Formulating a home ration for rabbits

Discussion in 'Rabbits' started by MaggieJ, Dec 17, 2008.

  1. MaggieJ

    MaggieJ Well-Known Member Supporter

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    This is my winter "natural feeding" project. I want to figure out an optimal recipe for a rabbit feed that can be fed as a concentrate along with lots of hay and fresh greens.

    At the moment I am feeding a decent scratch grain with oats, barley and a bit of cracked corn, but the proportions change with the prices and I think I could do better buying whole grains and other ingredients and mixing my own.

    I also want to increase the protein content. At best the current mix would have about 9 - 10% protein and although some of the shortfall is made up by alfalfa and willow, I know it is likely still too low. I'd rather not use soy products, which are reputed to be hard for rabbits to digest, and am thinking that field peas may provide an alternative, along with black oil sunflower seeds and ground flax seed.

    I'm looking for information and opinion on the subject and hope some of you are interested enough that we can get a good discussion going.
     
  2. trinityoaks

    trinityoaks Budding homesteader

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    Yes, Maggie! I like this idea, too! One of the reasons (among others) I want to go with a natural feed is that I want to be able to grow the components myself.

    For discussion purposes, I'll repeat here (from another thread) the recipe from the late Oren Reynolds, as described by Bob Bennett in the Storey book:

    - - - - - 8< - - - - -
    6 quarts oats
    1 quart wheat
    1 quart sunflower seed
    1 quart barley (whole if available, otherwise crimped)
    1 quart kaffir corn (when available)
    1 quart Terramycin crumbles

    Mix oats, wheat, sunflower seed, barley, and kaffir corn. Feed one part of this mixture to three parts pellets daily. Once a week, add Terramycin crumbles to feed mixture.
    - - - - - 8< - - - - -

    Mr. Bennett adds, "Mr. Reynolds began his feeding procedures before rabbit pellets were commercially available, and perhaps even before the pelleting machine was invented, for all I know."

    I figure this is a good starting point, but I want to substitute hay for the
    pellets, and add greens as available. I also don't believe in routinely feeding antibiotics and other medications to rabbits and other animals (much less my children).

    I'm interested in input from others regarding the protein, etc., ratio of the above feed mixture, and what I can do to make it a "complete" feed.
     

  3. ginnie5

    ginnie5 wife,mom,taxi driver,cook Supporter

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    Maggie when you say scratch grains is this the same "scratch" as I would feed chickens?
     
  4. MaggieJ

    MaggieJ Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Yes, Ginnie, its the same thing, but what's in it varies drastically from feed mill to feed mill. They change the formula according to price of the grains too, so I find I have to be vigilant not to get inferior stuff. One batch was so bad I did not use it for the rabbits or geese. My feed store apologized, said it must have been from when they switched over what they were milling, and provided a new bag free of charge. The poorer quality I fed to the chickens. They free range, so their ration is naturally supplemented.
     
  5. damoc

    damoc Well-Known Member

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    id like to work something out like this also but realy dont know enough about
    rabbits yet.i do have some recipies for high protein cattle feeds most of which
    contain soy but there are others that use cottonseed meal is that ok for rabbits?
    is the barley you are using in your mix now cracked,rolled or whole?
     
  6. Honorine

    Honorine Carpe Vinum Supporter

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    Something you can use to boost your protein levels is Animax, its a supplement made by Purina, its their version of Animax, 28% protein. A few pellets a day is all they need, even the Flemish only get less than a teaspoon. I don't see any soy on the ingredients list. Warning, they will dig thru the bowl looking for it, so put it on top. Smells like licorice. In the winter I top dress with Horse feed, but stop in the summer, as its a 'warm' feed. Another food they really enjoy is fresh pumpkin, if I had the proper storage room I'd buy a bunch of them to use all winter, may try to do that next winter. An old Flemish breeder I knew used to feed his rabbits bagels, said the carbs kept the weight on them, its not bad as an occasional snack, I feed bread sometimes. Of course thats not natural feeding per se, but it is thrifty and no ones died yet. My rabbits like leftover pumpkin bread too---
     
  7. bluemoonluck

    bluemoonluck Crazy Dog Lady Supporter

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    I've seen the huge bags of oats at the feed store down here, and the black oil sunflower seeds, but never wheat or barley.... do most feed stores carry it? I'm living in suburbia and my choices for feed stores is the local Tractor Supply...and the local Tractor Supply!
     
  8. Skip

    Skip Well-Known Member

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    If the flax seed is ground do the rabbits eat it?

    My understanding is that the oils from the seed are beneficial so when I fed it to the chickens I would soak it over night in water, but I do not know if this would work with rabbits?
     
  9. MaggieJ

    MaggieJ Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Trinityoaks, I was looking at that formula again. Like you, I would not add the Terramycin and kaffir corn is not likely readily available. Oats, wheat, barley and sunflower seeds sound like a good start though. I wonder why so many more parts oats than wheat or barley? I think I would want to even that up a bit. Field peas might be a useful addition and ground flax meal. Flax is expensive, but small quantities would likely be doable.

    Homestead Organics, an Ontario company, makes an organic rabbit food:

    Rabbit Feed 15% Protein: A grower ration for rabbits containing wheat, oats, barley, roasted soybeans, flax meal, peas, minerals and salt. Farmers should provide their own forage or purchase alfalfa pellets.

