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Old 05-26-2020, 12:30 PM
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Default Raising meat rabbits without store-bought feed



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Has anyone here raised rabbits for meat consumption without resorting to store-bought feed for them?

I have raised rabbits in the past on a small scale for a brief time for the pet trade and now I would like to broaden my knowledge for raising them for meat consumption with zero dependencies upon commercial rabbit food.

I remember reading how this is entirely doable, but never actually talked with anyone who did it.
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Old 05-26-2020, 07:39 PM
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We used to feed the rabbits uncleaned oats and clover hay from a local farmer, alfalfa pellets from feed store.

We also dumpster dived for veggie scraps and picked up occasional field corn when available.


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Old 05-26-2020, 07:47 PM
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How about planting kudzu and feeding them that and other vegetable waste?
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Old 05-26-2020, 08:17 PM
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I would imagine that a wide variety of plants offered to rabbits would be eaten?

I am especially interested in learning which plants provide a nutritionally superior diet and the best feed-to-meat conversion.

I have been told that for the absolute best meat production, I would need to buy commercial feed. (I refuse to believe that!)
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Old 05-26-2020, 08:27 PM
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My daughter has rabbits and she let some of the go. They hang around eating grass for the most part. They have babies and there numbers are increasing. There is one clever rabbit that has had babies twice now in the chicken coop. We close the chickens in at night and let them out in the morning. The rabbit is there waiting to get in to nurse the babies. I'm told that rabbits nurse their babies once a day and that seems to be true. I wished I had got a photo of the hen that was nesting with all the little tiny rabbits tucked under her wings.

The downside is the garden must have a great fence and winter there is a couple feet of snow.
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Old 05-26-2020, 08:36 PM
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I raised rabbits for years. You need 15% protein minimum for them to thrive. What you don't specify is how much land and time you have to invest. Small mulberry branches cut for the leaves are loved by rabbits and can function as 50% of their diet in summer. Hay/oats will work over winter. Sunflower seeds can boost both the protein and fat levels enough to get the average up to 15%. Clover is very difficult to get hay from without it getting moldy What will absolutely NOT work is pretending that cutting a little grass for them daily will be OK.
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Old 05-26-2020, 08:50 PM
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Alfalfa sprouts is a good choice.
You grow your own, and start a cycle of planting and growing so that you have fresh every day. A bag of alfalfa seed is cheap, and lasts a long while.

There are a lot of resources out there on how to do it, but it's not difficult, just requires a plan.
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Old 05-26-2020, 09:04 PM
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I haven't raised rabbits for a couple of years now but when I did their main food was green grass. There was always a small amount of pellets available for them but only as a backup.
I used a 'rabbit tractor' type cage which was dragged to a new spot every day.
Kikuyu grass grows well in my climate for about 7 months of the year if irrigated. This grass will regrow again and again so the same patch of land could be used near continuously.
I also fed them vegetable scraps and garden leaves (old bean bushes, sunflower leaves, etc) but the main food was grass. Of note is their liking for branches off of fruit trees, apple, pear, plum, (and mulberry, thanks @Christian) etc which they eagerly eat, sticks and all! About the only thing they don't eat is onion skins and citrus peel! You could also grow a patch of alfalfa and feed the leaves to them as a supplement. This also will regrow again and again. Some ornamental garden plants can be poisonous so a bit of research is required.
If you have a winter period when nothing grows then you will need to only breed when there is food available.

Be aware that if you have several litters coming up to slaughtering size at the same time, say 3 litters of 6 so 18 rabbits, they will be consuming a huge amount of feed every day. It really is amazing how much they can eat. If this is the plan then it would be worth planting an area to oats or similar just to harvest the leaves to feed to them. Plan the sowing time for the feed and the breeding time for the rabbits so the food is available as their appetites grow.
Possibly hay could also be used but I have no experience with this. I would be interested in more info if other members have done this.

They are quite hardy. If you keep them well supplied with any sort of green food they will grow quickly and healthily.

