Grow Free Food For Rabbits & Chickens! Here’s How We Did it!

Buying grain for your livestock can add up – ask me how I know.

 

This year, we decided to do something different – we planted a garden to grow greens for our rabbits and chickens.

 

It’s been a success and now we have enough free food for everyone to have an extra bite every day – and it’s lowered our overall feed bill.

 

(Want some help with growing a garden? Grab my #1 Amazon best-selling book about organic gardening, Organic By Choice: The (Secret) Rebel’s Guide To Backyard Gardening – now available in paperback!)

 

 

We even have one rabbit who is picky about his feed – if it’s not exactly the right brand, he won’t eat it.

 

With the help of all the greens he’s been getting, his weight has picked up – and even on his snootiest “it’s not perfect so I won’t eat it” day, he’ll still chow down on fresh greens.

 

We’ve been using 5-foot by 10-foot raised beds similar to this one, which allows for 50 square feet of space devoted to growing. You can easily replicate this amount of space in your own backyard.

 

What should I grow for free food?

Glad you asked! We’ve had the best luck growing greens – they don’t take that long to mature (30-60 days, depending on variety), and you can grow a lot in a small space.

 

This year, we’ve been growing:

 

 

Some other options include arugula, carrots, and chard. Since rabbits can’t digest cabbage that well, avoid feeding it to them – use it for sauerkraut instead.

 

Bear in mind that you can’t necessarily replace ALL of your rabbits’ or chickens’ diet with greens, unless you can grow a large quantity. You will still likely need to supplement their diet with pellets and hay.

 

For your chickens, you can just bunch the leaves together and allow your hens to peck at the treat as a form of entertainment.

 

For ducks, your best bet is to tear the leaves up and toss them into a clean pool water for your flock to dig out – they’ll love it! Ours look forward to their “treat” every day (shhh….don’t tell them it’s good for them!)

How much space do I need?

 

In a 1-foot by 5-foot area, we’ve grown enough turnip greens to feed our 30 rabbits a healthy supplemental meal every day.

 

The amount of space you will need depends on what species of animal you’re feeding as well as how many – it’s best to start small and build up from there. You can experiment, weigh your harvests, see how your animals do with it, and scale up from there.

 

This fall, we will be devoting about 200 square feet to growing and overwintering greens for our rabbits.

 

Even if you have just a small space, for example, a table like this, you can still grow something – and anything is better than nothing! It adds up after a while.

 

Trust me when I say that getting their greens is the highlight of our rabbits’ day – they look forward to it, and it provides some excitement during an otherwise dull afternoon.

 

I’d like to hear from you!

Do you grow greens to feed your rabbits and chickens? What are your best tips? Leave a comment below!

 

 

3 Ways To Use Rabbit Manure To Improve Your Garden!

As you probably know, we raise rabbits on our homestead, which means we have a LOT of rabbit manure.

 

What you may not know is that rabbit manure is one of the easiest to use, yet super healthy, fertilizers for your garden. In this article, I’m going to show you how to use rabbit poop to improve your harvest.

 

Garden compost made from animal manure does two amazing things for your garden. First, it’s a free byproduct of your animals, so it’ll save money on topsoil and fertilizer. Second, it is a nutrient rich way to help your garden grow and thrive.

 

Why Rabbit Manure?

 

Great question! Unlike other manures which have to be well composted before you can even think of using it in your garden, rabbit poop can be immediately applied to your soil. It won’t burn crops, and can be used as a stand-alone planting medium or mixed with topsoil (although your best bet is to mix it with soil.)

 

As rabbit manure decomposes, it helps build up the structure of the soil, and injects valuable nutrients and organisms into your garden that will promote strong, speedy plant growth.

 

Rabbit manure, in particular, is rich in potassium, nitrogen, zinc, and calcium, and it’s one of the most nitrogen-rich manures out there – so you’ll get lush, green, well-fertilized growth. The potassium will also improve the quality of the fruit your vegetable plant sets.

 

Finally, unlike cow, horse, or pig poop, rabbit manure is odorless – so as you collect it and incorporate it into your garden, your nose (and your neighbors!) will thank you.


Want more awesome gardening tips? Check out my book, Organic By Choice: The (Secret) Rebel’s Guide To Backyard Gardening.

Organic by Choice


How to Use Rabbit Manure In Your Garden

 

First decide on the source of your rabbit manure. If your kids have pet rabbits, have them collect the rabbit’s waste each day. If you already raise bunnies on your homestead, then what are you waiting for? Go start collecting rabbit manure for the garden!

