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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
What do you feed your rabbits in the winter in an arctic climate?

Can they survive on hay and other dried grasses and plants?


I tried to do some searching but couldn't find an answer that didn't involve store bought food like pellets 'n' stuff...
 

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Shuriken snowflake
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I also wondered this. They can survive on hay and the such. But assume you actually have to cut grass yourself and make hay... what a hassle... Barely worth it....
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I'm thinking, U might have to cut grass and hay with a scythe in your garden at summer time anyway.. so you might as well dry it and feed it to the rabbits, if they can survive (and thrive hopefully) on only tried food...
 

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I feed mine Alfalfa and timothy grass. That is what goes into the pellets you buy at the feed mills. Rabbits can live on very thin diets of grasses , bark and even wood shavings but thrive on things like dandelion, Alfalfa, and rich large blade grasses. They love roots like Carrots and beets, cabbage leaves, and mine really love Cucumber skins. I feed mine a steady diet of Alfalfa and Timothy which I grow and harvest by hand rolling it up into bales and storing in my barn. Kingfish
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Do you have any approximate numbers on how much land I should expect to grow of each, timothy and alfalfa, to feed x number of rabbits for x number of winter months?
Are we talking about small fields or a corner in my backyard?

Or any links covering this?
 

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Shuriken snowflake
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There is no corn in the Arctic....

As for grass, they do well on hay, you might save a few carrots and apples for them as well. They will appreciate that.

But when I see how much my bunnies eat, I realize what grass we have would NOT get them through winter. If I feed them really little, they still would need one of those big, black garbage bags full of hay every week... And say I need to feed them from October til May. That is 32 bags. And that is when they don't have kits. It will take a lot of energy cutting all that grass for them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I sure hope you're not talking about one garbage bag per bunny every week? :-O

If so, I'm not sure the energy gained from the meat exceeds the energy used on harvesting the food.. unless you ad an x factor of (human) food beeing more abundant from may til october and you see it as a way of "bulking up" for the winter...?
 

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There is no corn in the Arctic....

As for grass, they do well on hay, you might save a few carrots and apples for them as well. They will appreciate that.

But when I see how much my bunnies eat, I realize what grass we have would NOT get them through winter. If I feed them really little, they still would need one of those big, black garbage bags full of hay every week... And say I need to feed them from October til May. That is 32 bags. And that is when they don't have kits. It will take a lot of energy cutting all that grass for them.
having been in nw ontario canada ,,they grew oats as a grain crop and barly also so those might be a answer to no corn
jersulam artichokees are a root that you can eat and makes a high quality hay as well if u cut the tops as u would any hay
not sure if mangle beets will work for rabbits but know it does for pigs or cattle,,,they have the same food as grain for those aminals
 

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Shuriken snowflake
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I sure hope you're not talking about one garbage bag per bunny every week? :-O

If so, I'm not sure the energy gained from the meat exceeds the energy used on harvesting the food.. unless you ad an x factor of (human) food beeing more abundant from may til october and you see it as a way of "bulking up" for the winter...?
Mine eat that much when they are two and eat no added foods. I should also mention my bunnies are big. One is 6.5 kilos and the other is around 5.

I've also wondered if it is worth it. Mine are eating a lot of oats now, but we only have one acre, and if I can't buy oats, I don't have much space to grow it, same with barley or rye.

If they are hungry they will even eat branches, so that is good I guess. And like I said, if you have apple trees you probably will have a surplus of apples and that will help.

It might or might not be worth the effort. The good thing is if you have land, the rabbits can feed themselves for as long as there is grass and leaves. They will not compete with you about food, because humans don't eat grass. Still a bit iffy about the winters. Also, if it is a cold winter, they need the more food. When I got my big bunny he was used to the outside, a hut with no insulation and -18 C. He ate about 4 bowls of high energy pellets a day!!!

I'm sure there is a good answer to this, I just have to come up with it...
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
What kind of rabbits are best suited for norwegian/sweedish climate?

Think I'll just start with a few in my basement this fall, just to get started.. and make a list of what I need if I have to start a small farm in my outhouse..

But I have some conerns about the wealth of the rabbits also. I can't se myself putting them in small mesh cages 24/7 (if my life isn't totaly dependent on it).
My outhouse is a concrete building of around 5x6meters, so I could easily make a setup shown in this tube:
But it just seems so cruel to the animals...
What other choices do I have? The animals must be separated from what I've read so far, or else I'd just make a hole in the wall for each cage leading out to a outside enclosure... but that isn't an option...right?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Also, could it be an idea to just keep some rabbits over the winter and breed them as hell from spring to fall and dry the meat for the winter?

And.. haven't seen anyone writing of the rabbits beeing inbred...?
 

