One of the most challenging parts of the composting process is keeping small animals and rodents out of the pile. Not only does the pile smell good to many small animals, but it is also a warm place for them to dig into. Knowing this, many composters wonder whether the compost pile is safe for rabbits and other small creatures.
Compost is not safe for rabbits to dig in as mycotoxins in compost can harm them. Once exposed to this, rabbits can become sick and even die. As of now, there is no cure for Mycotoxicosis in rabbits, and it can spread quickly.
Let’s discuss the risks that compost can pose to your pets and other small animals and what you can do to keep them safe.
What Makes Compost Toxic for Rabbits?
The microorganisms that help your compost pile decompose and become nutrient-filled soil can also cause some problems when it comes to your compost pile and animals. It is important to note that rabbits aren’t the only animals at risk for Mycotoxicosis. It is also common in household pets like dogs.
So, let’s talk about what can make your compost pile so dangerous for rabbits and other small animals. As the microorganisms work to decompose the material in your pile, they can grow fungi to help with the process. These fungi are highly beneficial to your compost pile because they help break down those larger chunks of material in your pile that can take a long time to decompose.
As the fungi work to decompose those challenging materials, they can produce neurotoxins called mycotoxins. Unfortunately, mycotoxins can be dangerous for your pets and small animals that may roam your yard. As a result, they can develop Mycotoxicosis.
Mycotoxicosis in Rabbits
Mycotoxicosis can affect rabbits in different ways. So, just because a rabbit got into your compost pile once doesn’t mean it is going to develop this disease. However, the fungi found in your compost pile make it not worth the risk of letting them dig.
There are a few different ways Mycotoxicosis can affect rabbits. First, young rabbits may develop growth delays when exposed to this toxin. As rabbits get older, they can develop other symptoms like loss of fur in certain areas of the body, and a crust can develop on areas of their skin.
When this disease presents more severely in rabbits, it can cause the failure of the kidneys, liver, lungs, heart, or brain. This organ failure will eventually lead to death. There is currently no treatment available for rabbits who develop Mycotoxicosis once it reaches this point, so early detection and prevention are key.
This disease can take time to develop in rabbits and present slower symptoms because rabbits may eat their feces. While this is normal rabbit behavior, it can mean that they are repeatedly ingesting this toxin and reexposing themselves to the disease. This is how the disease can really fester and present extreme symptoms and even death.
If you have any concerns about potential Mycotoxicosis in your rabbit, it is best to consult your veterinarian to be safe. It is a lot easier to manage this disease before it develops further. So, the sooner they know the possibility, the faster they can begin treatment.
Symptoms of Mycotoxicosis can seem like common symptoms of other diseases and can be hard to identify before the fatal stages. So, ensure you tell your veterinarian every detail of the symptoms, including composting.
How To Keep Rabbits and Other Pets Safe
Now that we know the potential harm that compost can bring to rabbits and other animals, let’s talk about ways to keep them safe. There are quite a few ways to keep animals out of your pile, but it will depend on the space you have available, what you can afford, and what you are adding to your pile.
Avoid Food Scraps
As you probably know, rabbits love their vegetables. If rabbits smell or even see vegetables in your compost pile, they will probably head straight for it. This can expose them to toxins that are dangerous and life-threatening. So, if you have pet rabbits or even wild rabbits you want to stay healthy, then you should avoid using those vegetable scraps in your compost pile.
This may be easier said than done, as most people enjoy ensuring that their vegetable scraps don’t go to waste, but keeping them out of the compost pile can prevent the rabbit from being interested in the first place. This doesn’t mean that you have to stop composting vegetables altogether. Just don’t leave them in piles that rabbits can access.
Another way to keep rabbits out of your compost pile is to use a compost bin. While some people prefer to create compost piles in the open, it may not be the best option for you. So, a valid alternative is to consider a compost bin. This will ensure that only you have access to the heap while it decomposes.
The key to finding the right bin is to search for the most possible coverage. Some bins come without a lid or even without a base. If you want to keep your rabbit safe, it is best to seek a bin with a base and a lid. Then, there won’t be an option for the rabbits to enter at any point. Check out this article for more information about the composition of compost bins: Do Compost Bins Have a Base on Them
If your compost bin and lack of vegetables aren’t enough to keep curious rabbits out of your compost pile, then you may need to move the process indoors. Composting indoors slightly changes the process but still produces quality compost soil. To do this, you will need a composting bin and a safe place to put it inside your home.
Remember that moving the compost bin inside can also give your indoor pets access to the pile. So, make sure you put the compost bin in an area that you can close off, or use a compost bin with a lid to ensure that no pets or small children get into the pile.
Indoor composting requires a little more work than outside composting, but it is the same process overall. You will need to drain the compost bin as water will collect at the bottom. You will also need to mix the compost pile often to ensure the water and heat are spread evenly throughout the pile.
Fence in the Area
Finally, you may be able to prevent rabbits and other animals from getting to your compost pile by putting the compost pile in a fenced-in area. Now, this can be a challenge as rabbits enjoy digging and can sometimes work their way past fences. So, you may need a deep fence installed to prevent this.
If you already have a fenced-in area of your yard, you can use that to help ensure that rabbits don’t dig in your pile. Otherwise, you will need to consider building your own fence. The good thing about fences around compost is that they are similar to a garden fence. The difference is that it doesn’t need to cover your entire property–it just needs to keep your compost pile secure.
So, consider your options for a compost fence and consider the size of your pile or piles before making any purchases. Typical garden wire fences should be enough to keep most animals out of the way, but you can also consider wooden fences as well. Whichever type of fence you choose, just make sure you keep an eye on your rabbit to ensure they aren’t digging and trying to get under it.
Overall, compost is not safe for rabbits and many other small animals. It can be toxic because of the fungi that microorganisms produce. So, it is best to be careful about the animals around your compost pile and do your best to prevent animals from getting to it.
Remember that early prevention is key. So, if you notice any changes in your rabbit’s behavior after being around your compost pile, consult with your veterinarian immediately.