Rabbits are the greenest livestock you can raise on your homestead! The other day, while I was sifting Bunny Berries, I was thinking that the only by-product of rabbits that is not green are the polypropylene bags that the feed comes in. They aren’t very biodegradable but they are re-usable. I have used them for sandbags, putting wood scraps in for kindling, covering for the outside rabbit hutches in the winter and as small tarps, I have seen many people make some nice re purposed shopping bags and even raincoats from these bags, and then it hit me, I had an idea! I turned them inside out (to have a nice clean white bag) made a stencil and sprayed one side of the bag with BUNNY BERRIES and The other with RISE AND SHINE RABBITRY filled them up with 12+ gallons of the best manure/ fertilizer to sell as bagged manure to local organic gardeners.
But rabbits are also a green choice if you eat meat. So if you are going to eat meat, raising animals at home is the greenest way possible! So for a great sustainable healthy meat supply start raising rabbits today! They’re efficient in the amount of food required for the amount of meat produced compared to other larger livestock. With the larger livestock you are getting into much larger greenhouse gas emissions issues. One doe might have seven or more rabbits, each of which yields 2 to 3+ pounds of dressed meat. So that’s roughly 20 pounds of meat per litter, and a single doe might have three to six litters a year depending on your breeding schedule. Rabbits come in a convenient meal-sized package, so you do not need to use electricity to freeze the extra meat for later use, like you would for larger livestock! Store it on the hoof so to speak.
A domesticated rabbit will eat garden vegetables and even dandelion leaves (Check the FEBURARY archives for SAFE FOOD LIST FOR RABBITS) and so much more! It is possible to raise and feed 2 does and a buck with nothing but what you can produce or find on your own land. Hay is the mainstay of a healthy rabbit diet and is locally grown in most states (You can also grow your own on a small scale). Rabbits also enjoy eating parts of vegetables humans don’t want to consume like carrot tops, radish tops,peelings, and beet tops and much much more. By feeding your rabbits local you can reduce emissions and support the local economy. They’re quiet and won’t disturb the neighbors so no noise pollution.
It may seem mean to kill a rabbit but it is far better than buying an inexpensive, prepackaged steak. Here’s why! Many people don’t think about the environmental impact or an animal’s quality of life when buying processed meat, such as beef and pork from large-scale, crowded, commercial operations that rely on antibiotics and hormones. Rabbits are usually raised locally without medication and antibiotics and can be purchased at a local farmers market thus create less food miles!
Other ways rabbits could be considered green-
The Cages- Can be made out of many green recycled materials such as pallets, reclaimed wood, ect. I use metal cages and they may not be the greenest material when they are made, but the wire cages are built to last. A cage that is well-maintained will last 20+ years. After that, the floor will need replacing but the sides and top are still usable long after the original floor wears out. So that is less in the landfills and less money wasted
Waterers and feeders- Made of plastic, ceramics, and metal and with proper use and care they can be used for decades. Also in a lot of old rabbit books they have ideas to make these items out of recycled metal cans and soda bottles
Waste products- In raising rabbits we do create some waste. Water may be our most wasted product so why not pour the water into a five gallon bucket when adding fresh water and changing out the old water and use it to water your plants (unless you add cider vinegar to your rabbits water), In the winter water is the most wasted. Warm water is still used to thaw out frozen crocks. Frozen water removed from the bowls. On cleaning and sanitizing days we may use an additional 20 gallons . That water is used for irrigation on our pasture and gardens that feed our rabbits. The highest volume waste product that we produce is rabbit droppings, or what we like to call Bunny Berries, Bunny Pearls, or Rabbit Treasures. These are far from a waste product see our post on THE BENIFITS AND USES FOR RABBIT MANURE
See! Rabbits are GREEN!
Anyone who comes to the homestead and comes within eyesight of the gardens has asked ” WOW! do you use miracle grow” little do they know they just opened up a can of worms (worms love rabbit manure also!). Because now they get to discuss all about rabbits, the conversation my start about the many benefits and uses of rabbit manure but more will come. I am determined to spread the word of raising rabbits, and all the benefits that go with it. That’s how I came up with our slogan – Raising Meat Rabbits To Save The World!
