Got any livestock? I’ve been a bee keeper for about 15 years, but I’ve been anxious to push the suburban neighbors’ patience and add chickens and goats. In the mean time, however, I’ve settled on…rabbits.
First of all, the story of how I got into rabbits. We have this friend – a neighbor who lives a few blocks down. Her kids play with our kids, and they have a zoo at their house. Cats, dogs, birds, and until recently, a big, buck, dutch rabbit. When I found out about “Bunny Bunny” (this is a house full of girls), I blurted out “Hey, can I come by and get some rabbit poo?”. As Novella Carpenter says in her book “Farm City”, rabbit poo is the holy grail of manure. My friend was a bit taken aback, but said “yeah, sure, any time” and we left it there. Three days later, my neighbor had evidently reached a moment of pet overload and called me, frantic. “Do you want this rabbit? I’ll give you the rabbit, food, bowls and two cages, just PLEASE COME GET IT!”
That’s how I got into rabbits.
I now have a doe, “Lola” (“Bunny Bunny” has since been re-named “Bugsy”, so those of you familiar with “Space Jam” will get the connection). She comes with a more incredible story. I had been surfing Craigslist for a while looking for a doe to start breeding for meat rabbits. I was waiting until I could build a suitable cage for the love of Bugsy’s life before I picked up another. But driving home one day from teaching a 4-H gardening class, I saw a dark blur hopping in the light brown grass of a park a few miles from my house. At first I thought it was a cat, but I know the hop of a rabbit. I slammed on the brakes and backed into the parking lot of the park and ran to see a small black rabbit hopping about, nibbling on the lawn. I stepped. She noticed, then went back to munching. I stepped again, and she made a small hop away. We kept this dance up for about 30 minutes before finally I found myself squatting down just feet from this little girl. A quick grab and she was mine.
I’ve found that I love having rabbits. Lola is not quite old enough to breed, so no meat quite yet. But there are still some real benefits to having a rabbit or two.
- Meat. Rabbit meat is higher in protein and lower in fat than even chicken. It’s all white meat, and I think it tastes great. We have four boys and they can put away some food. I’m looking for an alternative to store-bought chicken that is economical. Medium breeds can have anywhere from 4-6 in a litter, whereas larger breeds can have 8-10. According to some information I’ve seen, you can butcher a rabbit at 12 weeks, and you can breed your pair a couple of times a year. That’s a lot of meat on a small budget.
- Manure. As I’ve already said, those little Cocoa Puffs are magic. Rabbit manure is higher in NPK than virtually every other common manure. However, it’s very mild and in some cases can be added directly to your crops (though I prefer to put it in the compost pile).
- Compost. Rabbits are a great way to speed up your composting. Before I had rabbits, most of my “green” waste – scraps from leafy vegetables, tomatoes, onions, etc. – went to the compost pile to slowly decompose. And as I’d weed the garden and flower beds, many weeds or leaves would go into the compost as well. Now, my rabbits “pre-compost” my green waste. I feed it to them. There are some things they won’t eat, but most of it they’ll devour. Then the digested waste gets dumped in the compost pile as manure, and my compost finishes a bit quicker.
Think about adding some rabbits to your collection of livestock. Just watch out for the sharp, pointy teeth.
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