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Home Grown Rabbit Feed

 
Tom Celona
Posts: 37
Location: Asheville, NC
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Hi Everyone, I'm relatively new here, and am glad to start my first thread. I've got a small urban rabbitry (4 does in rotation) in which we feed 85% pellets and 15% forage / grown alfalfa. I really want to work towards getting them off pellets, or at least < 25% so we could afford organic. I know the conversation in some other threads started to drift into feeds, but I wanted it to be the focus of this conversation.

So:

What wild/cultivated foods are good to feed rabbits?
(plantain, barley, buckwheat, alfalfa... lets get a list going)

If you feed >75% fresh foods to your rabbit what do you do? have you been doing it a while? are they healthy? what is your recipe?

thanks!
 
Tom Celona
Posts: 37
Location: Asheville, NC
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I'll get a good foods to eat list started based on what I've learned so far.

Dandelion greens
plantain
barley
buckwheat
alfalfa
Most Mints
Nasturtiums
Brassica's
Clover
"crab grass"
Bramble leaves
wheat
oats

Still, the million dollar question is: How do we keep the diet healthy?!

I would love to hear what everyone's experiences are 
 
Tom Celona
Posts: 37
Location: Asheville, NC
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Two great links i found on another forum.

Food That is good for Rabbits!
http://adoptarabbit.org/articles/packet/abcvegi.htm l

Food that is NOT good for Rabbits!
http://adoptarabbit.org/articles/toxic.html

And an amazing thing I discovered today that is not on the above list... Kudzu is good for rabbits!!!
 
Hugh Hawk
Posts: 225
Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
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Hi TCel,

I'm interested in this too as I am considering setting up a rabbit/worm composting system.

I found this thread quite informative in terms of feed and other considerations:

http://www.permies.com/permaculture-forums/8913_0/permaculture/planting-for-rabbit-guinea-pig-food
 
                        
Posts: 66
Location: San Diego
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Rabbits are delicious but they would be worth raising for their manure alone. It's golden in the garden and can be put right around the plants. No composting necessary. it's naturally slow release so it won't burn the plants. I sometimes pile it so deep it acts as a weed inhibiting mulch and it still doesn't harm the plants. Somewhere around 50% of their diet is gathered greens so I am continually bringing in outside nutrients to enrich my garden. There are few parts of the country where greens cannot be gathered if you keep your eyes open. Even in the desert they can be found along stream bottoms. I was riding the bus one day when I noticed a patch of different shade of green on an iceplant covered embankment. When I went back to look BONANZA. Some of the giant french dandelions has apparently escaped a garden somewhere and they were growing wild among the ice plant in big patches. I visit there about once a week now and always come back with enough to feed all my rabbits for several days.
Dandelions are prime rabbit food and especially good for nursing does.
 
Tom Celona
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Location: Asheville, NC
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I have been trying to develop a schedule of greens informed by offering the rabbits an abundance of variety in greens and seeing how much of each green they go for. So far they are chowing on Kudzu really hard, which is very exciting to me. really. I'm wondering how high of a percentage of a kudzu diet they can handle. it's free and Abundant.

Really I've been dreaming that I would find someone who has grouped common greens into a few different categories and instruction to feed x% from category one, y% from category 2.. and so on.  So unless I run into that character within a year, I'm hoping to develop that sort of thing myself. I'm not looking for anyone to claim "best", just "good enough".  Humans can't even understand what is best for humans to eat. I wont pretend that we know what's best for rabbits either. that's why i'm doing my best to let the rabbits choose.
 
Hugh Hawk
Posts: 225
Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
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Yeah I think you have it spot on TCel.  Best to let the rabbits choose.  The problem with such a list of foods is it can become proscriptive and then people think they can just stick to that ratio and everything will be ok.  In reality, the needs of the animal could be determined by many different factors, seasonal and otherwise, so letting them choose is best.  The only rule is variety I think.  I've heard you can feed rabbits mulberry leaves and twigs up to 50% of their diet, but I'm not sure I would want to do that because it just doesn't seem like a diverse enough diet to me.
 
