Drying greens for winter supplements

Discussion in 'Rabbits' started by MaggieJ, Aug 27, 2006.

  1. MaggieJ

    MaggieJ Well-Known Member Supporter

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    What greens dry well for winter supplements for rabbits? I sun-dried some alfalfa, but it turned very pale and unappetizing. The rabbits didn't seem to mind, but I was wondering if there is a better way to go about it. It seemed to take a long time to dry, probably because of the high moisture content.

    What other greens could I be drying? Two or three times a day I take the geese out onto the field to graze (Since losing two earlier in the summer we have them penned on just a section of the field closest to the house.) I gather greens for the bunnies then, but that only takes a few minutes. There is a bumper crop of dandelion greens right now... Would they be any good dried?

    I know there are other people on this forum who are interested in supplementing pellets with natural foods and even working toward eliminating the need for pellets altogether. The interest is there, so let's get as many ideas flowing as we can.
     
  2. doodlemom

    doodlemom Well-Known Member

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    Gardening Is What Got Me Into Rabbits To Save Money On Manure And Promote Earthworms. You Can Actually Buy Varieties Of Dandelion Seeds Pretty Cheap Which Obviously Spread Like "weeds" From Many Seed Suppliers Which Grow Quite Tall And Can Be Eaten By People As Well ( After Being Soaked Overnight In Cold Salt Water) Let The Dandelions Grow Under And Near The Apple Trees (the Apple Grower Book By Michael Phillips)i Eat Greens Before Bloom And The Rabbits Get The Greens Fresh Or Dried After Bloom. Dried Apple Branches And All Kinds Of Dried Mints Are Excellent. Peppermint Makes The Cages Smell Better And Is Documented To Discourage Ants. Mints Tend To Take Over Like Weeds Which Makes Them Easy To Grow In Neglected Areas And I've Heard Flies Don't Like Mints
     

  3. MaggieJ

    MaggieJ Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Thanks, Doodlemom! You have some good ideas there. What is the reason for planting dandelions under apple trees in particular?

    Only one of my rabbits likes mint fresh but I'll bet they'd all eat it dried. Not a good thing for pregnant or nursing does, but helpful when it comes time to wean.

    I've heard you can also dry individual comfrey leaves as hay - very high protein and excellent for does who have just kindled. We do have a few plants about but it has not been a particularly good year for them.

    I wonder if plantain would dry? There is usually lots of it about too, but not this year.

    My rabbits LOVE lemon balm fresh, but I wonder how it would be dried... I'll try a bit and find out. Obviouslty I need a bunny garden as well as a people garden.

    Has anyone a good method of drying the greens? I've tried hanging them in bunches, spreading them on a very dry area of short grass in the sun and neither seems to work all that well. Maybe it's just been too humid.

    Still looking for input!
     
  4. doodlemom

    doodlemom Well-Known Member

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    Attract Bees And Beneficial Insects And Fungal Spores Are Trapped By Undergrowth. According To The Book Scythe Undergrowth At Fruit Set (perfect For Drying And Storage) Then After Harvest Completely Mow Undergrowth (ie Second Bunny Harvest) Then Spread Compost( Ie Bunny Poop) - The Book Doesn't Mention Bunnies But It Works For Me. Bark Chewing Rodents Like To Hide In Tall Grass So It's A Good Idea To Put Something On Or Around The Base Of The Tree That Won't Eventually Strangle It. My Yard Looks Overgrown Like I'm Too Lazy To Mow Under The Trees-oh Well
     
  5. Bearfootfarm

    Bearfootfarm Hello, hello....is there anybody in there.....? Supporter

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    Doodlemom,

    Do you ever go in the "Pets, Dogs" chatroom on AOL? Yur name looks very familiar
     
  6. Bearfootfarm

    Bearfootfarm Hello, hello....is there anybody in there.....? Supporter

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    Maggie,
    If you'll Google "drying hay" it may give you an idea of how long it should be done. It sounds like you let the alfalfa get too dry. Good hay should still have a lot of green color
     
  7. MaggieJ

    MaggieJ Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Thanks, Bearfootfarm, for the suggestion. I think that may have been the case too. Years and years ago when my son had a pet rabbit I used to buy bags of alfalfa at the pet shop. We lived in the city then. The price was atrocious but it was a lovely green colour (natural) and not limp like the stuff I dried. I'll google "drying hay" as you suggested.
     
  8. doodlemom

    doodlemom Well-Known Member

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    In July 2002 for 1 year I had aol .My brother raises AKC registered german shepards and I had one of his pups that year so possibly. I just gave my brother my AKC pug and have decided to raise only rabbits. My 12 year old son uses my doodlemom name and he may have been chatting about gerbils or guinea pigs or the pups. He hops on the computor without logging in his own name sometimes. His gerbil has escaped so many times I can't wait for it to die of old age ( 4 years old already). This webite is extremely educational. I had never heard of flystrike in any of my books until I saw it on this site then checked my rabbits and trimmed their tail areas and put up fly strips.
     
