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Raising rabbits without using pellets


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#1 Paradox

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 04:27 PM

I've raised meat rabbits in the past. At the moment, we have two pet bunnies. But in prepping, we have to realize that perhaps we won't always be able to get pellets for them. So, I'm trying to do some research on a reasonably healthy diet for my buns that we can either grow ourselves or use some smaller amounts of our regular food storage. (Wheat we can use for the rabbits, since we've gotten celiac in our house)

Anyone had any better luck finding what you can, can't or shouldn't feed outside of 'commercial hay and pellets'?

#2 kappydell

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 04:35 PM

Rabbit Food Experiment at Aurora Rex Ranch
A couple years ago, we wanted to know what would happen, and if it was even possible, to feed rabbits on yard scraps alone. To find out, we placed a pregnant doe into a very large outside cage (36 inches by 48 inches) and fed her on our yard scraps and grass clippings.
In due time she kindled a litter of 8 very nice sized kits.

On yard scraps alone, she was not able to produce enough milk for the kits. As the days went by, the kits began to look thin and hungry. We feel they would have died had we not intervened. When the kits were about one week old, we began offering pellets to the doe, along with the dandelions, weeds, grass clippings, yard scraps and woody twigs and leaves. The kits began to thrive.

At 14 days we removed the nestbox as usual. The kits immediately began nibbling on all the forages that their mama was eating, with no ill effects whatsoever.

Because this extra-large cage was intended to contain large rabbits, we had originally constructed it of 2" x 4" wire mesh. For the kits, we added smaller, 1x2 wire to all 4 sides to contain the growing kits, but the little buggers can climb! One morning we found that they had all escaped the cage. From the age of 5 weeks and for the next several weeks, these kits fended for themselves, darting away from us but staying close to the cage, unable to figure out how to get back into the cage with the mama. They did fine, health-wise!

When we finally managed to catch them all, their weights were fully one pound less than traditionally pellet-fed kits of the same age (9-10 weeks). They were lean, muscular, and very healthy.

And that's the trade-off you may need to consider should you choose to do away with commercial rabbit pellets -- your rabbits will be healthy, but may not gain weight as quickly or as steadily as they would on pellets, if the nutrient balance is not just right. And, they may not top out at full senior weights. That said, I know of several breeders whose rabbits haven't seen pellets in 18 months, yet their offspring are hitting senior weights at 5 months old and are in peak health and condition.

It can be done, and it can be done exceptionally well, when you do your homework and understand the rabbits' nutrient needs. For example, our doe needed more protein in order to produce enough milk, and alfalfa hay would have supplied sufficient protein.

Pellets are nothing more than a concoction of rabbit food that answers all the needs of the rabbit. If you can adequately fill all those needs, your rabbits are likely to do even better than they do on pellets alone, due to the freshness of the forages. [I believe that fresh green feeds might actually strengthen the immune system on those rabbits with marginal health.]

Rabbits are versatile. They can run their food through a second time to extract even more nutrients the second time around. They'll be fine as you practice, and then master, the art of feeding non-pelleted, all natural rabbit food.


from Rasing-Rabbits.com

dont forget they need something to wear their teeth down....my dad's rabbits liked the occasional branch - they would chew the bark off - we used apple tree prunings.

#3 Dee

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 05:13 PM

Great information kappydell.

#4 Mother

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 06:55 PM

Years ago a friend traveled to several countries around the world. In several, especially the less developed areas, they raised rabbits for a large part of their meat supply. They did so without pellets, some even raising them colony style in outbuildings on cement floors with piles of dried cut grass and weeds from fields and road sides to kindle in. They went out daily during the warmer months and cut the grass, feeding some fresh and drying the rest on racks to be used during the winter months. They also fed garden waste and greens.

Like Kappy reported, the rabbits were leaner than our high protein fed caged rabbits but with excellent health and more importantly, taste.

