Organic Consumers Association

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Why YOU Should Raise Rabbits

Rabbits produce manure that is arguably the BEST for the gardeners' purposes. It is ready for use with absolutely no composting: no building bins, no heavy work turning the piles, no trucking in loads of manure from animals who may be heavily medicated. Just park an old wheelbarrow under the cage if you like, wheel to the garden, and dump. If you want to water houseplants or tender seedlings, make a manure tea using a quart or more of rabbit droppings soaked in five gallons of water. Let it sit for a day or two, stir a few times, then strain the tea into your watering can to avoid clogging!with the fine fibers. You can dump the fibrous remainder around your berry bushes or other shrubs as mulch.

When the whole of the manure is mixed into soil for growing vegetables, its combination of available nutrients and well broken-down fiber mulch gives incredible results. I've gardened in large plastic pots using intensive polyculture methods (basically a major plant and a few smaller ones), and have produced lots of food more reliably than most family gardeners in gopher and deer country like California.

So what's the cost? Well, wherever you live, there are probably discarded "pet" rabbits at local animal shelters, many of which may be nearly impossible to handle. These animals could be rescued from "euthanasia" and allowed to finish their lives in a cool shady corner of a garden or in- a cage hanging from the north side of an outbuilding, or maybe inside an old horse stall or garage if the winters are harsh. Rabbits die from heat and wind, rarely just from cold temperatures. Choose the large rabbits, as the tiny ones cannot live outside even in milder climates. With some used cages and less than $25 in watering equipment, rabbit manure can be produced right in your own garden.

What does this splendid organic manure cost? Rabbit pellets sell for about $9 per 50-pound bag. Growing your own fodder will be cheaper. You can cut costs by feeding the rabbits organic waste from tree prunings and vegetables, but you must first learn which plants are okay for general use, which for a small portion of diet, and which are deadly, like swiss chard and other oxalic acid plants.

And there would be double satisfaction: at first, saving some small animal lives that would otherwise be wasted. Then later, the great joy of raising top-notch vegetables and fruits, and using less water too!

Meat Production

Rabbits are the most economical, labor efficient, and practical way to produce protein. This protein production also has some terrific by-products. I've always been very interested in feeding the hungry"it was my motivation from the beginning. It was why I started out as a vegan, and how I've become a rabbit raiser. I nearly cried for relief when I did my own conversion rates and realized that with rabbits as clean and resilient as they are, that is, needing no antibiotics, and as well as the manure works, that THIS was the way we could feed everyone a nonchemical diet without chemical "fertilizers," especially in remote areas where nothing grows but brush, and the soil is dry and depleted. I can grow veggies in almost any soil using rabbit manure, and it holds moisture about as well as those little "water pellet" granules made of cross-linked polyacrylamides, which look like jello.

Rabbit, chicken, and turkey all have similar protein percentages by weight, with beef, lamb, and pork being from 49% less. Rabbit meat has nearly one gram more protein per ounce than chicken, and nearly one gram less fat. It has 15 calories less per pound, and here's the important one for lots of people: the cholesterol is much lower, even than chicken white meat. AH other meats range from 220-259 mg/lOOg, while rabbit has 164 mg/lOOg. Also noteworthy, rabbit is the richest source of zinc except for oysters, which are bottom feeders, difficult to farm, and very slow growers.
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