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is it realisticaly possible to grow feed for rabbits?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 263
Location: West Midlands UK (zone 8b) Rainfall 26"
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Rosemary is an abortifacient. Some silly woman fed a load of herbs from her garden to our goats once, including rosemary, and one of them aborted, so be careful.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1282
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Thanks, Hester. I don't know reliable rosemary is as an abortifacient. I'm guessing one would have to be sensitive to it and ingest a lot at one time. If it worked, then most women I know would be growing bushes if it around their houses!

Seriously though, while my rabbits eat rosemary, it's never a lot at any one time. They get bush trimmings perhaps once a month. Because I have numerous rabbits, each rabbit gets perhaps 10" stem trimming. At the same time they are eating high fiber food, such as dry hay, plus an assortment of all sorts of other things. My rabbits are offered lots of variety, but only small portions of any one thing.,
 
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Location: Nevada
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This thread has done a bit of meandering - hope I didn't miss anything that I am commenting on now. I am reading up on raising rabbits now and have been interested in the idea of growing wheat grass for bunnies. I have read some posts that say that rabbits love it but I think they were fed the wheat grass from weaning time. There are many systems available to grow your own wheat grass - takes about 2 weeks. Some are large enough to use to feed cattle. It is always a good idea to use what is growing locally, but in winter, if you live in an area that is cooler, there may be less of a choice.
 
Posts: 102
Location: Tampa, Florida zone 9A
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I've mostly skimmed the preceding posts and just want to share my experiences with my pet bunny.

When I got her from the shelter she was on a pellets and timothy hay diet. My approach to shifting her to a more local diet was 1) to research which weeds were good for her to eat in my area, and 2) provide the weeds I found AND pellets. Some point along the journey I read that grain was an important part of a natural diet -- and tried her on some barley I had around (for me -- I wasn't very fond of it). I gave it to her dry -- she immediately loved it -- it sounded like someone eating peanut brittle when she ate it.

Another thing I did from early on was include papaya leaves in her diet. Papaya grows well around here (except once every 5 years when we get a freeze that it is) and the papaya leaves help her with hair balls and the like. The people at the shelter recommended some pills with papaya in them from the store -- I knew right away I could do better than that.

Somewhere along the way she stopped being interested in the pellets.

These days she eats: grass from my yard, weeds from my yard, and organic barley from the health food store.

I think this was a pretty good method. I let my bunny do the choosing. She knows better than me what is right for her. And she looks forward everyday to when I go out and bring her in good things to eat from my yard that I didn't do one lick of work to get to grow there.

And in return I get to bring her rear-end stuff to the plant(s) I want to bless with it at the moment.
 
Posts: 101
Location: Okanogan County, WA
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We have been moving our feeders each day in a wire bottomed cage, allowing cheatgrass and leafy weeds to poke through. we also cut a bit of fresh alfalfa, kochia, and blackberry leavesto throw in to them. All uneaten greens are tossed out each day when we move them. The plan is for roughly fifty percent of the nutrition to come from forage and the rest from pellets and sunflower seeds. One issue has been that they will dig through the pellets, knocking it out of the feeder and wasting it to get to the sunflower seeds that are mixed throughout.

Those who feed mixed grains - do you have similar issues of wasted feed due to them picking through for what the want and dumping the rest?
 
Denise Lehtinen
Posts: 102
Location: Tampa, Florida zone 9A
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Yes, she does like to spill the dish with barley in it. She also beats it up from time to time. On the other hand I occasionally find a barley plant in my yard, too. Personally, I'd love to get enough of that to happen to have grain for her from the yard.
 
Posts: 605
Location: SE Ohio
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***warning this is going to be impossibly long

"One issue has been that they will dig through the pellets, knocking it out of the feeder and wasting it to get to the sunflower seeds that are mixed throughout."
feed it in different bowls. they will do that if it is mixed. like a kid diggin through the cereal box to find the prize. try feeding the sunflower seed at one time and then the pellets later or just a second bowl. few years ago i had got a small bag of calfmanna to try with some of the rabbits to give em a boost and see if it actually did anything for em. if it was mixed in the pellets they'd dig it all and get most of all of it in the ground. the does learned i would fill up the bowls and feeders and then drop a spoonful on top of their pellets for em. those does always waited (impatiently) for me to come back around with the bucket of calfmanna and spoon to give em the goodies.

quote "think it depends on what already grows around you and what you can cultivate in your climate."
this is huge. some people cant grow wheat. some people could grow wheat for the whole county. some people have a city lot. some people have a thousand acres. some people grow a hundred pounds of veg on an apartment porch. some people couldnt get a single seed they plant to as much as germinate.

