This will be a short post because there is only so much you can say about feeding Mulberry leaves and branches to your meat rabbits. Of course you could feed some to a pet or fiber rabbit, but normally people raising pet rabbits are not worried about obtaining large amounts of free food stuffs to feed their pets. A nice treat of a few green mulberry leaves or a piece of branch to chew on would be fine for those pets also. Mulberry is a great rabbit food.
I only started my meat rabbit raising this spring (end of January to be exact). At the time the California drought had let up this winter so I actually had green GRASS and a HUGE amount of Mallow weeds covering the front of my homestead as you can see in the below picture.
I thought I would be set in weaning my rabbits off of their commercial pellets and onto natural feeds like grass, weeds (Mallow, dandelion, chickweed, etc), and hay when things dried up in the summer. My area of California gets about zero rain from mid May through to September or October (hopefully October because early rains in September cause millions of grass seeds to sprout and then dry and die when more rains don’t occur again until October or November, ugh). Well the only thing left in my front area currently is dry baked dirt, and a few spindly mallow stems. It is brown and ugly.
I started to feel bad about feeding mainly hay to the bunnies. I feed both Wheat Hay and Alfalfa hay since that is what I keep on hand for the horses and goats. Alfalfa is a “hot” feed so it increases internal body temperatures. That is great in the winter for horses but rabbits are known to over heat easily. I started to worry that feeding alfalfa to the rabbits could open me to heat stress. I don’t feed my horses alfalfa in the summer when it is hot.
I was trimming up my mom’s non-bearing Mulberry tree a few weeks back and started wondering if Mulberry was safe for rabbits. The internet said it was but I wanted to test it out first before sharing. So for the last month my rabbits have gotten big piles of Mulberry branches and leaves as additional food and they are loving the Mulberry almost as much as they loved the Mallow. Here is my previous post on feeding my rabbits Mallow in case you missed it.
Since the senior community my mom lives in has well over 100 Mulberry trees that they are responsible for pruning, they have given me permission to prune as much as I like. So a couple times a week I prune up some of the trees and take a truck bed load of fresh green mulberry branches to the homestead. I even get called by neighbors to come and pick up their pile of mulberry trimmings so they don’t have to try and fit them in their garbage cans. My goats also come running since this is currently their only source of “green” except for a few hard core weeds (sow thistles, etc) that remain green during our dry season.
Some of you may be saying “What the heck are you doing pruning trees this time of year?”. Good question. Normal trees shouldn’t be pruned because this is their active growing season. Alas, this senior community actually butchers these poor trees every year in late September or October before the leaves can start to turn yellow and fall because they don’t want the maintenance hassle of cleaning up leaves. Yes, I said BUTCHER these poor trees. They are literally just a 5′-8′ trunk after butchering. It is SO ugly! Next fall I will get a picture to add here.
Well I missed the fall picture but you can see here how these trees are butchered each year. Bottom line: this causes all the new growth in spring to be fairly skinny green branches with huge leaves and lots of drooping branches and sucker branches growing from the base. Hence why they have to be cleaned up by pruning suckers and drooping branches that are sticking into the road and resident’s sidewalks.
The rabbits are loving the Mulberry until I find yet another new source of “green” to feed them. My plan had been to be feeding fodder (post coming soon) by this time. Unfortunately due to the super extreme heat already this year, trying to keep my fodder growing well without a watering system on a timer has led to fodder failure for the most part. I am in the process of getting more shade areas by using shade cloths so that hopefully my fodder trays won’t dry out so much. So I am still feeding commercial organic rabbit pellets as a supplement every few days. The original buck of the breeding trio that I bought in January is NOT a good greens eater. Actually he doesn’t eat very many pellets either. So over the next year I will be selecting new breeding stock from the offspring that are easy keepers on the more natural feeds.
So for those of you looking for more natural and sustainable feed for your meat rabbits, don’t discount Mulberry as a good source of greens and wood for nibbling. The non-bearing mulberry has giant leaves and very flexible green branches. The green bark also makes wonderful cordage I recently discovered. Non-bearing mulberry trees are planted all over our area of California in housing developments since they are a fast growing shade tree. Most in town folks love to get rid of the trimmings because they don’t like having to cut them up to fit into trash cans or the green waste cans some communities provide.
I am always looking for other suggestions for abundant greens that can be fed to rabbits in our dry summer climate that has severe water shortages. Please let me know in the comments or if you have any questions or concerns about feeding Mulberry to your rabbits.