I believe there may be a difference in the various breeds of rabbits as to how well they thrive on wild foods though we, too, have had rabbits escape cages and continue perfectly healthy in the wild. We conducted a similar experiment as Kappy mentions with feeding our rabbits on only foraged products. We were, however, using Dutch and smaller breeds for the trial. We found that if the mother was started on the diet some time before she was bread she had fewer babies but was perfectly able to provide milk for them all. One thing an old timer had told us to do to keep does from eating their young was to hang a strip of bacon in their cages. It was our habit to do so even though we hadn't had those problems, but just in case. We found that our forage fed does tended to nibble on the bacon a bit where our pellet fed does did not. The young did not touch it.

Being wild life rehabitators in the past, we have also raised litterally dozens and dozens of wild baby rabbits, not an easy chore if they are very little. In feeding them we used probiotics heavily with the milk replacer we gave them but when we start feeding solid foods we fed only grass to begin with. Just plain grass as that is what we've observed the wild does bringing to the nest of their young. They do very well on that for at least a week or more before we started to add other weeds and seeds. It must be kept fresh daily though or they could sicken. We didn't find they did well on grains unless in very modest proportions. I assume it was because they were genetically made to handle more greens than grain, especially when younger.

By the way, we also raised and bred wild rabbits in captivity as an experiment, something that others will tell you is difficult or impossible. The key, we found, was to continue their wild diet as much as possible, using only dried forage or hay in the winter along with some seeds. I mention it because at some point it might be necessary in a SHTF situation to find an alternative source of animal protein that is close at hand when needed instead of hunted. Do not expect large litters or even large rabbits, but they are meat and pelts to use. If you do try to raise wild rabbits for survival, you may have to get them very young (so as not to have to chase older ones which is seriously stressful for them) and possibly hand feed them. They take a very rich diet of whole (preferrably raw) milk with probiotics, maple syrup, and/or very rich cream added. I have also used goats colostrum with good success. They should be fed, upright not on their backs, only until a small white line appears on the stomach to indicate their stomach is full, not distended. Every six or eight hours is plenty for them and if very small it helps to wipe the genitals with a warm cloth to stimulate urination and defication. By the way, this is probably not legal in most states but in a SHTF situation I doubt anyone will care you have a few wild rabbits in a cage.

We haven't raised rabbit for years but If we find ourselves in a SHTF situation I'd be setting some live traps or watching the wild does to see where they pause for a few minutes in the yard or field edges. Wild does usually stand or squat over the nest and the babies feed in only a couple of minutes as the doe's milk is extremely rich and it takes little for each. They may only feed twice a day. Amazing how they can live with that but they do. It's a fairly easy matter, with close observation, to find a bunny nest and borrow some for your own survival.

Good topic. One I've thought much about over the years.

:bighug2:

#5 Paradox

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 09:46 PM

Rabbit Food Experiment at Aurora Rex Ranch

dont forget they need something to wear their teeth down....my dad's rabbits liked the occasional branch - they would chew the bark off - we used apple tree prunings.


Interesting... Are you still raising rabbits? If so, do you raise full-sized Rex? I love the Rex coat... it's so soft!

So, did you supplement with any grain?

#6 ma & pa steel

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Posted 27 July 2011 - 08:28 PM

Rabbits are versatile. They can run their food through a second time to extract even more nutrients the second time around. They'll be fine as you practice, and then master, the art of feeding non-pelleted, all natural rabbit food.


from Rasing-Rabbits.com

dont forget they need something to wear their teeth down....my dad's rabbits liked the occasional branch - they would chew the bark off - we used apple tree prunings.


Link did not work... http://www.raising-r....com/index.html

I can't fix it in your reply so I fixed it here. Thanks for the info I am looking to try and raise rabbits like the chickens in movable pens. They have some really good info under rabbit runs.
Posted ImagePosted Image


No Congress, no President has been strong enough to stand up to the foreign-controlled Federal Reserve Bank.

Thomas Jefferson was concise in his early warning to the American nation, "If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issuance of their currency, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered."