  9. Bearfootfarm

    Bearfootfarm Hello, hello....is there anybody in there.....? Supporter

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    "In July 2002 for 1 year I had aol"

    It may have been someone else then. I dont think it was that long ago. If it was you , you will remember someone named JussNod.

    The first time I saw flystrike was on a litter of pups that had been born in the woods and the mother was killed by a car. Its NOT something you want to see. Only one of 3 pups survived.

    Im thinking about getting a few rabbits just for personal comsumption so Ive jsut started reading this board. Im sure Ill learn a lot here
     
  10. doodlemom

    doodlemom Well-Known Member

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    I asked my son about the pet chat and he showed me that if you type your homesteading today name into google search it will bring up any chatroom that's public. The other doodlemom raises labradoodles and even has pics of the mix breed. My doodlemom was inspired by a spongebob episode -doodlebob.
     
  11. pasotami

    pasotami Hangin out at the barn!

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    Oxidation is what caused your alfalfa to turn yellow from the pretty green it was, sunlight will also bleach it. When drying grasses and greens put them in a vacuum pack or huge XXL ziplock back (now at WalMart) and suck all the air out and keep in darker place. The change in color will not effect the quality of the alfalfa, just the way it looks to you. The reason a bale of alfalfa does not turn when you get one is a) it is freash cut from the field and has not had time to turn b) the outside is bleached but the inside has not had the exposure so it is still green. The other reason your alfalfa was limp was it was prime cut and not stemmy - the young growth that you cut is not "woody" in the stem and will be limp. You actually cut the best!
     
  12. Danaus29

    Danaus29 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    If you seal green (wet) material in a plastic bag it will all turn to a nasty slimy mush!!! Yes, I've done it, blech. The best way to dry small amounts of greens (and yes, plantain works very well) is to build a solar drier. Wooden frame, screen bottom, glass top, legs to keep it off the ground. M E N had a very good article about building solar driers in the lastest issue. Or you could even use a food dehydrator. The cost of the electricity would surely be less than the cost of bagged hay. For rabbits you could dry multiflora rose, wild and domestic grape (vines and leaves), dandelion, plantain, lemon balm (especially the flower stalks, mine love that), clover, green oats, maple, sassafras, and sycamore leaves, wide bladed grasses, I know there's others but I can think of them now.

    I tried drying some lovely grass with lots of seedheads but with all the rain we had and no way of properly ventilating the bottom it quickly molded. A solar drier is definitely on my to-do list.
     
  13. MaggieJ

    MaggieJ Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Pasotami - Thanks for the information explaining what went wrong with my alfalfa. Like Danaus29, I would be afraid of sealing greens in plastic. Rabbits are very susceptible to moulds, mildew etc.

    Danaus29 - The MEN solar drier sounds interesting. I'll check it out. I do have a food dehydrator, but it would only dry small quantities for treats. I no longer buy that expensive pet store hay... that was years ago for one pet rabbit when I lived in the city. I will try to get a few bales of timothy hay for the winter, but with all those good weed and herb plants growing out there and knowing how much the rabbits like them, I thought I could be doing more for them. They eat pellets but they really look forward to the green feed, fresh or dried. And it's a long winter here!
     
  14. pasotami

    pasotami Hangin out at the barn!

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    Ahh - it pays to read ones own post before hitting the button - :rolleyes: Sorry.....
    I ment to only vacuum seal completely dried alfafla similar to vacuum sealing dried cooking herbs. That may be a challenge in getting it dry enough if you are having wet weather. I find it best to do this in the very hottest part of the summer and put it back for winter use. I have also tried to compress it with heavy blocks and then finish out the dehydration in an outdoor oven (trying to make a cube) - it worked OK but looked wierd for it was extrememly hard to make a cube - it was more of a flat retangle. I was able to break off some and feed it later that winter.
    The most interesting thing I have seen is the mini baler - it compresses and bales hay into a very small but very heavy bale - possibly one of these would last an entire winter if one only had a few rabbits.
    I am working on a way to dry and store Kudzu leaves - mind you I have only about 40 acres of the blasted stuff.... very high in protein and the rabbits love it. It is a pain to bale for it is on a mountain side (no machines in there). It would have to be hand picked and walked out but sure would cut down on the feed bill in the winter if I can find a way....
     
