No Pellet Diet for 1 Month

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judymac

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. They need dried hay (or dry grass, etc., uncut) to be available always so they can balance their intake and not founder themselves.Grasses and clover, alfalfa, & other legumes are particularly hot. I don't think most other forbs are quite as dangerous but it's always a good idea to introduce new foods slowly. And important to always have dried grass hay available so the animals can select what they need.
I agree that introducing new foods slowly is a good plan. We did an experiment last year--we've always kept our rabbits indoors, sometimes in a colony, sometimes in pens in their own rabbit barn, but always in a building. Last year we tested several rabbits outdoors in the lawn (no, we don't spray any chemicals) in a rabbit tractor we moved daily. No hay. No pellets (they did get a little of an oat/sunflower seed/lentil/Calf Manna mix as a treat). I expected it to be a disaster (they were angora rabbits, and generally long hair and morning dew don't mix). Instead, they were happy and healthy, and grazed until December, despite a few snowstorms (we did give hay on the days the snow covered the grass). Their coats looked just like their siblings that stayed in the barn as the control group. No difference. Another angora rabbit myth debunked, the rabbits were fine.

We've since retired from raising large livestock, but during those many decades we never fed hay to our horses/cows/sheep/goats during the growing season. They lived on pasture. Period. Grass-fed, no grain, no hay. Just like the wild critters. (We did occasionally offer grain, just to keep them coming when they were called--so funny to look over the hill and see them in the distance down by the creek, all spread out. Then you'd call--their ears would perk up, and suddenly the entire herd would be galloping up the hill for a treat.)

The problem is taking animals that do not have the correct digestive bacteria biomes, and totally changing their diet. Yes, it can cause problems. Yes, horses (and other critters) can get bloat from the early spring greens. We always kept their usual winter hay and grain mix out during the spring, to help alleviate some of that. You can also limit how much time they spend grazing at the beginning of the grass season. In some cases, the spring pasture was kept small, so there was less of that lush grass to graze, while the later pastures had time to grow before they were eaten down. (Grass that is still 3-6" tall after grazing will grow back in record time, grass grazed down to just an inch or so may take weeks and weeks to grow back, especially in a hot summer.)

But no, none of the farmers here feed hay to their stock during the growing season. It is an amazing thing to me, I've spent the last two years researching all of the rabbit "rules" of what you can and can't feed and do with rabbits--and in every case I've found people very very successfully breaking the "rules". (No, I'm not talking about feeding poisonous toxic feeds.) People that feed corn (gasp!) to their rabbits, national show winners that feed sweet feed with molasses and corn (double gasp!), people that successfully feed cabbage, or graze their rabbits outdoors, or have eliminated commercial pellets. A lot of this is due to the "breed to the feed" plan (I wish I knew who invented that saying). Some rabbits will do well with the feed you have available, some will not. Breed those that not only survive but thrive on what is available to you locally. That is how individual strains/breeds come to be--where people in an isolated region developed a line of animals that produced well on the feed/climate in their individual area.
 

MelC

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The goal is meat, but now that the kits are getting bigger, they're soooo cute. All sorts of colors. I might offer some as pets. And of course fertilizer is always welcome. I'd love to trade bunnies at some point, just to get some additional genetic diversity. I was concerned I don't have a diverse enough gene pool, but I did hear on a youtube channel (Homestead Traditions) that as long as the breeding buns aren't from the same litter, they'll be fine.
Our Runnings has a bulletin board people can post on. Maybe yours does, too, if you decide to offer some for sale.
Do you happen to have any chocolate base? I just found out my other buck isn't when I tried to breed him.

Today the newest kits are three weeks and one day old. They were out sampling the grass/tree hay mix and pellets when I was breeding others. I'm going to continue giving to Doe as I always have and we'll see how they do.
 
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Do you happen to have any chocolate base? I just found out my other buck isn't when I tried to breed him.

