This summer we added a Holland Lop rabbit to our family. We found her on Craigslist and she came with her hutch. We got a rabbit to make poop/fertilizer for the garden. Rabbit poop is “cold” fertilizer, so it can be applied directly into a garden bed without composting it first. It’s been about a month now, and we are in love with our bunny!
I intended to keep her outside all the time and get her a friend so she wouldn’t be lonely, but I fell in love with her and she comes inside the house for most of the day. She’s in her hutch while I’m at work, about 5 hours a day, and she sleeps in her hutch at night. She spends the afternoon and part of the evening inside with us. Even the dogs like her, and they all hang out together.
I put her hutch in my side yard next to my garden boxes and the water hose. It’s turned out to be the ideal location. Her hutch has trays that slide out for easy cleaning. Every day I dump the poop and soiled hay directly into my compost pile, or I compost the hay and dump the poop into my watering can. Then I hose off the trays and let the excess water drip from the hose into the watering can so that no water is wasted. After a couple days, I have a full can of “rabbit poop tea” that I use to water the new flowers in my front yard. I bought some flowers on clearance at Lowe’s and the rabbit poop tea is helping them get established.
I have horses that are boarded at a barn near my house. I bring home their leftover hay in a feed bag and Mopsy uses it for bedding, which means I don’t have to buy bedding for her. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but small animal supplies are ridiculously expensive at the big box pet stores. They charge $12 for a tiny bag of timothy hay. I can get a 50 lb bale at the feed store for $20. It’s the same with shavings- $20 at the pet store, $5.99 at the feed store. Even better than buying something, I get to use what I already have, hay that my horses have dropped and won’t eat.
Mopsy likes to eat fresh vegetables too, so every day we make her a little sampler platter of things like raw green beans, celery, and carrot peels. She loves fresh basil leaves from the garden. The only thing I have to spend money on is rabbit pellets. She really enjoys her pellets, and they’re $10 for a 25 lb bag at my local feed store.
I clean her hutch every day, and you would think it would be a bit of a bother, but I actually really enjoy it, the same way I enjoy cleaning my horses’ covered shed and putting in fresh shavings and hay. There’s something immensely satisfying about a clean living space and a happy, healthy animal. Things that modern society regards as drudgery, that went out as the Industrial Revolution came in, turn out to be extremely gratifying after all. In God’s economy of tending the earth, caring for animals becomes a way to care for our souls.
Not only is Mopsy the cutest thing that God ever made, she is a contributing member of the family. She eats some of our scraps, makes nutrient dense fertilizer, and uses up old hay from the horses.
The thing that got me interested in homesteading and permaculture initially is that nothing is wasted. The home and garden create a circle of production where you use your old food to make new food by composting it or feeding it to livestock in the form of scraps for chickens, pigs, or bunnies. The livestock makes eggs or bacon or fertilizer. It’s a perfect system.
The other thing about permaculture that drew me in is the role the animals play. Joel Salatin talks about honoring “the pig-ness of the pig” and “the cow-ness of the cow,” meaning that we benefit from letting those animals do what they were created to do, whether it’s being a garbage disposal on 4 legs or grazing in a pasture. They will help us grow food and manage land if we just allow them to do what they naturally do. (Instead, Big Ag crams them into feed lots or tiny crates and prevents them from doing anything they would naturally do.)
I’m honoring the rabbit-ness of the rabbit, letting her have a wonderful life and utilizing her poop to invigorate my garden. Mopsy enjoys hopping around my house, harassing the chihuahuas, and spending quiet time in her hutch. We love her and we all get a kick out of watching her play with the dogs and chomp her snacks. It’s good for her and it’s good for us.