Happy, Healthy, Snuggly Rabbits!
Look for all of the Blue highlighted* areas of today's text, they will link you to further areas of study....
Next, we studied the benefits of whole grains as a natural fiber and protein source and we began with some whole organic barley &/or oat supplementation. These were purchased from the natural food co-op - Azure Standard, out of Dufur, Oregon. Their free delivery is helpful and we still use them as a source for some of our grains a personal foods, but we are always looking for more natural, direct from the farm options, preferably, at a lesser cost, and from farms we've chosen to support. My Great Grandfather used to raise 200+ meat rabbits when he was young and shared that he and his brother would feed them grass they harvested in the morning & evening and sometimes they would supplement with mangle beets, carrots, turnips and other feed crops that were raised to also naturally supplement the diet of their dairy cows. This started us on alternative feed approaches. We were already sharing with them our organic banana peels, juicing pulp, herbs, tree branches/twigs, berry leaves and more from around our homestead.
When we began our current venture with angoras it was almost depressing trying to find a quality pellet. Sadly, now many pellets have GMO grains or offal as primary ingredients - learning what we have, this is no longer an option of consideration. (Things really change a lot in just a few years!) We weren't the only family on this mission and found some great resources as encouragement. Rise and Shine Rabbitry is very thorough and has even co-authored a book about the many ways to meet nutritional requirements of rabbits NATURALLY~What a find! Here's a tidbit:
- "Most of us started homesteading because we wanted to take control of what goes into the meat and other food that we eat. While it’s a whole lot more work, I think the only real way that we can do that is to completely ditch commercial mixtures and make or grow our own animal food from scratch. I truly think that feeding a variety of different foods is what is going to work in the long run, not some commercially prepared mixture based on some scientific guidelines which may or may not be accurate for the animals we are raising."
The challenge, most would immediately point out, is that the protein ratios may not be met for angoras as they raise short-haired rabbits....That's why Mom was even happier to find Joybilee Farm. You can read all about the awful health issues that GMO feeds brought to their rabbitry and how they learned, with the aid of their Veterinarian, to overcome them naturally! How did they start?...
- "We actually threw out the bags of conventional rabbit feed that we had, and switched all our rabbits to our own Joybilee Farm mix of whole grains, peas, flax seed, and sunflower seeds, with fresh herbs, and weeds added to their diet in the summer, and grass/alfalfa hay and oat straw in winter."
Just a note: we've found our rabbits will not eat whole peas.
With all of this excellent information, one must consider that the rearing of animals, in the past, was primarily on natural sources of the homestead whereas today, feed store pellets are the quick and easy 'go-to' choice. (These manufacturers are also the subsidizers of your local 4-H and FFA groups.) This is it's own trial and any changes you attempt will take time and must be approached with careful observation, understanding there will be challenges while you learn.
You will also, at times, find it hard to source quality stock. Our experience has been that litter numbers have dropped, in just these 4 years, for many breeds. Remember to ask questions about litter size, if there are low numbers, you may have a rabbit with internal issues. There are so many variables in this world of angoras but if your desire is to raise them as naturally and sustainably as possible, our desire is to Biblically support & encourage your endeavors to soundly husband your pets and livestock.
To develop our own mix we consulted MANY sources; Joybilee Farm, Rise and Shine Rabbitry, Small-scale Livestock Farming by Carol Ekarius (borrowed from my local library), researched videos of Grass-based Farms, and read, read, read. Our suggestion for you is, do the same. We are simply providing starting points and generalizations. Keep in mind, these ratios are approximate may not work best for you and your hay and raw herb combinations. Additionally, during the winter, when live herbs aren't as readily available - although blackberry leaves seem to be constant- we include dried herbs in their rations as well. Comfrey, nettle, horsetail, oat straw, and raspberry leaf are a few examples. We also offer many of these herbs for sale during growing season. Additionally, we use bits of garlic and a high quality Apple Cider Vinegar in their water when needed and occasionally offer them our extra water/milk kefir and kefir grains; all excellent for increasing nutritional uptake and their internal system.
- (2) Whole Barley- Rich in protein, vitamins and minerals; is currently sourced locally, directly from Farmer Dale** . He is beyond organic...no chemicals, just great care and at only $10 for 50lb - well, I haven't found this elsewhere.
(1) Whole Oats - also sourced from Farmer Dale and it's the same price and great quality! He also offers Barley and Oat straw with the heads on them and they are an excellent feed variation to include for your rabbits.
(1) Flax Seed/Sunflower seeds - this varies on what we can acquire locally, but is a great source of natural fats and oils for coats. Sourced locally when available or Azure Standard. NOTE: Now that we are entering Fall/Winter I've noticed the rabbits eating this first. I have modified the ratios to include more as it's obvious they're preparing their bodies for the upcoming winter weather.
(.15) Black Strap Molasses - a binder with our DE, Kelp and Bran that adds a rich and vital source of vitamins and minerals. (This is an excellent, natural source of iron for anyone with anemia.) It is best diluted with a bit of warm water for better mixing and, of course, you should not mix this in large batches. It can mold easily and must be kept cool. This is why our batches are made every 1-2 days. Sourced from Azure Standard. Note: This is NOT the feed store molasses made from GMO sugar beets!
(.1) Diatomaceous Earth - rich source of minerals and excellent way to make the internal system less appealing to internal parasites. Sourced from Azure Standard. (One bag lasts a LONG time.)
(.1) Kelp - this is your true source of sea minerals that helps all organs. Great salt replacement on your dinner table too! Sourced from Azure Standard. (One 50lb bag lasts a LONG time.)
IMPORTANT: I have recently learned that Thorvin says it's kelp is "not recommended for rabbits", although they do not clarify why or in what quantity. I have yet to contact them and learn why.
(.2) Unprocessed Miller's Bran - another source of fiber, 'B' vitamins and minerals. Sourced from Azure Standard.
(.5) Whole Wheat - Another source of protein, vitamins and minerals. Sourced from Azure Standard.
Remember, we started by just introducing whole barley with our pellets and have grown from there. Take these changes at the pace that works best for you and your angoras; consider the whole animal and how the Lord designed them to eat...this will always help you with your natural rearing endeavors!
**If you'd like to get in touch with Farmer Dale, just call him here: (360*749*3323). He, his brother and their families are working to maintain their Toledo farms naturally, for future generations. They know a thing or two about the ins and outs of growing fodder for animals as well - that is a primary goal for most of his clients.
When you contact him, please be certain to tell him you learned of his quality grains and straws from Trickle Creek! Not because we'll be compensated in any way, purely because we assured him we'd spread the news of his quality products and want him to know we did!
To how great a degree a good man will be merciful; he has not only a compassion for the human nature under its greatest abasements, but he regards even the life of his beast, not only because it is his servant, but because it is God’s creature, and in conformity to Providence, which preserves man and beast. The beasts that are under our care must be provided for, must have convenient food and rest, must in no case be abused or tyrannised over. – Matthew Henry