Raising Rabbits in Colony Series

A big welcome to guest author Trish Woolbright! She is sharing with us her whole journey with raising rabbits. She’ll walk you through every part of the process, from the decision to start raising rabbits, to setting up a colony, to the slaughtering process, to delicious ways to bring the meat to your table. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us, Trish!

Raising Rabbits: Do It For the Shit

I’m Trish, I’m 41 and live in Columbia, MO. I have been a caregiver for plants, humans, and other animals for most of my life.

Over the course of several years, I was offered some rabbits (the exact same rabbits, actually) multiple times by different people. I had grown interested in rabbitry but was unsure about the time and financial commitment and if I would really get enough out of it to make me want to invest all of the time, work and money.

In 2015 I accepted a friend’s rabbits and rabbitry setup and began. I currently have 2 does and 1 buck (down from a peak of 5 does and 2 bucks).

I’ve had over three years of successes, failures, and existential crises, and have seriously considered throwing in the towel multiple times.  In that time, though, I’ve put over 200 rabbits in the freezer, along with creating over 8 yards of compost.

It’s not a huge operation, and not enough to make a living at, but it could be if one scaled up with more time and money. We do it for the compost and the meat, and periodically make a few extra bucks or trade for other local meat.

Above all other reasons, I started into this enterprise because I needed compost for my vegetable garden that was free of glyphosate and dicamba.

It is getting progressively more difficult to find compost without latent herbicides in it, anywhere in the US. Through my day job, I have definitely seen it in five commercially purchased composts, and I knew that raising my own animals and generating my own compost would greatly reduce my risk of falling victim to it as well.

So I did it for shit.

And on the harder days, when I lose animals and have those dark nights of the soul that farming gives you, when you want to send everyone to Freezer Camp and burn it all to the ground, I remember that I have the biggest, best, most amazing vegetable, herb and flower garden because of that shit.

Composting and Making Fertilizer

Because my colony is on the ground, with hay, wood chips, urine and poop all mixed together, I can choose to either put it directly into the garden or in a compost pile. I do both regularly. Even before coming out of the colony, it has often already begun composting, thanks to millions of worms and pill bugs.

Here are a few facts about rabbit manure I gained from the Michigan State University extension website.

  • Fresh rabbit manure is approximately 2 percent nitrogen, 1 percent phosphorus and 1 percent potassium.  That’s a higher nitrogen content than any other manure, and has comparable or better phosphorus and potassium.
  • Rabbit manure has four times more nutrients than cow or horse manure and is twice as rich as chicken manure.
  • It contains beneficial trace elements such as calcium, magnesium, boron, zinc, manganese, sulfur, copper and cobalt, just to name a few.
  • Cow, horse and chicken manure are considered “hot” and need to be composted (well-rotted) to use as fertilizers.  Rabbit manure is “cold” and does not.
  • It is not as smelly as other manures and is easy to handle.
  • Rabbit manure is organic matter and improves poor soil structure, drainage and moisture retention.
  • It improves the life cycle of microorganisms in the soil.
  • Worms love rabbit manure.
  • One doe and her offspring can produce a ton of manure in one year (about 1 cubic yard).

Keep reading: Designing And Building A Rabbit Colony

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