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"Rabbit" Starvation--How is it prevented?  RSS feed

 
pioneer
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My husband I were talking last night and started wondering about rabbit starvation, you know, if The End of the World as We Know It ever happened. (Yes, we half-seriously have these discussions a lot. If nothing else, they're fun mental exercises. And, since we enjoy these kind of ponderings, I thought, "Maybe all the peeps at permies would enjoy discussing this, too!" And, that's why this thread's here, lol!)

I've always heard that a diet of just rabbits will result in starvation. But, what is it about the rabbits that causes the problem, and how would one prevent it? Is it too much protein? Not enough fat? An imbalance of protein and fat? Could it be remedied by eating lots of potatoes and other carb-rich veggies? Or, does someone *need* fat to survive? If so, how much fat is required per day?
 
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Google says acorns are 25% fat.
This thread might be right up your alley:
http://permies.com/t/72556/kitchen/Acorn-Mush-Preparation
 
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I've heard this a few times and I think there are a couple of things that always come to mind.  It depends on what kind of rabbit your talking about.  A farm raised pasture fed meat rabbit will have a nice bit of fat on it. It's very light fat with little flavor but there are a few ounces of it on each rabbit.  This assumes that you are raising them with a good feed source and butchering them at around 8-10 weeks old.  Older rabbits will have more fat. 
If you're dealing with wild rabbits such as cotton tails or snowshoe hares, you'll not likely find much fat.  Mostly because these rabbits are more active and they have to keep moving to stay ahead of predators.  It's important for rabbits to not carry much extra fat for them to breed successfully.  Fat rabbits have smaller litters, less frequently and the males are less likely to want to mate if they are too fat.  So it seems that it is in their nature to live thin to be productive.
As for starvation, you'll probably starve slower with rabbits than without them.  Food is food at that point, right?  If you're in a position where rabbits are all that you have left to eat, I'd suggest eating as much of that critter as you can.  Heart, lungs, liver, kidney, eyes, bones. You can pretty much eat all of it, except the hair and teeth.   If you're out hunting wild rabbits to keep from starving to death, I'd also suggest carrying a few field guides for wild plants, bugs and fungus that you might find along your way.  There's many insects that have a good fat profile and that don't taste all that bad.  Of course, if your starving, and hunting for food, there's no such thing as a hunting season, so don't pass up opportunities for trapping small birds, mice, squirrels, chipmunks and other wild edibles if it means staying alive. 
I really like rabbits.  They are my favorite farm critter, because they are quiet, productive and easy to care for.  Like anything else though, they can't be relied on as your only protein and fat source.  I think a good balance for a rabbitry is to have a breeding pair of pigs to provide nutritionally rich meat and a few extra pounds of fat.  There's always more fat on a pig than most people like, so I save the extra, for mixing in with rabbit meat and making sausage.  They work very well together and nobody starves.
 
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Actually it's about eating too much lean meat/protein (protein poisoning) and not the whole animal. Fat, organs, marrow etc have always been a very important part of the animal, for food among indigenous people. Actually they were more valued in many cultures than the muscle meat. The nutritional value of pure lean muscle meat is very limited, if you're gonna live of that only.
 
Mike Phillipps
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(edit: Excellent points Craig and Lana...I didn't see your messages before I wrote my comment.  What about ducks?  )

Apparently there's a limit to how much you can fatten up a rabbit, lol.  I'm guessing it would help to find sources of oils and fats to amend your diet.  So I suppose the place to start would be to figure out what's available where you are, what you like to eat, and what you might grow.  The simplest, easiest source of oil I thought of is sunflowers.  Both the seeds and the oil are excellent, and it makes a very striking and pretty flower if you like that sort of thing. 

I'm not sure what zone you're in or if you like olives or not, but if it doesn't go below 15 deg.F there, it might be possible to grow olive trees, especially if you covered the trees in the winter.  The simplest "greenhouse" is a "poly tunnel", which is just steel electrical conduit bent into a hoop, with poly film put over it in the winter.  This will increase your zone by about +1.  Could be enough to grow olives. 

