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is it realisticaly possible to grow feed for rabbits?

Casey Halone


Joined: Feb 09, 2011
Posts: 192
    
    1
what are the best crops for them?


Kay Bee


Joined: Oct 10, 2009
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
I think it depends on what already grows around you and what you can cultivate in your climate. 

there are a couple of great sticky threads over in the rabbit section of HomesteadingToday regarding safe plants for rabbits and feeding them naturally (reduced use of pellets):

http://www.homesteadingtoday.com/forumdisplay.php?f=14

Love to get more discussion going over here on this topic in more of a permaculture setting.

At our old place in NC, I was able to put a substantially reduce my pelleted feed use by using garden leftovers, weeds, bamboo leaves/branches, grave vine cuttings, fruit tree prunings, etc... without really even trying to cultivate much for them specifically.

I think if you were to plant perennial leguminous trees/bushes plus some annuals like bush beans on a weekly basis (maybe a dozen bush beans per rabbit per week?), you could completely eliminate the need for pellets and probably even grains.

Probably see an extension of the time to harvest for the fryers, though.


"Limitation is the mother of good management", Michael Evanari

Location: Southwestern Oregon (Jackson County), Zone 7
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    9
what are the store bought feed pellets made of? probably alfalfa if so, couldn't you dry your own and store it in something for winter to feed it to them..or even put some things in the freezer for food for them in the winter? in the summer rabbits on our property are wild and they live off of whatever is there..in the winter they help themselves to sunflower seeds under our feeders


Brenda

Bloom where you are planted.
http://restfultrailsfoodforestgarden.blogspot.com/
            


Joined: Mar 07, 2011
Posts: 177
Location: California
The pet varieties are typically fed alfalfa pellets, but it's my understanding that it requires some delicate maneuvering to transition them to raw pasture. The domestic rabbit is not the animal you see running wild in rural areas. They've "evolved" (or devolved, as may be the case) to prefer processed, medicated feed, and their guts can't handle the fresh stuff like their wild cousins without scouring. I'm loosely quoting Joel Salatin, who says in one of his various videos floating around the Internet that his son's rabbits suffered a 50% mortality rate for a number of years until he (or Nature) had sufficiently selected for animals that tolerated pasture. I refer to this in another thread, though I can't remember which off the top of my head.
Kay Bee


Joined: Oct 10, 2009
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
slow changes to diet are a good rule to live by for most animals, when possible.  If you get stock that have only been fed pellets, I'd expect some issues.  My stock were already used to eating lots of wild-picked greens and supplements and I never had any issues on a very diverse diet from our gardens/yard.

alfalfa does make up a good portion of many (all?) commercial pellets, but if you look at the labels, it's a pretty complex cocktail of extra supplements.  Supposed to be formulated for maximum growth, etc...

I've never heard anyone say that their home blend has raised a fryer to butcher weight as fast as a high protein commercial blend, but... who cares?  if you are raising the feed yourself it's less of an issue.
Casey Halone


Joined: Feb 09, 2011
Posts: 192
    
    1
good info thanks! I was also considering feeding produce scraps from the local grocer.

Now I know they aren't pigs, but are there folks that raise them this way so as not to be  dependent on the feed store or growing tons of grain?
            


Joined: Mar 07, 2011
Posts: 177
Location: California
I'm not so much thinking of the aquaculture flora as roughage or fodder if you prefer. I want something that will supply trace minerals like sea kelp does.
Kay Bee


Joined: Oct 10, 2009
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
Casey Halone wrote:
good info thanks! I was also considering feeding produce scraps from the local grocer.

Now I know they aren't pigs, but are there folks that raise them this way so as not to be  dependent on the feed store or growing tons of grain?

Yes.  The links to the HomesteadingToday forum that I provided above have good discussions among people who are very interested in reducing their dependancy on the feed store. 

However, many of the non-commercial feed folks are using their own grain mixes instead of pellets.

