Rabbits play an important role here at Whitaker Gardens. Though we are dipping our toes in the water as a potential meat source, they have been providing manure for our gardens for some time now. Years ago, my great-aunt made the suggestion that rabbits would be beneficial to our homestead for their manure. She had decades of experience and I took her advice without thinking twice.
There are a number of benefits to keeping rabbits, but specifically I want to focus on their role in building up your soil. As we all know, your plants are only as healthy as your soil. In truth, when we fertilize a plot of land we are not feeding the plants but rather the millions of microbes in the soil.
Hazel, our buck.
There are a number of nutrients that are important for healthy garden soil but the main three are N-P-K, or nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium. Nitrogen plays an important role in green growth. Phosphorus is vital for plant growth, think flowers and fruit here. It also plays a role in root growth. Potassium helps the plants create protein and sugars, which in turn help plants thrive and stay healthy.
Rabbit manure is loaded with all three. It has more nitrogen (N) than most animal manure including cow, horse and pig manure. Rabbit pellets are also higher in phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) than most other animals as well, containing more of these nutrients than chicken and sheep manure.
Rabbit droppings are also considered “cold manure,” which means that they do not necessarily have to be composted in the same manner as say chicken manure. While chicken manure will burn plants if not thoroughly composted for a year, rabbit manure can be placed directly in the garden. Some people do worry about pathogens from the rabbit manure and chose to compost, which is, of course, perfectly acceptable. Rabbit manure is also odorless for the most part. Their urine can be a problem if not properly managed, but the pellets are not going to alarm neighbors.
Rabbits are quiet, clean livestock for the small homestead.
During the winter, we change the bedding in our rabbit cages every three days or so. We take the soiled bedding and put it directly in the garden beds. By the time you can finally stick a shovel in the dirt in early spring, the manure is already breaking down into amazing compost.
Rabbits are easy to keep. They are ideal animals for urban homesteads and those of us with limited space. They are very clean animals. They are extremely quiet and they breed … well, like rabbits. They can play an important role on your homestead if you allow them to.