I am a rabbit breeder. I want to start feeding my rabbits
hay on a regular basis. I also want to use the hay for bedding
during the coming winter.
I live on a 40-acre parcel of land with a whole lot of fields.
We had somebody put our grass into square hay bales two or
three years ago. I have been using that lately. But I don't
know what all is in this stuff. I'm sure some mouse has left
it's droppings somewhere on it, and it may contain a poisonous
plant or one with thorns that can hurt my rabbits, etc. I
don't want to mess with all that. Plus, the old hay probably
doesn't have much nutritional quality left in it. I would
buy hay, but just a small bag costs a lot, and it would be
a waste to use for bedding.
So, I was thinking I'd put a small plot of hay near our house
(which I could monitor), build a fence around it, let my bunnies
hop around in it, and use it for my bunnies' needs. I was
thinking I'd use Timothy hay, alfalfa hay, grass hay, and
We live in northwest Arkansas. There are a lot of rocks in
our ground, too.
Do you think this is a good idea? How should I start? Where
do I get the seed? When would be the best time to start planting?
Is there a book I can get?
Thanks for reading New Farm and for the question. Feeding
good quality hay to any forage-eating animal is an important
part of its diet, including rabbits. I can’t tell from
the information you supplied how many rabbits you are feeding
and whether or not they are pets or for meat production.
I’m not an expert on rabbits, but I do know a little.
Rabbits should be fed high-quality grass hay. Timothy, oats,
and barley hay work very well, as can many other grasses.
Try to avoid alfalfa and most legumes, since the protein levels
may affect the long-term health of the rabbits. (This is more
of a concern for raising pets since their life expectancy
will be greater.) You should also avoid the use of wheat straw,
since it is a poor source of nutrition.
Putting rabbits on pasture is beneficial from many points
of view. If you have several rabbits, they develop more natural
social behaviors when on pasture, the feed quality is improved,
and the exercise is helpful. There are also management issues
to consider: Rabbits dig, can be exposed to diseases, and
can be susceptible to predation. Even with pasture, your rabbits
will need hay for the winter months or days when the weather
prevents them from eating on pasture.
Check with your county extension agent to find a seed source
in your area. The type and quantity of seeds you need should
be available nearby. If you can’t locate them locally,
email me and I can get you a list of mail-order suppliers.
I don’t have any specific book titles to suggest, but
here, again, your Extension office can supply printed materials
from the university on many of these topics.
Good Luck with your venture.
You might want to check out Barnyard
in your Backyard: A Beginner’s Guide to Raising
Chickens, Ducks, Geese, Rabbits, Goats, Sheep, and Cattle
by Gail Damerow (Storey Books, 2002) in our online bookstore.
Have some questions to Ask Jeff? E-mail
him directly at email@example.com.