#7 Paradox

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Posted 27 July 2011 - 10:19 PM


Rabbits are versatile. They can run their food through a second time to extract even more nutrients the second time around. They'll be fine as you practice, and then master, the art of feeding non-pelleted, all natural rabbit food.


from Rasing-Rabbits.com

dont forget they need something to wear their teeth down....my dad's rabbits liked the occasional branch - they would chew the bark off - we used apple tree prunings.


Link did not work... http://www.raising-r....com/index.html

I can't fix it in your reply so I fixed it here. Thanks for the info I am looking to try and raise rabbits like the chickens in movable pens. They have some really good info under rabbit runs.


Awesome link! Great info there.

We are in a CSA near here, and DS15 and I went today for our weekly worker share. Brought home carrots (Some of the tops and peelings went to the buns fresh, the rest into the dehydrator), kale (chopped up the center stalk/rib for them, in the dehydrator), fennel (tops going into the dehydrator), and cukes. When we use the cukes, they'll get some of the peels. Nice to be able to use some of the items that we otherwise wouldn't. yeah, we could compost them, but turning them into the other kind of bunny pellets is much quicker. :)

Heck, we've even got others that do worker shares that give us their carrot tops for the buns. now I just need to figure out how to set up for a few meat types again... I think I need to build a green/hot house, otherwise they might get too cold in the winter. Then I have to find some stock... I'm sold on the Silver Fox breed, and not too many sources of those.

#8 Ambergris

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Posted 29 July 2011 - 07:49 PM

Please tell me more about the silver fox breed.


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#9 Paradox

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Posted 30 July 2011 - 07:52 PM

Please tell me more about the silver fox breed.


They are a lovely either black or blue color with silvering throughout (once they get past about 4 months). Generally good mothers, decent weight conversion. The kicker for me is that it's a heritage breed, and that makes a difference to me. I don't really care so much for the standard white.

#10 ma & pa steel

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Posted 01 August 2011 - 07:43 PM

Paradox, I went looking for silver fox rabbits, but have not found anyone in my state that are selling them. I am in south/central texas if you find any in nearby states that are selling the Blues please let me know.
Posted ImagePosted Image


No Congress, no President has been strong enough to stand up to the foreign-controlled Federal Reserve Bank.

Thomas Jefferson was concise in his early warning to the American nation, "If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issuance of their currency, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered."

#11 Paradox

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Posted 01 August 2011 - 10:31 PM

Paradox, I went looking for silver fox rabbits, but have not found anyone in my state that are selling them. I am in south/central texas if you find any in nearby states that are selling the Blues please let me know.


Heck, I can't find anyone in WI that has them now...

#12 Paradox

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Posted 05 August 2011 - 02:45 PM

Love it... found listings that said ragweed is edible for bunnies. I can harvest Lambs Quarters, Purslane, and dandelions, along with my bolted (nasty) lettuce and dry it for them. If I get industrious, I'll go down to the park at the bottom of the hill and cut some of the tall grass along the marshier sections. We have 7 dehydrator trays sitting in the sun to start drying a bunch of stuff. We were at the farm today, and picked up a bunch of carrot tops, and while weeding the strawberries, got a bunch of dandelions and lambs quarters. Some purslane came out of the basil rows. We weed for the farm, and the weeds go home to dry for bunny-munch. Oldest son even found the grass catcher for the manual push-mower, and spread the cut grass (and accompanying weeds) out on the hot sidewalk to dry. Hubby gave them some pellets yesterday, but otherwise, I don't think they've had much in pellets in the last week. We add some cracked dry (really old-like 20+ years) corn and some other grain (we call it bunny candy cause they LOVE IT.. oats or wheat, whole) for some extra protein.

If we can get some dried stuff stacked up, then I'll have a good amount for the winter. Hoping to plant a patch of timothy grass in the spring... have a patch of clover going already. Wonder what the neighbors will think... don't really CARE what they think, just moderately curious. Always interested in a good laugh. :cheeky-smiley-067: :sHa_sarcasticlol:

#13 Ambergris

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Posted 05 August 2011 - 10:34 PM

Mine used to love to gnaw up sunflower stalks. We threw them the stalks, a fresh leaf apiece every few days, and the middle of the sunflower disk that never ripens.


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