I think stepping away from pellets is a good thing.  Stepping away from home grain mixes into perennial local feed is an even bigger (better, IMO) step.
            


Joined: Mar 07, 2011
Posts: 177
Location: California
http://livingthefrugallife.blogspot.com/2009/03/meat-rabbits-on-pasture.html
T. Pierce


Joined: Mar 13, 2011
Posts: 254
Location: Virginia
alfalfa hay.  its got the protein and many nutrients needed for rabbits.  its missing some of the mineral supplements that the pellets have.  im not sure which ones exactly. i havent felt the need or want to divert from pellets as of yet.  but i have found a supplier of alfalpha hay and it has cut the feed bill on pellets. 
T. Pierce


Joined: Mar 13, 2011
Posts: 254
Location: Virginia
M. Edwards wrote:
The pet varieties are typically fed alfalfa pellets, but it's my understanding that it requires some delicate maneuvering to transition them to raw pasture. The domestic rabbit is not the animal you see running wild in rural areas. They've "evolved" (or devolved, as may be the case) to prefer processed, medicated feed, and their guts can't handle the fresh stuff like their wild cousins without scouring. I'm loosely quoting Joel Salatin, who says in one of his various videos floating around the Internet that his son's rabbits suffered a 50% mortality rate for a number of years until he (or Nature) had sufficiently selected for animals that tolerated pasture. I refer to this in another thread, though I can't remember which off the top of my head.


i dont believe Salatin claim for a minute.  i truly dont believe it takes yrs to get a strain of rabbit that can handle pasture. if he was losing that kinda numbers.  than there was more to it than pasture diet.  there was disease or something else accounting for this lose.  unless there was two rabbits loose and one died.

ive had a few rabbits get loose. some ive turned loose purposely.  and ive never ever lost one.  when caught back up. they are in as good a shape or better shape  than their caged compatriots. 
            


Joined: Mar 07, 2011
Posts: 177
Location: California
My experience is in hunting them, not farming them.. though I plan to. I can't speak to your experience but I don't know why someone so succesful and respected as he would just lie outright on record.
                                              


Joined: Mar 30, 2011
Posts: 500
M. Edwards wrote:
My experience is in hunting them, not farming them.. though I plan to. I can't speak to your experience but I don't know why someone so succesful and respected as he would just lie outright on record.


Doesnt have to be a lie really. If dead rabbit is right and it was disease, which seems feasible as ive seen pastured rabbits do just fine, then perhaps salatin just mis interpreted the signs. he was just starting out after all. If half were dieing of disease, good chance the others were struggling. heck it could of been the pasturing that pulled the other half through!!! this wouldnt make salatin a liar, just not a rabbit expert.

I can say for sure you can pasture even rabbits that were bred for show, as Ive seen it myself, lots of times.
T. Pierce


Joined: Mar 13, 2011
Posts: 254
Location: Virginia
M. Edwards wrote:
My experience is in hunting them, not farming them.. though I plan to. I can't speak to your experience but I don't know why someone so succesful and respected as he would just lie outright on record.


im sorry if i made it sounded as if he lied.  i dont believe he outright lied either.  SILVERSEED said it best.  i dont think he knew what he was doing and/or talking about.  i dont think it was the pasture or free ranging at all.  that was his problem.  i dont believe it was the elements another words weather that killed half the rabbits either.  it was either disease. poison, or there was already something wrong with that strain of rabbit to start with.

as i mentioned, ive already proved (to myself) that  it can be done.  even though i too would have believe Salatian scenario woulda been the expected results before i learned otherwise.
T. Pierce


Joined: Mar 13, 2011
Posts: 254
Location: Virginia
another true to life experience.

i have a good friend that turned san juan rabbits loose many decades ago. he did so for training purposes for his rabbit beagles.  they lasted for many many yrs. but eventually they too disappeared.  but the longevity of them in the wild proved that diet didnt kill them.  it was the prolification of hawks and foxes, coyotes that has become a plague on this area.  hawks are protected.  and were/are the main culprit.  the foxes and coy dogs can be contained.  the natural wild rabbit population is really sufferiing now.  very few are ever seen anymore. 
Kay Bee


Joined: Oct 10, 2009
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
Look and ask around rabbit oriented forums and you will find examples of both, people who had no trouble adapting rabbits directly over to non-pelleted feed and people who have certainly had trouble.  it's not a cut and dry issue.