A few random notes: Raising a litter is very draining on the doe. She can get pregnant again immediately after she has given birth so could be feeding one litter while the next one grows inside of her. It is a good idea to give her a few weeks break before putting her with a buck again to reduce the chances of her getting run down and sick.
Baby rabbits are prized as food by nearly everything. Snakes, cats, foxes, bird of prey, coyotes, dogs; you name it, they will eat baby rabbits. A lot of care is needed to prevent them being killed.
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Old 05-26-2020, 10:14 PM
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I am soaking in all the information in this thread and appreciate hearing from those who have actually done what I am wanting to do! This kind of information is priceless to anyone who wants to go at it independently of the feed dealer.
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Old 05-26-2020, 11:15 PM
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Originally Posted by A_SonofLiberty View Post
How about planting kudzu and feeding them that and other vegetable waste?
You are an evil, evil man!
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Old 05-27-2020, 12:27 AM
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When the Germans were trying to starve out the Brits during WWII, the British government pretty much shut down beef and pork production because they realized that growing crops to feed to livestock was much less efficient than growing crops to feed to people. The government sanctioned exception was rabbits, which convert feed to meat very efficiently. The accepted method was the tractor system mentioned above that allowed the animals to feed but prevented predation.
If you do some research on rabbit raising in Britain during the early part of WWII, you might find some good information. Good luck.
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Old 05-27-2020, 02:46 AM
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I grew rabbits with pasture as their feed during the summer with weeds from garden and old plants tossed into the pen,for fall winter feed I used hay with extra root crops from garden as supplement ,they love beets and will eat turnips,,i grew a mangle beet as the main root crop for them

in my garden thread on page 8 it shows them [rabbits] lined up eating some extra squash and a bit further on devouring some corn stalks

https://www.survivalistboards.com/sh...d.php?t=106069
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Old 05-27-2020, 05:24 AM
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I have individually tractored rabbits on my lawn here in BC Canada from March through end of October without supplementing but I have one small female that eats voraciously and gets moved twice a day and two larger that are less aggressive grazers whom only require one move a day . I do supplement one doe simply because she seems to need that and she really does not utilize the fodder as the other two do, and I would definitely supplement breeding does and growing out kits but still do so utilizing my grazing management . I think if a person were actively cutting additional fodder , and really making their diet varied with produce , you might not need to supplement much but perhaps still offer some . I have seen some videos of rabbit meat production in warmer climates where start up subsistence type farming became a profitable venture raising them caged with cut fodder offerings daily and they did not look to be supplementing much of anything bought, so check out you tube.
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Old 05-27-2020, 09:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GrizzlyetteAdams View Post
I would imagine that a wide variety of plants offered to rabbits would be eaten?
Any fruit and vegetables you eat, a rabbit will eat. Celery, carrots, potatoes, apples, pears, corn, etc. Except onions and citrus peel. I haven't tried it but hot peppers probably won't be eaten!
Apparently it isn't good to feed them too much cabbage-type food; cabbages, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kale,etc and the leaves of these. About 30% of their diet can be these but not more. Because they will eat so much the pungent chemicals in these plants may reach levels which will harm them.
I always tested a food by dropping a few leaves in with the rabbits. If it hadn't been eaten within a short time I took it out and I never tried feeding it to them again. If they don't like something don't leave it in there. They may eat it anyway even if it is bad for them.

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I am especially interested in learning which plants provide a nutritionally superior diet and the best feed-to-meat conversion.
It is a bit hard to recommend plants without knowing which climate you live in.
Probably the best way to find useful plants is to look at the fields nearby. Whatever the farmers are growing will do well in your area and will be edible to rabbits.
Grasses are always good. Rabbits love green grass.
All of the lawn and fodder grasses are good. Bluegrass, ryegrass, couch, kikuyu, buffalo, timothy, paspalum are examples. Whatever grows best in your area will do fine as rabbit food.
They also love the leaves of grain crops. Oats, rye, wheat, barley, corn, (probably sorghum but I have no experience with that) are all highly nutritious.

You will have noticed alfalfa mentioned many times. This is very nutritious and high in protein. It is also perennial and very hardy (in the right climate). Similar plants include vetch, peas and some field beans. Possibly chick peas and lentils are also good food but I have no experience with them. These are all legumes, a group of plants which take nitrogen from the air and use it to grow, so don't need a lot of fertilizer. They are usually high in protein.

