of brick...which is great if brick is available. The sketch doesn't appear to use brick...do you have a link to a version similar to the sketch?

Also, how would that hold up to a rainy area? In the last week I've gotten 4.5 inches of rain and there is another tropical storm coming up the coast to give us more rain by the weekend. So, I'm definitely thinking any type of earthen-construction rabbitry would need to be able to withstand high rain events. It would be ideal for the high winds but I'm not sure about the rain....
 
Abe Connally
Posts: 1502
Location: Chihuahua Desert
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You need to have it covered for rain. If you are in a very wet climate, then do raised beds, inside of going down. Put a roof over it, and catch the rainwater for the rabbit water. Here's an example:



Ours is in the bard, built into a hillside. Here's another hillside version. This one uses the concrete boxes from the other sketch:



We used bricks, cause that's what we had, you could use anything. That sketch uses concrete panels. The concept is the same with any material. You built an underground portion of the cage, usually 2 ft by 2ft, then give them access to an outdoor portion.



In Egypt, they use clay pots:



Here's the document explaining the concept and its development: http://om.ciheam.org/om/pdf/c08/95605275.pdf

 
Su Ba
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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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It doesn't get too hot were I am in Hawaii, only up to the low 80's F. But I still have my rabbit pens in the shade of the trees. All my rabbits are in raised pens. Two reasons....illegal to allow them on the ground here.....too high a risk of mongooses getting them if they were in tractors. Besides, rabbits dig and unless the tractor had a fence floor, they could escape.

While I do keep alfalfa cubes in their pens 24 hours a day, they primarily eat greens, fruits, and veggies that I grow or forage. Here's a list of what I offer them.
Greens:
...banana leaves, sugar cane, sweet potato, beet, chard, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, turnip, bok choy, lettuce, arugula, carrot, sunflower, yacon, plantain, alfalfa, various assorted grasses, celery, radish, daikon, edible hibiscus, pipinola, papaya, mango (somewhat), young guava twigs, spinach, kale, parsley, mint, basil, dill, oregano, strawberry, rose including the flowers
Veggies:
...sweet potato, beet, turnip, sugar beet and mangels, carrot, immature sunflower heads, yacon, tomato, radish, daikon, sugar cane (cut up and split into wedges), squashes (some they eat, some they don't), pumpkin and winter squashes (especially the seeds and gooey pulp), pipinola, cucumber, okra, kohlrabi
Fruits:
....banana, watermelon, papaya, guava, mango, strawberry, apple, pineapple, orange

I'm sure there are other things they will eat, but these are what I have available to me.
 
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