When buying your stock from a breeder, its a good idea to find out their diet history and if you are looking to go with non-pelleted feed (in my opinion a good thing), try and find a breeder who does this.

rabbits are pretty tough when it comes to resisting dieseases.  their biggest weakness is respiratory, in my experience.  rapid changes in diet is a whole different issue than disease.
T. Pierce


Joined: Mar 13, 2011
Posts: 254
Location: Virginia
K.B. wrote:
Look and ask around rabbit oriented forums and you will find examples of both, people who had no trouble adapting rabbits directly over to non-pelleted feed and people who have certainly had trouble.  it's not a cut and dry issue.

When buying your stock from a breeder, its a good idea to find out their diet history and if you are looking to go with non-pelleted feed (in my opinion a good thing), try and find a breeder who does this.

rabbits are pretty tough when it comes to resisting dieseases.  their biggest weakness is respiratory, in my experience.  rapid changes in diet is a whole different issue than disease.


this very well could be true.  there are exceptions to every rule.  and rules are meant to be broken.  but even this doesnt hold water IMO according to what was quoted.  it was said it took yrs to get them to where they could handle pasture diet.  that he lost 50% for yrs all b/c of diet.  if it was diet issue they would have never procreated enuff to keep up those kinda of percentages.

plus i could see where the the initial generation of free ranged rabbits couldnt handle the pasture diet.  (even though, i havent found that to be the case at all)  but the next few generations, that all they knew was pasturing,  theres no reason for them to suffer. if they do its for other reasons.
T. Pierce


Joined: Mar 13, 2011
Posts: 254
Location: Virginia
K.B. wrote:
Look and ask around rabbit oriented forums and you will find examples of both, people who had no trouble adapting rabbits directly over to non-pelleted feed and people who have certainly had trouble.  it's not a cut and dry issue.

When buying your stock from a breeder, its a good idea to find out their diet history and if you are looking to go with non-pelleted feed (in my opinion a good thing), try and find a breeder who does this.

rabbits are pretty tough when it comes to resisting dieseases.  their biggest weakness is respiratory, in my experience.  rapid changes in diet is a whole different issue than disease.


just another point for meditation:

im wondering if those that switch from pellet to nonpellet diet and have problems is b/c of what they are force feeding the rabbits.  just b/c someone says try this that or the other.  if that truly is good for the rabbit.  a free ranged rabbit will pick and choose what they want and need.  and its my guess a free ranged rabbit knows what it needs better than any intellectual, well studied human being.

just me wondering, thats all.  no accusations intended.
Mariah Wallener


Joined: Feb 02, 2011
Posts: 144
Location: Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, Canada
I find it interesting, and rather strange, in reading this thread....as I look outside my window in the morning I can see a few denizens of our local wild rabbit population nibbling on our lawn. The little buggers don't seem to have any trouble sustaining themselves on what grows around here locally and, judging by their population, they are thriving.


Permie Newbie. ruralaspirations.wordpress.com
Casey Halone


Joined: Feb 09, 2011
Posts: 192
    
    1
just found "Joel Salatin" and his farm. I love learning... gonna learn more real quick like.
            


Joined: Mar 07, 2011
Posts: 177
Location: California
L8Bloomer wrote:
I find it interesting, and rather strange, in reading this thread....as I look outside my window in the morning I can see a few denizens of our local wild rabbit population nibbling on our lawn. The little buggers don't seem to have any trouble sustaining themselves on what grows around here locally and, judging by their population, they are thriving.