  15. Ann Mary

    Ann Mary Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I like to put my cut comfrey, alfalfa, grasses, etc, on top of an unused rabbit cage or on a piece of screen up high...'course, I cant' do this in large batches but if the cage is empty you can put some on top and inside...and i like to put the drying rack in part shade if I can to help retain the color of what is being dried. After I've turned it a few times and I'm sure it is dried I pack it into old burlap or plastic feed sacks and hang them so the mice don't get into them. This does remind me that I need to go pick and dry some raspberry leaves and strawberry leaves before the frost hits them!
     
  16. MaggieJ

    MaggieJ Well-Known Member Supporter

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    LOL, Pasotami! I couldn't figure how part of your post was so helpful and the other part so clueless. :rotfl: You're right, it pays to preview your posts before submitting.

    I'm not familiar with kudzo, but I googled it and it sounds like a mixed blessing at best. We don't have it this far north.

    Ann Mary - I sometimes use the top of the cages for drying greens too, but I am looking forward to being able to dry larger quantities of greens next year.

    We just built a new henhouse for our ten young pullets and one cockerel. The old henhouse is too big for such a small flock; their body heat can't keep it warm in winter and I hate using a heat lamp. Expensive and risky. The "old girls" who occupy the old henhouse now will become soup as soon as the new ones start laying... so in a month or so, I will have an 8' x 8' well ventilated and insulated space with a high ceiling -- about 10' rising to 12'. It will need some cleaning up but I intend to install shelves and racks so I can process and store more critter feed and also have more space for my darling Pilgrim geese :angel: when the breeding season rolls around.

    I'm pretty excited that I will have so much space available! :bouncy: Next spring, I want to plant a garden just for critter food. Lots of lemon balm, comfrey, dandelions, plantain, timothy etc. for the bunnies. I will put plenty of "bunny berries" in the soil for fertilizer. We already have lots of raspberries and alfalfa and I pick fresh greens twice daily for the rabbits, but I think a dedicated garden bed would be much handier. With the extra storage and a solar dryer (Definitely on my "to do" list too, Danaus29!) I should be able to cut the feed bills and "treat" my bunnies at the same time.

    Ann Mary, are there any other plants that have not been mentioned that you feed to your rabbits either fresh or dried? Raspberry leaves are something I feed my rabbits quite regularly, especially the does. I know strawberry leaves have medicinal uses but I am wondering if you give them to the rabbits as a food or only as a medicine? Do you feed them fresh when they are available, or do you always dry them?

    I wish I could find a list of safe plants for rabbits. There are plenty of toxic plant lists but, of course, none of them is all-inclusive. And some of them list clover and alfalfa as toxic! :rolleyes: It would be more helpful to know a couple of dozen common safe plants.
     
  17. Ann Mary

    Ann Mary Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Well, I looked up in my book, The Encyclopedia of Natural Pet Care, written by CJ Puotinen---excellent book--- to see what all it recommended in the way of herbs for rabbits (the book covers dogs/cat/rabbits/pet birds) and it said that strawberry leaves have similar effects of raspberry leaves.

    "Grow your own alfalfa, wheat & barlesy grass, buckwheat lettuce and sunflower seedlings,...calendual blossoms, sweet peppers,...collards, chard, broccoli de rabe and spinach in your garden; let some carrots and other plants go to seed...and offer the seeds from your watermelon, pumpkin and other foods;....etc"
    This book also explains to to feed a rabbit nutritionally without buying rabbit feed.
    I hope this helps.
     
  18. MaggieJ

    MaggieJ Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Thanks, Ann Mary, I'll have to watch out for that book. I would like very much to get the rabbits off pellets entirely... who knows what they put in them and while the rabbits will eat them, they never show much enthusiasm.
     
  19. Danaus29

    Danaus29 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Add marigold, the regular marigold, to the list for good bunny food. Mine LOVE it! Other safe plants I feed my rabbits are grape (leaves and vines), sassafras, sycamore, maple, and multiflora rose (I still need to trim the neighbors massive bush). I do remove the thorns from the multiflora rose because they are so large and there's not too many of them. Catnip is a good bunny plant too. I used to feed it to my bunnies until some stray cats found the plant and ate it to death.

    The reason clover and alfalfa are listed as toxic is because when they are green and fresh, especially in the early spring when most areas get heavy rain, is because they can cause a fatal case of bloat. When dried you don't have that problem.
     
  20. pasotami

    pasotami Hangin out at the barn!

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    Alfalfa and clover, along with kudzu, should not be fed if a hard freeze hits it. This is when the plant is going though a chemical breakdown and causes the worst bloat for every animal (horses, cattle, rabbits, humans, etc.). It is the same type of breakdown that happens right after it is mowed for hay (wilt process). I have not had enough coffee yet to remember the technical name for this.... Legumes will do this also. This is not a problem if fed after it goes through the stage of wilt - and turned into hay. Actually a freeze causes the plant to break down into a more easier to digest sugar (the reason ponies should not eat too much of it). I'll wake up more later and remember all this better.