Feeding Rabbits……for FREE!!!

Wen we first got our meat rabbits we did what most people do and went and got hay and pellets. Because  I wanted the best diet and well, because I’m cheap, I started researching safe plants I could to feed my bunnies.  I knew things like clover, dandelion, plantain and raspberry leaves were safe but I was curious about what else I could forage for. Rise and Shine Rabbitry has some excellent articles on feeding rabbits. Their article on feeding rabbits naturally can be found here. Rise and Shine Rabbitry has a ton of great articles on raising meat rabbits and I highly recommend anyone wanting to raise rabbits either for meat, show, or just for pets check them out.

I’m lucky enough to live close to the river and a hiking trail so finding safe greens is easy for me. I take my little clippers out with me on my walks and come back with a bag full of healthy greens. Most days my rabbits get a mix of raspberry leaves and branches, willow, mulberry leaves, grape leaves, plantain, dandelion,  nettle and clover. Since I’ve been feeding my rabbits this mix they have stopped eating hay completely. They look and act so much happier and healthier. Fair warning though, once they see you coming with their greens they will be lined up at their doors demanding to eat! 

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Knowing the health benefits of what I’m feeding my rabbits is equally important to me. I also want to stay away from using any type of chemicals or pharmaceutical medication if I can and especially since I’m raising these rabbits to eat. Luckily I found an amazing list of medical herbs on…you guessed it...Rise and Shine Rabbitry! I love this list of medical herbs so much that I have it printed out and saved in a binder for handy access. You can find this article here.  Dandelion, raspberry, and nettle are all beneficial for increasing milk production in nursing does. Plantain is a great starter food for young kits as it does not cause digestive issues. My babies always fight over the plantain first! Willow helps with intestinal issues and also is a natural coccidiostat.

When we first got our rabbits it was early spring and between the weather and the stress of moving they all ended up with snotty noses.  I took 4 capsules of echinacea ( found at almost any store) and boiled in a gallon of water. I then added it about 1/4 echinacea water to 3/4 their normal water. Echinacea is a stimulant for the immune system and also is a broad spectrum natural antibiotic. Within a few days I had happy healthy rabbits again. Echinacea is something I have since added to my herb garden and I add a few fresh leaves every now and then just to help boost their immune systems. 

I do still give the rabbits a small amount pellets to which I add some black sunflower seed for shiny healthy fur. I have also started to cut extra greens for my rabbits to dry for winter use. After all, I want healthy rabbits year around and besides, I’m cheap remember?  I may have to supplement the rabbits with some hay this winter but the more I can forage and dry for winter use the better. I highly encourage you to step outside and take a look around you. You may be surprised just how much FREE food you can find for your rabbits!

 

 

Our Journey into Silver Fox Rabbits

To be honest….I never wanted to get into breeding rabbits however I LOVE rabbit meat and this was the next step into expanding our journey into having a more self sufficient homestead. Billy did a ton of research into finding the perfect breed to fit our needs. I wanted something for meat and fur but my biggest requirement was it had to be a calm and gentle breed. You are probably wondering why was finding a calm and gentle breed important to me if I was just going to eat it. Well…..

I had a mini lop when I was younger and she was a spawn of the devil! She would attack, growl, bite and kick just by opening the her cage door. I remember when it came time to show her for  4-H fair standing holding my growling bunny in a death grip as she tried desperately to escape my grasp. I had on long sleeves and gloves and worked up quite a sweat. Of course my peers gave me plenty of space as they all stood around in their cute summer tops with their calm snugly bunnies. That was an experience I was not wanting to repeat!

Anyway, back to the silver fox rabbit, after doing my own research on this breed I agreed to add rabbits to our small homestead. Silver fox are a multi-purpose breed that has been around since 1925 and were the 3rd breed developed in the United States. They weigh up to 11 to 12 pounds dress out up to 65 percent of their live weight. They have a beautiful thick fur that resembles the pelt of a silver Artic fox hence the name, Silver Fox Rabbit. This breeds fur will actually stand up when it is brushed in the opposite direction which is a trait found in no other breed of rabbit. They produce large litter and make excellent mothers. As a bonus, especially after my traumatic rabbit past, they are known for their calm and docile nature!58419280_10214056376026207_7174113346021490688_n.jpg

Silver Fox rabbits came close to being extinct in the 1970’s. At one point they were listed among the 15 rarest rabbit breeds. While they are no longer facing extinction it was important to me to find pedigreed rabbits to do my part in preserving this beautiful breed. With the help of the internet I was able to locate 2 does and a buck fairly quickly. One of my Facebook friends actually had the 2 does and with a quick search I was able to find my buck about 45 minutes away. I also joined a few Facebook groups such as Silver Fox Rabbit Breeders, Backyard Meat Rabbits and Feeding Rabbits Naturally. 

