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Home Grown Rabbit Feed

Tom Celona


Joined: Aug 09, 2011
Posts: 37
Location: Asheville, NC
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!

Urban Asheville, NC - Zone 7A - 2,200 Ft elevation
Tom Celona


Joined: Aug 09, 2011
Posts: 37
Location: Asheville, NC
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


Joined: Aug 09, 2011
Posts: 37
Location: Asheville, NC
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


Joined: Aug 21, 2011
Posts: 225
Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
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


Please set your climate and location to display
                        


Joined: Aug 01, 2011
Posts: 66
Location: San Diego
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


Joined: Aug 09, 2011
Posts: 37
Location: Asheville, NC
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


Joined: Aug 21, 2011
Posts: 225
Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
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


Joined: Oct 10, 2009
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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).


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

Location: Southwestern Oregon (Jackson County), Zone 7
                        


Joined: Aug 01, 2011
Posts: 66
Location: San Diego
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


Joined: Aug 09, 2011
Posts: 37
Location: Asheville, NC
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


Joined: Aug 09, 2011
Posts: 37
Location: Asheville, NC
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


Joined: Oct 10, 2009
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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.
                        


Joined: Aug 01, 2011
Posts: 66
Location: San Diego
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


Joined: Aug 21, 2011
Posts: 225
Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
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


Joined: Aug 09, 2011
Posts: 37
Location: Asheville, NC
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


Joined: Aug 21, 2011
Posts: 225
Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
Thanks TCel, that PDF is a handy detailed reference.
Dennis Mitchell


Joined: Sep 28, 2011
Posts: 48
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


Joined: Dec 17, 2013
Posts: 23
Location: Western MA, zone 5b

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


Joined: May 04, 2011
Posts: 34
Location: Jamberoo, NSW, Australia
    
    1
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.


http://Green-Change.com
Travis Krause


Joined: Dec 28, 2013
Posts: 24
Location: D'Hanis, Texas
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
steward

Joined: Feb 24, 2011
Posts: 1355
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
    
  47
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


Joined: Dec 25, 2013
Posts: 66
Location: SW Georgia, zone 8b
    
    3
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.
 
 
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