 

Collecting it is relatively easy, and everyone has their own “system.” One of the simplest methods is to place plastic tubs under your rabbits’ cages and dump them out every day (don’t wait on this – flies WILL lay eggs which will hatch into maggots – GROSS.)

 

You can dump them into a compost pile, or directly into your garden. If you haven’t planted anything in your garden yet, then till the rabbit manure to a 2-inch depth.

 

If your garden is already established, then side dress your plants with the manure – it’s usually best to do this as your plants are flowering and setting fruit. They’ll need all the nutrients they can get during that time!

 

If you just got your rabbits, or don’t want to raise any but definitely want to use bunny poop in your garden, then you might also be able to find rabbit manure to buy. Check with neighbors or even Craigslist in your area.

 

How to Make Rabbit Manure Compost

Not everyone is enchanted with the idea of directly applying manure to their garden. That’s ok – you can compost the rabbit poop.

 

To make rabbit manure compost, mix the poop with other compost ingredients that will decompose, such as fruit peelings (like bananas), bits of leftover food, coffee grounds, and grass clippings, and leaves.

 

Add equal parts of wood shavings and straw, then blend all these things (and other kitchen waste) thoroughly, then add enough water to moisten. Be very careful not to completely saturate the compost pile.

 

Cover with a protective tarp and turn every two weeks. If you’re hot composting (which is unlikely with rabbit poop but, hey, stranger things have happened!), then water regularly to maintain heat and humidity levels. Keep adding to the pile and turning and blending it until it fully composts.

 

If you’re cold composting, then simply turn the pile until the manure and other ingredients have turned to sweet-smelling soil.

 

Making Rabbit Manure Tea for A Larger Garden Harvest

 

A third option, other than putting rabbit manure on your garden directly or composting it, is to make a tea fertilizer. Luckily, this is pretty simple.

 

In a 5 gallon bucket, place a burlap bag. Fill the bag about half way with rabbit manure (or however much manure you have on hand), and close it tight with string.

 

Add water to the bucket until the burlap bag is full submerged. Allow your tea to “brew” for 5-7 days, stirring daily. Once the allotted time has passed, simply remove the bag of manure from the bucket.

 

You can use the tea directly on your garden, and compost the rabbit manure, or use it on your garden as well.

 

I’d like to hear from you!

Do you use rabbit manure in your garden? Leave a comment below!

Check Out My Other Rabbit Articles:


Do you love gardening, herbs, natural remedies, self sufficiency, and/or homesteading? Learn how to grow 30 different herbs in this encyclopedia! Herbs In Your Backyard is a digital book, delivered to you INSTANTLY!

Herbs in Your Backyard


 

This DIY Rabbit Tractor Cost Us Just $50 (Handy? Build It For Free!)

A DIY rabbit tractor is win-win for you AND your bunnies – we’ve found it lowers our feed bill and the rabbits are happy because they get to eat fresh grass.

 

Which is healthier for them, anyway, right?

 

If you’ve never built a DIY rabbit tractor (this also doubles as a chicken tractor for baby chicks), it’s easy, especially if you’re handy (I’m not, so that tells you it MUST be easy).

 

In this article, I’m going to show you how we built a DIY rabbit tractor for just $50, using both new and repurposed materials.

 

It makes raising rabbits easier with a LOT less work, and your buns will be happier because who doesn’t love fresh grass?

 

With your own DIY rabbit tractor, you can build it, move it around your property, get your lawn (somewhat) mowed, feed your bunnies for less, and give them a happier quality of life.

 

How to Build a DIY Rabbit Tractor For $50

 

Think of your rabbit tractor in 3 sections – a floor (more on this in a minute), walls, and a roof. That’s all you need (you can add wheels if you want to, but we didn’t with ours).

 

So, you will need to find materials that can satisfy those requirements.  We used a repurposed dog pen as the “floor”, a purchased dog pen for the walls, and tarps for the roof. You can use whatever materials you have on hand, or that you feel comfortable using.

 

The Walls – A Dog Pen

You can use anything – we found a dog pen like this one on sale for $50, and it fit our size requirements and our budget perfectly. It was built for a small terrier, and it easily fits 3-4 medium-sized rabbits nicely.

 

Our rabbits are mixed breed and relatively small, but if you’re raising large breed rabbits, you might only be able to fit 1-3 rabbits in it.

 

(Before dumping rabbits into it, you should also figure out which ones will do well together, since rabbits can have “interesting” relationships. Ours took a bit of trial and error. Even if size-wise it seems like your tractor should fit 3 rabbits, but everyone is stressed out, then lower the amount of bunnies in the tractor and see if that works better.)

 

Something else to consider is cross-breezes. Since we live in a hot, humid environment, and rabbits, let’s face it, wear fur coats, that means they get pretty hot, pretty quickly. Cross-breezes help them stay cool and prevent overheating.