Kay Bee
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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If you are in the southeastern US in kudzu territory, you may have japanese honeysuckle as well.  My rabbits enjoyed it quite a bit.  Nice use for an "invasive" weed.

Bamboo leaves were also favored.  Stawberry leaves are great treats and are easy to come by if you let a patch get thick with runners.  Even in half day sun, the plants will put on lots of green growth, but not so much fruit.  Works great for the rabbits.

The bramble canes are good along with the leaves too.  The rabbits don't mind thorns. 

Most rose family plants are safe (included the trees).
 
                        
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Location: San Diego
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No doubt diversity is the key. If you watch wild rabbits they seldom stay in one place and eat only one thing. They nibble on this that and the other. I've even seen them nibble on plants that are supposed to be toxic to rabbits. They probably do that for medicinal reasons. Wild browsers are usually good at self doctoring with herbs.
 
Tom Celona
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Location: Asheville, NC
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I definitely agree that it's all about diversity-

The weakness of my plan is that in order for the rabbits to have a large diversity of foods to choose from you need to feed them way more than they actually need to eat. This is OK for learning what varieties they like, but undesirable in terms of time commitment - at least in the long term.

Maybe radical variety is part of the long term prescription - but I would really like to feed them the right amount every day on fresh foods and know they are going to be healthy. Maybe this is a pipe dream, but I don't have the right environment to experiment with tractoring or paddocks. 

Once I (if I ever) have it worked out I hope to find someone with a pelletizer. But I just can't do something like that till I have a good structure for what they can be healthy on.

Thanks for the tip on Japanese Honeysuckle K.B.! We've got tons of that. I haven't seen it mentioned anywhere so I haven't experimented with it. I'm a little paranoid about unwittingly feeding them poison, so I haven't fed anything that wasn't already recommended by someone. So thank you.

 
Tom Celona
Posts: 37
Location: Asheville, NC
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Just for the sake of it - I'll put it out there again.

Is there is anyone out there who successfully feeds their rabbits less than 25% commercial pelleted food?

I would love to learn from your experience.

Thanks again everyone.
 
Kay Bee
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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TCel wrote:
I definitely agree that it's all about diversity-


Once I (if I ever) have it worked out I hope to find someone with a pelletizer. But I just can't do something like that till I have a good structure for what they can be healthy on.

Thanks for the tip on Japanese Honeysuckle K.B.! We've got tons of that. I haven't seen it mentioned anywhere so I haven't experimented with it. I'm a little paranoid about unwittingly feeding them poison, so I haven't fed anything that wasn't already recommended by someone. So thank you.




I would just suggest to add new things in small quantities as you start off the weaning process.  For the japanese honeysuckle, it is easy to pull laterals off the vines and keep them under control and producing at the same time.  I did avoid feeding the berries to them, just the leaves, flowers and vines.  Not sure if the berries have any toxins or not.

I went through stages of reduced pellet use.  Rolled oats,  alfalfa cuttings from my patch, and sprouted wheat (2 days), plus a sprinkling of sunflower seeds was a big part of the mix.  It was probably somewhere around 25% commercial feed.
 
                        
Posts: 66
Location: San Diego
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K.B. wrote:
I would just suggest to add new things in small quantities as you start off the weaning process.  For the japanese honeysuckle, it is easy to pull laterals off the vines and keep them under control and producing at the same time.  I did avoid feeding the berries to them, just the leaves, flowers and vines.  Not sure if the berries have any toxins or not.

I went through stages of reduced pellet use.  Rolled oats,  alfalfa cuttings from my patch, and sprouted wheat (2 days), plus a sprinkling of sunflower seeds was a big part of the mix.  It was probably somewhere around 25% commercial feed.

If you want to keep them healthy you can't depend on greens alone. they will also need some grain, which wild rabbits also eat and some BOSS (Black Oil Sunflower seed). for vitamins they don't get from greens. The way I feed mine grain is to bake rabbit bread in my bread machine. Just bake as you would any yeast bread but substitute whole grain wheat and barley for half the flour. It will give you a very heavy loaf that can be sliced and dried. The slices both give them something to satisfy that gnawing instinct and give them nutrtion. Don't feed it fresh. Soft bread balls in their stomachs and doesn't move well through their intestines. Dry it hard as a brick first. Grain and BOSS are only necessary in small amounts. Too much can be fattening and a fat rabbit is not a healthy rabbit.
 
