There is a lot of conflicting information out there about the best ways to feed rabbits. Some people insist rabbits need fresh foods. Others say too many greens can be deadly. Some say pellets are completely nutritionally balanced and you need to feed nothing else. Others insist rabbits should be eating mostly grass hay as their diet. It can get to the point where you’re afraid to feed your rabbit! Don’t be scared! Let’s chat about some of the ways to feed rabbits.
What Are Some Of Best Ways To Feed Rabbits?
First, a word of caution: Any time you are making ANY changes to your rabbits’ diet GO SLOWLY. Fast switches can literally kill your rabbit. Also, water is crucial, so no matter what feed you are using, RABBITS MUST HAVE WATER, and plenty of it. Even a small break without water will cause your rabbit not to eat. Rabbits that don’t eat get GI stasis. Rabbits with GI stasis can die. Quickly! So always, always, always keep the water fresh, clear, and plentiful. It’s also a good idea to make sure all your rabbits have mineral spools to round out any nutritional gaps.
- Basic Rabbit Care: Here’s What You Need To Do
- Are Rabbits Right For You?
- How To Make Your Own Animal Feeds
I just want to be clear that some pellets ARE one of the best ways to feed rabbits. If you are interested in something fast, easy, and nutritionally balanced, you won’t go wrong with high quality, organic or non-GMO pellets. Sometimes putting together your own animal feeds can be a hassle because there are so many variables to tweak and make sure you get right. If you just want it right from the first time, pellets sure are useful!
Plus, if you introduce fresh foods slowly, you can save some money by feeding part pellets and part weeds/extra garden produce. If you want to feed lots of fresh greens, it might be a good idea to select and breed your own line that is resistant to diarrhea problems, or purchase breeding stock from someone who feeds a lot of greens.
You do need to be aware that it can be really easy to overfeed pellets and end up with obese rabbits. You are welcome to download this printable chart with daily feed amounts.
You can also pair pellets with lower calorie grass hay to give the rabbits something more pleasant to spend their time eat. My rabbits LOVE hay.
Alfalfa Hay and Rolled Oats
One basic alternative feed is based on feeding alfalfa hay and rolled oats. My rabbits loved alfalfa hay even more than their grass hay, but it’s pretty high in protein and in calcium. If you feed alfalfa, you’ll need to pair it with rolled oats to get that increased phosphorus to balance out the calcium. There are quite a few experienced rabbit raisers feeding this method in the Yahoo Group Alternative Rabbit Feeding. If you want to chat with those who have been doing it for quite some time, I recommend introducing yourself there.
Grass fed meat is all the rage right now, and for good reason. Feeding animals on grass is better for the soil, the animals, and our health. I have not personally raised rabbits in a pastured system, but there are plenty of people that do! (Including Daniel Salatin from Polyface Farms). Heritage breeds of rabbits can do particularly well raised on grass. If you have the space and can make some housing it could be a good option for you.
Raising rabbits on pasture can be as easy or as complicated as you would like to make it. At it’s easiest, the rabbits can be placed in cages directly onto grass. They will eat the grass through the floor. Each day, move them to a fresh spot. Let the manure break down in place to replenish the pasture.
If you go with this method, make the bottoms of the cages out of slatted wood, and make sure to add fiberglass or aluminum sheeting on the top so they have protection from rain and sun. During winter when there is not enough grass, you can house your rabbits over your garden to let them build up the soil for you.
If you prefer a rabbit colony, you can dig chicken wire down around the perimeter of your pasture to keep your rabbits from tunneling out. Make sure you add fencing above ground to keep our predators too.
The biggest concern for a colony is that your population doesn’t outstrip your pasture’s ability to regenerate. This means you will need to be eating rabbit quite frequently.
Alfalfa Pellets and Forage
In addition to pastured rabbits, Daniel Salatin has also talked about feeding alfalfa pellets and greens to his rabbits in the Raken House. The Raken House is a pretty awesome rabbit chicken house, and if you want ot see it, I suggest checking out the video at the bottom of this postof Justin Rhodes tour of the Raken House. This diet is based on alfalfa pellets and forage. The exciting thing about this, is that he feeds a good amount of comfrey, and comfrey is super easy to grow, and is very prolific, so you don’t need a ton of space or time to grow a good portion of your own rabbit feed.
I’m sure there are other methods of feeding I’ve yet to come across! Before World War II all rabbits were raised on “alternative diets,” so expanding our ability to raise rabbits without commercial feeds isn’t something new, just information that we can reclaim for yourselves. So go get started! (Slowly! Remember?)
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