 

So, a second reason we opted for a dog pen is that the grate allowed for a steady flow of air.

 

Thirdly, it happened to be light – which meant we could move it easily without huffing and puffing or needing wheels.

 

Fourth, well, rabbits CAN have tussles, and are good at knocking things over. This particular dog pen came with metal pins that allowed us to tack the pen to the ground – so it won’t fall over when a rabbit got rowdy AND it keeps predators from knocking over the pen to get a free meal. The pins can be pulled up and replaced when we want to move the DIY tractor.

 

The pen is octagonal – yours can be square, rectangle, whatever. As long as there’s enough room for the amount of rabbits it will hold (the rule of thumb is 4x the length of the rabbit’s body).

 

The walls can be as tall as necessary – in summer, taller means better air circulation. Ours are 3.5 – 4 feet high – a rabbit can’t jump out, but we can bend over easily to feed and give attention.

 

The dog pen also came with a door – a nice feature in case we ever need to get in there if a rabbit is injured or needs to be removed for any reason. When building your own DIY rabbit tractor, include a door for the same reason.

 

The Floor – An Old Dog Pen We Had Laying Around

Yes, your DIY rabbit tractor needs a floor. Rabbits dig, and they will dig out, sooner or later. So, some sort of grating or wire on the bottom is necessary so they can eat grass but not dig out.

 

We used an old dog pen we had laying around. It has 2-inch holes – big enough for juicy grass to come through and to give rabbit paws a break (if on hardwire cloth or other wire for long periods, a rabbit can develop sores on their feet).

 

You can use hardware cloth, chicken wire, or whatever you happen to have laying around, as long as it won’t hurt their feet or let them dig out, and lets the grass come through so they can eat it.

 

The Roof – Tarps We Had Laying Around

If you have a homestead, you likely have lots and lots of tarps – we ALWAYS seem to need a tarp for something (like building a DIY rabbit tractor!)

 

For the roof, since we wanted to build a lightweight, easily movable tractor. Tarps like this one can easily be removed, and are lightweight.

 

To keep them in one place on windy days, we use bricks to pin them to the ground – again, easily removed and replaced so we can move the tractor around.

 

In summer, they provide great shade, and can be moved around as needed to keep everyone cool. In winter, they can insulate against wind and cold and unpleasant weather.

 

If you have a lot of predators in your area (bears, big dogs, a very determined hawk), tarps probably won’t cut it – in that case, you might want to consider grating at the top as well, or a more solid, permanent roof.

 

Either way, your roof needs to provide protection from the elements and shade.

 

A word to the wise

If you don’t want your rabbits to live in a co-ed colony, you will want to keep your rabbit genders separate. As of the time I’m writing this, we only keep males in a tractor.

 

Life is complicated enough without unplanned rabbit pregnancies. Does and bucks are weird when it comes to kits, and every rabbit breeder has tales of dead or maimed kits from a jealous doe or buck.

 

Even without the added drama of kits, does in particular are tricky when it comes to space. They’re more territorial than bucks, and can either need more space, less space, or just hate their tractor mate for reasons unknown.

 

Just like teen girls, life gets simpler when does have their own space. However, your mileage may vary.

 

A second word to the wise

If you plan to keep young bunnies (under 20 weeks old) in your DIY rabbit tractor, then you need to make sure you use 1/2-inch or 1-inch hardware cloth on the lower half.

 

Young does and bucks can fit through very small spaces – the 2-inch by 1-inch holes in the dog crate we used were way too big, and the kits figured out in 5 minutes they could get out. Hardware cloth would resolve this easily.

 

I’d like to hear from you!

Have you ever built a DIY rabbit tractor? What does yours look like? Leave a comment below!

 

Raising Rabbits On The Homestead For Beginners

Raising rabbits on a homestead for their meat is not for everyone.

 

Realistically, rabbits are usually kept as pets, and it’s hard for some people who haven’t ever butchered rabbits to make that mental shift towards looking at rabbits as a food source.

 

But if you’re looking for a consistent, quick, easy source of lean meat, then raising rabbits are a good option for any homestead.


 

We keep several rabbits on our homestead of varying colors and sizes.

 

They’re easy to care for, have few needs beyond food, water, clean cages, and a little companionship. Rabbits are easy to breed and make hardly any noise, so they’re perfect for an urban homesteader.

 

A Note On Laws

 

Now, first a word about raising rabbits on your homestead. If you plan on raising rabbits on your homestead for their meat, first look at the laws in your state, county, and town. 

 

In some areas of the United States, butchering rabbits for their meat can land you in hot water as our society moves ever further from sustainable farming.