I feel like I'm flogging a dead horse here, but wild rabbits are not domesticated rabbits.
Mariah Wallener


Joined: Feb 02, 2011
Posts: 144
Location: Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, Canada
Sorry, M. Edwards. I don't know anything about raising rabbits, just an interesting observation. I'd love to know what the differences are, as we have thought about how easy it would be to raise rabbits for meat if the need arose. The idea of being able to grow all their food on our land would be a bonus incentive.
            


Joined: Mar 07, 2011
Posts: 177
Location: California
I wasn't trying to be hostile, it's just I feel lately I've been engaged in endless skirmishing defending this or that item I've posted (or an item someone else has posted that I agree with and think worthy of defense) against being hacked away at with faulty logic and flawed arguments. The point I was trying to convey is that the sleek, muscular little guys you see darting through thickets subsisting on roughage are not the fluffy, red-eyed puffballs little kids keep as pets.. nor are they popular commercial meat varieties.

On the note of my tone, I'm sorry; but when I read statements like, "I don't believe the Salatin claim for a minute", I can't help but cringe with frustration. I don't need to waste my breath taking up for him or defending his words; he is well known and respected in his field and I'm sure most people familiar with his work would be willing to give their vote of confidence in regard to the validity of his claims. What I feel the need to respond against and draw under criticism is the sort of sloppy, slap-handed use of language like that contained in the aforementioned statement followed by the  going behind with a mop, disclaiming and explaining how what was said wouldn't have been inflammatory if it had just been taken the right way. I would also point to the "be nice" forum for reference, where Paul just yesterday posted a note pertinent to this topic.

(edited for grammar)
T. Pierce


Joined: Mar 13, 2011
Posts: 254
Location: Virginia
M. Edwards wrote:
I wasn't trying to be hostile, it's just I feel lately I've been engaged in endless skirmishing defending this or that item I've posted (or an item someone else has posted that I agree with and think worthy of defense) against being hacked away at with faulty logic and flawed arguments. The point I was trying to convey is that the sleek, muscular little guys you see darting through thickets subsisting on roughage are not the fluffy, red-eyed puffballs little kids keep as pets.. nor are they popular commercial meat varieties.

On the note of my tone, I'm sorry; but when I read statements like, "I don't believe the Salatin claim for a minute", I can't help but cringe with frustration. I don't need to waste my breath taking up for him or defending his words; he is well known and respected in his field and I'm sure most people familiar with his work would be willing to give their vote of confidence in regard to the validity of his claims. What I feel the need to respond against and draw under criticism is the sort of sloppy, slap-handed use of language like that contained in the aforementioned statement followed by the  going behind with a mop, disclaiming and explaining how what was said wouldn't have been inflammatory if it had just been taken the right way. I would also point to the "be nice" forum for reference, where Paul just yesterday posted a note pertinent to this topic.


only man that ever lived on earth that was right about everything was the Christ. 

and yes i wrote it wrong b/c i didnt mean it to be took that the ol boy straight out lied.  i doubt he did that.  but other than that. i apologize for nothing.  he isnt the only one that knows something about rabbits.  and  IF you actually quoted him correctly id say he doesnt know as much about rabbits as you care to give him credit for.
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree

Joined: Apr 03, 2010
Posts: 5253
Location: Portugal Zone 9 Mediterranean Climate
    
208
Ahem - this thread seems to be getting itself worked up and people are beginning to sound upset.  Can everyone go back over everything they've written, remove anything that might upset anyone, clarify anything that needs clarifying, get rid of anything off topic or religious, and then attempt to interpret stuff in the best possible way instead of assuming other people are out to get you. 

I think Paul would want me to move this thread to the compost heap where he will clean it up when he gets time.  Since he will probably never get time, then it will be like deleting the whole thread.  Instead of that, I'm taking a last gasp attempt to ask people to edit their posts so that we can keep the thread and make less potential work for Paul.


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Joined: Feb 09, 2011
Posts: 61
Here's what little I know:

I've had a few rabbits in the past.  The first was an easter present when I was a kid.  It was pretty standard.  We got him at a pet store and fed him pellets.  He died of a respiratory infection when he was about four years old. 