Hugh Hawk
Posts: 225
Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
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TCel, I think you will find info from people feeding purely home grown food to their rabbits in this thread:

http://www.homesteadingtoday.com/showthread.php?t=211220
 
Tom Celona
Posts: 37
Location: Asheville, NC
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Hugh - Thanks for that link. there is a ton of great information there.

I found this link in another thread there - credit to MaggieJ
http://www.medirabbit.com/EN/GI_diseases/Food/feeding_en.pdf

This is an excellent article on what you can and can not feed a rabbit, and roughly how much. They put a lot of emphasis on hay as the bedrock of healthy feeding for aiding proper digestion. There is also a very detailed list of OK and not OK greens, vegetables, fruits, and trees. 

Also thanks to Hoodat for the rabbit bread idea. I like it.
 
Hugh Hawk
Posts: 225
Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
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Thanks TCel, that PDF is a handy detailed reference.
 
Dennis Mitchell
Posts: 48
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Absolutely no idea if it is a good diet. I fill a five gallon bucket with weeds and prunings. Then feed my three rabbits. Every other day I feed each rabbit a 1/4 cup rabbit feed. I try to mix it up with wild mallow, plantain, lambs quarter, and grass being the majority. On any given day I'll add poplar, strawberry, rasberry leaves. Maybe some mint, catnip, yarrow, dandelion, carrot, or cabbage.
 
Heather Staas
Posts: 23
Location: Western MA, zone 5b
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Now that it's winter I am feeding mostly pellets, but all summer and fall (when I first got my rabbits) they ate mostly grass, weeds, fruits, veggies... I didn't fuss with planning it out, other than avoiding things known to be toxic to many animals. I chopped down large swaths of wild growing pasture with all sorts of grasses, clovers, weeds, etc. I tossed in tree and shrub trimmers around my yard. Fallen leaves, branches to chew on. I gave them all my watermelon rinds, pumpkin, left over produce (kale, spinach, greens, cabbage, radishes, carrots, parsnips etc) from friend's farm shares, dandelions, etc. Now I'm planting even more things to feed as fodder along with my sheep, willow and poplar specifically. I never had diarrhea or problems feeding as much fresh and raw vegetable material as they wanted, along with salt and minerals and plenty of water. They grew fantastic and are breeding ages now.
 
Darren Collins
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Location: Jamberoo, NSW, Australia
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I'm thinking about picking up this eBook: http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Pellet-Urban-Rabbit-Project-ebook/dp/B00FZF1FCW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1383275124&sr=8-1&keywords=beyond+the+pellet

Has anybody here got it? Is it any good?

I'm a little concerned it might be very US-centric, but I guess even if that's the case there's still going to be a lot of info I can use here in Australia.

I feed my rabbits a lot of banna grass and bamboo leaves, and the growers are kept on pasture in rabbit tractors. It's a start, but I'd like to reduce the amount of pellets I go through.
 
Travis Krause
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Location: D'Hanis, Texas
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Our rabbits absolutely love Purple Top Turnips- root and all, small or big. They are also very easy to grow. We of course feed them a variety of greens, but turnips seem to be an absolute favorite.

,Travis Krause
-Parker Creek Ranch
 
Matu Collins
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My rabbits have been very choosy. They only like the freshest of greens, and even then are finicky.

Around here I can't even find organic rabbit pellets.
 
Bill Ramsey
Posts: 86
Location: SW Georgia, zone 8b
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My summer garden has plenty of "weeds" that I let grow and harvest for them but I've been planting a mixture of ryegrass and vetch for winter feeding. They love it and the chickens graze in it too... (lately the neighbor's goats have been wiping it out though.) I do still give them commercial pellets but I'm trying to find other things to augment that. I planted small mulberry trees and there are sweetgum trees that they seem to like too.
 