quote "what are the store bought feed pellets made of? probably alfalfa"
yes most of them have alfalfa as a top ingredient

quote "it's my understanding that it requires some delicate maneuvering to transition them to raw pasture"
this is quite true. if i met 100 rabbit breeders today i would bet 70 or more of them feed ONLY PELLETS and many of them will swear up and down at you that feeding em greens or veg is a sure way to kill em. some would feed only pellets and hay. some would tell you feeding em lettuce turns em mean (fact: lettuce will not cause a mean rabbit). some feed few veg or greens as treats but would tell you a rabbit under 8wks will die if they eat it.
in reality its all about balance and transition. rabbit pellets are comparable to slimfast. slimfast is supposed to have ALL a human adult needs equal to one meal. imagine you consume one slimfast for breakfast, one for lunch, and one for dinner. they can be different flavors or off brands.
ok now one day out of the blue someone snatches you up and feeds you breakfast of two fried eggs, four pieces of bacon, two slice of toast with butter and choice of jelly/etc. for lunch you are fed a medium baked potato with choice of toppings, and side of corn on the cob. for dinner you are fed a nice medium rare steak, side of brussel sprouts, side of candied carrots, side of french fries.
do tell me how you think your stomach will react to that! especially if a person was born and raised for generations on three meals a day of slimfast!

quote "it's a pretty complex cocktail of extra supplements"
its near impossible to be sure that the rabbits are getting all the minerals and trace minerals they need. these are especially important if you are feeding a milk or meat animal because you want nice healthy meat in a good amount and nice healthy milk in a good amount. and if they arent in good or great condition these things immediately begin to decline. all animal raisers/breeders that i know or know of or have read good things from all feed mineral in one form or another.
quote "dont believe Salatin claim for a minute. i truly dont believe it takes yrs to get a strain of rabbit that can handle pasture"
once you raise animals for a decent length of time, you learn that all domestic animals seem to always find ways and new ways to die on you. its a resounding theme throughout any and every animal group or forum i have been on for every animal.
but speaking of rabbits specifically, alot of people raise and breed bad rabbits. rabbits that are sickly, have genetic problems, have behavior problems, that are bad mothers, that are bad breeders, and on and on i could list things! this goes for all animals but rabbits can be more noticable because they are easier for more people to keep and seems more people breed any to any just to breed it and they'll raise unholy hell if you talk about eating any or so much as putting horribly sick animals down.
i have had some rabbits that did great on a 15% protien pellet. then as i got more only the few did good/great on that pellet. i changed feeds a few times. most rabbits did so-so on 18% pellets which is the highest protien % pellet and is of course the highest priced! still wish i had that pair that did great on the 15% pellets!
even in breeding show animals i see more often than not people breeding for traits that are useless and many are doing much more harm than good. rabbits that are tinier and tinier. ears that are loonnggeerr and thinner. breeding for a gene that causes kits to loose all their fur at a mere 3-7wks (they just grew it in the first place!) and then regrow it in because they believe that causes better fur quality for that breed.... even when most of the kits that exhibit this die and the ones that live through it always need coddled and are more likely to get sick, more likely to have digestion problems, etc.
my point here being that you take a chance buying any animal. most animals turn out to leave many of your goals wanting and you have to breed for what you want. and the point is very very few breeders are breeding rabbits that do well on natural diet. i would say very signifcantly less than the number of people colony raising rabbits. the main reason being that its time consuming even for a small amount of rabbits. unless you happen to have loads of money to blow on buying and fencing vast amounts of land for rotation grazing them in groups.
livestock have been bred to be the best. the best meat breed. the best milk breed. the best wool breed. the fastest horse breed. the strongest ox. and on and on and on.
in about the last hundred years especially it has been moreso. you can keep the animals 'better' and feed them 'better' to make them thee best of their kind.
this means more meat and faster. this means more milk and for longer. this also means the animals have alot more they are required to produce. ergo they need more supplementing farther and farther from what the wild relatives need to survive.

here is where i would like to explain that. wild animals mainly survive. they rarely get fat and happy. they dont thrive by our modern human standards.

for example i give you holstien cows. holstiens are known to be 'the milk cow'. modern production holstien cows put so much of their energy into milk production that they need lots and lots of supplementing. they get several pounds of feed per cow each milking. many develop bone problems before they could grow old because their body is constant push!push!push! for milk production and milk making overides healthy bones. this is how they were bred.
wild rabbits in north america are different species than european rabbit. FACT: it is not possible to get a wild american rabbit crossed with a domestic rabbit! possibility of ZERO PERCENT. the genetics arent there for them to correctly line up for even mules of a sort. if anyone disagrees, by all means show me the articles, pictures, genetic test, etc so that i may learn.
you are more likely to get a full term healthy geep (goat/sheep cross) that lives and grows old. and at least 95% of those breedings that develope a fetus will abort. as it is, this so rarely happens that when there is a healthy one it often ends up in the news.

