How to Use Rabbit Manure in a Garden

I have had rabbits most of my life, but only recently learned how to best use manure to benefit the soil.

Uncomposed rabbit manure should be worked into soil in the fall or spring and it can be used in heavy amounts. It can also be spread lightly as a thin mulch in the growing season. Composted rabbit manure can be used more heavily as a mulch or as a soil amendment. It can also be used to create a liquid fertilizer.

How to Use Rabbit Manure as a Fertilizer

Rabbit can be applied directly to your garden soil with few concerns. Do it wrong and your soil and plants will suffer. Do it right and you will never need any other fertilizer or soil amendment to grow even the most nitrogen-using plants like corn.

I use a fair bit of rabbit manure in our 1/2-acre garden. Honestly, I don’t get enough to not need other inputs, but between them, my pigs, and my chickens, I don’t need to buy fertilizer anymore. Rabbit manure is by far my favorite.

Let’s start with the basics. There are three ways to use a manure; fresh, aged, and composted. Fresh manure has the most fertility and the highest amount of benefit to the soil condition and microbiology. When you add fresh manure to the soil, you are adding the most amount of food for the microbial food web of your soil.

Now, I don’t know very many people (like 2 ever) who actually used any fresh rabbit manure. Fresh would be collected within a few days of falling out of the critter. It has about twice the fertility of an aged manure. If you’re trying to save all the fertility potential in the manure, it needs to be collected almost daily and either dried immediately or immediately incorporated into the soil. That’s not an easy task.

The vast majority of people who use rabbit manure use it aged. By that I mean, we just let it pile up under the rabbit cages for a month or more. A lot of people only clean under their rabbit cages once or twice a year. I like every month or two, depending on how quickly it piles up.

An aged manure is not as strong as a fresh manure, but it does benefit the soil more than a composted manure. You see, This whole aging and breaking down process of manure releases compounds that are both useful to plants and to soil microbiology.

Decomposing manure is a factory of soil-boosting function. Why let your little factory run without actually being in the soil? I much prefer letting the break-down and decomposing process happen in the garden. That way I get a lot more use and benefit out of the by-product of raising rabbits to feed my family.

The best way to use rabbit manure is to apply it fresh around plants or between garden rows, but not touching plants directly. I like it within 8 to 12 inches of the plant’s main stem. It should be worked into the soil with a hoe or rake, and watered soon after to let it seep into the soil near your plants.

The watering step is important because it helps to limit outgassing of the volatile nitrogen compounds which we so desperately need to preserve for our plants. The step of working it into the soil is important for the same reason. Together, these steps help to quicken the breakdown period so that your plants will be able to reap the benefits of this incredible soil life-giving mineral-rich compound.

This manure is almost finished composting.

Using Composted Rabbit Manure

Composted rabbit manure is better than an intact manure for making a fine-tilth seedbed of soil. If you need a super-fine topsoil for growing small, delicate seeds like carrot, lettuce, or chamomile, you may want to avoid putting out an uncomposted manure in favor of a well-composted selection.

Composted rabbit manure is my favorite of compost for use in the garden. I have used around a hundred cubic yards of compost and of probably a dozen sources. Rabbit manure seems to have the best overall texture and body, and the most beneficial microbial life, in my opinion. It’s also fairly high in humic acid.

A composted manure means there will be no chunks, and it will be less potent. That’s a good thing for small seeds and for delicate leafy greens like young lettuce. The primary fertility agents in manure, and in fertilizers, are technically classified as salts. They draw moisture to them.

If you have too much or too high of a concentration, you can cause problems for both plants and sown seeds. very fine seeds, young seedlings, and delicate leafy greens are the most likely to show signs of stress or damage from too much ‘salts’ in manure.

This is why some manures are called ‘Hot’. In reality, that’s a huge misnomer. Most manures that are called ‘hot’ aren’t so strong, it’s just that the chunks are larger so they tend to be applied too much in a given spot.

Compost in professional growing is most often used to create a potting soil or as a substrate for growing low-input produce like turnips, radishes, or greens. In smaller amounts, it’s used as a soil booster, soil conditioner, and to increase the water and nutrient-holding capabilities of a soil.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with compost. I just prefer to use the raw product in my garden. It will break down and turn into compost right in my soil and all the while, giving my soil an extra boost in the process.

