Urban Rabbits Project
"Integrate Rather than Segregate, Produce a Yield"
Rabbits are such a useful animal. They are small, easy to care for, generally friendly and can produce so many different yields for a permaculture system of any size! They are an ideal "livestock" for city permaculture projects. Because they are normally considered pets rather than livestock they are almost always allowed on city lots, though it would be a good idea to check with your local bylaws first! They can be kept indoors or out and are hardy and quiet. Our urban permaculture project was designed to integrate rabbits as a source of protein, fiber from the angora rabbits, compost from their manure and as a handy way to use up some of the weeds.
We are trying to move away from buying commercial feed for our small herd of rabbits and over the past few ytears we have experimented with several different feed sources. The main one of course is our rabbit tractor that moves around our yard trimming the diverse assortment of grasses, clovers and weeds that make up our "lawn". We built the tractor to fit nicely between the berry rows but we also use it in other areas. It has been working very well so far.
Another source of feed for our rabbits has been the weedy elm trees that grow rampant here. Classified as a noxious weed in our area, the chinese elm trees that pop up everywhere are generally unwelcome by most people. We do not purposly grow the elm but several mature trees that have established themselves in our yard are being pruned heavily to feed the rabbits. In 2017 I harvested a large amount of green branches and let them dry out on our cement patio. I stripped the leaves off and gathered them up into recycled feed bags to store for winter. Over the winter I fed handfulls of the dried leaves and the rabbits LOVED it! It was an easy forage to gather, similar in a way to feeding hay. Rabbits are browsers by nature and trees bark and leaves are part of their natural diet. We feed the elm fresh through out the growing season and the rabbits always have branches to nibble on year round.
We have also grown pumpkins and winter radishes. Pumpkins are easy to store and provide a large amount of nutritious feed for the winter. The radishes were kind of an accident! They were planted in a section of the berry patch but never harvested. During a few warm periods in the winter of 2017 I pulled a few up that were still happily alive, although dormant. The rabbits loved them as well. We will plant a crop on purpose to feed them them in 2018. In 2018 we also planted mangel beets to try.
During the growing season we feed large amounts of weeds and grasses that are either pulled from garden beds or collected from unused areas of the yard. We are still not quite ready to stop buying feed entirely but we have definately cut back a lot on the amount we use.
Wool for handspinning into very fine and luxurious yarn. Knitted, crocheted or woven garments from that yarn. Tanned hides for sewing into hats, gloves or trim for clothing and scraps for crafts. Roasted rabbit for Sunday dinner or sweet and sour rabbit meatballs for a quick weekday meal. Or, just sweet and fluffy companions! No matter what your goals are as yields from your rabbit herd you can count on a few things at least -