Tuesday, November 08, 2005

growing great wool

Image hosted by Photobucket.com my philosophy for gardening goes something like this..."feed the soil to feed the plant". My philosophy for growing healthy angora wool goes something like this...."feed the soil to feed the plant to feed the rabbit to feed the soil" It is a very simple circle. The plants go in one end of the rabbit..the dingle berries come out the other end...and go back to the garden, to grow healthy plants to feed the rabbit! A few months ago I had emailed Claudia from Countrywool and asked about the amount of kale that one could safely feed to rabbits without worrying about causing toxicity over time. She had explained to me that it would be safe to feed small amounts, as large amounts introduce goitrogens that inhibit the synthesis of the thyroid hormone thyroxin. This goes for most members of the brassica family; cabbage, cauliflower, rape, mustard etc. They all contain high levels of oxalates (the salts of oxalic acid). Rather than eliminating them (after all- they are highly nutritious and a fun treat), I decided to limit the offerings to 1 or 2 meals per week. But the question remains, how much is too much? I embarked on mission to determine what would be a safe amount. This proved to be very confusing. I found some articles that stated flatly NEVER feed kale, and others that stated you could never give a rabbit too much! What's a mother to do?? I have completed a list of what I have determined to be ok for my rabbits. I have tried to use common sense, and also taken into consideration what rabbits would do in the wild. When left to their own, they consume mainly a diet of tough fibrous plants and lots of bark. Lots of bark means lots of chewing, and that is good for the back teeth. Due to the fact that mine have never been in the wild, I always introduce a new plant slowly and in small amounts, and watch the poop carefully before I decide if I will feed that particular plant again. One thing that makes a lot of sense to me is that fresh greens are mostly made up of water...so a good rule of thumb is to watch the amount. I usually serve about 1 to 2 cups (depending on the size of the rabbit) every 2nd or 3rd day. I have read that some people will take away pellets when feeding greens for a day. I have always had pellets available....but I do watch the amount. Another big factor is HAY. I always supply free selection of hay...I think of it as being as important as water. I really love feeding my rabbits fresh greens...because THEY love it! I also enjoy the fact that I can take a stroll through the garden, picking tidbits, before stopping by to spoil my bunnies....I get my kicks by giving them a "taste test"...seeing what they take to first. After a while, you can tell who likes what the best. Lately, Jack really looks forward to his Grapevine. I think he loves sniffing it out of the pile, and running about with as if he found a prize. Image hosted by Photobucket.com All in all the bottom line for me is keeping my bunnies happy and healthy-- cause happy and healthy bunnies grow great wool!

6 comments:

Claire said...

When I was little I fed some silver beet to our friends guinea pigs. They were dead the next day. I now think I must have fed them Rhubarb leaves instead :-( I never said anything becuase I didn't realise until years later.

cyndy said...

:-(...that is a sad story Claire.
Beets contain oxlaic acid too.
I once saw a bear consume 3 entire rhubarb plants, and wondered what ever happened to him. I think a lot has to do with the body weight of the "consumer"....the little guinea pigs maybe had to much.
Here is a good link about rhubarb and oxalic acid...
http://www.rhubarbinfo.com/rhubarb-poison.html

claudia at countrywool said...

Nice dissertation on feeding greens!!!!! Jack's back looks great :)

cyndy said...

Thanks Claudia-

The only vet's opinion that I was able to get was that he "sees more rabbit's gut problems that are related to pellets than he does that are related to greens"....but it still leaves the question of how much can build up over time.

Leslie Shelor said...

Common sense and paying attention to what works with your own animals is worth all the books and advice you can get from anyone else. The proof is in happy rabbits; yours sound very lucky!

cyndy said...

Hi Leslie-

I sure hope my rabbits are happy...keeping them happy is my way of saying "thank you" for the beautiful wool that they let me take! :-)

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