The only time you really may want to compost it first for regular produce is if you are growing root crops and have a concern about manure contamination. Fresh manure is considered clean after 90 days in the soil. By then, the microbial structure no longer supports the more harmful bacteria that can pose a concern.

Rabbit manure is my secret soil ingredient for growing awesome potatoes!

What Does Rabbit Manure Add to the Soil?

Rabbit manure adds rich carbon structure, NPK, and an assortment of trace minerals for plant growth. Most rabbit manure is higher in minerals like Iron, Calcium, Magnesium, and Zinc. because of this, rabbit manure is beneficial for remineralization of over-used soils and for intensive growing operations.

One of the main properties of rabbit manure is plant lignins. Lignins are a series of organic polymers that bind plant cells together and form a majority of structural tissues in plants. Lignins are a highly complex polymer that is very hard to break down. That polymer is why rabbit manure is so awesome.

So rabbits, unlike most other herbivores, don’t make very good use of the fiber in their diet even though they need a lot of fiber. The ligninus material from rabbit’s food is mostly excreted through the animal and ends up as a super soil conditioner. That’s the good stuff. It takes time to break down, and it requires heavy bacterial action to be broken down. Lignin feeds soil bacteria that in turn create a more fertile, more plant-friendly soil environment.

Rabbit manure is generally low in N,P, and K.

Generally, I expect an N-P-K in the area of 1-2-1 or 2-3-1 in rabbit manure. It can be more or less, but it’s generally going to be in that range. Even if it is stronger, as long as you don’t apply it more than 1 inch deep, don’t let it touch the plant stems, and water it in; it’ll be alright.

A manure that’s full of hay or straw may need to be composted so it doesn’t plug up your garden rake.

Does Rabbit Manure Need to be Composted?

Rabbit manure does not need to be composted. Because it has a small particle size, it’s easy to spread thinly. That reduces the chances of causing ‘fertilizer burn’ in among your plants from applying it too heavily.

Rabbit manure is about as strong as most other common manures. Cow, horse, sheep, and goat manure are about as strong and as potent as rabbit manure. Usually, the manure from larger animals is rotted down or composted first. People think it’s because those manures are too strong.

In reality, it’s just harder to spread out as thinly as something like rabbit manure so it’s more prone to cause overfertilization because the chunks are much larger. Personally, I’d just break it up more first.

If you want to read more, see this article: Does Manure Need Aging or Composting?

How Much Rabit Manure to Add to a Garden

This is how much manure to add to your soil to get the recommended fertility rate of 50lbs. Nitrogen per acre. Usually, you don’t want to add much more manure than this in a single year.

heaping fullManures with about 1 percent nitrogenManures with about 2 percent nitrogenManures with about 3 percent nitrogen
For 100 square feethalf of a 5-gallon bucket1-gallon1/2 gallon
For 1,000 square feet5 5-gallon buckets/ 1/2 wheelbarrow*2.5 5-gallon buckets/ 1 wheelbarrow*2, 5-gallon buckets/ most of a wheelbarrow*
For an acre200 5-gallon buckets/ 20 wheelbarrows*/ 37 yards100 5-gallon buckets/ 10 wheelbarrows*/ 18 yards66 5-gallon buckets/ 6 wheelbarrows*/ 12 yards

For raised beds, I like about 1/3 organic material for the initial fill. That could be well-aged or composted manure. I would still add an inch or manure every year to the top and work it in a little. In potting soil, I use either 20 percent aged manure or 40 percent composted manure, with soil and biochar added. Here’s an article you might like: How Much Compost for a Raised Bed Garden?

Is Rabbit Manure a Good Fertilizer?

Rabbit manure is a quality low-strength fertilizer and a high-grade soil conditioner. It can be used to boost the fertility of any soil for any crop, and it can be used to amend common soil problems such as gravel, clay, or sandy soils. If used appropriately, it can be a very good fertilizer for normal growing situations.

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I practice what I preach. Here in rural west Michigan, me, my wife, and 5 young kids work together to grow food, raise animals, and grow aninmal feed on just 1 acre. I teach homesteading classes locally, and help people where I can.

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