quote "well a few dozen domesticated rabbits were released into an area with an abundance of foods, and rabbits. then for 2-3 years the wild rabbits had colorings just like the domestic ones and it slowly trailed off..... Wild colorings often being dominate in a species"
i dub thee... not a geneticist... Wild color is dominant, yes but not the way you are thinking.
rabbit colors work from 5 base genes. 1) black vs chocolate 2) complete color vs shaded vs albino 3) dense vs dilute 4) extention of color vs limitation of color vs elimination of color 5) agouti vs not agouti
agouti is what you are talking about. the common agouti is 'tan, white or fawn marking on the belly, underside of the tail, inside of the feet and legs, inside the ears and nostrils, around the eyes and in the shape of a triangle at the nape of the neck. The fur on the body has rings of colour when blown into the coat. A grey or dove-grey ring at the skin is noticeable. Looking closely at its fur you can see that it is made up of 3 to 5 b and of colour. The Hair closest to the skin is gray. This is followed by yellow and yellow followed by black on the tips of the fur.' ((copied from this site page on rabbit color genetics: http://www.droopyears.com/rabbitgenetics.htm ))
so what you saw was wild rabbits and domestic rabbits with agouti fur. the domestic rabbits bred together without intervention and genetics end up back at the basics and probably sped up by predators which can more easily see the rabbits that arent agouti, ergo more agouti rabbits.

quote "know of two different individuals that released san juans and they crossed with the wild populations and endured for decades. in one area its said that they are still quite the populace"
firstly, see just previous about genetics. secondly, san juan breed, the true san juan breed, are domestic european rabbits and, see further above, would not have litters with wild rabbits. they were bred from domestics to look and act as much like cottontails in order to best teach hunting dogs. i have also read that the breed is from an area called san juan where some idiot kept dumping domestic rabbits and they overtook the local wild population and setup shop quite well with there being too few predators in the area. then after several years folks got into the sport of driving the area shooting as many as they could from the vehicle because there was so many that it was a huge nuisance for all growing things and they burrowed all over and caused major havoc to small outbuildings and big barns etc. including the supposed collapse of a barn with livestock inside. the area has a variety of sized cottontail-looking rabbits from 4 pounds to 15 pounds.

quote "Another interesting thing is that a lot of animals which are domesticated (dogs and horses in particular) and are selectively bred for non-aggressiveness will start having offspring with more and more white markings on them"
have you seen the articles on the experiments in fox breeding and farming? supposedly they make quite the pet after x amount of generations farmed the color variety and patterns just keep poppin up and they become super lovey and act something like a cross of a cat and a dog. saw a video ages ago and i admit the thing was super lovey and adorable.
quote "What about rabbits that are natives? I raise New Zealands and according to the sources I have read they are native to the America's, despite the name"
nah the breed was developed here. not a native animal. they are european domestic. also careful trying to introduce them to wild rabbits. one may not take too kindly to the strange cousin and decide to attack now and nevermind the questions. also many areas i have heard that some strains of wild rabbit illness that usually doesnt affect them too bad but will be terrible and can quickly kill off many domestics. dont know any truth to that but something i would be worried about stickin one in a cage with my rabbit.

quote "Rosemary is an abortifacient"
didnt know that. dually noted. also, pine needles are high vit C and people often make tea of it i read.. but it has one of the chemicals in it that causes abortions. our goats always ate it plenty and would strip a tree down to clean wood in no time flat if one was cut and tossed in there. but only at certian times as it causes abortions and we milked and didnt want pine-milk ((gags!))


wild rabbits will 99% of the time die if caged and given rabbit pellets. their bodies aren't used to/developed toward pellets. i have only ever seen one hutched rabbit that lived more than a month caged and fed only pellets and hay. oddly enough it was with some dirtys amish and the kids found a nest and popped em in with their domestic rabbits. only one kit lived to weaning and the amish guy said it was about a year old and every day he waits to see if it will die of heart attack. the thing so scared any time someone walked by or the kids would feed the rabbits.
wild american rabbits are completely different than domestic or european wild rabbits. american wild rabbits usually litter in a brushy area (hedges, briars very dense,etc) or in tall grass where they make little room looking spots in the grass and make a nest on the ground or a small shallow scoop of the ground there. i have never seen evidence of american wild rabbits burrowing and only so-so evidence that they will utilize an empty hole as a home or nest.
hares and cottontails do that versus european rabbits which live in burrows/warrens.
wild american rabbits breed only once in the spring and rarely they seem to breed immediately after for a second litter if weather/etc permits however they figure it or if a doe loses her litter it seems she would immediately breed back to try and get in a litter.
a wild rabbit will be usually on its own or in a small group and need to only feed itself for nearly the entire year. bucks during breeding time will have the stress of mating and likely fights. in spring the does will be stressed during breeding, for about a month gestation, and about 4-6wks feeding a litter. they usually litter 2 to 5 per litter, the only ones i have happened upon or have heard others happen upon are 3 or 4 kits.

