Can you use rabbit manure as a fertiliser in the garden?
Rabbit manure is an excellent manure to use in the garden. It can be used fresh, has higher nutrient levels than other manures, and does not burn plant roots. It’s an ideal soil conditioner that’s suitable to use in any garden.
The Benefits of Using Rabbit Manure
Nutrient-rich – rabbit manure is very nutrient-rich, it has four times more nutrients than cow or horse manure and is twice as rich as chicken manure.
Can be used fresh – rabbit manure can be applied to the garden directly, it doesn’t need to be composted first, but it still can be if you prefer. Other manures, such as cow, horse and chicken manure need to be composted first, because they’re considered to be ‘hot’ and will burn plant roots if used fresh. They usually need to sit for approximately three months till they are well-rotted before they’re suitable for use in the garden.
Easy to work with – rabbit manure It is not as smelly as other manures, is drier than poultry manure, and because it’s naturally in the form of little round pellets, it’s easy to handle and apply to the garden.
Versatile – manure pellets can be used as a fertiliser in vegetable gardens, ornamental gardens and flower beds. They can also be used to top-dress lawns, and as a nitrogen source for composting to get a compost pile going.
No weed seeds – rabbit manure is most often collected from pet rabbits, from under their hutches where they’re kept, and these rabbits aren’t fed food containing viable weed seeds, so the manure won’t produce weeds when used in the garden, unlike sheep manure, which tends to be very weedy. It’s important to note that the rabbit bedding material does fall into the rabbit manure below the hutch, so it’s best to use bedding material that does not contain weed seeds.
Rabbit Manure as a Fertiliser
Fertilisers provide plants with the essential nutrient which they need to grow.
The following nutrients are termed macronutrients, they’re the most important, and required in greater quantities:
- Nitrogen (N) for leafy green vegetative growth
- Phosphorus (P) for root formation, stem growth, and fruiting
- Potassium (K) for flowering and fruit ripening, plant immunity/disease resistance
We’ve already mentioned that rabbit manure has four times more nutrients than cow or horse manure and twice as much as chicken manure. More specifically, rabbit manure contains higher levels of nitrogen and phosphorus than cow, sheep, chicken, horse and goat manure.
The nutrient levels of various manures are shown in the table, with rabbit manure as the first entry for comparison.
Comparison of Nutrient Levels of Various Manures – percentage of Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K)
Rabbit: 3-4.8 %N, 1.5-2.8 %P, 1-1.3 %K, medium release speed
Cattle: 0.5-1.5 %N, 0.2-0.7 %P, 0.5-2 %K, medium release speed
Cattle (dairy): 0.5–2 %N, 0.3-0.5 %P, 0.4-1.5 %K, medium release speed
Horse: 0.7-1.5 %N, 0.2-0.7 %P, 0.6-0.8 %K, medium release speed
Sheep: 2.2-3.6 %N, 0.3-0.6 %P, 0.7-1.7 %K, medium release speed
Poultry (75% water): 1.5 %N, 1 %P, 0.5 %K,
Poultry (50% water): 1.5-2 %N, 1.8 – 2 %P, 1 %K, medium to fast release speed
Poultry (30% water): 3–4 %N, 2.5 %P, 1.5 %K,medium to fast release speed.
Poultry (15% water): 6 %N, 4 %P, 3 %K, medium to fast release speed
Worm Castings: 1.5 %N, 2.5 %P, 1 %K
Poultry manure is listed in the above table with various percentages of water because fresh poultry manure is wet, but when dried it reduces in volume and increases in nutrient concentration.
Note that rabbit manure analysis varies, and some sources state lower nutrient levels of approximately 1.3 % N, 0.9 % P, 1.0 % K, but these are still high nutrient levels for a manure.
Rabbit Manure as a Soil Conditioner
Rabbit manure is an excellent soil conditioner, as it’s a source of organic matter, which when dug into the soil improves poor soil structure, drainage and moisture retention. Since it contains nutrients, it also beneficial to soil microorganisms, and earthworms also love rabbit manure.
Rabbit Manure as a Sustainable Source of Fertiliser
Home gardeners usually have to bring in manures from external sources to feed their gardens, but an organic gardener with a larger property can easily produce their own fertiliser by keeping rabbits.
According to the Mississippi State University Extension Service, “Fifteen does, two bucks, and their litters will produce approximately one ton of manure a year.” That’s a decent amount of manure for a small farm.
Combining Vermicomposting Systems with Rabbit Raising
The New Mexico State University Extension Service recommend starting a vermicomposting system (worm farm) under rabbit cages.
All you need to do is obtain some compost worms, they’re available from garden centres for use worm farms, and apparently in the US you can buy compost worms from fish bait stores where they’re sold as ‘red wigglers’. Release the compost worms into a pile or bin of bedding under the rabbit cage. That’s it!
A vermicomposting system located beneath a rabbit hutch will provide gardeners with an excellent source of manure and worm castings, which are both very valuable fertilisers, and also a good supply of compost worms.
- Oregon State University Extension Service – Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium Values of Organic Fertilizers, Ross Penhallegon, 2003
- Mississippi State University Extension Service – Commercial Rabbit Production, Publication 1384, Tom W. Smith
- New Mexico State University, College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences – Rabbit pellet soil conditioner, Issue: December 16, 2000
- Michigan State University Extension – Bunny honey: Using rabbit manure as a fertilizer, Dixie Sandborn, September 1, 2016