Can rabbits survive on simple food?

Discussion in 'Rabbits' started by mustanggirl, Mar 27, 2006.

  1. mustanggirl

    mustanggirl Member

    Messages:
    9
    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2005
    Hi,
    I'm new to the rabbit forum, so forgive me if this has been discussed. I'm a homesteader who is thinking of getting about 4 rabbits to start breeding for food. I would like to avoid buying store-bought rabbit food. Can domestic rabbits survive on a diet of alfafa hay, with supplementary greens such as blackberry leaves? I know they may not get fat but Im thinking into the future if rabbit pellets may not be available due to economic crash, etc. Has anyone tried this route with any luck and I realize rabbits get diarreah from too much rich green stuff.
     
  2. MaggieJ

    MaggieJ Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    11,280
    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2006
    Location:
    Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada
    Yes, you can feed rabbits other things than rabbit pellets and have them do quite well. Rabbit pellets are a fairly new thing. I have a terrific book written in the 1940s that has a section of rabbits and as rabbit pellets were unheard of then, there is good information on natural feeding.

    Rabbits need a balance of green food, hay and grains, but you will need to get more information than I can give you here to do this sucessfully. Make any changes in diet very gradually and be vigilant for changes in the condition of the rabbits for either the better or worse.

    I suggest you buy rabbit pellets for now and then as the season advances add gradually increasing amounts of greens. Dandelions, plantain, chickory, clover and alfalfa are all great. Try to feed a variety of greens - at least three per feeding. I've heard they go nuts for blackberry leaves and I found mine like raspberry leaves as well.

    Hay is always a good thing to give to rabbits. Besides being a safe and wholesome food, it takes them some time to eat it and helps to keep them from getting bored. I feed mine homegrown alfalfa and timothy hay which we cut from a patch I planted a few years ago to improve the soil.

    I also feed limited quantities of grain, mostly oats, to my rabbits... especially the does with kits. I have not yet had the courage to take my rabbits off pellets, but I have found when they are offered natural foods they prefer them - and do well on them.

    Ann Kanable's excellent book Raising Rabbits has quite a bit of information on natural feeding. It is geared toward homesteaders with small rabbitries. I suggest you buy or borrow a copy as a starting point. Also there is information to be had on-line, although you do have to consider your sources carefully. Good luck and please post later on to tell us how natural feeding is working for you.
     

  3. mustanggirl

    mustanggirl Member

    Messages:
    9
    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2005
    thanks for the advice. You're right - if I bought 4 adults who've been used to pellets that'd be a shock to them at a time they probably didn't need any more shock (getting a new home and all). I'll buy pellets to start off and gradually switch, and maybe post again someday and let ya'll know how the natural diet is working (or not).
     
  4. Fla Gal

    Fla Gal Bunny Poo Monger Supporter

    Messages:
    3,067
    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2003
    Location:
    Central Florida
    Maggie,

    Would you be kind enough to share the title and author of the book please? It sounds like information I'm interested in.
     
  5. MaggieJ

    MaggieJ Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    11,280
    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2006
    Location:
    Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada
    Sure! My pleasure.

    It's a British book, composed of bound copies of booklets issued by the National Federation of Young Farmers' Clubs. The address is (was) Oaklings, Canons Close, Radlett, Herts.

    Probably sort of a British 4H Club. Very simply written, but comprehensive. You could try abebooks.com to try to locate a copy. My friend Brian found this copy for me at a yard sale. Talk about lucky!