Tree leaves can also be good food. Fruit tree leaves from mulberries, apples/pears and plums/peaches/almonds are much liked by rabbits There are also quick growing trees like tagasaste (tree lucerne) which rabbits like.
Not only are leaves good rabbit food but there is a large quantities of them available and it is easy to collect them.
Possibly leaves from other trees can also be used. Some oak, elm, cedar, etc leaves may be edible. Possibly walnut/pecan leaves? I don't have any information on this because we only have Eucalyptus trees around here. Other members may know more.

Also a lot of common weeds are good rabbit food. Marshmallows (Malva sp.), Fat Hen (Chenopodium sp.), any of the grass weeds like prairie grass and barley grass, Wild Lettuce (Lactuca sp.). Plus many more, too many to list here. Any of the weeds that humans eat as greens should be OK for rabbits.

IMO the most important thing is to have enough green food for them. It doesn't matter too much what it is, just as long as they don't get hungry. Hungry rabbits aren't growing, are more likely to get sick and aren't putting on fat and weight.
Probably the best way is to get one pregnant doe and raise a litter to eating size. Once you have done that you will have a lot of local info on what is needed and what works.
Plus baby rabbits are really cute, but DO NOT name the babies, only the parents. You have been warned.
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Old 05-27-2020, 10:38 AM
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From everyone's experiences, it seems that the best thing to do is to provide a variety of greens and even scraps of garden produce.

I am in the mountains with almost no access to pasture (live in a National Forest area), at the base of the north side of a mountain with lots of rocks and thin soil. Over the years, I have organically built up the soil in a respectable garden plot, though.

I suspect that the best greenery I can provide will be wild/planted weeds (lamb's quarter, mallows, etc), along with garden produce.

Pumpkin leaves are edible for humans...will rabbits eat them?

Wintertime: Because of lack of real pastureland, conventional hay would be out, unless I buy it (which is what I am trying to avoid because I want the rabbit venture to be 100% sustainable without needing to leave the property).

More questions!

So, maybe I could "make hay" by drying a variety of nutritious weeds? Has anyone dried certain tree leaves for winter use, or would they just too crumbly to be of any value?

I'm thinking that maybe I could also dehydrate a variety of scraps of garden produce as a supplement. What about dried kernels of corn as an occasional treat?

Mangel beets would store well in a root cellar (or maybe in the ground with adequate mulch). (Hattip to Wilderness Bushman.)

Wilderness Bushman, I caught a serious case of garden envy seeing that fantastic thread of yours. (Me and my little itsy-bitsy garden over here...)

DownUnder, if you ever write a book (about anything!) please let me know! Thank you (and everyone else) for contributing so much practical knowledge to this thread. I am enjoying every minute of it.

My copy and paste keys are getting a workout! I just might break down and buy a new printer instead of just taking notes.

All y'all are rocking this thread!
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Old 05-27-2020, 02:45 PM
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You are an evil, evil man!
Why? What is evil about that idea?
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Old 05-27-2020, 02:55 PM
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There used to be a great thread called Feeding Rabbits Naturally on one of the big homesteading forums. I have not been on it much in the last several years, but if it is still there it was a goldmine of experience from individuals raising their rabbits.
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Old 05-27-2020, 02:58 PM
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Why? What is evil about that idea?
Donít know what Nomad was getting at but in most places kudzu is considered a noxious weed/invasive species and the powers that be frown on it being planted.
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Old 05-27-2020, 03:50 PM
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I have no experience feeding stone fruit branches or leaves to rabbits , but I would caution they are toxic to some animals like horses , so you might want to google things more extensively . I cut low hanging fir branches in winter and feed them and the rabbits eat them so it might be surprising how much is edible , and they love blackberry leaves .

I would think a person could keep breeding stock and grow outs healthy on assorted fodder instead of pellets . For instance chickens do not need to eat "laying pellets " to lay eggs or stay healthy. Even on survival forums like this one I have been cautioned that rabbits won't put on weight or survive without pellets ( repeatedly by the same person whom insists on this, is responding to the person whom already DOES it ) . You need to consider the sources and double check ideas presented and also see if any regional influences may make your situation entirely different ? Always lots of good ideas presented and lots of people with far more experience to learn from too .
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Old 05-27-2020, 04:34 PM
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Donít know what Nomad was getting at but in most places kudzu is considered a noxious weed/invasive species and the powers that be frown on it being planted.
Yep. It's actually illegal to plant in some states.

http://hyg.ipm.illinois.edu/article.php?id=88

I've seen it eat houses.
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