if nothing else take into your thoughts these bits:
**1) eastern cottontail rabbit is approximately 15 to 19 inches (37 to 48 cm) in length and weighs 2 to 4 pounds (0.9 to 1.8 kg).
**2) commercial meat breed rabbit adults weigh from 9 to 15 pounds.
**3) the general educated guess is that wild american rabbits about 1 in 100 lives to see its third fall season.
**4) estimated production life of a commercial meat breed rabbit is 5 years and many backyard/small time breeders (myself included) have had does produce good litters and be good mothers up into 8 years old.
**5) i have heard that in the south and warmer parts of the US that wild rabbits will breed more often and have a potential of 18 rabbits for one pair of adults within a year, though that potential is probably never met. 18 rabbits of adult size for eastern cottontail would be live weight of 36-72 pounds total, and then take away at least 40% of that for the offal (unedibles/not meat). and thats if every rabbit is at top adult weight which means that would take more than a years time.
**6) a commercial meat breed rabbit will have 6-9 kits per litter, generally breed back the doe at 2-4wks post-kindling (since last birthing), and wean the litter at 5-7wks old. then the doe has a short break between litters and will kindle again. the goal is to have kits of 8 pounds by 8 weeks and many good small time breeders get around 5-6 pounds by 8wks though some go long as 12 wks.
that schedule means potential of 6 litters weaned in a year totaling 36-54 kits. if each kit lives thats potential of 180 (36 5pounders) to 324 (54 6pounders) pounds live weight. then subtract your 40% offal.

as you should be able to see. this is a whole different animal. a rabbit that is producing alot will need alot of good food. a rabbit that is significantly smaller and less producing will need less food and could get away with more food of lesser quality.
 
Posts: 144
Location: Sacramento, CA
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Kadance,

Thanks for the awesome post!
 
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A couple of far fetched questions.
Can wild greens and herbs as well as garden greens be foraged and used as silage for overwintering? Dried for feeding over winter?
Can fodder and forage sustain a rabbits diet?
Does anyone feed fodder as a main source of a rabbits diet ileu of rabbit tractors?
Has anyone tried silage? Well not you yourself but your rabbits...
 
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Rabbits cannot eat silage. Only ruminants do well with silage.

Fodder and hay diets must be supplemented with a mineral block. IMO most people do not feed fodder with enough protein. If that is true, then litter size decreases and you'll get slower growth rates with your kits as well. One would have to plan very diligently to grow the proper fodder to be successful. I do know people that are successful growing 100% of their own rabbit food, but it is a passion of theirs and takes a lot of work. It is worth the work though for the quality of meat you get in return.

I feed a NON-GMO, NON-Soy feed that is an alfalfa based pellet, 17% protein. I supplement my rabbits diets every other day with quality hay. The other day they get fodder from around my yard...chickweed, dandelions, grass trimmings, veggie trimmings, etc... The rabbits do very well for me in production and I am able to maintain this system with the time I have.

Joe
 
Posts: 49
Location: Zone 11B Moku Nui Hawaii
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Start them young and they will adore forage. These are baby English angoras and not even quite weaned but nibbling on greens and grasses.



They find moringa to be quite palatable.



They adore ti leaves, too. Although they seem to prefer the green ones to the red ones for some reason. They also like grapefruits and citrus leaves of all types.

Mulberry is supposed to be especially nutritious for them, so I've started growing some of that for them.

There is a certain synergy between rabbits and gardens; both seem to do better by giving to each other.
 
Posts: 27
Location: Hillsdale County, Michigan
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Tom Connolly wrote:This thread has done a bit of meandering - hope I didn't miss anything that I am commenting on now. I am reading up on raising rabbits now and have been interested in the idea of growing wheat grass for bunnies. I have read some posts that say that rabbits love it but I think they were fed the wheat grass from weaning time. There are many systems available to grow your own wheat grass - takes about 2 weeks. Some are large enough to use to feed cattle. It is always a good idea to use what is growing locally, but in winter, if you live in an area that is cooler, there may be less of a choice.