Tina Paxton
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There is a lot of mis-information out on the internet about what can and can not be fed to rabbits. For those wanting to raise meat rabbits on forage/fodder either in portion or in total, I highly recommend this book:

http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Pellet-Urban-Rabbit-Project-ebook/dp/B00FZF1FCW/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1420486266&sr=1-2&keywords=backyard+meat+rabbits
 
David Miller
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Location: Harrisonburg, VA
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Darren, I was really disappointed with that publication. For what its worth, there was so little new info it wasn't worth it to me.

Darren Collins wrote:I'm thinking about picking up this eBook: http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Pellet-Urban-Rabbit-Project-ebook/dp/B00FZF1FCW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1383275124&sr=8-1&keywords=beyond+the+pellet

Has anybody here got it? Is it any good?

I'm a little concerned it might be very US-centric, but I guess even if that's the case there's still going to be a lot of info I can use here in Australia.

I feed my rabbits a lot of banna grass and bamboo leaves, and the growers are kept on pasture in rabbit tractors. It's a start, but I'd like to reduce the amount of pellets I go through.
 
Tina Paxton
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David Miller wrote:Darren, I was really disappointed with that publication. For what its worth, there was so little new info it wasn't worth it to me.



To each his own I suppose. I rather liked the book and I find the FB group extremely helpful (if a bit cumbersome now that it has over 20,000 members). If you add that book to the book that Abe Connelly just had published Food Web: Concept then you can begin to formulate a plan for feeding your rabbits (and other livestock) from your land.

Abe's book is exceptional and I'm already biting at the bit for the next one and haven't finished the first one!
 
Lorraine Long
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I got a copy of Beyond the Pellet. I think it would be helpful to someone just getting started--mostly what it covered I already knew or else it wasn't detailed enough to help. I thought it was a bit too specific about some things--this particular kind of willow for instance when any willow would work--or a particular place to buy seeds.

As for the question posed earlier in this thread, we started with 2 does and a buck last spring, wanting to grow our own meat that we could feed without commercial feed. We just got one bag of pellets to start because that is what they'd been raised on. But we moved them onto forage, hay (which we produce on the farm for our goats) and some whole oats. The latter mostly because we were concerned that they wouldn't do well without grain. We kept fresh green stuff in front of the does and the growing out kits all the time--grass, clover, comfrey, sunchokes, amaranth, chicory, willow, sumac, plantain, pea pods (from when we shelled out peas), brambles, purslane. I know there were more--made a list somewhere of all the things we fed them through the growing season. It took the kits 12 or so weeks to reach 5 pounds but that was on very little bought feed. This winter we fed hay, roots from our garden (mostly carrots and parsnips--want to try turnips next season), wheat fodder grown out 7 or 8 days, and willow branches we had dried in May when the trees were newly leafed out. For the past couple months we've only had our breeding stock--have bred one doe and she's due in about 10 days--keep hoping it warms up a bit. Will breed another tomorrow.
We saw no health problems. We had a chunk of salt/mineral block that we get for our goats in each cage.

I'm in New York state, between Lake Ontario and the Adirondacks--couldn't see how I should have listed my location with my name
 
Melba Corbett
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Back when I raised rabbits, I converted them over to homegrown feeds. Lots of variety, I think, is key to their health. At first, they lost a little weight and had smaller litters until they adjusted, over a month or two. Then the litters were bigger, grew rapidly and I noticed their eyes were shinier than they were when they were just getting pellets. I did dry some of the mulberry and raspberry leaves and fed them hay so they were not just eating green. fresh forage. Very important to clean up behind them when feeding fresh, so it doesn't mold. I fed them fresh forage twice a day and hay in a rack so it was always there for them. Fresh water and a salt lick were the only other things they got. Mulberry is high in protein, so is clover and plantain. As mentioned by other people on the forum, dandelion is one of their favorites. Dandelion is loaded with all kinds of nutrients. To produce meat, milk for babies and have a healthy pregnancy, they must have enough protein and carbs. Hay can provide the carbohydrate. Also important they have twigs to chew on to keep their teeth filed down and there is something in bark they seem to need.
 
Hans Quistorff
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Tom Celona wrote:Just for the sake of it - I'll put it out there again.

