First time gardener encounters a nest of baby rabbits!!

takadi(7)June 4, 2009

Digging, toiling, weeding, shoveling, with corn, tomatoes, carrots, etc growing in my back yard. I've suspected some rabbit damage, but it hasn't been much. However, one day I spotted a really strange acting rabbit. I tried to shoo it away, tried to scare it, and it just wouldn't budge. I thought it was either the bravest rabbit in the world or it had rabies. Turns out, under my deck a few feet from my garden was a nest of baby bunnies, about four or five of them.

The question is, I'm not really sure what to do with them. Will they cause irreparable damage to my hard earned crops? I don't really wanna kill them, and I don't want to mess with them as I'm afraid moving them will make their mother abandon them and they'll starve to death. Should I just ignore them? Will they find another food source? I figured if the rabbits really wanted to eat my crops, they would have done so already, but the crops haven't grown much yet.

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Karen Pease

The question is, I'm not really sure what to do with them. Will they cause irreparable damage to my hard earned crops?

Probably.

Should I just ignore them?

No.

Will they find another food source?

If you introduce a food source that they like more than your garden, they'll eat that instead. That's known as a "distraction crop".

I figured if the rabbits really wanted to eat my crops, they would have done so already, but the crops haven't grown much yet.

Too soon to say. Watch what they eat, because they're going to be eating *something*, and a lot of it. If they have something that you don't mind them eating that they prefer, let them have it. Unfortunately for me, mine prefer strawberry leaves, brassicas, and carrot tops!

I don't really wanna kill them, and I don't want to mess with them

Then fence in the areas you don't want them getting to. This means extending the fence at least 6 inches underground and three feet up, made of 1" chicken wire (or smaller), or other materials with similar properties. Yes, it really needs to be 1" or less; I even once saw a scared baby bunny fit through 1", although it was an unusually tiny one and it was really hard for it to make it through.

You need this fencing on every side. Some species of rabbits will be more capable of digging or jumping than others, so you may need deeper or taller, depending on what kind yours are. A good way to test your fence is to try to chase a rabbit into your garden. If they make it in, the fence is no good. ;)

I'm afraid moving them will make their mother abandon them and they'll starve to death.

At least with most animals, that's a myth. I don't know about the specific case of rabbits.

As for the importance of fencing: For two years, I got almost no strawberries from my patch, as the rabbits kept eating all the leaves. So, I eventually fenced it in and got two years of flush crops. This year, I wanted to expand the patch, so I took the fence down and tilled up the adjacent area and thinned them out into the new land -- hoping that they had lost their taste for strawberry leaves, as I didn't want to have to put in such a big fence. The rabbits devastated the patch again. I just finished re-fencing the larger area back in. :P

    Bookmark   June 4, 2009 at 1:22PM
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takadi(7)

Will repel all spray be a better first choice?

    Bookmark   June 4, 2009 at 5:52PM
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Karen Pease

Most smell-based repellants work at first, but some lose effectiveness over time and all have to be reapplied (some very often). I'm not familiar with that particular "Repel All" example. The one that gets the best reviews (never tried it myself) is "Liquid Fence". In general, the reviews almost universally say it keeps the animals away, but there are some negative reviews from people talking about how it smells so awful, it keeps them away too! ;)

Also do consider that a fence is a one-time cost and labor, but a liquid repellant is an ongoing one.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2009 at 4:44PM
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petzold6596(8b southern NM)

Rabbits DON'T dig so forget putting the fence in the ground. Only jack rabbits dig and that is very seldom.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 9:37PM
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Karen Pease

Rabbits DON'T dig so forget putting the fence in the ground.

They don't dig *far*, but if they think they can get under something, they'll scratch at it until they can squeeze through (and it doesn't take much for them to squeeze through). Plus, what is ground-level will change over time. Trust me on this; I made the mistake of originally putting them at ground level, and I paid for it with repeated break-ins. I learned my lesson, and all rabbit fences from now on for my garden go several inches underground.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2009 at 3:31PM
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