Hi Tom,

I read through this whole thread, three pages long and starting four years ago to see if anyone was feeding their rabbits wheat grass. Unless I missed it, no one commented on your post. I don't have rabbits any more but I do have goats. And they get fresh wheat grass in winter. If I had rabbits I would definitely consider growing wheat grass for them in winter if you live in a cold climate. The beauty of wheat or barley grass for that matter is that the plant can pick up all 70+ minerals if they are available. So fertilize your wheat grass with ocean water. I know of at least one dairy that feeds fodder growing it with one of those fancy set ups and their dry cows thrive on just fodder with no supplementation necessary. They do supplement their lactating cows with grain. This thread is about all the variety available for a rabbit diet. Growing your own wheat grass and vegetable sprouts would be very doable for a few rabbits. And inexpensive. And easy peasy with the right method. I got that method.

I grow wheat grass in soil in 4 X 8 solid bottom containers in my house for some of the goats all winter and green them in the window. I start six trays per day for a treat for just the ones I am milking right now. I bought special window shelves because I do a lot of sprouting for myself. With four shelves per unit, one window is now worth five windows as far as sunshine goes. I get a green salad every day with exotic greens like sunflower greens, buckwheat lettuce, pea shoots, radish greens, turnip greens, cabbage, kale, cress, arugula, and on and on and all done in 7-10 days. Pea shoots are cut and come again several times and my most prolific green. The others are cut and then they are done. I don't need a tractor or grow lights, pumps, a greenhouse or other expensive equipment. I recycle the root cakes and compost them in a five gallon bucket so after a while potting soil will not be an expense. I have all the trays I need and now the shelves. Sunshine is free. I already heat the house. I didn't realize I was living in a greenhouse. It is 0° out there today in southern Michigan but balmy inside and the plants are happy. I fertilize with liquid kelp and ocean water in a soil less mix. Everything is delicious and I think because those plants have all the nutrients they need for their short life.

It takes a little bit of time to plant the trays, which I thoroughly enjoy. Then you do nothing for four days while they are in the dark. This makes the sprouts get "leggy" the opposite of what you want in normal farming. But you are harvesting the sprouts for their first leaf and stem, think biomass. It only takes about five minutes per day to water the whole window garden. Each tray gets one or two tablespoons of water. Remember there are no drainage holes so you have to be careful not to over water. I go by weight. If a tray feels heavy I skip a day. You are bottom watering so there is no mold, unlike you get with those spray systems. And you use a lot less water. No drainage holes, no muss, no fuss, no mess. And they look great in the window. Marilyn
DSC03248.JPG
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Window Shelves with Sprouts
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Still plenty of room for more trays
 
Marilyn Paris
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Location: Hillsdale County, Michigan
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Brian Hetrich, who is in charge of all the sprouting going on at the Hippocrates Health Institute in West Palm Beach, Florida says:

"Sprouts are 10 to 30 times more nutritious than the best vegetables because they are baby plants in their prime. At this stage of their growth they have the greatest concentration of nutrients than at any other part in their life. Sprouts are highly digestible and release their nutriets easily due to their delicate cell walls and abundance of enzymes."

I don't own his book but if you are new to sprouting you might want to get it. It's called Growing Your Own Living Foods and you can get it on Amazon.com. I have been sprouting, mostly in jars as he teaches you, for 40 years. Also, I see from the pictures that he is using large trays (where are you going to put them?) and using jars (been there done that). The jar method simply uses way too much water and is time consuming rinsing twice daily and again where are you going to put all those jars? A better book to get on sprouting and is the source for most of my inspiration is Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening: How to Grow Nutrient-Dense, Soil-Sprouted Greens in Less Than 10 days by Peter Burke.

Marilyn, hoping to infect the minds of everyone who likes to eat salad greens with something so simple to do and that is 10-30 times more nutritious than the mature plants you get in your garden. Not to mention, delicious and with a good texture. Oh, yeah, since this is the rabbit thread, it's gotta be great for your critters. And probably why the dairies who feed barley fodder can get away with no supplementation for their cattle.
 
Posts: 221
Location: Zone 6a, Wahkiacus, WA
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we're working to grow rabbits feed, also trying out colony rearing. looking toward tractoring them as we build the system up more.