    Naturally any concentrate we devise would have to be fed with forage. Most of the alfalfa hay I get is well mixed with grasses, especially Timothy, which while healthy for the buns does have a lower protein level. Willow leaves are high in protein - 16 to 24 percent and they dry well for winter feed. (Here in Canada they would likely be closer to the 16%... something to do with our climate, I understand.)

    I really see no reason why we cannot do this. It won't be perfect, but likely will be better than commercial diets and we will have more control over quality and origin of the ingredients.
     
  10. MaggieJ

    MaggieJ Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Yikes, I can see there is lots of interest! Super.

    I have to get some work done before I get back to this. I'll cogitate while I am packing ebay items for shipment... :)
     
  11. trinityoaks

    trinityoaks Budding homesteader

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    You're right about the kaffir corn! They grow it here, but for some reason the feed store doesn't get any in. I wonder, could you substitute cracked corn?

    Too bad Mr. Reynolds is no longer around to ask. I wonder whether Mr. Bennett knows? I know that oats are easily digestible, for humans at least, so maybe that's why? I don't think it's cost, because wheat is much less expensive than oats, at least here.

    Is there a table somewhere that gives the protein, fiber, etc. breakdown of each of those grains?

    Would that be for added protein?

    Question here: our rabbit club leader's father (who has been raising rabbits for a while) says he was told that alfalfa hay is bad for bunnies, but I know that all of you feed alfalfa hay. I asked him why alfalfa pellets are ok but not alfalfa hay, and he didn't know. He's not adamant about it, just passing along what he was told. Any idea why he might have been told that? The only reason I can think of is the possibility of mold or dust, but precautions can be taken against those.

    And a lot of it we can grow ourselves, if necessary.
     
  12. trinityoaks

    trinityoaks Budding homesteader

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    We can get wheat and barley at our local feed store, which is connected to a granary. Pretty much everything comes in 50lb sacks. The barley comes only rolled, not whole or hulled, though. I'll have to look for the sunflower seeds. I would imagine they carry it, but I haven't looked for it yet.
     
  13. trinityoaks

    trinityoaks Budding homesteader

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    My understanding is that flax seed goes rancid very quickly after grinding, so we may want to get whole flax seed and grind as needed.

    I'll have to check the feed store for flax seed (along with sunflower seed). I know I can get it (ready for human consumption) by mail/Internet order from Bob's Red Mill, but as Maggie says, that would get expensive.
     
  14. trinityoaks

    trinityoaks Budding homesteader

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    Someone else can correct me, but my understanding is that cottonseed meal is NOT ok for rabbits. Too bad, because I live in cotton country and could probably get the cotton seed meal pretty cheaply. I'm also not fond of the idea of soy, at least not in large quantities.

    The recipe says crimped. At my feed store I can get only rolled (which I think is flatter and a little more "processed" than crimped). I think that rolled should be ok, though.
     
  15. Honorine

    Honorine Carpe Vinum Supporter

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    I myself do not feed alfalfa hay, because it seems too rich and have had the buns get soft stools from it, maybe its too 'hot' unprocessed? I don't like feeding timothy, because they waste so much, and really prefer a good grass hay, because they'll eat every bit. Flax seed is expensive, and most rabbits will readily eat it the way it is, its a fairly soft seed to chew. Here's an ingredients list for the Animax

    http://www.lumber2.com/PURINA_MILLS_ANIMAX_SUPPLEMENT_p/pm0001179.htm
     
  16. trinityoaks

    trinityoaks Budding homesteader

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    Once again, the listing is pretty vague:

    And it does have animal fat in it (at least I think "animal fate" is a typo and they meant animal fat). It also has dried whey--isn't that also bad for bunnies?

    At any rate, a commercial product like this still doesn't fit my preference for something I can grow myself, if necessary.
     
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  17. MaggieJ

    MaggieJ Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Ann Kanable, in her book Raising Rabbits says that both soybean and cottonseed are difficult for rabbits to digest. Of the two, soy seems to be the lesser of the evils. I'd like to avoid both.
     
  18. SquashNut

    SquashNut Well-Known Member

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    I read some where that feild peas have the same protien as alfapha.
    But they either needed soaked or grouund before feeding. As they could cause compaction in the gut.
    I put a few in my rabbits crock to see if they would eat it and it was left untouched.
     
  19. MaggieJ

    MaggieJ Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Interesting... Makes sense that they would at least need to be cracked for the buns to get a grip on them. Soaking them might be easier and may also make them more palatable.

    Anyone know if dried green peas (garden peas) are also suitable?

    I guess we'd better look into the possibility of compaction in the gut before we get too enthusiastic about peas. Maybe I'll email Tom at Homestead Organics and ask about the peas in his mix. He's usually very good about answering inquiries.
     
  20. MaggieJ

    MaggieJ Well-Known Member Supporter

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    The "alfalfa hay" I get is really a mix of alfalfa and either timothy or mixed grasses. It seems to me that the reason a lot of people avoid alfalfa hay is that they are already feeding alfalfa in their pellets. That could be too much of a good thing. I've never had a problem with the alfalfa hay causing poopy butt in my buns.

    The ANIMAX may be a good product, but like Trinityoaks I am looking to get away from commercial mixtures. Rabbits should be able to do well on a good variety of natural, unprocessed foods (or lightly processed, as with rolled or cracked grain). I know this is not for everyone, but it is the next logical step for those of us who no longer feed pelleted feed.