Rabbits poop a lot. In fact, one bunny can produce a ton of manure in just one year. That’s a lot of cleanup. And, if you’re not using it, that’s a considerable waste. Use it? Yes, rabbit fertilizer is a thing.
Rabbit droppings are amazing for your garden. They’re organic, high in nutrients, and, best of all, free. So, how can you use them on your plants? And what about other droppings?
What Makes a Good Fertilizer?
Fertilizer helps your plants grow. It does this by providing a boost of essential nutrients. It’s like a multivitamin for your garden.
Horse and cow manure are traditional fertilizers. But you can’t use just any old poo. Different droppings contain different combinations of nutrients.
And some droppings are not simply useless but can actually be harmful.
What makes rabbit fertilizer so amazing? And what sort of manure should you avoid?
Consider the source
The best fertilizer comes from herbivores. Horses, cows, and rabbits fall into this category.
Other animals with garden-friendly droppings include:
- Guinea pigs
- Sea birds
To name a few.
Carbon to nitrogen ratio
Carbon and nitrogen are important nutrients that all plants need. But the real magic is in the relationship between the two.
Nitrogen helps plants to generate proteins, amino acids, and enzymes.
The carbon in your soil provides energy for your plants to grow. That is similar to the carbohydrates that give us quick energy for growth and movement.
But the thing is, your plants can only utilize the carbon if the soil also contains the appropriate amount of nitrogen.
Horse, chicken, and cow manures all have a carbon to nitrogen ratio that plants love.
Rabbit pellets contain approximately two percent nitrogen, which is an even better balance than those three stand-bys.
Phosphorus helps plants to develop strong networks of roots. It also helps your plants to produce healthy stems. And there’s nothing better for encouraging blossoms and fruits.
Rabbit droppings contain one percent phosphorus, and that’s great news for your plants.
The K in the “N-P-K” formula for healthy plants is potassium. Potassium helps your plants to digest nutrients and to produce their own food.
“Bunny gold” is one percent potassium.
Rabbit manure also contains calcium, magnesium, zinc, boron, sulfur, manganese, copper, and cobalt.
In fact, according to Michigan State University, fresh rabbit droppings are four times more nutritious for plants as horse or cow manure and twice as nutritious as chicken droppings.
How to Use Rabbit Fertilizer
Horse, cow, and chicken manure are “hot” fertilizers. That means you need to compost them before you put them on your garden. Otherwise, they can burn your plants’ roots.
Rabbit manure contains less uric acid and ammonia than either horse or cow manure. As a result, it doesn’t burn.
It doesn’t need composting, either. While you can add it to your compost pile, you can also use it straight from the source, as it were.
Using rabbit fertilizer straight
Can you use your rabbit’s droppings right out of the litter box? You bet you can.
Untreated rabbit fertilizer makes an excellent topdressing for your garden, trees, or houseplants.
You can also work it into the soil to improve drainage, moisture retention, and soil structure.
Rabbit droppings don’t have a strong smell. But like all manure, it can attract flies. If this concerns you, bury your manure beneath a bit of soil.
Composting rabbit fertilizer
Although untreated rabbit manure won’t harm your plants, some people may be (rightly) cautious about applying raw dung to vegetable beds.
If you’re worried about potentially harmful pathogens, you might prefer to compost your rabbit droppings. It’s easy and will make your compost wonderfully rich.
Making bunny brew
Another way to use your rabbit droppings is to make rabbit compost “tea.”
Simply fill a five-gallon bucket most of the way with water and add a large scoop of rabbit droppings. Let it sit for a few days, stirring it every now and then.
You can use the water to water your plants. As for the sludge at the bottom, you can put that on your plants, also. Or, you can add it to your compost pile.
Rabbit fertilizer and worms
Worms love rabbit manure. And rabbits and worms can be a garden match made in heaven. But you have to do it right.
Rabbit droppings typically have quite a bit of urine on them. That boosts the nitrogen concentration. It also adds salts. Both of these can be toxic to worms if you use the droppings incorrectly.
Never use raw rabbit manure as your worms’ bedding.
Instead, if you want to add it to bedding, pre-compost the manure for a few days.
When you think it’s ready, put a small amount of your pre-composted manure in a test bin and add a handful of worms. Allow the worms to bury themselves.
Wait 15 minutes. If the worms are huddled together or trying to escape — that is, if they’re on the sides and the ceiling of the bin — then the manure needs to age a bit longer.
You can also mix the pre-composted rabbit manure with a carbon-rich bedding material like wood chips or newspaper in order to improve the carbon-nitrogen balance.
How to Collect Rabbit Fertilizer
Many rabbits use a litter box, which makes things easy. But even if your bunnies do their business “outside the box,” there are still some efficient ways of gathering up their offerings.