For the rabbits we grow...
  • Perennial pasture grasses (smooth brome, meadow brome, perennial wheatgrass and rye grass)
  • Ladak Alfalfa
  • Dutch White Clover


  • in lesser amounts:
  • Comfrey (leaves)
  • Dandelion (root and shoot)
  • Chicory (root and shoot)
  • Forage Turnips (for leaves mostly)
  • Forage Beets (roots, for winter feed)




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    Posts: 12
    Location: Upstate New York, USA--zone 4/5
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    We're starting our third year raising rabbits (NZ White/ Silver Fox meat mutts). We bought pellet-fed rabbits and transitioned them to alternative feeds over the course of the first summer.

    During the winter we feed them on hay, sprouted wheat, and carrots or cooked potatoes, with some dried willow as a supplement, especially for those who are still growing; stock who were still growing through the winter got some oats as well. During the summer they get a mix of wild plants (willow, apple and sumac branches, raspberry and blackberry canes, dandelions, plantain (Plantago spp. not the banana lookalikes), prickly lettuce, grass, clovers etc..., garden plants (kale, lettuce, oat greens, chicory, buckwheat stems/leaves, radish and carrot tops, turnip and carrot roots, tips of pea vines...) Everyone gets hay, and lactating mothers and grow-out kits get some oats (and sunflower seeds for the milking moms). It seems to be working well. It does take us 12-14 wks to get kits to butcher weight but we can deal with that.

    We don't pasture our rabbits, unlike all our other critters--they're in wire cages off the ground; we've been concerned about coccidia.

    Rabbittalk.com has a lot of excellent information on natural feeding. (And a lot of disagreement, but it stays very civil.)

     
    Niele da Kine
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    I've not tried it myself, but it would seem to me that wheat grass as the only diet of a rabbit might be a little bit too far on the 'wet' side unless the wheat grass was allowed to get past the very young stage. Sometimes bunnies can get diarrhea when their diet has too much wet stuff in it which is why iceberg lettuce and stuff like that isn't good in large quantities. But if wheat grass or other sprouts were fed along with dry food such as hay, then it'd probably be a good thing. A lot of it would probably depend on what the rabbits are used to, also. Give them a little bit and see how they do. If they're fine and they like to eat it, then give them more.

    Sometimes the bunnies don't know they're supposed to eat the good stuff, though. The folks at the university gave me some cuttings of a plant that grows easily in our area with lots of protein in it. Seemed like great bunny food to me, so I was all ready to plant a whole hedge of the stuff. Luecursia or some such name, I forget the exact name right now. But they'd given me some leaves as well as cuttings, so I gave the leaves to the bunnies just to give them a taste of their new food. None of them would touch them more than to take one bite and spit it out. Hmpf. I gave the cuttings to my friend with goats, they didn't seem to be so fussy.

     
    Marilyn Paris
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    Hi Niele,

    You make a good point about watching out for overly wet foods and is addressed below. Probably everyone knows here about being careful about introducing a new food to a rabbit or to any animal. You do it gradually. Another thing to consider with wheat grass is its high protein content. It can be as high as 22% on a dry matter basis. You want a rabbit to have between 16 and 18%. So wheat grass is a little rich besides. Adding hay is a great idea.

    As far as moisture goes, there is a simple fix. If growing the wheat grass in soil, cut and air dry it. It probably doesn't have to be overly dry because you aren't baling it. What I am doing for the goats, is growing wheat grass without soil. I want them to eat those roots, which are totally white by the way, but I don't want them eating sopping wet roots, so I turn the whole mat over and let those roots dry out for a day before feeding. I like the small trays I use. There is 0 mold with my method because I am able to keep every square inch to an even moisture. This was not so with the larger trays I used in the past back when I had my cow. There were overly wet spots and dry spots. Here is a whole window dedicated to wheat grass; the two trays of pea shoots on the sill are for me. Marilyn
    DSC03257.JPG
    [Thumbnail for DSC03257.JPG]
     
    Joanna Hoyt
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    Location: Upstate New York, USA--zone 4/5
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    We also grow wheatgrass without soil and feed it roots and all, but we don't dry it out for a day before feeding--we feed it fairly moist, and our rabbits haven't had diarrhea yet. (We do check it carefully for mold.) They do have free-choice hay, and they get some dried willow as well, and this seems to keep them in balance.
    We've also read that they will become sick if fed root vegetables as anything more than an occasional treat, but that hasn't been true for our rabbits--we've had a healthy rabbitry except for one young buck who developed a hernia.
     
    Posts: 7
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    We are new to Rabbits. Breed our first pair a week ago. We have started some of our own feed more to be planted when time to plant. Our original 4 eat grass and Hay from the yard and greens we grow inside. Our new 4 that are only 4-5 months old are just starting on a few greens.
    We start them slow on a leaf or 2 a day make sure they don't get diarrhea, give there digestive tract time to build up proper bacteria and enzymes to digest greens.
    Currently we are growing oats, buckwheat, purple top turnips, collard greens and lettuce. Any and all advice welcome.
     
