Very very frequently I read, and hear, people say that you can not feed rabbits many greens. Whether they mean greens as in kitchen vegetable scraps or greens as in weeds and grass, their wrong on both accounts.
I don’t care if you read advice from the “top bunny raiser in the country” and he/she says that is will cause diarrhea. I am here to say it won’t if done correctly.
There are a few rules.
Rule one is if your bunny has never had anything but pellets….introduce greens slowly and over a period of a week or so. Start with a small hand full. About the size you might pick to feed to some strange horse through a fence. Then add more each day. Keep pellets in your rabbits cage so it can also have the pellets it is used to eating too. Some rabbits, when not familiar with greens, can take up to a month to get used to eating them. Be patient. After a month, as long as your bunny has been eating some of them, but is not eating much, you can start cutting back on their pellets to kind of force them to eat the grass. Kind of like not giving kids cookies before dinner.
Two….you can’t feed anything poisonous. Now, most weeds and greens in our yards are not poisonous (even though people will tell you they are —most people really don’t know for sure) however occasionally you’ll have some so I recommend a good book on wild foraging. Anything you can eat…so can your buns. Within reason which brings me to rule three:
Don’t feed your bun only one green food source all the time. If you give your rabbit(s) something like Dock everyday, as their sole source of food, they will get sick. They will not have enough variety to allow for enough nutritional variation.
Lastly, if you give greens from the first day your doe has kits….they will always grow up being able to eat greens. Don’t listen to people who say it will kill them. It won’t. They will start slowly as mom gradually begins to wean them. This is always true unless you stop for a very long time. Like in the winter if you have to feed only hay for months at a time, add back greens over a period of a week or so just like when starting a new rabbit on greens. However, if you pick what you can when you can during the winter and early spring all will work out. Nature knows animals can’t move directly from a diet of tree bark and stems and dried grass to the next day filling up completely on only green grass. The grass is very moist and will upset their bacterial balance, which is why as spring comes on we have a mix of dried grasses/weeds and some growing spots. It’s natures way of slowly moving the wild animals back to a diet of all fresh greens.
If you read some old post you will find that we decided last year we would attempt both raising our rabbits only on grasses during the spring/summer/fall and drying some of our own hay. This is what we found:
We used almost NO pellets at all during the spring, summer and early fall. By later fall we could still supplement about half of our rabbits diet with greens. By winter we have been able to supply an extra large handful at least once a week and occasionally up to a couple times a week. However, this year has been very very warm and our weeds/grasses are growing still. Albeit slowly. In a really cold year it would have been all hay I am pretty sure. I do have about 1/3 of my adult rabbits that will eat all their hay first over any pellets if it is good hay. This brings me to the issue of cutting and drying our own hay.
We did cut, and dry, some of our own grasses. Once dried I stuffed old feed sacks full and packed them tight and taped them shut. A few must have been too damp because they were moldy when we opened them (thus thrown away to the compost). Others came out great and the rabbits BY FAR preferred our hay/dried grass over the bales we buy. However, I did not put up enough. I could have….but I wasn’t sure it would work. Now that I know that it will I will be more careful about the drying and put more up. Maybe even picking a spot in my barn to just kind of “stack” it like they did in the old days instead of trying to bag all of it. Another idea is to make one of those wood hay bale presses. I am sure it would work for the scale and amount we would do and we could make our own easily enough from wood scraps we have around here.
This brings me to the summation of this post. Rabbits are SUPER for self sufficiency. Of all the animals we have purchased they are one of the easiest to care for, are small, quiet and take up little space, absolutely can be raised without any outside inputs, and produce readily and without much difficulty. I am not saying rabbits are the only livestock to keep, just that they are much easier than most people realize. Much more so than some livestock we have raised and of course their size makes them appropriate not only for any size person, but any size housing lot except for maybe an apartment. Even then I am sure some people keep them because really, how would you know.
Oh yes, and recently I read one person say NOT to put fresh rabbit poo around plants because it would burn them. Hog wash! Rabbit poo can be put on plants straight from under the cage as it is a “cold” manure and will not burn your plants. Just ask my plants…they’ll give you the dirt :-)