Rabbit manure is the best manure for your organic gardens! It will increase poor soil by improving soil structure and also improving the life cycle of the beneficial microorganisms in the soil. Rabbits are very good at producing an excellent source of manure. It is rich in nutrients and very simple to use. One doe and her offspring will produce over one ton of manure in a year.
Rabbit manure is packed with nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and many minerals, lots of micro-nutrients, plus many other beneficial trace elements such as calcium, magnesium, boron, zinc, manganese, sulfur, copper, and cobalt just to name a few.
N – P – K VALUES – Rabbit 2.4 -1.4 -.60 Chicken 1.1-.80-.50 Sheep .70-.30-.60 Horse .70-.30-.60 Steer .70-.30-.40 Dairy Cow .25-.15-.25
As you can see the nutrient values of farm manures and how they measure up and rabbit manure really shines! Rabbit manure also doesn’t smell as strong as other manures making it easy to use.
Nitrogen(N)- Rabbit manure is higher in nitrogen than sheep,goat,pig,chicken,cow or horse manure. Plants need nitrogen to produce lush,green growth. Nitrogen helps plants grow greener stronger ensuring that the vegetation reaches its full potential. This is perfect for all those salad greens you want to grow or the early phases when growing tomatoes, corn, and other vegetables.
Phosphorus(P)- Rabbit manure is also higher in phosphorus than the other manures. It helps with the transformation of solar energy to chemical energy. Which in turn helps with proper plant maturation. Also helps plants to withstand stress. Phosphorus in the soil encourages more and bigger blossoms helping with flowering and fruiting also great for root growth.
Potassium(K)- Potassium helps with fruit quality and reduction of disease plants will not grow without it. Plants use potassium as an enzyme to produce proteins and sugars.They also uses potassium to control water content.
More than just the awsome NPK values of rabbit manure it is loaded with a host of micro-nutrients as well as organic matter that improves soil tithe, drainage, and moisture retention, and the friable texture of the soil. Vegetable gardens, pastures, and flower gardens all will flourish from the use of rabbit manure. It helps retain soil moisture and soil structure. Rabbit manure is one of the few fertilizers that will not burn your plants when added directly to the garden and can be safely used on food plants. Grab a handful from under the hutch and use it as is or work it into the topsoil. Rabbit manure at first glance many seem to be less powerful than commercial fertilizers but in reality they are better and healthier for your garden providing food and nourishment for your plants as well as earthworms and other beneficial animals and microorganisms in your soil were as chemical additives can kill all soil life. Some manures have to be aged so they do not harm your garden, Bunny Berries can be used fresh as is. This is also a very organic way to add nutrients back to you soil.
HOW TO USE-
Use It As Is – “Bunny Berries” – Because rabbit manure is dry,odorless,and in pellet form makes it suitable for direct use in the garden. It can be applied any time of the year and helps give your plants a boost during the growing season or as a storehouse of nutrients when applied in the late fall and winter. Because it is considered a cold manure there is no threat of burning plants and roots. So use it as a top- dressing, mulch around plants, bury in the ground under transplants or just working it into the soil right from the rabbit. This is the easiest way to use your Super fertilizer! Grab a handful and add it to your garden today. The Berries are a time release capsule of goodness for your soil. This is the way i use it the most in my gardens, so the next time you find yourself knee deep in rabbit poop just add it to your garden!
Compost It – Composting rabbit manure is an easy process and the end result will be ideal fertilizer for gardens plants and crops. I only compost the rabbit manure/urine/shaving mix i get from my drop pans in the stack a hutch setup. Simply add to your compost bin or pile and add in equal amounts of dry straw or shaving to the manure (Unless like me you only compost the shaving/poop mix-the shaving have all ready been added plus the urine starts the heat up fast!) you can also mix in your usally composted materials grass clippings, leaves ,kitchen scraps. Mix with a pitchfork and keep the pile moist not saturated you may have to cover it with a tarp. It will take any were from a few months to a year depending on how often you turn it. I have heard some of my composting friends complaining that their compost pile will not heat up. The poop/urine/shaving mix is the best compost activator i have seen. Add it, turn it, and it will heat up! If you can get your hands on even a small bucket of this mix every now and then you and your compost pile will be in nitrogen heaven as far as composting rabbit manure goes rabbit manure is nitrogen on steroids it will get your pile hot and breaking down at accelerated rates .Those friends with the cold compost piles are usally here on cage cleaning day with buckets and shovels. Now if i could just figure out to have them do all the cleaning chores!