    Andrew Schreiber
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    Melissa Swartz wrote:We are new to Rabbits. Breed our first pair a week ago. We have started some of our own feed more to be planted when time to plant. Our original 4 eat grass and Hay from the yard and greens we grow inside. Our new 4 that are only 4-5 months old are just starting on a few greens.
    We start them slow on a leaf or 2 a day make sure they don't get diarrhea, give there digestive tract time to build up proper bacteria and enzymes to digest greens.
    Currently we are growing oats, buckwheat, purple top turnips, collard greens and lettuce. Any and all advice welcome.



    One thought, I see that all your forages are annuals. Perennials are much easier to tend to, are generally more productive for less effort, and provide potentially more nutrition because of their deeper root structures that enter the sub soil.

    Alfalfa, white clovers, bunch grasses, and tree crops such as mulberry, Caragana (pea shrub) are palatable and can form a nutritionally balanced ration for bunnies.
     
    Melissa Swartz
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    starting red clover as soon as time to plant it. We are feeding pellets so not sure if adding alfalfa might be to much. Tree crops we do need to work on. We have common apple trees but they will not be producing anything soon. Planning to get a bushel of apples this fall to feed over the winter.
     
    gardener
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    Thanks, Kadence, and everyone who has such good experience to offer.

    I help out occasionally with a friend's rabbits. They have an organic farm and love the manure; the speed of meat production is not as critical.
    They also keep sheep, so they usually stock hay for the winter.

    The rabbits get a LOT of hay (doubles as bedding when they're done eating the "good bits"). They sometimes get OG pellets, probably more so when the does need it.
    And a wide variety of fresh stuff is given as available.
    Each adult rabbit has a covered/shaded den, and an outside run area enclosed with wire.
    Often we will put weeds on top of the outdoor runs in summer, both for shade, and so the rabbits can pull what they like.
    In winter it's "tree hay" - freshly-cut, leafless branches of poplar, cottonwood, or orchard trimmings. Those are definitely much appreciated!

    Feeding fresh material as a regular "treat" means it's easier to switch over to tree hay as a major part of the diet, if the spring is a little late or the hay gets scarce. (One year, they had a delivery of moldy hay, and had to stretch out the good stuff with more fresh food for both the rabbits and the sheep.)

    I don't know the breed - I think it's a home mix, short-haired and tasty meat, but not super-huge. Maybe similar to domestic cats in size. (Can you tell I'm not the breeder?)

    I'm glad someone finally brought up the distinction between "feral" rabbits and "native wild rabbits."
    Because of course, if you have a population of feral (released-into-the-wild) domestic-breed rabbits, then any further domestic rabbits that get loose have quite a decent chance of breeding with them.

    I can tell a hare from a domestic rabbit at about 50 yards, if we are both standing still.
    But I would not bet on my ability to tell a cottontail from a similar-colored feral domestic rabbit, at any distance.
    (Maybe a breeder or wildlife biologist could spot the difference, if you shot them both and brought them in for the stew-pot, but even then I would not bet on my ability to judge - unless the size gave it away.)

    -Erica
     
    pollinator
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    We just got a house bunny,so personable, we will be getting another right away!

    I want to preserve my own "hay", and thought of controlling the process with a solar dehydrator, but so far I have not found anybody doing this already.

    I am really looking forward to feeding them sunchoke leaves, grass( finally a reason for maintaining grass! ) and bindweed.

    The poops are a gift that keeps on giving and the bunny has become a "therapy animal" for the whole family.

    Thanks for the thread, I have garnered a lot already.
     
    Posts: 110
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    When i worked at EchoStar the rabbits there ate on the grasses on the property there just fine. Though now back home the Rye Grasses and Clovers that I have on my land. I was out roaming part of my land the other day seen about 50 young rabbits that will be out to feast. last year this was my field down in the draw that allows for cover and plenty of food. Though each year I add more diversity in the plants to choose from this year going to put in 50 lbs of diakon radish and carrot seeds this year for rooting. may through varieties of beets to grow wild too.

     
    Posts: 123
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    I'm gonna confess that I have not read the whole thread, so I'm just gonna jump in with our experiences raising rabbits.

    Our goal with any critter is raise that critter as naturally as possible. When stuff is growing, the rabbits are put out in moveable pens which are rotated to different spots whenever they have eaten what they're sitting on. We give them produce from the garden as it becomes available. We don't grow any crop specifically for the rabbits ... we just plant a lot of everything, since the people aren't the only ones eating it. During growing season, we don't feed pellets at all unless we have a doe with a litter who needs them. We do provide mineral salt.