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Feeding in winter:
You can gather grasses, leaves, twigs, etc and dry them in a mesh bag, just don't pack it tightly or the moisture may collect in the middle and grow mold. If you cut small branches from trees or have larger plants you dry you can hang them from the ceiling like one might dry flowers. I'm not familiar with the wild plants you might find in Norway, but rabbits can eat just about anything green. I feed mine a lot of clover, dandelions, apple, wild carrot, basil, chickweed, and alfalfa or timothy grass. the key is to keep it dry and let it breath, don't seal it up in a plastic bag or anything.

they also will eat kitchen scraps, like carrot tops, potatoes, and vegetable peels.

Housing
wire bottom cages are popular because the waste falls out and the rabbit doesn't get dirty, which helps reduce sickness. If you prefer you can keep them on the floor in an enclosed space (like a horse stall). research "Rabbit Colonies" as a method of raising them. I've never kept rabbits like that, so I can't tell you much about it.

Inbreeding
rabbits do not face the same troubles with inbreeding as people would. If you start with genetically healthy stock, you shouldn't worry about inbreeding. Most stay away from breeding full siblings, but parent x offspring, aunt x nephew, cousins, are all common breeding methods. Just remember, anything bad in your line will be doubled up, so be sure to start with good quality stock. they should be healthy, produce well, be good mothers to the kits, and dress out well when you butcher.

Rabbits are actually very good at keeping warm, it's the heat that kills them. Make sure they have cover from snow, wind and rain and they should be fine, even in the winter.
 

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Shuriken snowflake
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Both my rabbits are outdoors rabbits. They have lived in houses without insulation but a meter above ground. They find it OK living like that even in the winter, actually summer seems to bother them more. They are very different breeds, one French lop and one Gotland. The Gotland is a typical meat/hide type of rabbit, and all similar should be suitable for an outdoors climate. They do OK as long as they don't get hot, they need good shelter from the sun, and good shelter from rain and wind (Read above). I'd dare saying all bigger breeds are hardy enough to live outside.

If you start out with 2 different breeds you don't have to worry about inbreeding for a long time. If you choose a breed with a small gene pool, you're more in trouble. Inbreeding is fine mother to son or father to daughter but never siblings to each other. If it happens, it will probably also be fine if you don't keep breeding the offspring, but better not if you can avoid it.

A good meat rabbit is fine boned and of relatively large size.
 

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Live Secret, Live Happy
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When I raised rabbits on the farm I would breed them in spring-fall, butcher most of the kits in the fall, and feed the 5 adults about 200 lb of grass-clover hay over the winter. That gave me lots of cheap meat and we baled hay for the calves and sheep any way.

My small livestock books suggests feeding 4% of body weight per day, meaning an 8 lb (4 Kg) doe would eat 10 lb per month.

Our pasture produced about 5 tons per ac each year. The hay for these 5 rabbits took 1000 ft2 (100 m2) or the size of a small front yard.

Buy yourself a small tractor and a sickle mower if you are going to cut and store much hay. You can easily rake, dry, and store 200 lbs of loose hay by hand. But cutting 200 lbs with a scythe (which I have) is a real chore.
 

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Shuriken snowflake
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It sounds from the OP he has a basic yard. I doubt he is going to use a tractor on it.

But also back to the topic, yea it is possible for the rabbits to survive on hay. Actually it is probably healthier for them then pellets.
 

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Comrade
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I know nothing of rabbits, but I do know that guinea pigs were originally raised in South America as a food source. That's why their bodies are so thick.

They could be a lower maintenance alternative, or be more temperature tolerant. Or not, I don't know.

Also, be wary of rabbit starvation if you depend on it for the bulk of your diet.
 

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Shuriken snowflake
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I'm starting to regret I didn't go with my first idea and get guinea pigs. They are lovely animals. Usually very sweet, kind, not prone to escape and not destructive. Rabbits are... well, the opposite!

Downside of guinea pigs: Long gestation. Bred small for pets, not much meat on them. You could breed on bigger individuals or mix in cuy (which is basically just a guinea pig as well, but a more original type, bigger, now the "new cool pet"), although since cuy have a different temper, mating might not go well. Small litters of about 2. Be sure to add food rich in vitamin C.

Upside: Better tempered. Can live in large groups without fighting. Eat less than rabbits, have a more efficient digestive system and lower activity rate. Can be left more to themselves. You could basically have a "barn" with guinea pigs and clean it once in a while, no hassle cleaning each hatch for every rabbit.



I'm going to do the bunny project through the winter and over the next summer, but if it proves too tough, I might swap animal type though... Problem is I became attached to my bunny male... Sigh.
 

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Sith Lord
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I am going to try to grow alfalfa next spring and store it, you can also dry garden plant leftovers (make sure that plant is safe) and feed it to them, but you might have to have a big garden for it to last the winter
 

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I'm starting to regret I didn't go with my first idea and get guinea pigs. They are lovely animals. Usually very sweet, kind, not prone to escape and not destructive. Rabbits are... well, the opposite!
what kind of rabbits do you have? Some breeds have a nicer temperment than others. I have Creme d'Argents and they are actually pretty nice, Champagne d'Argents even nicer.
 
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