Manure Tea – “Bunny Brew” – Rabbit manure tea is the colored water that manure has been steeped in and is full of nutrients making a concentrated liquid organic garden fertilizer! The nutrients from the manure dissolve easily into the water were it can be added to sprayers or watering cans. To make the tea, put a heaping shovel full of rabbit manure in a burlap bag or porous cloth with the four corners tied together. Put the bag in a 5 gallon bucket and fill with water. Allow it to seep in the warm sunshine for a week. Remove the bag and suspend it above the bucket until it stops dripping. You can speed up the process by putting manure directly into the bucket with the water and let it sit for 3 days, stirring daily. Then put some burlap over the top of another empty bucket (making a strainer) and pour thru the cloth to strain out the solids. Suspend the solids in the makeshift strainer above the bucket until it stops dripping. In both processes the solids will not have released all their nutrients to the tea, and they will still be a beneficial soil amendment (put into the garden or compost pile). If you have many plants, you may want to use a big barrel by using the ratio of 1 part manure to 5 parts water. To use the Tea, dilute it until it is about the color of kitchen tea, which should be about one cup of the concentrated manure tea to a gallon of water. Use it to dip every new plant before you transplant them. Dip only the root ball, until bubbles stop coming to the surface (also do this to trees and shrubs before transplanting). Also wet furrows before planting, and fill holes with it before you plant trees or shrubs. Wait until it is all absorbed into the soil allowing all the nutrients to permeate the nearby soil of the plant you are planting. Making and using manure tea is a great way to give your garden crops the extra boost they need for optimal health and growth. Give once a week as a fertilizer and throw out your miracle grow! Experience will tell how often to use and how much. Now that you know how to make bunny brew, you can use it all the time to give your plants that extra boost!
Growing worms- I am not going to go into this in to much detail in this post as i am writing up a post on benefits of raising worms and rabbits together for sustainability. Although fresh rabbit manure is considered one of the best organic garden fertilizers it is also the best worm feed and bedding. You can grow and raise worms directly in the rabbit droppings under cages, or hutches, or making boxes and adding the manure to those. Rabbit manure along with wasted feed makes some of the best worm feed there is. When properly cared for red worms eliminate unsightly manure piles, odor and fly problems. The best worm to use is the red worm or red wiggler(Eisenia fetida). You should have about 200 to 400 worms per square foot of surface area. To start off add bedding material to the bed. Bedding could be any combination of carbon material-shredded paper,decomposing leaves, hay, straw, peat moss, ect. Remember that worms cannot eat dry rabbit manure so maintain moisture level so the bedding is damp. Worms do not like salt and rabbit urine contains salt so you must remember to remove wet urine spots regularly adding them to the compost or directly to the garden. Keep adding a thin layer of your carbon material of choice to cover the surface of the bedding and loosen the bedding occasionally with a fork do not use a shovel(worms do not like being cut in half).The rabbits and worms will do the rest. You can remove and harvest worms and replace bedding every 3 to 4 months, if the worms are doing their job. Join The Rabbit Revolution! Subscribe to our blog and get the updates as they are posted. The Benefits Of Raising Worms With Rabbits For Sustainability will be a good one! I been working on this one for a long time!
Making Methane- This is something I will be experimenting with this summer with a 55 and 30 gallon barrel the 30 gallon nesting inside the 55 gallon barrel with a slurry of rabbit manure, shavings and urine mix being anaerobic composted to make methane. I will be trying to run a lawnmower engine hooked to a alternator to charge my battery bank stay tuned for this one! I will be posting the information on making and using this unit soon!
Hope this answers all you questions on rabbit manure and its benefits as well if you have any question or other ideas please let me know I will post them or add them to this post!