As an adult, I "got" a pet wild rabbit when I caught a tennis ball sized bunny in the parking lot at work.  I kept it in a cage in the living room and fed it oatmeal and a few scraps and greens.  It was reasonably healthy but sedentary.  It lived two years before keeling over, probably from lifestyle induced problems.  There are no natural deaths in nature, but two years is a good long run for a wild rabbit.

That's the difference between wild and domesticated.  The domesticated breeds have been bread to sit around and do nothing but grow.  They don't waste calories on exercise, and have a good feed conversion ratio.  They can be long lived, as they don't wear themselves out.

My reading of Salatin and others is that it's easy enough to substitute hay and pasture for a good chunk of their diet:  Maybe 50%.  But pure pasture is harder.  In Storey's Guide to Raising Rabbits, the author gives a recipe for feed:

6 Qt. Oats
1 Qt. Wheat
1 Qt. sunflower seed.
1 Qt. Barley
1 Qt. Kaffir corn (when available)
1 Qt. Terramycin crumbles.

The person who gave him this recipe was very old and fed it as well as pellets.  The guy was old enough that he may have fed this mix before pellets were available.

Note:  Terramycin crumbles contain 4 grams of terramycin per pound.  The rest is "roughage products", "grain by-produducts", and other things you might find in a balanced feed. Personally, I wouldn't feed antibiotics as a matter of routine.

Meanwhile, Carla Emery stresses a mix of grain, root veggies, and leafy greens, as well as some hay or grass.  There's nothing magic about rabbit pellets.  They're a convenient commercial product, but with a little thought you should be able to offer your rabbits a balanced diet.  Read the analysis on the pellet bag and try to give a similar mix of protein, fat, fiber, carbs, and salt, and give as much fresh green stuff and root veggies as they'll eat as well.  Get a copy of Feeds & Feeding by Morrison if you want to understand what the nutritional breakdowns are for various feedstuffs.

To sum up: 
Can you grow all your own feed for rabbits?  Yes!
Can you feed rabbits nothing but pasture and keep them healthy? Probably not.

Dan
            


Joined: Mar 07, 2011
Posts: 177
Location: California
Some pretty definitive answers there. Thanks Dan.
T. Pierce


Joined: Mar 13, 2011
Posts: 254
Location: Virginia
i liked your post.  difference is, you gotta try it before coming to a conclusion.PROBABLY NOT  is not fact.  its nothing more than mere speculation. 

now here is a fact.  i had a doe that wouldnt breed up.  two yrs ago.  i turned her loose.  she lived all fall,  all winter.  running loose.  pure NZ doe.  never touched ground till that day.  that winter was the worse we had in decades.  snow covered ground continously for couple months.  we would get couple feet of snow.  at a time.  i picked her up before spring growth started.  i figured she would be poor as could be.  i was shocked she even lived.  when i picked her up she was fat as a tick.  i got no idea what she lived on.  but she did thrive.  thats just one true factual experience ive had.  ive had many others. and other folks i know that have turned rabbits loose for yrs.

im not scared of the "F" word. cause i know it was fact.  will this happen with all rabbits? i speculate that it wouldnt.  but i know it can and will happen and an individual can be successful with true free ranged rabbit.  domesticated rabbit.

for what its worth. im a fan of Bob Bennett and his book.  ive read it religiously. and still referrence it on occasion.  ive found that  what he wrote is generally true.  but you must realize he practices heavil;y medicating his rabbits.  two different types of antibiotics on a monthly basis.  and at least while writing his book he lived in  the city. 
Jami McBride
volunteer

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1791
    
  14
I took my angora's and new zealand whites off of pellets -

I transitioned slowly, over 6 months, not because I needed to but because I wanted to have the best success.

I was making my own chicken feed and mostly fed the same to the rabbits, with added veggies, herbs, maple leaves, raspberry leaves and varied grasses/hay.  Whatever I had growing at the time.  I would allow them to free range and watch their choices for new ideas.

