Ad libitum for rabbits
Ad libitum [...] is Latin for "at one's pleasure" or "as you desire" [...]
In biology it means
The "normal" weight of an animal (opposite to this of an special
The free access of the animal to water and food, allowing the animal
to self regulate its intake according to its biological needs.
(Source for all above is this article on Wikipedia)
For my rabbits that means:
They have all time access to all types of food they consume. Like in nature they can choose their intake self responsible. This applies to the time(s), the amount and the sort of food to eat.
For me that means:
- There will be food that is not eaten, which I have to put away.
- I have to "clean" more often (take the old food away).
- I can give them access to food, I have not sorted before. In example: I go to the meadow/lawn and cut 1 square meter of it. I do not have to look, if there is any toxic plant on it (disregarding of almost 10 very toxic plants, almost growing as decoration in the garden but not common on a lawn/meadow). The rabbits have enough to choose, and do not eat "improper" plants because of hunger.
- I am not responsible (directly) for their diet. Sure I have to overlook them (i.e. weight, behavior). And I have to guarantee they have access to all sorts of food, they need. But I have no sorrows like "Do I feed them enough?" or "Do they have a balanced diet?" or to estimate the calories they need per weight...
- at day, when my rabbits jump trough the yard, I must not feed them fresh greens (except additional at winters time), but there is almost any time some in their enclosure anyway
How I solve the Contra:
- Not eaten food: This means fresh food, because this may rot. Because I take the food from nature as most as possible, I have (almost) no cost wasted at this. In winter (when I have to buy more) I choose fresh food like beet, carrots and cabbage, and give it in the whole, so it will not rot in short time. (bamboo is a nice winters fresh food, by the way)
- Clean more often: Every time (morning and evening) when I bring new food, I check the old food and take away what is not eatable no more (i.e. what I would not eat myself anymore). Approximately once in a month I use the broom to collect all crumbs from the feeding place (included in the monthly "big cleaning" of the enclosure.
What sorts of food I give:
- fresh greens most varied I can, this means in most cases
- all kinds of grass, weeds, herbage I can find on the lawn, meadow or wayside (no much car traffic nearby!)
- leafs of bushes and trees, for example apple, cherry, hazel, plum, oak, maple, beech, willow, bamboo ...
- in winter carrots, cabbage, beets and likewise "bulb fruits" (is there such a word in English?) and "storage" apples (kinds of apple which you can store during winter in the cellar)
- seeds like from sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, flax, rape, thistle and cumin (without grains, because rabbits who eat grains do not fit cabbage feeding, they could get ill)
- pea chips (crushed down and dried peas, I buy them ready to feed), dried carrot chips
- loose hay in good quality (it have to smell pleasant and should include a bright variety of grass, herbages and weeds)
- (not as basic food) leafs of the vegetables I consume, like carrots, kohlrabi, radish, cauliflower, salads (I remove the outer leafs), sometimes the middle of an apple
- in winter I add dry leafs from cherry, apple and raspberry, (explicit this, because I have them in the yard) which I have dried during summer/fall and stored dry and clean until winter (one can find them in winter under bushes and trees too, but they have to be dry and clean, not muddy or pulpy)
To conclude, I live in Germany, so the points that apply to local flora may not suit worldwide.