Raising rabbits?

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by NWgoats, Mar 3, 2013.

  1. NWgoats

    NWgoats New Member

    I have been thinking of getting a few rabbits. Can you raise rabbits without using a commercial, pelleted feed? I know it is mostly alfalfa
    and it is twice the cost of my alfalfa pellets for the goats. Seems
    a bit ridiculous just because they are a bit smaller.

    I know rabbits were not designed to eat pelleted feed, what could
    I feed them instead? I know they need hay, but what kind would
    be best? And can I grow anything to feed them? It has been a hundred
    years since I had rabbits and at that time Mom just fed pellets.

    Hanging cages or hutches? And can I house them in the same building
    with my chickens? (Separated areas, but same building) Any breed
    suggestions? (These are for meat)
  2. Horsehair Braider

    Horsehair Braider New Member

    The reason the rabbit pellets cost more (or at least, *one* reason) is they have more stuff in them than just plain alfalfa pellets. Some of them have ingredients that help keep ammonia fumes down, for example, an important consideration in a rabbitry.

    I raised rabbits for just years and years, and it's like goats: what works best for you, in your area of the country with what you can get, may not work best for me in my area of the country with what I can get. Rabbits need a lot of roughage but also minerals etc. to keep them healthy. I generally fed alfalfa hay as a treat but the plain fact is, my main ration for them was: rabbit pellets. I bought special higher protein pellets. My rabbits kicked butt on the show table; I was able to make a king-sized quilt with all the ribbons I won with them. In addition they produced top-quality meat and top-quality fiber.

    The animal they are most similar to, as far as digestion etc, is the horse.

    I used hanging cages because it's quicker and easier to clean and keeps the rabbits farther away from the ammonia fumes. I had special (secured) airways down below my cages for good healthy airflow without the rabbits being directly in the breeze. I put down rubber mats first, then hung the cages. You can house them in the same barn as chickens but chickens will roost on top of the cages and crap in the feeders, on the rabbits, on your kits etc. so I recommend to make certain the rabbitry is well secured - not just from chickens but from raccoons and other predators.

    As far as breeds, it's hard to say what's available in your area. I used to raise Silver Fox rabbits and loved them, they were a great breed for meat as the kits grew out really well. However that's kind of an unusual breed. Lucky me, there was a famous Silver Fox breeder in my area so they happened to be easy for me to get. You may have to go with something else, something available: Satins, Californians, New Zealands, and so on. Go to a local rabbit show and see what's available. Ask the breeder the primary use of the breed: a lot are simply show rabbits, like the amazingly cool Tan rabbit. Or Dwarf Hotots, English Spots, French Lops etc. Beautiful, gorgeous rabbits, but not known for the speed of growth and feed rate to weight gain ratio.
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2013

  3. Ozark Lady

    Ozark Lady New Member

    I use to have a rabbitry and sold meat rabbits to a company that wholesaled to grocery stores.

    Back then, I relied 100% on pellets, but I also fed them salt spools and hay.

    I tried all kinds of set ups free standing and hanging cages, and hanging cages are so much easier to keep clean. I would agree with securing your area, I had problems with housecats and the neighbor's part wolf dog.

    I am in the process of getting set up to raise angora rabbits. I will simply harvest the wool and will not have to harvest the meat. I plan to use fodder to replace at least half of the pellet ration. Maybe work up to full fodder as long as they maintain their health and coat.

    Look on here for the fodder thread, it has some awesome links and rabbits are addressed in these links about feeding animals on fodder.
  4. buckrun

    buckrun New Member

    There is a good forum called Rabbit Talk and many of the members use alternative feeding systems.
    Mostly whole oats and good hay. We always have hay in our cages and feed fresh from the garden year round but the bred and lactating does do need quite a bit of energy so we use a rabbit formula pellet for them. We have successfully grown out young ones for the freezer on just garden goods and hay. They love it when we toss a whole sweet potato in there this time of year and a head of cabbage just vanishes. For just enough meat for your family it does not take many does. We also feed clippings and prunings from our fruit trees and they eat the whole twigs and chew the bark on bigger branches. Very happy busy healthy buns :)

    We built our own extra large cages when we were raising flemish. They are not just wire but framed with wood and wired. They sit on cement blocks and open from the top so very easy to work the whole cage and see every thing. We finally built a rabbit barn off the side of the goat barn and wired it as well so no one can disturb them. Even small animals just crawling around to try to get their feed in the night will cost you litters and make your does too jittery to breed.
    Good luck! Wish you were not so far I would get some of Don's triple cross breeding stock to you!
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2013
  5. smithurmonds

    smithurmonds New Member

    We're feeding our rabbits pellets, but we're also feeding Chaffhaye alfalfa and whole oats. We're just getting started with rabbits, so once we get a little further along in our project we'll rely less on pellets. I don't feed my goats commercial pellets, so I don't feel nervous about ditching them. ;) I have hanging cages, but they drain into a 5 gallon bucket so there is no ammonia smell. I just empty the bucket once per day and hose off my plastic waste catchment a couple times per week.
  6. Cotton Eyed Does

    Cotton Eyed Does New Member

    I only have one Doe. Her name is Bunny. I am going to breed her to my neighbor's (Who gave me the rabbit) buck in a couple of months. She is 4 months old. I've just been feeding her a commercial pellet. I've been scared to give her anything like cabbage or greens I have grown because when I used to raise rabbits several years ago, everyone was warning you not to feed green stuff to them because it would cause them to bloat and die. I guess the thinking has changed since then. It would be nice to give her grass clippings and trimmings and greens from the garden if it is safe.
  7. Horsehair Braider

    Horsehair Braider New Member

    Christy, the problem is with the huge change in diet. It's very easy to give a rabbit, a very small animal with a very small stomach, *too much* grass/cabbage/clippings, and that causes a problem - just like it does with horses when you do not change the diet slowly. Remember, the animal that most resembles the rabbit in regards to digestion is the horse. If you treat them like little horses, you will be OK. Just change things very slowly, only a tiny amount at first gradually building up quantity. And since the rabbit is such a small animal, be very careful about the amount you consider "small". A handful is probably too much to start with.
  8. Secondairy

    Secondairy Member

    I am actively raising show rabbits, and have been for the last 25 years. Without a commercial pellet, you will not get the gains that you expect - much like expecting a well bred dairy doe to produce 10lbs of milk per day on corn and grass hay only. The pellet is specifically formulated for the demands of pregnant and nursing does, as well as the growth rates of the kits into the type of butcher stock you are looking for at 8 weeks of age, ideally, 3-5lbs live weight, depending on breed.

    Supplementation with additional feed stuffs does skew the guaranteed analysis of the feed tag, so knowing exactly what to feed, and at what stage is of utmost importance. Oats decreases protein, alfalfa increases protein and calcium, but sometimes can cause diahreah. Corn should never be fed due to the complexity of the grain' break down in the gut, and the chances of aflatoxins and GI stasis.

    Small firm pellets are idea, as babies will not waste as much if they can eat the whole pellet. Larger diameter pellets they tend to bite in two and drop the other half into the pan/compost, making very expensive worm food. The manure is 'cold' and can be used immediately in the garden without composting. I have used it for years, and several of my raised beds are PURE manure fresh out of the pan. With nearly 200 rabbits, I have a LOT of manure.

    Hope that helps. If anyone ever wants to talk rabbits, please feel free to PM me, and I will be more than happy to assist!

    Kelly :)