The chicken feed included Black oil SS, split peas, oats, assorted whole grains, flax seed and kelp or sea salt.  I added protein for the birds that I didn't add for the vegetarian rabbits.

It really isn't that hard if you vary their choices, include an 'oil' seed and mineral source.  They loved whole sunflower plant heads!

We never had a rabbit die or become ill up to 7 years old, but then they were not kept in cages - and those who harvested angora always snatched up my rabbit's whenever I was willing to sell.

I no longer have rabbits - sold them all - I sure miss watching them.



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Casey Halone


Joined: Feb 09, 2011
Posts: 192
    
    1
maybe I need to look into getting wild rabbits to hang around my area then? let them do their thing and spread like rabbits? breed with meat rabbits?
Brice Moss


Joined: Jul 28, 2010
Posts: 700
Location: rainier OR
    
    2
yep attracting wild rabbits is easy

the more time and energy you put into your garden the more of them show up to eat it
Casey Halone


Joined: Feb 09, 2011
Posts: 192
    
    1
I havent seen any wild rabbits within a few miles of my place. they like tunneling?
            


Joined: Mar 07, 2011
Posts: 177
Location: California
They tunnel more as a nesting behavior than a mode of transport like gophers might. If they run wild in your area you will almost certainly see them in your veggie patch.
                                              


Joined: Mar 30, 2011
Posts: 500
Casey Halone wrote:
maybe I need to look into getting wild rabbits to hang around my area then? let them do their thing and spread like rabbits? breed with meat rabbits?


a rabbit breeder told me that meat rabbits are european, and wont breed with our wild rabbits in the states. Ive got no idea how much or little he knows but he did indeed raise rabbits...

One thing though is I know he is wrong. I worked on a farm that had a bunch of fenced in free ranged rabbits. the farmer raised them for his grand daughter, and shed play with them when she was around. Well they kept over breeding so he released them on the farm.

the first year after that about half the rabbits we say running around were mostly wild style of fur, but with patches of blocks of color. colors you see in the released domesticated rabbits. After relating this to the breeder I knew he told me it was a fluke and not related. I pressed the issue, because well... it was rather clear, and the prominence of the patched colors slowly trailed off as you would expect if a cross HAD been made....

he then told me that at best it would of made a mule and it couldnt breed, and he might of been right, but then the trailing off of colors kinda hinted that wasnt the case. I later came across rare but real proof even mules have bred before!!! you could literally breed a new animal with massive amounts of mules presumably. which releasing a few dozen domestic rabbits could of done the same thing, they do indeed breed like rabbits. so if even one was capable of breeding and having babies, it would account for what I experienced...

so long story short, it may be possible but it might be hard to tricky, to bordering on a "fluke"
Kay Bee


Joined: Oct 10, 2009
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
Most domesticated rabbits (European type meat rabbits) are Oryctolagus cuniculus, while many wild rabbits (North American cotton tail types) belong to the genus Sylvilagus, so not only are they a difffernt species, but genus as well.

If the farm was in Europe, then yes, the domesticated rabbits could easily interbreed with the wild types.  In North America, it would be a... stretch.  Won't say impossible, but highly unlikely.
                                              


Joined: Mar 30, 2011
Posts: 500
K.B. wrote:
Most domesticated rabbits (European type meat rabbits) are Oryctolagus cuniculus, while many wild rabbits (North American cotton tail types) belong to the genus Sylvilagus, so not only are they a difffernt species, but genus as well.



As are the two animals that bred readily to make mules. From which viable mules have existed although very rare.
Kay Bee


Joined: Oct 10, 2009
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
regarding the rabbits, as I said, highly unlikely 
                                              


Joined: Mar 30, 2011
Posts: 500
i said that as well, but I also saw it. So it can happen.
Kay Bee


Joined: Oct 10, 2009
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
[deleted by paul]
                                              


Joined: Mar 30, 2011
Posts: 500
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