Rabbits: The Other Perfect Little Livestock
Amidst all of the cheerleading going on out there about chicken-keeping, I’d like to give a shout out to another small animal that makes a great addition to any homestead whether it’s urban, suburban, or small-farm; rabbits. Our family has kept rabbits (for varying reasons) for nineteen years and I often wonder how they manage to stay just off of the perfect livestock radar.
Throughout history, they’ve proven themselves time and time again to be an ideal livestock choice for small farms. In a world where farming is synonymous with “land” and “acreage”, rabbits make excellent hobby farm mini-livestock as they have minimal space requirements and demand very little in the way of financial resources or specialized equipment. They’re as versatile as they come and are kept for companionship, show, meat, fiber, and manure.
Gentle rabbits are easy to house, handle, care for, and transport. They can provide healthy meat which makes them a smart choice for breeding and raising for food. The savvy rabbit-raiser will research the individual rabbit breeds and choose one that catches their interest, as well as incorporates two or three of the above reasons when practicing small-scale rabbit keeping.
Rabbit Manure Makes Fabulous Compost
The rabbits here at Laughing Crow have always been used for showing (both 4H and general shows), fiber for hand-spinning, and my number one reason — poop. I swear that this is why I have the most amazing compost for my garden.
One of the most valuable by-products that your rabbits can provide for you is top-of-the-line manure. I’m excited to notice that it’s recently getting the attention it deserves and becoming widely recognized by gardeners as the most nutritionally balanced manure of all the herbivores for the garden and compost piles. It’s a nutritionally rich, balanced organic fertilizer and soil conditioner — and is extremely effective. As an added perk it will also improve the texture and tilth of your garden soil.
Most herbivore manures used as soil amendments, which need to be composted (aged and broken down by microbial and macrobial organisms) before being applied. No so for rabbit manure; it can actually be used fresh from under the rabbit cages and be incorporated directly into the garden and landscaping. Because its nutritional content is already extremely well-balanced, it doesn’t need the time other fertilizers take to decompose to a workable quality. You can use it right away, without any fear of burning plants.
That said, if you’re using it in your vegetable garden, you may prefer to add it to the compost pile (where it can break down completely) to be sure that any potentially harmful pathogens aren’t transmitted to food plants. No worries, in the compost pile is where rabbit poop shines. Not only does it bring its long list of goods, but it’ll help make quick work of the organic matter in your pile; you’ll have fabulous compost in no time!
The message here is the next time someone says “What’s could possibly be as good as chickens for our homestead?” Consider letting them know about rabbits, the other perfect little livestock.