Introduction: Growing Your Own Rabbit Feed
As anyone who has visted my blog at Little Tassie Prepper would know, I breed many animals, one of these being rabbits. I felt that it would be wise to investigate other methods to feed my rabbits over the winter months. When it is summer my rabbits usually live on grass and other grown produce, with some rabbit pellets thrown in. During winter I have little option but to feed the rabbits almost entirely on pellets. I decided that it would be much better for the rabbits health and well-being if I used fodder to provide them with a better diet. In addition, I considered the cost of purchasing pellets. A 20kg bag of pellets costs me around $30, which lasts around 2 -3 weeks. A 20kg bag of barley casts me around $18, and lasts around 2 months. This is an obvious saving of money. The above reasons have led me to create my own fodder system. My experiments info fodder growing were inspired by Quartz Ridge Ranch.
My system is intended to be able to take up as little space as possible, be affordable, and not take much effort to maintain. I would not suggest that my system is better than any other… it is just one that I found worked well for me. The items required are:
2x 2 or 3 tier, indoor, mini-greenhouses. I have included an image above to demonstrate what I mean.
1x watering can
1x 20kg bag of Barley grain
1x 10ltr bucket (which I call my soaking bucket)
12x 10ltr storage containers (which I call my growing containers)
Measuring cup (to get the right amount of grain. It doesn’t have to be a real measuring cup, as long as you use the same type of measurement).
I specify 10 litre containers here, yet it isn't really important. I have experimented with 8 litre up to 28 litre containers. I have found that 10 litre containers are better for my purposes as they produce a nice amount of fodder for my rabbits, can be easily divided, and produces an dense structure of grains. Using larger containers produces less dense structures, yet they have great growth and may be easier to remove from the storage containers. I would recommend you experiment with sizes.
I have my mini greenhouses in the front room of my house, where they get plenty of sunlight. Having access to sunlight will increase the nutritional value of the fodder. I find that I can fit around three 10 liter containers per shelf.
The whole process begins with the soaking of Barley grains. This is the step which will aid in activating the grains to grow. Into the large soaking bucket I place twelve cups of barley grain, and pour around 5 liters of water on top. Basically enough water to cover the grains and a few centimetres over that (this will ensure that when the grains swell up they are still covered by water). I then place this to the side to soak for at least 48 hours.
Two days later I am ready for the next stage. I drain the water from the soaking bucket so that there is almost no water left. I then take two 10 ltr containers for growing the fodder and I divide the soaked grain into these two containers. I level out the contents so that the grain is evenly distributed and then I place the growing containers into the mini-greenhouse.
Now that the soaking bucket is empty I rinse it out and refill it with 12 cups of grain and 5 liters of water. Once again placing it aside for 48 hours.
Every second day, when I create a new batch of soaked grain, I work on the stages of the fodder process. This whole process begins works on the idea of creating two containers ever two days, which is a more efficient use of my time, so I would recommend this to you. The process usually takes between 10-15 minutes.
Two days later it is time to get busy. Once again I drain the water from the soaking bucket and divide the contents into two growing containers. These are then placed into the mini-greenhouses. I once more rinse out the soaking bucket and fill it with 12 cups of grain and around 5 litres of water (sufficient to cover the grain with a few centimetres extra). Now it is time to add some water to the already growing fodder grains. I do this by filling the watering can and I pour enough water into each of the growing containers to cover the grain and let it sit and soak in for around a minute. You can usually hear a slight hissing or popping sound as the water works its way into the drying grains. I then drain the water out of the growing container.
This step will provide valuable water to the grain to allow it to grow. Without adding water the grain will germinate, yet there will be no significant growth. I also gently mix the contents around in the container, ensuring that there is a more equal distribution of grain to gather sunlight. I would only do thise if the germinated grains are not locked together in their growth.... so normally only in the first six days.
I go through the above process process until I have filled all 12 growing containers with grain. By this stage we should be at day 12 and the first two containers you prepared on day 2 should be ready for use. I normally remove the fodder from the container and wash the container out as you do not want to encourage mold growth which can be harmful or fatal to animals. I then divide the fodder to share between my rabbits (I use an old saw to cut the fodder in to sections).
This process then continues, with the stages of soaking the grain, draining the grain to allow it to grow, watering it every second day till it has grown enough to be used by your animals.
If you are interested in seeing the process to the creation of this system, my inspiration for the system, or just curious about my animals, please check out my blog at Little Tassie Prepper.