Is there is anyone out there who successfully feeds their rabbits less than 25% commercial pelleted food?

I would love to learn from your experience.

Thanks again everyone.


There was a time 3 decades ago when I had pens that were 3' wide 2' deep and 8' long. they were divided in the middle with a V shaped wire manger. the entire metal roof was hinged at the back for easy access. I fed them only fresh cut mix of grass clover and forbs. The pens fit conveniently over future planting beds so we did not have to move the manure only the pens to plant.

One problem was that bird droppings on the feed could introduce coxidiosis into the hutch. I would give them fruit thee prunings to strip the bark and keep their teeth in shape. I decided to try some Scotch Broom which is a pest introduced invasive here. They would only strip a small amount of it but when butchered there livers were complexly free of lesions.
 
BeeDee marshall
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Tom Celona wrote:Just for the sake of it - I'll put it out there again.

Is there is anyone out there who successfully feeds their rabbits less than 25% commercial pelleted food?

I would love to learn from your experience.

Thanks again everyone.


We actually feed no commercial pelleted food and haven't for 2 years. We raise 2 does and 1 (sometimes 2) bucks as well as many kits on sprouted barley, a mineral wheel for each rabbit (or for a cage full of kits), hay (all kinds), dandelion and other wild greens such as clover, as well as comfrey in the spring, summer and fall and small branches/sprouts from trees in the winter. They are sleek, healthy and happy. I got the basis for my setup from http://fmicrofarm.com/diyprojects/ which is pretty clear. I have been able to grow the spouted barley through our long dark winter, so the rabbits get greens in the winter as well. I also do sprouted oats for the does when they are pregnant and nursing. Helps with milk production. It may be too work intensive for some permies, but it is worth it to me to know what is going in their bodies before it goes in ours. If anyone is interested, I will give some tips and tricks I have learned (and am still learning) about this method of feeding rabbits.
 
Tina Paxton
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BeeDee marshall wrote:
We actually feed no commercial pelleted food and haven't for 2 years. We raise 2 does and 1 (sometimes 2) bucks as well as many kits on sprouted barley, a mineral wheel for each rabbit (or for a cage full of kits), hay (all kinds), dandelion and other wild greens such as clover, as well as comfrey in the spring, summer and fall and small branches/sprouts from trees in the winter. They are sleek, healthy and happy. I got the basis for my setup from http://fmicrofarm.com/diyprojects/ which is pretty clear. I have been able to grow the spouted barley through our long dark winter, so the rabbits get greens in the winter as well. I also do sprouted oats for the does when they are pregnant and nursing. Helps with milk production. It may be too work intensive for some permies, but it is worth it to me to know what is going in their bodies before it goes in ours. If anyone is interested, I will give some tips and tricks I have learned (and am still learning) about this method of feeding rabbits.


Yes, I would be interested in your tips and tricks from your experience. I don't have access to barley but can get wheat and oats. I tried the sprouting but had issues with mold. Currently, I'm gathering supplemental grasses and weeds from the yard for the rabbits but still have pellets as the base which is something I've tried to get away from for several years now. All pointers are much appreciated.
 
BeeDee marshall
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Tina Paxton wrote:

Yes, I would be interested in your tips and tricks from your experience. I don't have access to barley but can get wheat and oats. I tried the sprouting but had issues with mold. Currently, I'm gathering supplemental grasses and weeds from the yard for the rabbits but still have pellets as the base which is something I've tried to get away from for several years now. All pointers are much appreciated.