 

In some of areas of the country, rabbits are considered pets and not livestock. Whether you don’t care or don’t agree with the laws, the bottom line is if they exist, you need to know.

 

Lack of understanding by neighbors might cause some unwanted legal drama, so first make sure your area doesn’t have any laws that can land you into trouble. 

 

We’ve all seen social media spin out of control when a human violates local laws regarding pets, and you don’t want to be on the receiving end of that particular hammer.

 

Florida, for example, has laws that protect home butchering. However, I’ve seen many people get in trouble for homesteading when a nosy neighbor decides the animals “aren’t being cared for properly” (read: They object to butchering because they don’t realize that’s how meat is produced).

 

While the homestead owner was right under the eyes of the law, they still had to pay for an attorney and replace their stock after animal control seized their livestock.

 

In Missouri, on the other hand, owners are permitted by law to butcher any animal they own regardless of method. It varies by state. So know your local laws to avoid problems.

 

(As an aside, I’m not an attorney, just a keen observer. Consult an actual attorney about the laws in your area if you start raising rabbits for meat.)
Raising rabbits on your homestead for meat is a great way to have a consistent supply of lean, healthy meat. Rabbits are easy to keep and breed for even a beginner. Here's a look at our rabbits and what you need to know.

Selecting Rabbits

The first decision you’ll have to make when raising rabbits on your homestead is which breeds you want.

 

We raise mostly mixed breed rabbits with Rex, Chinchilla, Wild Rabbit,and New Zealand bloodlines.

 

New Zealand and Rex rabbits are probably the most popular rabbits for raising on a homestead because of their size and easy going natures.

 

In our area, people like to eat wild rabbits in addition to more domesticated breeds so we keep a wild-bred rabbit (one that was from a wild rabbit that was tamed).

 

When you look for rabbits for raising on your homestead, look for healthy animals that are in good flesh and don’t appear ill. You’re best off getting your breeding stock from a reputable dealer who cares about the quality of the animal.

 

If you don’t have much money to spend, then you can still easily acquire rabbits for raising. Four of our rabbits were given to us by someone who just didn’t want them anymore (raising rabbits for meat wasn’t for them).

 

If you feel prepared to give a home to a free rabbit and it appears healthy and able to breed then free is a good way to go. You will still have to feed it regularly, so make sure you’re able to bear that financial responsibility before acquiring free rabbits, however.

 

In this case, patience and time yield favorable results.

 

If you don’t want to wait, however, you can acquire rabbits for as little as $10 with the average price being between $15 and $20. For pedigreed Chinchilla male rabbits, we paid $12 each.

 

Feeding Rabbits You’re Raising

Rabbits require little specialized feeding and a regular ration that you purchase at a feed store will work well.

 

I recommend purchasing 40 lb or 50 lb bags of feed at a feed store. In our area, we can get a 50 lb bag of feed for $10, while at a big box store, they sell 5 or 10 lb bags for the same amount.

 

We offer our rabbits plenty of fresh vegetables too, and they especially love lettuce, cabbage, carrots, and tomatoes.

 

We also provide fresh water in large waterers that you can buy at any pet store or big box store.

 

Housing for Your Rabbits

We keep our rabbits in large cages that we have permanently placed in a greenhouse. The rabbits are able to be outside in the fresh air, but still be out of inclement weather. 

 

Anything is appropriate housing for raising rabbits on a homestead as long as the rabbit has enough room, is out of the elements, has food and water. 

Cages must be cleaned regularly.

 

We use hay and straw as bedding, which the rabbits love because they can nibble on it.

Raising Sustainable Meat With Rabbits

Of course, if your goal is raising rabbits for meat, at some point you will have to breed them.

 

While we won’t get into breeding too much in this article, large rabbits reach maturity at about 7 months of age.

 

Female rabbits have a 30 day gestation cycle, and can have litters of 1-10 kits (baby rabbits are called kits) and the average litter size is 6.

 

Rabbits breed by induced ovulation, meaning when the female is bred, she is then induced to ovulate.

 

The advantage to this is you don’t need to worry about heat cycles and making sure you mate her at just the right time, like you do with other mammals.

 

I recommend breeding rabbits with caution because it is easy to become overwhelmed quickly. We try to breed only 1 rabbit every month or two.

 

We’re raising 8 rabbits as our breeding stock,  so unless we keep a strict schedule, we can easily become overrun with rabbits.

 

Raising rabbits on your homestead as a sustainable source of meat is easy, as long as you keep some of the ideas in this article in mind.

 

I’d like to hear from you!

Are you thinking of raising rabbits on your homestead? Email me or comment below!