The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Homemade rabbit feeders

Homemade rabbit feederIn addition to providing water for one's rabbits, providing a reliable source of food is of course a necessity.

We started with one rabbit in the beginning and just used a dish to provide food for the first couple of weeks.  Since the rabbit was pretty young when we got him, this worked OK until we could come up with a better solution.  However, I wouldn't recommend it for long term feeding.  When food is in a dish for a rabbit, there tends to be a lot of waste due to spillage and spoiling.  For whatever reason our young buck decided that his food dish would also make a suitable litter box.  This was obviously not a sustainable situation.

Most feed stores provide ready made rabbit feeders for anywhere from $5 on up.  Most have a screen lined bottom which is supposedly there to allow some of the dust from the feed to fall through.  Dawn has read in some library books that this helps prevent respiratory issues with rabbits.  I'll believe the experts' advice for now, but I've found that the screened bottom can also contribute to spoilage of food due to allowing moisture in from the bottom.  We just dealt with Hurricane Isaac here and the one rabbit that has a store bought feeder had much of his food spoiled from moisture being blown up through the screen.  Our other two rabbits have feeders that I've made out of materials I had around the house.

Dismantling a trialerWhen Dawn brought home two new rabbits donated to our experiment by our new neighbors, I quickly needed to come up with some feeders for them.  I already had some ideas on building feeders inspired by Richard Proenneke and his mastery of making complex items out of used fuel cans in the Alaskan wild.  Richard (Dick) Proenneke retired to the Alaskan wilderness in the 1970s when he was in his 50s and has been an inspiration of mine.  He built a cabin with simple hand tools and very few materials which were not natural and native to the area.  (He lamented in his journal that he used some plastic sheeting under the moss roof of his cabin.)  He built any number of useful items from the spent fuel cans that were ubiquitous in the Alaskan wilderness as a result of their use by the bush pilots.  If you've seen the Coleman fuel cans in Walmart (and in the first picture in this post), these are very similar to but a bit smaller than what he used to make pots, pans, ovens, storage containers and many other items. 

I usually have a few cans around due to using a Coleman stove at my uncle's cabin in Mississippi.  I started out with a well cleaned fuel can for the first of two homemade feeders.  With a sturdy knife, I cut across the wide part of the can about 4 inches up from the bottom, and then down to the bottom from the corners.  A couple of pieces of scrap tin and a rivet gun, and I had what you see in the picture above.  On the inside is a piece of tin that is not visible which directs the food to the trough, but also more importantly doesn't allow feed to collect in the corners and spoil or rot.  I'll have to see if I can get a decent picture of what I am referring to, but it works pretty well to keep the feed from spoiling.

Working with reused metal sidingTo replace the bowl we had been feeding our first buck with, I used some other tin since I didn't have an empty fuel can handy.  We had recently been scrapping out an old camper that was given to me.  (See the second photo in this post.)  We will be using the frame to build a loft here for storage, but we also ended up with a hefty supply of metal siding and roof material.

I started out with a flat sheet of metal siding from the camper.  I then started making cuts with an old dull wood chisel and a hammer with plywood underneath.  You can see it start to take shape in the photo, under the watchful eye of my labrador named Anna.  This material made for a very sturdy feeder once the rivets were in place.

All sharp edges on both the fuel can and scrap tin feeders are rolled over to prevent injury to the rabbits.  Also, the feeders hold quite a bit more feed than the store bought feeders, which helps reduce the daily upkeep we have to do with the rabbits. 

Metal rabbit feederWhile I could have easily purchased several feeders from Tractor Supply for a total of about $20-25, there is a bit of pride that comes from recycling some old scrap material into a new life as a feeder.  Also, it allowed me to spend the hour or so I would have spent driving to the store around the house being creative and working with my hands.  I am still a "spare time" homesteader due to a full time career, but I strongly feel that what makes a successful homestead is the ingenuity, creativity, and drive of the folks that give it a go.  People like Richard Proenneke (and of course friends like Anna and Mark) continue to be an inspiration of mine.  We haven't yet made a break from the rat race, but simple things like building a rabbit feeder give us a taste of the self sufficient life.

Shannon and Dawn will be sharing their experiences with raising meat rabbits on Tuesday afternoons. They homestead on three acres in Louisiana when time off from life and working as a sys admin permits.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Very cool. I've been making rabbit and chicken feeders out of PVC pipe, and they've turned out pretty cheap and very useful. I'll have to get some photos posted!
Comment by Darren (Green Change) Wed Oct 31 18:25:10 2012
Darren --- You might want to enter our homemade chicken feeder contest. I'd love to see your designs either on your blog or in my inbox!
Comment by anna Wed Oct 31 18:51:01 2012

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