Basics on Rabbits

By into the rustic - 10:35 AM

When looking for an alternative meat to raise for your family, rabbits are one of the best choices. They are as prolific as the stories jest, and they are also inexpensive to feed. They yield more high-protein meat for every dollar spent than any other animal.

Buying Your Bunnies

Be careful when purchasing your rabbits- you want an animal that is being fed a similar diet to the one that you want to use. Make sure that the animal appears bright eyed, has a healthy coat of fur, and is fully active. No listless doped up rabbits that have been over heated, over stuffed in a cage, and under fed and watered. You may feel sorry for them and want to rescue them from such conditions, but you may waste your money too, as the animal may die from some sickness it got in those poor conditions. Worse yet, it may infect your healthy animals and kill them off as well.

Choose a young Buck (male rabbit) and one or two Does (female rabbits) to get your rabbit raising started off fast. Two females are recommended to ensure active breeding and immediate results. No need for instructions, they all know what to do!

Bringing Your Bunnies Home

When you take your new rabbits home, make sure that if you are intending to change their diet, that you do so gradually. Use at first a combination of mostly their previous food and a little of the new food you want to put them on. Little by little decrease their old food and incorporate more of your own feed. Give this several weeks for the full transition to prevent the animal from becoming ill or stubbornly refusing the new feed.

How to House Your Bunnies

Rabbits need to have a certain environment for them to flourish. First of all, they hate the heat. Then can tolerate some sunlight, as long as it isn't direct and they have a cool place to seek shade. They will drink a ton of water, this is normal. You will think your water container has a leak. It doesn't, it is just a thirsty rabbit draining it. Check the water in the morning and in the evening. I have to replace my rabbits water about twice a day.

Make sure they are protected from predators- use smaller wire cage wrappings so the rabbit can't squeeze out and claws and teeth can't squeeze in. In certain areas, you will need a fully enclosed cage. I live in Mexico, and we have the long tailed weasel that can climb barn walls, trees, you name it, and jump in, kill everything, and drag it's prey out. So I have to keep my rabbits under lock and key.

It is a good idea to have the cage raised from the ground so the droppings and waste can filter through the wire bottom. Bunnies hate being dirty. They are constantly grooming themselves and each other, and they like to have clean paws. Also for health reasons, you should always have a clean cage, and if you are strapped for time to be constantly cleaning out their cage, do yourself a favor and have a raised cage with the bottom wiring like box mesh chicken coop wire. Small enough so that it doesn't injure the feet of the rabbit, but large enough for their pellets to fit through. Note: There is a right and a wrong side to the mesh wiring. The wrong side has a galvanized coating on it that can develop sharp points that will injure the bottom of their feet. 1 X 1/2" mesh wiring is good for medium and dwarf breeds, and 1 X 1" is for larger breeds of rabbits.

Make sure that if you are housing your rabbits outside, that they are fully protected from the elements. Have tarp flaps for the sides when it rains, and to give shade on sunny days, and also some kind of roof to protect them also from the rain, sun and whatever else may fall from the sky. Rabbits especially young ones, are highly susceptible to the cold. Put in extra bedding so they can tunnel and nest, and make sure this is clean and dry. Drafts are bad too, make sure that if it is a cooler day that they are adequately protected. If you are a nervous, you may want to house them in your garage in their cages, or in an old barn or shed. I've lost several baby rabbits because they got a little wet. Water to young rabbits is a detrimental as it is to the gremlins. They don't multiply, nor become ferocious. But they do get chilled and die overnight. It is almost as if they catch pneumonia or some similar respiratory infection.

For the flooring of the cage, use absorbent materials like hay or sawdust. You can reuse this material when you clean it out for composting in your garden!

Feeding Your Bunnies

The Edibles for Your Rabbit

Alfalfa (Fresh (SHOWN ABOVE) or Hay), Apples (all of it), Barley, Beans and Bean Vines (NOT SOYEAN), Beets (top and root of regular, sugar, or mangel), Bermuda Grass, Blackberry bush leaves, Bluegrasses, Bread (dry or soaked in milk), Buckwheat, Cabbage (only feed some, too much causes goiter), Canadian Bluegrass, Carpet Grass, Carrot (root and top), Cereals, Cheeseweed (malva), Chicories, Clovers (except SWEET CLOVER), Coltsfoot, Corn, Cow Parsnip, Crabgrass, Dandelion, Dogwood, Fescue (red, etc), Filaree, Grains (not damp or moldy, Grapefruit (only feed some), Grass and lawn clippings (no insecticides), Hazelnut leaves, Jerusalem Artichokes (tops, stems and roots), Kale, Kentucky Bluegrass, Knotgrass, Kohlrabi (all parts ok), Kudzu, Lettuce (all kinds ok), Lespedeza, Meadow Fescue, Milk (fresh, sour, and milk products), Millet (foxtail or japanese), Milo, Napier Grass, Oats, Oranges (all parts, don't over feed though), Orchard Grass, Panicgrass, Parsnips, Peas and their vines, Plantains(they adore these), poplar, Potato (not the peelings or the sprouts or the leaves!!), Prairie Grass, Redtop Grass, Rhodes Grass, Root Vegetables, Rye, Rye Grass, Italian Rye Grass, Sheep Sorrel, Sorghum Grains, Sprouted Grains, Sudan Grass, Sumac, Sunflower Seeds and leaves, Sweet Potatoes (vines or the tubers), Timothy, Turkey Mullein, Turnips (all parts of plant), Vetch, Wheat, Willow

The Non-Edibles-These range from poisonous, to hard on their digestive system, to just having no nutritional value

Amaranth(SHOWN ABOVE), Arrowgrass, Bracken Fern, Bromweed, Buckeye, Burdock, Castor Beans, Chinaberry, Chockecherry leaves and pits, Comfrey, Fireweed, Foxglove, Goldenrod, Hemlock, Horehound, Jimson Weed, Johnson Grass, Larkspur, Laurel, Lima Beans, Lupine, Mesquite, Milkweed, Miner's Lettuce, Moldy Bread or anything moldy, Oak, Oleander, Pigweed, Poppy, Potato leaves sprouts or peels, Rhubarb leaves, Soybeans or vines, Spinach, Sweet Clover, Swiss Chard, Tarweed, Tomato Leaves

Special Notes on Rabbits and Their Feeding Habits

-Rabbits are very vulnerable to insecticides, feed only pesticide free foods

-They don't like oily foods

-Wash off the veggies before feeding them to rabbits, too much dirt eaten can cause them to become sick!

-Eating spoiled greens, yellow in color and/or fermented, can make rabbits very sick

-They require a regular feeding schedule-same number of feedings each day at the same times. Most feed 2x a day, evening and morning

-They are physically unable to eat fine ground foods, powders or grains.

-It is both normal and necessary for Rabbits to eat their waste that they produce at night. It differs from their daytime waste in that it is soft and light green. They get their necessary B vitamins from this process. If you preven this, they will die of malnutrition.

Salt Licks

Rabbits love licking off of a salt and mineral block. Do not feed iodized table salt! With a salt lick, this occupies the rabbits and prevents them from chewing and gnawing on their cages.

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