A lot of the plants that produce oils and fats seem to grow in warmer climates (coconuts, avocados, etc.) .  Lately I've been researching greenhouses and trying to invent improvements for them.  Ideally, with the right greenhouse (or indoor space) one could grow anything, but it's a bit tricky to get a greenhouse designed and setup just right.  They can be amazingly productive, but they also use a lot of resources, so they seem to go in the direction of intensive gardening/farming.  Along with this, it can bring hydroponics or aquaponics or aquaculture into the equation.  Again the basics of this are simple, but it can get complicated and expensive and requires a system. 

One way to avoid the climate-control issues with greenhouses is to grow indoors and use artificial lighting.  This uses a building where space is more expensive, but it seems technically simpler than managing a greenhouse

One of the most efficient, least expensive, most productive ways might be to grow some sort of nut (probably outdoors), like hazelnuts or peanuts.  I'm not sure to what extent this protein source would also obviate the need for meat, but anyway that's as far as I got in the research. 


 
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I believe it is because the meat uses more of some vitamins and minerals to digest than you gain from it. (possibly vitamins a and vitamins e)
We  you're out harvesting rabbit just pick a good wild salad of easy to identify greens etc and you'll be fine
 
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Medically, the problem comes down to lack of fat. Rabbit meat (and some other wild meats harvested at the end of winter when the animal is in poor condition or on the verge of starvation) has extremely little fat. There's none laced in the muscling of rabbits, like that found in many other animals.

The problem with rabbit comes when a person tries to survive predominately on just rabbit. The human body needs fats. When we are not eating meats containing fats, we get it from other foods. Thus vegans don't run into trouble not eating meat fat because there is plenty in vegetables and nuts. But for people that opt to eat just rabbit and nothing else, or are forced to because that's the only thing around that is edible, then they can quickly get into trouble with a deadly situation. The rabbit it isn't toxic, it simply lacks fat.

Cultures that survived upon high meat diets, consumed plenty of fat along with the meat.

 
Nicole Alderman
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Mike Phillipps wrote:(edit: Excellent points Craig and Lana...I didn't see your messages before I wrote my comment.  ....  Also, what about raising ducks?  )



We do have ducks! But, I've realized that they do take a lot of feed, and in a hypothetical "doomsday" situation, I'm figuring we wouldn't be able to keep a large flock of ducks--definitely not enough to eat more than maybe a few drakes a year...and there's four of us in the family. I'm thinking a flock of 8-10 might be sustainable on our property if we grew lots of potatoes as a replacement for their feed (it's something I'd love to do, anyway, because feed is expensive). With 8-10 ducks, we'd be getting 4-6 eggs per day, depending on season. That's about an egg per person, 9 grams of fat. Is 9 grams of fat enough?

Craig Dobbson wrote:I've heard this a few times and I think there are a couple of things that always come to mind.  It depends on what kind of rabbit your talking about.  A farm raised pasture fed meat rabbit will have a nice bit of fat on it. It's very light fat with little flavor but there are a few ounces of it on each rabbit.  This assumes that you are raising them with a good feed source and butchering them at around 8-10 weeks old.  Older rabbits will have more fat. 



That's good to know! We're not at the place currently in which we could raise rabbits (or bring ourselves to slaughter the ones we raise...), but I was thinking that we would have them in a bunny tractor on our two acres of grass. Would bunnies get fat in such a situation? (I honestly haven't researched bunnies all that much--I need to remedy that!)

I've got to go--the kids are up and my Mama hat needs to go back on!

 
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I was just researching rabbits  that put on fat, for this very reason.
It would seem that there are no rabbit breeds that grow a lot fat, just some that grow  a lot bigger than others.

Azoll or duck weed seem like they would be more efficient than growing land crops for feed.

With enough grass, geese are a good source of yummy fat.

Okra has a surprising amount of fat and protein.

I've been coveting dwarf  chinkapin oaks.
They fruit precociously, grow as a hedge,expanding by suckers, and their acorns are so low in tannins,there is no need to leach them.
Press them for oil and high protein meal, or eat them whole.
I wonder if acorn butter is yummy?
The oil is said to be akin to olive oil.
I think they could be a great source  of profit before "the collapse" and a good source of food after.