Today the newest kits are three weeks and one day old. They were out sampling the grass/tree hay mix and pellets when I was breeding others. I'm going to continue giving to Doe as I always have and we'll see how they do.
I don't know all the colors (or really, any of them). I did look up chocolate based, and the colors called chocolate look like my buck (only he's a bit lighter). I'll have to look at the babies, but they're mixed with a white doe who has black markings, so prolly not what you're looking for. I'll get some pics when I go out there in a bit. I've been wanting to do that & forgetting. 🙄 Gettin' old isn't as fun as it looks. 🤣

Eight inches of snow... we were promised 12-15". I'm kind of putting it off. The sheeps will be unhappy at being made to wait for their morning treat. 🐑
 

hotzcatz

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The goal is meat, but now that the kits are getting bigger, they're soooo cute. All sorts of colors. I might offer some as pets. And of course fertilizer is always welcome. I'd love to trade bunnies at some point, just to get some additional genetic diversity. I was concerned I don't have a diverse enough gene pool, but I did hear on a youtube channel (Homestead Traditions) that as long as the breeding buns aren't from the same litter, they'll be fine.
Our Runnings has a bulletin board people can post on. Maybe yours does, too, if you decide to offer some for sale.
If you have a small gene pool, there's a pedigree program called 'Kintracks' which can tell you how inbred any two animals are. It's not a very expensive program since it's less than $20 Australian dollars. The herd here started with six bunnies in 2009 and we're still down at less than 25% inbred. There was a pair of does who went out and were bred with a different buck and we got offspring back from them but there's not been a lot of genetic imput other than the first six.
 
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Do you happen to have any chocolate base? I just found out my other buck isn't when I tried to breed him.

Today the newest kits are three weeks and one day old. They were out sampling the grass/tree hay mix and pellets when I was breeding others. I'm going to continue giving to Doe as I always have and we'll see how they do.
Here's a pic of the four brown kits along with my inexperienced guesses at sex. They were born on 3/12. Dam is white with black patterns and the sire is brown with white bib & collar. I'll get a pic a bit later. I keep forgetting to bring out my i-pad.
 

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RabbitsOfTheCreek

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Here's a pic of the four brown kits along with my inexperienced guesses at sex. They were born on 3/12. Dam is white with black patterns and the sire is brown with white bib & collar. I'll get a pic a bit later. I keep forgetting to bring out my i-pad.
Awwww they're adorable
 

RustySssunflower

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I know that ruminants and horses can upset their tummies to the point of death by eating too much "hot" green grass. They need dried hay (or dry grass, etc., uncut) to be available always so they can balance their intake and not founder themselves.Grasses and clover, alfalfa, & other legumes are particularly hot.
As far as I know, those wouldn’t be a problem if they are eaten immediately. What you definitely don’t want to do is give them green feed that has been lying around for a few hourse. If that does happen of accident, you best bet is to dry it all thee way and then feed. Always remove green feed from the cage if it isn’t eaten after 3 hours
 
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Ok that does makes sense. So we continue to monitor their hay intake. 80 percent still sounds startlingly high though. If you think about a horse or a wild rabbit’s grazing habits…
Yes, thinking about horses, we see them founder themselves regularly here each spring when they're let out on new pasture, which tends to be very rich due to the loamy glacial silt soils. My daughter apprenticed with a barefoot farrier and they saw horrendous numbers of cases of severe laminitis every year due to horses suddenly overgrazing fresh grass. They also see high rates of Cushings in horses that were constantly on green pasture as youngsters. Super sad, but it's hard to combat that lovely but overly simple pastoral image of horses grazing on a wide green expanse...

Wild rabbits are different species than domestic rabbits, which are domesticated from European wild rabbit stock; both the difference in species and the differences between wild and domesticated animals factors into the fact that it usually doesn't work to try to raise domestic rabbits exactly like wild rabbits. In fact it might be near-impossible, since wild rabbits eat green grass but also dried grasses, forbs, woody-stemmed plants, tree bark, and a multitide of other foods.

