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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;