Hi Tina.....the website I posted has a ton of info so if you haven't checked that out please do....I changed a few things for my system and I think anyone doing this needs to adapt the basic system of sprouting grains in trays to their own climate. I have a lot of moisture and if you are getting mold, I would imagine you do too. I only water twice a day and and just a quick swipe across the top end of the tray. Because the tray is on a tilt, the water then goes down and wets the rest of the grain and flows out the holes punched in the tray. I thought that the white stuff on top of the grain when it was first sprouting was mold, but I have come to understand that it is hairlike filaments coming out of the grain. I have read that if mold is a serious problem, you can add citric acid to the water as a sprouting aid. I haven't needed to do that. I also find that barley sprouts better than oats or wheat. It needs less water, less sun and grows the nicest greens. It is also high in protein, especially when sprouted. I get my organic barley from our local feed producer. I am fortunate to have Green Mountain Feeds not far from where I live. All of the sprouting grains need to be in a cool, no direct sun spot. Otherwise, the heat and humidity will bring on the mold. So I guess what I would suggest is..get barley if you can, but in any case put the sprouting area in the coolest, driest place in your house or other enclosed area. Also, mice love to eat the grains after they have been soaked and before they sprout. I have clear covers I put on the trays when they are in that stage and that waylays the mice. For some reason they don't like it once the greens are up. As a side note, it is very important that the rabbits have a mineral/salt lick of some sort if they are not getting commercial feed. Our rabbits were lethargic before I got the mineral lick, but they bounced back as soon as I hung them in their cages.
 
Katie Brown
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Location: Wyoming
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For three-four months out of the year, my rabbits get whatever I pick from the side of the road on the way home. I pick a five-gallon bucket for each rabbit. I aim for areas that grow a bit of everything from alfalfa, dandelions, different grasses and even tree seedlings or leaves. I keep a salt block supplement in the hutch. Also in the hutch is a block of hardwood, usually cottonwood because it is so ubiquitous around here, for their teeth. Each evening before dumping in the new bucket, I throw out to the chickens what is left from the old bucket.

In the winter they get hay and pellets. I use oat straw in their boxes and I have no doubt they eat the oats off the straw as well.

I haven't had any problem with reduced litter sizes or such and for part of the year, I get lots of free meat.
 
Thomas Partridge
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Despite the bad reviews, I actually recommend this book: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004QWZ5LW/ref=kinw_myk_ro_title

It is old as the bad reviews indicate, but for me I consider that a good thing. Most books on raising rabbits now a days insist on either a pelleted food or a list of ingredients each day that is unreasonable for any but show rabbits (in my opinion at least). This one however was written in a time when pelleted food wasn't necessarily the norm (although I think the book does mention pelleted food - has been a few years since I read it) and rabbits were raised for meat and/or fur. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and have considered trying to track down a print copy to match my ebook.
 
David Miller
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Location: Harrisonburg, VA
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Bumping this feed by saying that I miss my alfalfa strips. My new place is going to have so much alfalfa for my rabbits
 
Raine Hogan
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Location: Salt Lake City
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Phragmites!
This reed has been listed as a noxius weed in most states, and my rabbits love it. And best of all it FREE.
Here in SLC UT it's everywhere, and grows up to 8' tall. Grab a couple of handfuls, cut with a cane knife, scuthe, or sgian-dubh and you have plenty of feed for a couple of days. It's also good for helping with tooth growth as they gnaw on the stems.

I called the state office for natural resources and they said I can have all that I want as long as I don't plant the seed hards (great fire kindling when dry).
Don't use the roots as reeds are part of the natural water purification process so they will be where the toxins would be.

This also applies to cattails.

Watch alfalfa in the summer time as it causes animals to heat up, but mints help them cool down.
 
Anita Louise
Posts: 1
Location: central Connecticut, USA
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Phragmites, what a great idea! I'm off to cut down a bunch this afternoon while erranding - here too, it is wildly invasive in our river valley and removal is an ongoing struggle.

What other listed invasive exotics can be bunny food? Not only do they grow for free, but you are actually encouraged to remove them from public lands! Be responsible of course - never spread these species or plant them deliberately. If you pull or cut them for feed, be sure you don't dribble seeds or rootable bits as you go.

Let's make a list (mine will be those rampant on the East coast of the US, feel free to add others for your locale):

Kudzu, of course (Pueraria montana) doesn't grow where I am, but is high protein
Common Reed (Phragmites australis)
Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) so far I've only fed the young shoots and they are devoured
garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) stays green most of the winter in a basal rosette and eaten more readily then, less favored when coarse and flowering
multiflora rose (Rosa japonica) bun doesn't mind the thorns!
greater celandine (Chelidonium majus) freaky orange sap
Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)
barberry (Berberis thunbergii or vulgaris)
Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus)
 
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