    We dry a lot of greens and produce to be fed out over the winter. We had to experiment a bit with that ... some things they'll eat fresh, but not dried.

    In the winter, we feed a combination of Manna Pro pellets (our rabbits don't do well on the cheaper brands), hay, stuff we've dried, and whatever we can snag from the $1.00 produce bin at our local grocery.

    We don't micromanage them. The only real work involved is in moving the pens and making sure they have shade and water, which really doesn't take that long. Otherwise, they're just out there being rabbits.

    Over time, we've developed rabbits that grow well, will pretty much eat anything you give them, and are resistant to common rabbit diseases. Rabbits that don't meet those criteria are culled. The end result is meat that is almost free and a fair amount of fertilizer for our lousy clay soil.


     
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    I know almost nothing about making the transition but I know with total certainty that you can feed large quantities of green feed to rabbits without a problem. I started in rabbits in the 3rd grade when the school bus driver had a Flemish giant doe she wanted to get rid of. Being a farm kid I talked my parents into it. When I got her she was on pellets with occasionally greenery. We changed the diet to alfalfa hay and ground barley along with way more greenery when it was available. Bred her to a black Castor buck and the does from the first go round to an unknown breed rabbit that was mostly white with black spots and when we moved and I had to get rid of them I was up to about 40 rabbits plus regular butchering. Other than those we butchered I lost one to birthing complications and 2 to heat stroke but no other deaths. Hay, ground grain, and green feed were all free choice. If more of something was getting eaten then more of it was fed. In spring and early summer they got a lot of kochia, grass, and common garden weeds. Just chopped it and dropped it in the pen. All the rabbits liked kochia which was a good thing since we had plenty of it. Late summer fed more alfalfa and lots of garden leftovers. Corn husks and corn cobs were added as well as lots of other garden remnants. Mid winter the grain changed to the weed seed left over from cleaning the grain for seed for next year.(this is a mistake because to many seeds make it though the rabbit undamaged and you get great weed crops from the manure) Far better to feed it to chickens and better yet to run it through the grinder first.
     
    Posts: 57
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    I am not going to read all the replies to this , but though I would share my experience and opinions on this.
    Rabbits should be fed hay (if you wean young, the babies will need grain, and the mothers likely as well in any serious production).
    Dried grass clippings are ideal.
    I probably have something around 2 acres, much of it shaded, and can feed fresh grass every day in the summer and have enough hay saved by for a couple adults and dozens and dozens of babies (I think I got like 3 thousands pounds plus in a season (over and above what went immediately for feed).
     
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    I've been raising meat rabbits exclusively on good quality hay and oats for a couple years.  The local Amish here do the same as well.  As for 50% mortality rate, it seems absurd to me.  I've changed pellet fed rabbits over to hay/grain/fresh produce without issue (quicker than I should have as well).

    I've calculated one square bale will feed one adult doe for roughly 30-34 days.  That's 13 cents a day.  Oats I free choice, but it's around a penny a day... so, 14 cents a day roughly.
     
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    To address the initial question, from seven years ago, yes.  Yes is the answer.  I know that because I don't buy feed for our rabbits.  Eight months out of the year there is plenty of grass and clover and whatever else to feed them.  The challenge is winter, obviously.  I feed them bamboo foliage, evergreen eleagnus coppice, apples, chestnut meal and dried mulberry leaves in the winter.  Needless to say, I don't breed our rabbits until late winter, just in time for the spring grass.  So, yes, you can grow rabbits on weeds.  And if you couldn't, no one would have domesticated them in the first place, and I wouldn't be growing them.  
     
     
    pollinator
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    It's definitely possible to grow enough feed for rabbits.  Even the challenge of winter isn't too much, if you utilize an indoor fodder system.  There are two systems that I really like.  The first utilizes flat trays with some holes in the bottom.  Each of the trays are on a slant, with a tray catching the drippings underneath.  This saves a ton of water.  The other system utilizes 5 gallon buckets, and is much less of an investment into building the system.  One can then buy large 50 pound bags of barley for around 20 dollars from a local feed store.  There are other grains that can be used as fodder, but barley is one of the cheapest and easiest from my research.

    Here are those two fodder systems that I like:

    This first one uses barley and field pea combination.  They tilt the trays using pvc pipes.  It's a very elegant solution, because the pipes also hold the trays in place.  


    This second one uses 5 gallon buckets.  What I like about this method, is that you can take the buckets around your garden to rinse them out.  This allows you to water your garden with water that might otherwise be wasted.  This bucket system also takes very little to set up.  
     
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