Create a collection facility
Many hutches have wire floors, which allow rabbits’ droppings to fall through.
We don’t recommend bare wire floors for the entire hutch. That can be painful in the short term and injure your rabbits’ sensitive feet in the long run.
To protect your rabbits’ feet, cover most of the wire with a plywood sheet, but leave a few inches of wire near the walls. It will allow droppings to fall through.
Place sheets of corrugated PVC beneath the hutch to catch both droppings and urine for easy disposal. This video shows one way of doing this.
Wait, you can use the pee?
Can you use your rabbit’s liquid output, too?
Rabbit urine is also rich in nitrogen. And if you’re ambitious, you can collect that, too, for your garden.
Check out this alternate urine collection strategy.
Build a worm bed beneath your hutch
If you have outdoor rabbits, another option is to build a worm bed beneath your hutch. This can provide you with worm castings, which are also valuable for your garden.
Start with a wall around the bed. It can be any size you like, but the walls should go down a minimum of 12 inches.
Next, lay down two to four inches of a carbon-rich material like shredded newspapers or wood chips.
After that, your rabbits will do their part.
Once you have an inch or two of rabbit droppings on top, mix the bedding and the manure, and wet it down. Keep an eye on the temperature.
Mix and water your bed every day for two to four days. Keep checking the temperature.
Once the bedding is cool, you can add your worms.
Weeds and Rabbit Fertilizer
One concern with some manure-type fertilizers is weeds.
Specifically, when an animal ingests viable seeds, those seeds sometimes pass through to the manure and sprout unwanted plants in your garden.
Rabbits eat a diet of hay, primarily. Fortunately, though, most feeding hay for rabbits contains no viable seeds.
That reduces the chances of this type of weed invading your garden.
What About Other Pets?
If rabbit droppings are such a great addition to your garden, what about other types of dung? Can you turn dog doo to garden gold, as well? What about cat scat?
Unfortunately, not all manure is created equal.
Guinea pigs and rabbits share a similar diet. Although guinea pigs are omnivores (unlike rabbits), pet varieties often eat a plant-based diet of feeding hay and compressed hay pellets.
This makes their droppings similar in nutritional content and similarly compostable.
Guinea pigs can carry Giardia. Giardia is a parasite that can cause a serious and highly unpleasant diarrheal disease called giardiasis.
Although raw guinea pig manure won’t hurt your plants, you might not want it on your food crops.
To be on the safe side, compost your guinea pig manure for several months before using it to fertilize food plants.
Anyone who has ever kept fish knows that they produce their share of “output.”
And yes, you can use it in your garden!
Fish waste is rich in nitrogen, though lower in potassium and carbon.
Here’s a peek at one person’s aquaponics setup.
Chicken droppings are a time-tested gardener’s friend. You can use it as a soil amendment as well as for fertilizer.
Chicken manure works very well on edible crops. However, this brings with it some health and safety concerns.
Raw chicken droppings contain a host of bacteria and other pathogens that can be harmful to humans. What’s more, they can live in the manure for as long as a year.
Always wear gloves when working with chicken — or any — manure. And don’t use raw chicken manure in your garden.
Not only does raw chicken manure contain bacteria and pathogens, but it’s “hot” manure that can burn your plants’ roots.
Always compost your chicken manure before putting it on your garden.
In some places, hedgehogs, like rabbits and guinea pigs, are popular small pets.
But hedgies eat a different diet from rabbits and guinea pigs. Hedgehogs are omnivorous, and their diet is markedly higher in protein.
This makes their droppings inappropriate for use as a fertilizer.
Hedgies can also carry Salmonella.
Cats and dogs
That is a straight-up no.
Dogs are omnivores, and cats are obligate carnivores. It makes their feces unpleasant. It also makes it inappropriate for use as fertilizer.
Not only do cat and dog feces contain the wrong nutritional balance for your garden, but also:
- Cat and dog droppings harbor harmful bacteria
- They may also harbor parasites
- It is very acidic
- It takes an extremely long time to break down
- The smell will make you unpopular with your neighbors
So when it comes to your garden, dog and cat “doo” is a don’t.
Rabbit Fertilizer for the Win
There are many reasons why connoisseurs refer to rabbits’ droppings as “bunny honey” and even “bunny gold.”
Rabbit fertilizer is nutritious, organic, and free. A single rabbit can produce between 200 and 300 pellets a day or up to a ton of manure a year.
You can use rabbit manure as is or compost it in a number of different ways.
And if your supply exceeds your demand, you can even sell it!
Have you used rabbit manure in your garden? Do you have any tips for our readers? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!