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Providing my animals with the healthiest foods I can find is important to us. If I can grow them or find them in nature that is an added bonus for me. Not only will they eat healthier but it will save me money in the long run. This is a topic I will save for another post though as I need to get off of here and go take care of my rabbits!

 

Michelle

 

 

Natural heating pad, DIY Rice bags

Here in northern Indiana the past few days have been unbearably cold with temperatures as low as -18° with a wind chill of -45°.  I’m a cold weather person but this is a little to much…even for me.  We live in a drafty old house and one way we help fight off the chill is rice bags. My mom taught me to make these years ago and my family has never been without since. 

What are rice bags? They are simply cloth bags filled with rice. Yes, it’s that simple. Pop them in the microwave for 1-3 minutes and you have yourself a portable heating pad that will last about an hour. Super simple and cheap to make too.

These were life savers especially when my kids were little and it was cold out. They each had their own and before we left to go anywhere in the car they would heat up their rice bags and have some extra warmth on those especially cold days. Cold nights we slide them under the covers by our feet and before you know the bed is toasty warm. Sore muscles, aches, pains, and tension? Heat up a rice bag and let the warmth sink in. These are cheap and easy enough to make that everyone can have their own with no fighting over who’s turn it is. Bonus, you’re using very electricity to heat these up.

So now you’re thinking…OK already, just tell me how to make them! Well these can be as simple or as complicated as you want. Short on time or don’t like to sew? Fill a clean sock with rice (NOT instant rice!) about 2/3 of the way full, tie a knot in the end and… WALLAH! Instant rice bag!

Want to go fancier? Take any type of material from fancy cotton or flannel material to old t-shirts, sheets, or old towels and cut about a 8″ by 8″ square. If you want something longer for around the back of your neck than go 12″ by 6 “. Honestly size doesn’t matter. You can make these as small or as big as you like. Just remember it needs to be able to fit in the microwave.  Small 2″ by 2” bags also work great as pocket warmers.

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Sew all the way around the fabric leaving a small opening to put the rice in. Flip your bag inside out so the seams are on the inside. Fill about 2/3 of the way with rice and sew the opening shut. That’s it. You’re done!

What? You want to go even fancier? OK, we can do that.  🙂  Let’s add some herbs. and/or oils. You can add a small amount of herbs to the bag or add some drops of your favorite essential oil. Here are some of my top choices:

Lavender, Chamomile, Mint are great for stress, insomnia and pain

Dried orange peel is my favorite for calming and relaxing children.

Peppermint, lemon grass, and rosemary help with stiffness and pain.

Cinnamon sticks and cloves muscle spasms and pain.

Honestly you can put whatever mixture of herbs and/or oils you want just remember that once you heat up the rice bags the smell will intensify! 

Until next time,

Michelle

 

 

 

Why do I do it?

People often ask me how I got started on this crazy, wanna live naturally, do it myself lifestyle. The answer is simple…necessity. Have you checked out the “healthy” stuff in the stores? It’s always more expensive than buying the cheaper, full of chemicals options. I don’t know about you but I don’t have extra money to spend living healthy. 

I’ve always been a gardening, canning, walking through the woods to see what I can gather, make it myself kind of gal. I started to take things more seriously after two recent cancer scares. I became more conscious of what was on the labels of what I was buying. Reading labels on everything…and I mean everything…I bought has been a real eye opener for me let me tell ya! It gave me the push I needed to keep taking things “one step  further” and gave me the need to share with others what I already knew and what I continue to keep learning. 

I decided to blog about how to grow and/or forage for your own herbs and what to do with them once you have them. Yes, there will be step by step instructions along with some free recipes 🙂 I will share with you what I know about gardening, canning, freezing and dehydrating your fruits and vegetables. I will share with you some recipes on simple homemade beauty products you can make yourself. Basically, I will be blogging anything I can think of to help you live a more natural, chemical free, healthier, often times cheaper, DIY lifestyle. 

Until next time,

Michelle ♥

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