Gardeners and Rabbits Declare Détente
Bring new life to your garden by making a home for rabbits and using
what they leave behind.
Gardeners and rabbits have a long history of being enemies. Why just look
at Mr. McGregor and Peter Rabbit. Yet rabbits can actually help a garden to
prosper and grow just by their very existence. To put it delicately, owning
rabbits will mean you never have to purchase manure. In fact, rabbit manure
is four times more nutrient-rich than horse or cow manure, and twice as rich
as poultry manure. Some communities prohibit raising farm animals because
of the disturbing noise animals such as chickens make. Rabbits, on the
other hand prove to be good, and silent, neighbors.
In order to start the wellspring of manure, all you need is one male rabbit,
called a buck, and two female rabbits, called does, plus a hutch for them to
live in. Each year the three original rabbits and their offspring will
produce at least two cubic yards of manure.
Rabbit manure comes in a convenient dry pellet format-no fuss, no muss. It
contains nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, ingredients essential to robust
soil. Simply remove it from under the hutch and mulch it into beds, or add
it to your compost pile.
In addition to providing manure, rabbits can also bring you some extra
income. If you purchase angora rabbits, you can collect their "wool" by
brushing them and sell that for profit. Raising Angora rabbits is a time
consuming venture, though, so do not enter into it lightly.
The other way to earn money from your rabbits is to sell the meat. Granted,
this is not such a great deal for the rabbits, and some rabbit owners may
prefer to keep them as pets and manure manufacturers, as opposed to supper.
For the less sentimental, rabbit meat is a high-quality, gourmet food, which
costs about the same as sirloin steak. It is all-white meat that contains
less fat, calories and cholesterol, and more protein than any other meat.
It's easy to find a buyer for the young rabbits you produce, and often that
buyer will barter or sell you some of the dressed and packaged rabbit meat.
You can expect to have 100 to 125 pounds of rabbit meat a year from the
offspring of the one buck and two does. Whether you keep rabbits solely for
fun or for profit, they can be a welcome addition to a family, a garden or,
crassly stated, a freezer.
Sources: Bob Bennet, National Gardening Association; www.angorarabbit.com