A few years ago we adopted a couple large rabbits from a local rescue organization. They exclusively rescue rabbits from shuttered pet stores and from owners who no longer want to care for them. They have many rabbits all waiting for a good home and we’ve discovered what valuable pets rabbits can be.
First, a little background. We tried to keep the rabbits inside the house but soon found that they like to chew on anything and everything. So, they needed to be caged just about all the time except under vigilant supervision. I personally don’t like to see an animal caged too much and so, as my frustration rose at their furniture destruction, I cast about for an equitable solution. I wanted to be happy, and I wanted the rabbits to be happy, too.
The solution was to give them my herb garden and a small part of my garage. I would get the house. A pet door allows them to move from the herb garden outside to inside the garage where they enter a small caged area with litter pan, hay box, and feeding area with available water. They do not have access to my garage except for this small enclosed area. Here is a picture showing the setup.
Since these rabbits never come into my house anymore, it is important that they have a safe and warm place to go. My garage stays above 50 degrees even on the coldest nights of the year. I was told by the rescue group that rabbits tolerate cold much better than heat. On the coldest and rainiest days, I’ve gone out to the garage to check on them and they are nowhere to be seen. They are outside enjoying the weather.
Now about the outside enclosure. I hastily put it together using wire fencing. I buried the fence 4 inches or so below ground level and just hoped they wouldn’t try to dig their way out – and they haven’t. They are quite content to stay within their enclosure and dig holes and forage. If the occasional wild rabbit visits, they energetically chase them away. Rabbits, it turns out, are protective of their home turf. Here is the outside enclosure with the pet door in the back corner near where the shovels are leaning against the house. Now, what about all that brush?
Okay. Here is the best part. You’ve not only rescued a couple rabbits and given them a good home. You now get to put them to work in your garden creating a virtuous cycle. Here is how to do it. Pick all your weeds, especially the nasty thorny ones, and throw them into the rabbit pen. Be sure to NOT use any pesticides on your weeds! Those weeds need to go into the trash. As you cut brush back in the spring and fall, throw all those woody branches into the pen as well. Rabbits will chew on the bark and gnaw on the branches reducing a lot of the brush down. And, rabbits love dried leaves so throw piles of them into the pen as well. When there is plenty of fresh matter like I described above, you can cut back on their food rations because, as you’ll notice, they just stop eating as much kibble what with all the great sticks and weeds. Then, wait for your payoff.
Rabbits will complete the virtuous cycle by peeing and pooping out this amazing fertilizer that is mild and great for your garden. Once a year in the spring, I get into their pen with a shovel and remove wheelbarrows full of urine-soaked muck, chock-full of rabbit pellets, and literally crawling with worms. Here is a picture showing some worms and all the pellets.
This delicious (well, delicious to my tomato plants anyway) muck is spread among my planting beds. And, the cycle is now complete. Not only have the rabbits helped me by reducing the amount of brushy material I would have to bag and dispose of at the landfill, they have also increased my vegetable yield. We have achieved a nice little balanced relationship where they are happy, and I am happy.
Glenda and Grover are friendly and happy bunnies. We enjoy watching them in their space, and encourage anyone to adopt rabbits and put them to work in your garden.