Mulberry as Rabbit Food

By | June 30, 2016

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NZW meat rabbits eating Mulberry leaves.

NZW meat rabbits eating Mulberry leaves.

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.

Homestead overgrown with Mallow

To say my front area is overgrown with Mallow is an understatement.

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.

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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.

NZW meat rabbits eating Mulberry leaves.

NZW meat rabbits eating Mulberry leaves.

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.

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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.

Butchered Mulberry tree

This is NOT how Mulberry trees should be trimmed….ugh

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.

Colony rabbits under trampoline eating Mulberry.

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.

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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.

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Author: WMH Cheryl

I am living off-off grid with horses, goats, chickens, meat rabbits, llamas, dogs and too many Feral cats. Learning things the hard way and hoping my mistakes may help you avoid them while we prep for the future with a goal of being self sufficient.

10 thoughts on “Mulberry as Rabbit Food

  1. Cindy Fox

    Thank you for sharing this. My rabbits are picky about eating and I’m excited to try Mulberry leaves and a bit of bark.
    I’m in Iowa and it’s autumn with winter on it’s way so now is the time to get those Mulberry leaves and the bark.
    I have to purchase alfalfa, oat hay and botanical hays since I currently not growing any. I hope next year to to trying growing my own.
    I saw someone on Instagram with their rabbit eating a green plant. I’m waiting to hear back what kind it is and will pass it on to you. It was a potted plan so maybe it’s an alternative what you maybe able to do.
    Look forward to what your sharing and if I find information will pass it on.

    1. WMH Cheryl Post author

      Hi Cindy, yes please let me know what other fresh edibles you find that work. The rains have finally started here so the grass is starting to grow again. My buns are loving the available green grass and weeds again. They aren’t very interested in their pellets that I bring out as a treat. Mine also get alfalfa hay and wheat hay in the summer months when everything green here dies off. The Mulberry branches were a great way for me to be able to give them green “live” food. Unfortunately some of my escapee’s found the prickly pear cactus and devoured most of it, ugh.

  2. Pingback: Growing Mulberry Trees {and how to use the berries and leaves} | SchneiderPeeps

  3. Amanda

    I know this is an old post but thanks for the info. We just started breeding meat rabbits and I’m trying to find ways to cut down the feed bill already. We have a huge mulberry tree in our front yard but Hurricane Irma pretty much stripped it of all its leaves 😩 In a couple of months we should have new growth and I hope they like it. Do you know if you can feed them the fruit as well?

    1. WMH Cheryl Post author

      Hi Amanda,
      Yes, small amounts of the fruit are fine, just don’t go overboard. Same with other fruits like apples, etc. It should be a treat, with lots of other fiber in the diet. If any tree branches were broken off, the rabbits like to nibble and chew on the bark and wood. Helps keep their teeth in good shape.

    2. Cindy Fox

      I remember responding to your share when it first came out.
      I’ve been really excited about letting the bunnies enjoy the branches and mulberry leaves. We haven’t really ventured to any other edibles yet
      Just doing alfalfa, oats, hay, etc.
      I hope all is well and 2018 is the best for you.

      1. WMH Cheryl Post author

        Hi Cindy,
        I am glad the bunnies are doing well. I really need to get caught up on this blog. I have my rabbits free range now so it is interesting to see their habits and what they choose to eat. I need to do a new blog post about it. It is fun watching the babies hopping around. One doe still prefers the safety of the nest boxes in the trampoline pen so I get to watch those babies progression far easier then other batches of babies.

        1. Cindy Fox

          I’ll try to keep in touch with you when you have time to update the blog. I know life gets crazy busy.
          I think it’s wonderful some of your bunnies are free range and you get to observe when you can what their habits are. Some obviously prefer the safety of staying close and that’s cool too.

  4. Prasad

    Dear friend some one says mulberry leaves can cause abortion in pregnant rabbit, its true?. Please tell me.

    1. WMH Cheryl Post author

      I have never heard of rabbits having problems with Mulberry leaves. They are on the safe list and are used as a feed for many animals besides rabbits. I tried to Google your concern but couldn’t find any reports or studies. Where did you hear about it?


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