You may ask why meat rabbits? I will go over the basics for why I believe everyone should be raising meat rabbits on the homestead. I could go on forever about the benefits of raising rabbits for meat, but for quick easy convenience I will only list ten reasons why everyone should be raising rabbits. Then I will cover basics of housing, feeding, and breeding information. I will eventually get into writing more about each of these subjects in more detail, and will be writing a part 2 to this series answering any question you have on part 1 and processing your rabbits, tanning pelts, and using the best fertilizer know to man, rabbit manure! Will be posting updates on the goings on at the rabbitry! Show you our hillbilly solar powered rabbitry setup for the off grid rabbit production and more. Join The Rabbit Revolution! LIKE US ON FACEBOOK for daily updates and rabbit information.
1. Rabbit meat is very high in protein and very low in fat and cholesterol
2. You know were your meat comes from and the type of life the rabbit had, no medications or hormones just good tasting healthy meat
3. Rabbit are easy to raise! even working a full time job 2 does and 1 buck will only take a few minutes in the morning and evening and time on weekends to clean cages,even the youngsters can do the chores
4. Rabbits can be raised in country and suburban areas(could even be raised inside).They are quiet and clean no one will know you have your own meat supply
5. Rabbits have a high reproduction rate each doe should raise at LEAST 36 fryers a year(average 6 litters,6 fryers in each litter)and could produce even more by raising more breeding stock out of the best of your litters
6. Rabbits can be raised many different ways-colony raising,natural feeding,pasture raising ect. the rabbits will adapt and flourish with good management
7. Rabbit are easy to process takes only 15 minutes a rabbit from cage to freezer (or grill)Rabbit can be cooked many ways, any chicken recipe can be changed to use rabbit in place of chicken
8. Rabbits are very efficient-they will produce 6 pounds of meat on the same feed and water that a cow will produce 1 pound of meat.Your rabbits will be ready to butcher in 8 to 12 weeks with a 50%up to 65% dress out from live weight
9. Rabbits will grow well on food items that do not compete with food items grown for human food.Rabbits are a inexpensive way to supply good healthy meat for your family
10. Rabbits have other by-products good for the homestead.The best manure know to mankind,awesome pelts for blankets,hats, gloves and other crafts,ok that was 10 and i could list 50 more ,I could also write pages on just the added benefits of rabbits other than meat!
Housing For Rabbits-
There are many different types and styles of hutches or cages. The housing needed will depend on the climate, location and the amount of money you have available. It is not necessary to go to a big expense to build hutches. I have seen some of the best rabbits raised in hutches made from second hand lumber and some old wooden boxes. Hutches can be built to be used outdoors or put in any shed or outbuilding in your backyard as long as they are in a dry draft free environment. You should construct hutches that will allow for easy feeding, watering, and cleaning. Clean cages mean clean rabbits! Most rabbit cages are made of wire, this provides easy cleaning and they last longer than cages made of other materials. The floor wire is usually 1/2″ x 1″ and sides and tops are 1″x2″ wire. This is what they use in most commercial rabbitries.
The most common outdoor hutches are usually made of wood and wire, some with just a wooden frame with a wire cage hung inside. It is important to have protection from all predators even dogs and cats. Proper ventilation is a must when they are raised inside or out, but make sure the rabbits are not exposed to wet winds or drafts. Rabbits can withstand cold weather better than hot weather. Once your rabbits start to grow they will need to be separated make sure you have extra space available. Cage size for medium sized meat breeds are 24″W x 36″L x 18″H or 30″W x 36″L x 18″H for breeding cages, cages for bucks or young replacement breeding stock can be housed in a 24″W x 24″L x 18″H or a 24″W x 30″L x 18″H. Rabbits can be housed and raised many different ways as in a colony setting were multiple rabbits are bred and raised in pens or on pasture in rabbit tractors. It is up to you to decide how you want to raise your rabbits check out other breeders and how they raise their rabbits.
