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"Old-fashioned" ways to feed rabbits. Price of feed too high? It's time to check out alternatives.

This article, which appeared in our November, 1919 issue, not only addresses homegrown feed, but also treats the "old" European method of feeding. In addition, it adds a historical perspective modern homestead rabbits should find valuable.

Grow your own rabbit food. Perfectly safe if fed with discretion, and Nature's tonic from April to November.

It is absurdly true that not one-third of America's rabbit breeders realize the enormous value of green food for rabbits. When we contrast the fact that every feeding bulletin in print by English authorities on rabbit keeping are unqualifiedly in favor of green food as an indispensable part of the daily ration for rabbits, with the fact that many breeders in America question with all seriousness the advisability of feeding green food to rabbits at all, and allow their rabbits to go month after month without a single taste of green herbage (which is the natural food of rabbits), we have a condition which requires nothing but a trace of ordinary horse sense to untangle.

Successful, profitable, and intensive rabbit culture has been practiced in England for over 35 years, and rabbit raising is an institution over there. In short, rabbit keeping is an industry in England, and not a fancy.

Green food is the basis of everyday rations for rabbits in England. It is the natural food for rabbits. It must be fed with some discretion, we admit, but any food must be given with judgment, as far as that goes. Stock bucks, does in kindle, nursing does and fattening stock may all be fed green food with safety, providing a small allowance is started with, and the ration is increased gradually, and plenty of variety is observed.

A slight looseness of the bowels may be observed when feeding heavily on green food. This can be counteracted by a regular supply of hay, which should always form part of the daily ration. Oats or oat substitutes should be included in the daily diet, in order to keep the flesh trim and add weight.

Not only are the root crops, like Swedes, carrots, mangels, chicory, etc., invaluable for the green food which their foliage provides during the summer months but their roots are indispensable for winter use. With these crops nothing is wasted.

Dandelions are better than any tonic which money can buy. Plantain is also a tonic plant, and greatly relished.

Shepherd's purse, little known in this country, and comfrey, are two plants without which no rabbit keeper should be at any time. These are Nature's own cures for looseness of the bowels and diarrhea, and can be fed whenever stock is affected in that manner with reasonable assurance that a cure will be affected. A small patch of comfrey or shepherd's purse will be worth many dollars in summer time when young stock is attacked with diarrhea and needs relief immediately.

Colossal (or thousand headed) kale provides an enormous amount of winter food, and the imported variety sometimes grows to a height of five feet, with luxuriant wide spreading foliage. Dried and put away for winter, it is a welcome addition to the monotony of hay and oats.

Giant chicory should be planted early in the spring, and will produce the entire summer. The foliage is succulent and grows very quickly, and as the outer leaves are pulled off and fed, new shoots take their place and grow rapidly. The roots are also fed, and make splendid winter food.

Carrots are indispensable. Every rabbit keeper should devote a part of his garden to the larger varieties, best suitable for rabbit food, and as the rows are thinned out, they can be fed whole. For winter, nothing can take their place as a change in the rabbit's diet.

The garden Swede, or rutabaga, is about the most useful crop generally sown, as it can be planted early in spring and will produce an abundance of large leaves or stalks. The roots are fed in winter in the same way as carrots and mangels.

Mangels are ideal food in winter time. They grow to an enormous size, sometimes weighing 15 to 20 pounds, and are saturated with sugar juice, which supplies the needed moisture. The foliage can be fed in summer, and with a large supply of mangels or sugar beets for winter, your stock is in clover.

Swiss chard can be grown anywhere and is one of the best green foods. The green shoots can be fed early in spring, and will provide green food during the entire summer. It is full of nourishment, easy to grow, and particularly valuable to the city gardener.

One of the most important things to remember in sowing any of the root crops for the best results is the importance of thin sowing, as the plants take up a great deal of room. The drills should be at least a foot apart and the seed dropped in these at the distance of three to six inches.

And another important thing: do not feed your rabbits any green food upon which bug poison has been sprayed. Many of the deaths resulting from feeding cabbage and lettuce leaves, which have been attributed to green food, are directly traceable to bug poison and not to the green food. Bordeaux mixture and other bug poisons are death to rabbits.

Potatoes are among the best of the fattening foods, but should never be fed raw. Boil them until quite soft, skins and all, and dry off with meal. They can be fed four or five times weekly. If they are not all eaten at one meal, the remainder should be thrown away as colic will result from feeding the remainder when cold and sour.

Green leaves having a medicinal effect like comfrey, shepherd's purse, plantain, etc., can be kept for the winter, according to the English writers, in the following manner, which keeps them fresh and arrests decay.

A tight wooden box, similar to a cracker or soap box, is used. Spread the green leaves in the bottom, making a layer about four inches deep. Over this sprinkle common salt about half an inch thick. Spread another layer of leaves over the salt, and then another layer of salt, until the box is filled. Press the contents of the box down with weights, which may be removed after about three weeks. The leaves will be found to remain green nearly all winter, and are an undoubted treat in winter time. They should be fed to adult rabbits only, and the salt should be wiped from the leaves before feeding.

In conclusion, green food is a boon to rabbit keepers if the proper kind is grown, and care used in feeding. The seed costs little, and sunshine, good soil, and rain does the rest.
COPYRIGHT 1996 Countryside Publications Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Meek, M.W.
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Jul 1, 1996
Words:1129
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