Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Why Rabbits part 1

      I have been asked numerous times, "Why Rabbits?" Most of my family and friends get a little hung up on the cuteness factor to realize the abundance of reasons why raising is beneficial to homestead. In this article I am discussing the tail end of raising rabbits, affectionately called in this house as Rabbit Berries (RB).
     As with any livestock, there is the business of what to do with the manure. My rabbitry is outside in hanging wire hutches. So the RB collect on the ground under the rabbits in compost piles. This comprises the nitrogen or green element of compost. the carbon or brown element is supplied by my wasteful rabbits pulling all the hay out of the feeder and letting it fall through the bottom. Because the rabbits naturally layer the components, there is little work for me to do except to turn the pile every now and then. (I'll go into the worms the size of snakes later).
      It doesn't take long for a four whole hutch to supply us with over 50 lbs of completely organic, amazingly nutritious compost for all the garden beds on our little five acres. After using all that we can on our own projects, we bag the rest up in the feed bags (turned inside out) about 25lbs per bag and sell it. Yes, we sell sh*t. It's an ongoing joke in this family and an unlikely revenue source. Because of the bad winter this past season, we were not able to supply our local nursery. Instead I get to take them to farmers markets. 
     RB are a unique fertilizer in that they do not have to be composted to be used in the garden. It doesn't burn the plants. The family that we bought our breeding stock from Lind-Sher Farms told us about an experiment that they did a few years back. They breed New Zealand Whites commercially, therefore where literally up to there necks in RB. The husband decided to spread out the pile on some land and planted tomatoes. They took off so fast and were producing so many tomatoes he ended plowing the field to keep tomatoes from going to waste.
     Now about those worms. This is another wonderful side effect of RB. If you set up in a building you can do this with red wigglers from a bait shop but since my pile is outside, worms are free. Worms are a composts piles best friend. They break everything down into this amazing black gold. Since RB is so nutrient dense, you will see worms 4 and 5x their normal size. More than once, I have shrieked in terror when I unearthed worms that I kid you not are the size of small snakes. Don't get me wrong, I love snakes in there natural habitat, doing their snake thing. I, like most people, prefer to not be surprised. So, if you happen to live near an area that has good fishing spots, here is another revenue source from the rabbit. The best containers we found for these mammoth worms is a pringles can spray painted with our farms information. Then, it is just a matter of finding a shop that will sell them for you, or put up your own sign. 
      So, in closing, Why Rabbits? There are too many reasons to count. Rabbits, just by defecating, provide us with two potential revenue sources and the most successful gardens we have ever had. So even if you can't get to the point to sending Mr. Rabbit to freezer camp, RB are enough of a reason for any avid gardener or fisher or homesteader to consider setting up a rabbitry of your own. 

(Part 2: Meat coming soon)

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