Feeding rabbits is probably the most important part of raising rabbits, also the most argued. It is what controls the health and condition of the rabbit (even good genetics in rabbits cannot override a poor feeding program). Most people who begin with rabbits overfeed their herd. Feeding once a day is enough only pregnant does and growing kits need extra feed. Always feed on a regular schedule a rabbit becomes accustom to a set feeding schedule and will become agitated and restless when the schedule is not kept. A constant supply of water is a must and should be changed daily. In the winter try to change frozen crocks as much as possible, at least two times a day, once in the morning and again in the evening. When you get your rabbits be sure to ask what feed they are using try to get some of the same brand from a feed store or buy some from the breeder. If you plan to change brands make sure to mix some of the new feed with the old brand for a couple weeks before switching over to the new feed completely. Any change of diet to rabbits should be done slowly! Rabbit pellets are usually dark green in color and has the nutritional requirements to produce a healthy rabbit and excellent growth in young. Check the labels and feed as manufacturer recommends. Pellets are easy to feed and requires less labor than natural feeding or pasture management. Pellets have changed a lot in my time raising rabbits and not for the better. More corn and soy and less alfalfa based feeds are sold, most all products are waste products from mills, most are GMO grown and round up sprayed, so read your feed labels and choose your feed for your rabbits informed. There are still some good rabbit food companies out there!
Grass hay is one of the most important item in the rabbit diet, it should be fed in unlimited quantities. A rabbit fed only commercial rabbit pellets dose not get enough long fibers to keep the intestines in good working order, the long fibers of hay push things thru the gut at the right speed. Hay is also good for preventing intestinal impaction caused by ingested hair. Alfalfa or clover hays should be fed restricted as they are to rich in protein and calcium to be free fed. Fresh vegetables help keep the intestinal contents hydrated, which make them easier for the rabbit to pass. Rabbits love fresh, fragrant herbs right from the garden. If your rabbit shows any signs of stomach problems, such as runny stool take away the pellets and veggies and feed only grass hay or even straw until stools harden up.
Green feeds are the natural food of rabbits. These are rich in protein minerals and vitamins, being soft and tender they are easily digested. They should be included in your feeding program. Rabbits can be fed lots of types of greens, including lawn clippings, cabbage, kale, safe weeds (do your homework lots of good weeds for rabbits out there), waste from your vegetables from the garden, prunings from fruit trees, sweet potato vines and lots more. Any green feed not eaten should be removed from the hutch daily. Roots may be grown and used fresh or saved for feeding in the winter months such as carrots, sweet potatoes, mangles, rutabagas, turnips and beets. This is just the basics of feeding rabbits, I will do a lot more on this subject in my future posts!
Rabbits of medium size (most meat breeds)are ready to breed when they reach the age of 5 to 8 months of age-some breeders go by weight not by the age of the rabbit. Many young bucks will attempt to breed as early as 3 months it is best to separate them at this age, you do not want does that young to get pregnant the young will be small and there will be few kits in the litter, it also stunts the growth rate of the doe itself. Just as important do not wait to long to breed your does or the first time they will be hard to breed. While doing your chores in the rabbitry if you notice a doe trying to nose and scratch her way into other cages or rubbing her chin on things like feeders, and crocks she’s ready to breed.
When looking at the does sexual organ if her vulva is moist and bright pink to a reddish color all the way to the tip, she is ready to breed. As the cycle is waning the vaginal opening becomes a bright purple. Rabbits are induced ovulators, meaning ovulation does not occur until the actual mating by the buck. Always take the doe to the bucks cage. Does are very territorial about their cages and will attack the visiting buck and can cause serious harm to the buck. A ratio of one buck for every 10 does is necessary, the buck may be bred up to 7 times as week effectively. The doe usually accepts(lifts her tail and raises her back end)the buck will mount her vibrate and then he will fall over to the side or even backwards, some bucks are very dramatic! Within a minute he will be right back up to repeat the mating. I usually return the doe to the bucks cage for a re breeding 6 to 12 hours after the first mating. This improves conception rate and increases the number of kits in a litter. Keep accurate records of the day you bred the doe! The does gestation time is 29 to 32 days, usally right on day 31.
You should test her for pregnancy between the 10th and 14th day after breeding. The best way is to palpate by checking the lower abdomen of the doe with your thumb and forefinger checking for nodules about the size of a marble. The other way is to take her back to the bucks cage and if she runs around growling and trying to avoid the buck she is most likely pregnant. This method is inaccurate as some does will breed again and will already be pregnant or refuse to and will not be pregnant.
