Gardening Articles: Health :: Garden Crafts

Rabbits for Gardeners

by Bob Bennet

Tons of clay, alternately sticky and bricklike, once lay where my vegetables and flowers now flourish. When asked for the secret ingredient in my now-workable, rich soil, I have an easy answer: my "homegrown" rabbit manure. Four times more nutrient-potent than horse or cow manure and twice as rich as poultry manure, rabbit manure is a more perfectly formed soil conditioner than any I have ever known.

What's more, raising chickens or other farm animals is much more difficult, and is even illegal in some communities. Chickens cackle and crow at dawn. Rabbits, on the other hand, are as quiet as a rosebush breaking bud. After raising rabbits for 28 years, I still don't know what sound they make.

In a space no bigger than your kitchen table, you can house a buck and two does. Each year they and their offspring produce at least two cubic yards of manure, plus 100 to 125 pounds of rabbit meat.

If the prospect of raising rabbits and eating them doesn't appeal to you, they also make excellent pets. Most of the following guidelines still apply, though the specific breed you choose is less significant. Of course, one or two pet rabbits won't make nearly as much manure as the family unit of three plus offspring.

Rabbit Manure

This stuff is remarkable. It comes nicely packaged in a convenient, round, dry, pelleted form. As a fertilizer, fresh rabbit manure is approximately 2% nitrogen, 1% phosphorus and 1% potassium. Use it fresh, directly from under the hutch. It won't burn plants. Use the small marbles to top-dress your lawn, or mulch roses, vegetables or flower beds. Or supercharge your compost pile and create an earthworm population explosion.

Rabbit Meat

Domestic rabbit meat is a high-quality, gourmet food. The all-white meat contains more protein and less fat, calories and cholesterol than any other meat. The retail cost equals sirloin steak. It's easy to find a buyer for the young rabbits you produce, and often the same people will barter or sell back to you dressed andpackaged rabbit meat ready for the freezer. Some rabbit raisers I know swap some rabbit for other kinds of meat.

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