I'm not saying that rabbits or horses can't eat grass, of course. It's just that it's not really a year-round solution and will cause big problems if it's not introduced carefully. We usually raise our meat rabbits in tractors, where a good portion of their diet is grass/forbes. But we work them up to it slowly.

That said, the old breeder's adage, "Breed to the feed" is wise. Figure out a reasonable diet for your rabbits, and over time/generations they will generally adapt quite well; those that don't, won't leave many descendants!
 
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RabbitDad

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Hey everyone! I’ve been feeding my breeding pair of off homegrown things only for the past months. So far the results are great! Both rabbits look good and healthy and they even seem to be a bit friendlier towards me but I don’t know if I can credit the green feed for that.
Some of the things I feed each week:
  • Sunflower Plants
  • Fresh Lucerne (alfalfa)
  • Pumpkin leaves(no more than 4 a week/rabbit as they are high in calcium)
  • Cucumbers
  • Cowpea and sorghum leaves and grains
  • Sweet potato leaves
  • Banana leaves
  • Mulberry leaves(mine don’t really love theses)
  • 1-2 small nopal pads per rabbit each day(they didn’t like them in the beginning but they love them now)
  • Quack grass as hay substitute
  • Any other garden weeds that I deem edible
So yea! Let me know what y’all’s thoughts on this are!
Great info! Being new at this, I'm afraid to deviate from standard procedure.
We always have several tons of alfalfa on hand and occasionally oat hay (the oat hay is for the horses to snack on if they get bored)
I've given the oat hay to our rabbits. They seem to like it but not so much that I'm concerned with overfeeding them.
 

RabbitDad

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Feedipedia, wow what an awesome resource... Thanks for that reference! I'm new to making hay. What do you mean by they shatter easily? Any tips on hay would be great. We just bought a large role of wire mesh and are thinking of making a wood frame to lay out in the sun...
We have 5 acres planted in alfalfa. Super easy to grow, harvest & store.
Obviously you don't need that much area. You get several cuttings per year.
Cut it when the foliage is green in dry weather. Then let it dry where it fell for two days.
We have a homemade bailer that produces 3 wire 100lb bales. Yours can be much smaller of course.
Just rake it up, toss it in your bailer & squish it.
Imagine putting cut hay in a kitchen trash compactor... hey that would work perfect!
It will store for at least a year.
If you need detailed instructions just ask.
 

judymac

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I'm new to making hay. What do you mean by they shatter easily?
Okay, when you think of hay, you generally think of grass hay, with the grass all neatly bundled into the bale. However, legume hays with small leaves, like alfalfa, tend to 'shatter'. That means that when you try to handle the dried hay, the leaf attachment is small and brittle, and the leaves tend to fall off of the stem. Since the leaf is where the nutrition is, you don't want that to happen, as the high protein feed value is lost (and the rabbits aren't always very fond of the stems as food.)

The solution includes handling the hay carefully. If you are raising rabbits in cages, the leaves can fall through the wire and be lost to the rabbit. To solve that, consider using a hay feeder that can catch any loose leaves and keep them available to the rabbit. Another option on a small scale is to carefully dry the vegetation on the wire rack, and then intentionally strip the cowpea/alfalfa leaves off of the stem once thoroughly dry, putting a sheet of cloth down under the hay while stripping the leaves, allowing all leaves to be caught and not wasted.
We just bought a large role of wire mesh and are thinking of making a wood frame to lay out in the sun...
Oddly enough, in the sun isn't always the best option. The wire mesh makes for good air circulation all around the drying hay, that is good. Sun and warmth can make the drying go quickly, that is good. But, sun can also bleach some of the good green color out of the hay. Depending on your climate, drying out of the direct sunlight may make for an even better hay. I often dry my herbs in the old car on warm (not too hot) days. Screens placed between the front and back seats allow good air circulation, the windows cranked down a few inches helps even more. The steady warmth allows for quick drying, often in just one day, even though the car is parked in an area with a minimum of direct sun. (Too much heat can cook out some of the nutrition, I avoid the car method on hot days, as the car can get intensely hot inside.)
 