Peanuts or other ground nuts are another source of fat.

Pigeons,quail, guinea pigs, are all micro livestock that might turn plants into fat. All three  are valuable in the market place as "exotic" meats.
The price for pigeon meat is outrageous, you can buy prime rib for less. Selling it could be a great way to make money.

Possums. Eat anything, reproduce like crazy,  notably fatty  if the Joy of Cooking is accurate.
Dumb enough that you might not mind killing them.




 
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Eggs are probably one of the easiest sources of fat and protein to grow.  I guess most places they could  be foraged a part of the year, if it was a life or death situation. A few eaten with rabbit would probably put off the starvation. I am just speculating.  I haven’t researched this subject.

Here, pecans and hickories would be very helpful.  I’ve read that the native Americans stored large quantities. They keep more than a year if they haven’t been cracked and are dry.
 
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William Bronson wrote: I was just researching rabbits  that put on fat, for this very reason.
It would seem that there are no rabbit breeds that grow a lot fat, just some that grow  a lot bigger than others.

Azoll or duck weed seem like they would be more efficient than growing land crops for feed.

With enough grass, geese are a good source of yummy fat.

Okra has a surprising amount of fat and protein.

I've been coveting dwarf  chinkapin oaks.
They fruit precociously, grow as a hedge,expanding by suckers, and their acorns are so low in tannins,there is no need to leach them.
Press them for oil and high protein meal, or eat them whole.
I wonder if acorn butter is yummy?
The oil is said to be akin to olive oil.
I think they could be a great source  of profit before "the collapse" and a good source of food after.

Peanuts or other ground nuts are another source of fat.

Pigeons,quail, guinea pigs, are all micro livestock that might turn plants into fat. All three  are valuable in the market place as "exotic" meats.
The price for pigeon meat is outrageous, you can buy prime rib for less. Selling it could be a great way to make money.

Possums. Eat anything, reproduce like crazy,  notably fatty  if the Joy of Cooking is accurate.
Dumb enough that you might not mind killing them.


Careful with duckweed. it is invasive and prohibited in some areas.  I have thought that if I were to delve into livestock I would pursue growing wheatgrass.
 
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Bacon.

Raise pigs for bacon. Wrap the rabbit in bacon. Rabbit starvation averted.

Seriously, nobody mentioned bacon yet? Pigs were kept because they could find a lot of their own food, and make good use of kitchen and farm scraps.

And sorry, Natasha, but a good wild salad of easy to identify greens wouldn't contain any fat, nor many calories for the amount of nutrients available. Rabbit starvation literally happens because the body can derive only so much energy from protein. If you don't get sufficient quantities of fat or calories, you will starve to death with your stomach stuffed to bursting with rabbit meat and greens.

I lost the article talking about this, so I am going on what I remember, but deriving energy from protein involves how much uric acid (I think) can be removed from the kidneys (I think, might be liver), as the uric acid is (again, I think) the metabolic byproduct of making food energy from protein. You can only make so much energy from protein before the body's ability to remove the metabolic byproduct from the filtration organ in question is maxxed out.

I will keep looking, so as I can post the article, but I believe these are the broad strokes.

But I maintain that the practical, one-word solution for rabbit starvation is "bacon."

-CK
 
Ken W Wilson
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Acorn oil is an interesting idea. I wonder if the oil contains tannins? If it doesn’t you could press for oil and then leach just the meal or feed it to chickens if tannins don’t bother them.

I believe bitter apricots seed are pressed to make an oil that isn’t bitter. I know that is a different toxin.
 
William Bronson
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There are low tannin acorns, I wouldn't even mess with growing any others.
 
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The simple answer to the question about putting fat on rabbits is this. 
Unlike most other meat-type animals, rabbits put fat on externally, which is to say between their fur and their musculature.  So even if you have sedentary rabbits fed diets high in fat, their meat is still going to be very lean, there will just be a thicker layer of fat over the top of it. 
 
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