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RAISING RABBITS ON WIRE

NZW Doe with 10 kits

I raise my rabbits on wire in wire cages. The floor wire is 1″ x 1/2″ and sides are 1″x 2″. I have always had happy, healthy rabbits. I was ready to write up a post on raising rabbits on wire floors, but  Shiny Satins Rabbitry has a few great posts on this subject and I could not agree more with what they have written. So go and check it out!

I know this is controversial subject and some rabbit raisers will disagree with wire floors. I do feel that some breeds of rabbits would do better on slatted floors such as Rexes as they are known to have less fur on their hocks and more prone to sore hocks.

These links were shared with the permission of Shiny Satin Rabbitry

http://shinysatins.weebly.com/wire-floors.html

 

http://shinysatins.weebly.com/wire-floor-research.html

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RABBITS AND REDWORMS- Sustainability Above and Below!

Creme D Argents over worm bin

WORMS AND RABBITS TOGETHER

When raising rabbits if you have a few cages or a large rabbitry you can raise, grow, and harvest worms and compost under your rabbit cages or hutches. Raising worms under your hutches this will help control the smells and insects that can be a problem with the acculmated waste under the cages and hutches. The worms will reuse the rabbit manure and wasted feed from the hutches and turn it into a dark, nutrient-rich, finely-textured humus

Raising rabbits and worms together works so well because the nutrients in rabbit droppings and the wasted rabbit food and hay contains the perfect mix as a food source and as a bedding for the worms.  You can also raise the worms in compost bins or vermicomposting bins using the rabbit manure as a top dressing, for worm feed, and also as a worm bedding. Keeping worms under the rabbit cages also allows you to raise worms for fishing bait, chicken food, vermicomposting and this adds another bartering item you have on your homestead. This helps you to produce another potential source of income from your homestead and also improving your sustainability and another great fertilizer for your gardens.

Growing worms with rabbits is easy, I am in no way a worm expert. This post is what works for me in my rabbitry.  I have found that the best kind of worm to use under rabbit cages is the red worm or Eisenia fetida. They are also known as brandling  worms, manure worms, tiger worms, panfish worms, trout worms and many  other names. But whatever you call them, they are the best choice of worm for under your cages and for composting.

I started by building my worm beds underneath my existing rabbit hutches back in the early 80s.  I dug a trench under the hutches extending 6 inches out from the cages on all sides. Digging the trench about 12 inches deep to make my beds. This worked fine and I raised MANY worms for fishing bait using the trench system.

The rabbit cages should be at least three feet above the worm beds. I have also constructed beds under hutches and cages from 1x12s or 2x12s and putting them on their sides and screwing together to make a raised worm bed under the hutches. This can be built very inexpensively as the wood frame can be made from scrap lumber or pallets. Just try to make the worm bed about 12 inches deep. Remember to make the worm bed itself about four to six inches wider than the hutch or cage area to catch all the rabbit droppings, urine, and wasted feed. You can use the pit or trench system as mentioned earlier. It is best if you can add a base layer of sand or gravel for drainage this is weather you are using either the trench or raised bed method.

Placing 5 to 6 inches of bedding material in the bottom of the worm bed is sufficient for starting the worms. I use a mix of carbon type materials such as shredded paper or cardboard, leaves, hay, straw, and peat moss. Most worm growers prefer peat but I like what I can get around the homestead for free. I have found that the worms will general only use the top 6 inches of bedding unless certain circumstance’s make them go deeper, such as cold weather.

Moisten the bedding with water and let your rabbits do their thing until the surface is covered with 1 to 2 inches layer of rabbit manure. Mix the rabbit manure and bedding material together and wet it down. Rabbit manure is considered a cold manure, but by mixing the carbon and nitrogen materials it will generate some heat due to the natural composting processes, so keep mixing the bedding and lightly water it once a day for about 2 to 3 days.

On the third day, do the hand test by putting your hand into the bed to feel for heat. If the bedding material is hot, keep mixing it once a day until the heat is out of the bedding, Make shure it is cooled before you begin adding your worms into the beds. When the bedding is cool to the touch, you can add your worms. They should disappear immediately into the moist bedding material.

When starting the worm beds you should begin with 200 to 300 red worms per square foot of surface area.  You can add less worms, but they will not  work as effectively at turning the manure into compost. But they will reproduce, and soon you will have pleanty.

If you are raising the worms to sell, do not use more than 200 worms per square foot to allow the worms enough nutrients, room, and food to grow large. People will be lining up for you large trout catching  worms!

Worms cannot eat dry, rabbit manure, you will need to maintain a moisture level so the bedding is just damp enough to squeeze out a drop or two of water when you squeeze it.  Sprinkling the beds with water a few times a week will help to keep the bedding moist, but remember to skip by the areas under the automatic drinking valves, water bottles, or water crocks as they are usually already wet enough. In the summer time, you may have to water once or twice a day if the top of the worm beds dries too fast.