The gestation period is the time from mating to kindling and is 31 to 32. The nest box should be put in the does cage on day 27 from when the doe was bred (remember those accurate records a good litter of kits on the wire and you will not be happy). Fill the nest box 1/2 to 3/4 full with nesting material such as straw (my favorite), hay, shavings, dry leaves ect. I also put some nesting material in the cage so the doe can pick up some to add to her nest box. The doe will make her nest and by the time she kindles will be pulling fur. Watch expectant does often especially if they are first time mothers, If she has her kits on the wire you can put them in the nest box as long as they have not been chilled, if they have been chilled they should be warmed immediately and put back into the box and covered with fur. If the doe has more than 8 kits you should foster them to a doe with a smaller litter, unless you know the doe to be a good producer of milk.(A doe only has 8 teats so only so many kits can eat at once).
After the doe has kindled and seems to be mellowed out it is time to check the nest box, give the doe a treat (I usually give a small piece of apple or banana) and while she is enjoying her well deserved treat check the litter, remove any dead or stunted young and put the nest box back in the cage. 8 good healthy kits have a better chance and will grow faster than a litter of 12 to 14 weak kits. It is best to check the nest boxes every day the first week and every other day after that. By checking on the kits you will see if they are eating buy their plumpness and full tummies. A doe only nurses her young one or twice a day for only 2-5 minutes. If the doe is not feeding them, place the doe in the nest box and hold her until the kits start to nurse.
The kits are born naked and blind they will grow very fast, in about 2 weeks their eyes will open and in 3 weeks will start to leave the nest box. You can wean the kits from 4 weeks at the earliest and at the latest 8 weeks depending or your breeding cycle. It is important to keep the doe and kits on full feed and plenty of fresh water to keep them all healthy. The young rabbits should weigh 4+ pounds at 8 weeks of age now it is time to slaughter and select the fastest growers for your replacement breeding stock, or to move them to grow out cages.
This has only been a basic of raising rabbits. I plan on doing a few more of this series the next will be on slaughtering – selling- and using everything from your rabbits! Also answering any questions anyone has. Thanks for reading! Rise And Shine Rabbitry, Raising Meat Rabbits To Save The World! Join The Rabbit Revolution! Like Us On Facebook and subscribe to our blog page to get the newest post as they are posted!
Rabbits are quiet, grow fast, have large litters and can be fed on produce from the garden, or by foraging safe weeds and other safe food sources, or just good quality hay (They will grow faster on pellets or a balanced natural diet)
Rabbits a great high protein, low-fat, white meat, that is great tasting, easy to slaughter and no freezing needed. Just keep them in the cages until ready to put on the plate.
Rabbits have awesome pelts to make blankets, or clothing, or a great barter item.
Rabbits also produce one of the best manures for the organic garden.
During the growing season from half to three-quarters or maybe even more of a rabbits diet could be grown by the homesteader(depending on how much work you want to do). Also by feeding garden wastes, weeds, leaves, berries etc, you could provide all the food needed for a small-scale homestead meat supply.
Composting takes from 6 to 12 weeks to make your garden waste usable as a soil amendment, Rabbits and Worms can do a far better job and making a better product in ten days or less! So garden waste becomes rabbit food, which them becomes an equal weight of worm food in a day or two, which then becomes worms and their castings in over 90 days. The worms increase to become a source of highly nutritional poultry, waterfowl, and fish food in about 3 months. Leaving behind a mass of plant food (worm castings) that becomes more plants, more saleable product, and more rabbit food. All in the same time it takes a compost pile to become a lower quality of soil amendment without the added poultry, and fish food benefits. Now that’s Self Sufficiency!
I will be writing about all this information in future posts! This is the basis of my book that I have been working on for some time. This website I plan to load with all the information need to grow, breed, and butcher rabbits on your self sufficient homestead!
If you have any questions or ideas please let me know email me or add in the comment section
RAISING MEAT RABBITS TO SAVE THE WORLD!
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