judymac

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We have a homemade bailer that produces 3 wire 100lb bales. Yours can be much smaller of course.
Just rake it up, toss it in your bailer & squish it.
We've done that. We used to put up several thousand bales of mixed grass/clover hay a year. But some years everything just goes wrong. While the hay wagon stacked up with baled hay held over a hundred bales, the same height in loose hay only yielded twenty bales when brought up to the barn for baling (the tractor-mounted rake broke, and with the tiny windows we get here in the Northeast for baling hay before the next rainstorm ruins the cut hay, we decided to use pitchforks and manually bring in loads of hay, to be baled at the barn.)

You don't need to bale it on a small scale. We've also brought in loads of field-dried hay (cut on the morning of day one after the dew has dried and let dry where it lays, turn the loose hay over on day two to make sure the hay is drying well on the bottom, day three rake into rows and bale, or bring into the barn and dumped into a haystack.) On a small scale, you can cut the hay with a sickle or scythe, let dry. The next day, use a pitchfork and flip the hay over, putting the part that was close to the ground now up on top to dry. Day three (here, your drying schedule may vary), use the pitchfork to pick up the dry hay, and load into your wheelbarrow, cart, or back of the pickup truck to be brought to the building you want to store the hay in. The loose hay will take a lot of room, the old-timers had amazing skill in making haystacks, even stored outdoors, that would shed water and conserve storage space. I've never mastered that, we just make piles when the baler didn't work.

I've even picked up the dried hay, and shoved it into burlap sacks and stored the sacks. With all methods, you want to avoid clumps of moisture in the hay, which can lead to spoilage and mold issues. That's why some plant, like comfrey, are difficult to make hay from, as the stems are so thick and moist they are hard to get adequately dried.
 

RabbitDad

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We've done that. We used to put up several thousand bales of mixed grass/clover hay a year. But some years everything just goes wrong. While the hay wagon stacked up with baled hay held over a hundred bales, the same height in loose hay only yielded twenty bales when brought up to the barn for baling (the tractor-mounted rake broke, and with the tiny windows we get here in the Northeast for baling hay before the next rainstorm ruins the cut hay, we decided to use pitchforks and manually bring in loads of hay, to be baled at the barn.)

You don't need to bale it on a small scale. We've also brought in loads of field-dried hay (cut on the morning of day one after the dew has dried and let dry where it lays, turn the loose hay over on day two to make sure the hay is drying well on the bottom, day three rake into rows and bale, or bring into the barn and dumped into a haystack.) On a small scale, you can cut the hay with a sickle or scythe, let dry. The next day, use a pitchfork and flip the hay over, putting the part that was close to the ground now up on top to dry. Day three (here, your drying schedule may vary), use the pitchfork to pick up the dry hay, and load into your wheelbarrow, cart, or back of the pickup truck to be brought to the building you want to store the hay in. The loose hay will take a lot of room, the old-timers had amazing skill in making haystacks, even stored outdoors, that would shed water and conserve storage space. I've never mastered that, we just make piles when the baler didn't work.

I've even picked up the dried hay, and shoved it into burlap sacks and stored the sacks. With all methods, you want to avoid clumps of moisture in the hay, which can lead to spoilage and mold issues. That's why some plant, like comfrey, are difficult to make hay from, as the stems are so thick and moist they are hard to get adequately dried.
In our case, the field where we grow our alfalfa is a couple miles from the barn.
Transportation & storage would be an issue if it wasn't baled.
Another issue, as someone else mentioned is that once dried, leaves & stems tend to separate. When baled, regardless of size, that doesn't happen.
 

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