To maintain the worm beds you should add an additional inch of leaves, straw, or hay a few times each month and mix the beds with a pitchfork from top to bottom to avoid packed bedding. I will remove the urine spots from the worm pile with a shovel about once a week. This prevents the beds from getting too salty and hot for the worms. I add this urine soaked bedding to my compost piles. Leaving the urine spots in the worm bed eventually leads to a bad odor and insect problems.

After about six months you can start harvesting worms and saving the great fertilizer your rabbits and worms have made. I do this about once a year, I will remove half of the bed, save some worms and add the rest to my gardens. Then add new bedding just as you did when starting a new bed. Over the next few weeks the worms will move to the new bedding, and the old compost can be removed and sold, bartered, spread over a garden, or set aside to use later.

Do not harvest any worms for at least a few days after harvesting, and be sure to check the temperature and moisture conditions the following day. If the material is too dry or is heating up, water and mix again for the next few days.

If you plan to use your worm castings as a soil amendment, make sure that the castings are kept slightly moist and protected from sun and bad weather when storing. Poor handling, such as storing in areas leached by rainwater,  will result in a loss of the nutrients.

THE RED WORMS LIFE CYCLE

Red worms are hermaphrodites meaning that each worm is both male and female. It still takes two worms to mate as they can not reproduce on their own. When a red worm is sexually mature you will see the bulbous gland around its segments this is called the clitellum it looks like a swollen band about a third of the way down the body. It takes 3 months for a newly-hatched red wriggler to attain sexual maturity. Adult red wigglers secrete a number of egg cocoons after  mating, and after an incubation period of about 21 days, between 4 and 6  juvenile worms hatch from each cocoon. The cocoon is a small yellowish grain almost looking like a grain of rice.  As soon as they are hatched the worms are ready to start their diet of rabbit poop. The hatched worms first appear as a tiny thread like white worm. After about 8 hours they start to gain their hemoglobin and change to a pale pink then turning to a brick red color. It takes up to four months for a healthy and well-fed red wiggler population to double in number.

VERMICOMPOSTING

Vermicomposting is the process of using worms to convert organic matter to compost. This process is as old as time. This is happening in the forests and pastures every day naturally. By using worms under your hutches you are creating a controlled system of vermicomposting and you can harvest the worms for bins and the awesome worm castings.

One of the greatest pioneers in vermicomposting was a Michigan biology teacher Mary Appelhof who started the idea of home vermicomposting. In 1972, she realized she wanted to continue composting in the winter months despite living in a northern climate, she started with 1 pound of red wiggler worms, or Eisenia fetida, from a bait dealer. She created a shallow bin in her basement, loaded it with bedding and added her food scraps. By the end of the winter, they had consumed 65 lbs. of garbage and produced worm compost that resulted in impressive vegetables in her garden. Her book “Worms Eat My Garbage”  Is a must have book for the homestead library!  This is a great way to continue your soil production through the winter months. I have a few bins in my basement for holding my worms and composting in the winter, this is my added insurance in case all my outside beds die off in the winter.

WORMS AS CHICKEN FOOD

I have mentioned using your worms as fish bait and vermicomposting, But remember your chickens LOVE worms! It gives them  a great protein intake. I sometime have problem’s with my Silkies digging up the beds and eating lots of my worms . You can harvest a few worms and toss them inside the coops or runs for them to eat off the ground, or put them in bowls. But there’s also a better way to feed worms to chickens. You can choose to dry them, and then grind or crumble them. You can dry worms by placing them under an electric light bulb, in a oven, or inside a greenhouse. When they’re dry they are ready to be crushed or ground up, you can then add the crushed worm pieces as an additive to your usual chicken food supply. By drying the worms they are easier to save as a winter food source. Red Worms as a organic chicken feed can be a good idea for you to promote on your homestead. Even to sell and saving you money on chicken feed. Worm is about 80% protein.

If I have missed anything or you have questions, please leave some comments. I update my post all the time when I get new ideas or information. Join the Rabbit Revolution! By subscribing to my site and checking us out on Facebook

THE BENEFITS AND USES OF RABBIT MANURE

Anyone who comes to the rabbitry and my homestead will see our many gardens. I have been asked many times what is your secret. You must use miracle grow they say. I just chuckle, thinking they just opened up a can of worms, and worms love rabbit manure! And now they are going to hear it! Now they get to discuss all about rabbits any there purpose on the homestead, the conversation will 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 many benefits that go with it. That’s how I came up with our slogan – Raising Meat Rabbits To Save The World!

Rabbit manure is one of the best manures 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 many 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= N- 2.4 P- 1.4 K- .60, Chicken=N- 1.1 P-.80  K- .50, Sheep=N- .70 P- .30 K-.60, Horse=N- .70 P-.30 K- .60, Steer=N- .70 P-.30 K-.40, Dairy Cow=N- .25 P-.15 K-.25  As you can see by 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 a lush green growth. Nitrogen helps plants grow greener and stronger helping the plant reach its full potential. This is great for all those quick growing salad greens! Great for the early growth of tomatoes, corn, and many 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 growth. Phosphorus 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 structure, drainage, and moisture retention. Vegetable gardens, pastures, and flower gardens all will benefit from using 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. So why use chemical additives that are know to 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!