The Animal Kingdom – rascally rabbits

We have lots of wild animals roaming the neighborhood, some of which I’ve mentioned before. While I loath the squirrels, I have a soft spot in my heart for the rabbits, even if they nibble on some of my plants.

As a child, I was obsessed with the animated movie Watership Down. Which, by the way, is NOT a kids movie, but I digress. Rabbits just get me. Their way of moving, their shiny soft fur, their big eyes, the sweet little noises they make…alright, I’ll stop now. I’m not usually this sentimental about any kind of animal!

Rabbit-talk:

Benefits
Aside from being softcuddlyadorablepuffballsoflove, they produce copious amounts of premium fertilizer. The unique thing about their droppings is that they’re considered “cold” fertilizer – it won’t hurt the plants if applied directly. In fact, I’ve heard people say that their waste alone outweighs the cost of keeping them, it’s so nutrient dense and versatile.  My garden needs all of the help it can get, so I’d be all about free fertilizer!

Not only that, but a rabbit has the potential to be a really quick method of composting. They can eat some food scraps or bolted greens, and it converts quite speedily into something to put back into the garden.

Some people raise rabbits for meat. Their meat contains almost no cholesterol, and is a white meat very similar to chicken and can be substituted as such in most recipes. Because they are considered domestic pets, most cities don’t pass any restrictions regarding slaughtering rules – it’s all you, Freddy. Certain rabbit breeds are also prized for their fur – angora rabbits are an example of this.

To be honest, I’m not really interested in slaughtering a rabbit for it’s pelt or meat. I’m not a vegetarian, and while it would be a difficult learning process I think I COULD eat a chicken or a duck that I had raised once they had lived out their usefulness as a contributor to the farm. But I’ll be frank, the bun-buns are just too friggin cute. I couldn’t do it. Besides…they never stop pooping, and their poop is the main reason I’m interested in them.

Potential Concerns
My older brothers raised rabbits when I was really young, and for some reason, they always, always died on us. Rabbits can literally be “scared to death” and we assume that a feral cat or other animal was terrorizing them. Because we intend to at least have a dog, and because there are lots of potential scare-the-rabbit-to-death encounters, I am a little hesitant about attempting to raise them.

They need daily care, at least. On hot or cold days, they may need care twice or three times a day. In hot weather, they need to be able to stay cool somehow – their optimal temperature range is between 62F and 72F (so I’ve read).

If we went the route of having an indoor/outdoor bunny, we would have to navigate the murky waters of cat and dog interactions while they were in the house, as well as keep a space free of electrical cords and other things that bunnies shouldn’t chew on.

If we went the route of keeping a strictly outdoor rabbit, I’d ideally like to have some space for the rabbit to roam in the yard from time to time. I don’t think it’s entirely humane to just keep it cooped up in a hutch, even a roomy one. Building a rabbit run isn’t a concern, but keeping the rabbit safe from the neighborhood hawk is.

My final concern would be the infamous smelly urine that rabbits are known for. But hey, my cat’s #1 isn’t exactly perfume quality…I think you can learn to get used to it.

Cost/Set-Up
I watch Craigslist for rabbits, and it seems they go for anywhere between $15-$45, depending on breed. I know you can buy generic small animal cages for around $100, but I think Jason could probably build something much sturdier for about the same price, or less. Ideally, I’d like something fairly mobile that could be moved in and outdoors without too much hassle, had a removable waste tray for easy cleaning, and provided shade for the rabbit.

I know there’s also various other small purchases – water bottles and the like. It’s been sometime since I’ve gone to a pet store so I’m not sure what those run for. I’m assuming it’s somewhere in the $10-$20 range.

Like I mentioned, I would like to have a small run for the rabbit to spend time in. I think we could build something similar to our cabbage frame (or maybe even use the cabbage frame itself when we get a proper garden fence). That cost us around $20 to build.

I’m not sure what pellets cost, and frankly, I’m inclined to go more this route with feeding. There would still be the cost of hay and extra produce, but hopefully feeding it a better diet would eliminate the cost of health problems.

Breeds
I’m a complete sucker for Holland Lops, especially the mini ones. Lionheads are pretty cute too. I think I’d prefer a smaller variety, being that I’m not really interested in raising it for meat. I could sound like a moron about this, but I’m assuming smaller rabbits eat smaller quantities of food…right?

All in all, I’d actually prefer to get a rabbit before trying out chickens. It would require more of my time, similar to chickens, but doesn’t feel quite as overwhelming to me as a flock. I’m planning on going to the State Fair this year (first time!) and really looking forward to visiting the livestock barns to compare breeds and temperaments.

What about you guys? Anyone ever raised rabbits? Were they house rabbits, outdoor rabbits, or both? What tips and tricks would you offer?

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One Comment to “The Animal Kingdom – rascally rabbits”

  1. Well firstly, when I was living in Italy we ate rabbit fairly regularly, and it was delicious. Personally, I probably couldn’t raise them for food, though. I’ve had no experience in keeping them, but it seems fairy straightforward, and my brother kept his rabbits outside throughout the Maine winters without incident. If I had the space I’d go with chickens before rabbits, simply for the egg factor, but bunnies could be fun too. You seem to have the space – why not both?

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