Building better habitat to bring the bunnies to you.

  1. editor
    If you have the land but not the rabbit, odds are you are lacking the proper habitat to provide a lush home for Mr. Flop Ear. This can be easily corrected with a combination of native grasses and other plant growth often with the help of your local conservation agency or extension office.

    Making artificial dens

    Perhaps one of the best ways to bring rabbit to your property and keep them there is to create a safe place for your bunnies to nest and develop while allowing them to sit out the heat of the day and escape from predators. To create the cover that they need, simple "chopping and dropping" in which you cut short trees such as popcorns and young crowded oak that would strangle themselves out anyway, then simply allowing the tops to hang across the ground can produce a fast brush pile in a hurry.

    Alternatively, when you trim your trees or cut down brush in other areas, instead of hauling it off or having a bonfire, stack it up where you are looking to increase that habitat and nature will do the rest.

    Through chopping and dropping and edge feathering, you can create a nice healthy rabbitat on the fly.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gy6hGunlpK8

    Then of course, you can add to this by introducing your own outside wood. However, keep in mind that your bunnies will require water so try to concentrate these areas near or partially over ponds, streams, or runoff overflows.

    In this video from the Kentucky conservation agency, they explore easy creation of rabbit warrens by using brush piles, pallets, and other woods

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wzeeCxZZ00

    Getting help

    Most of your local county extension agents and state conservation agencies offer help ranging from brochures and local expertise of what is best for your area ranging all the way up to grants to fund improvements. For instance in Missouri, many take advantage of $500 Missouri Prairie Foundation (MPF) grants to make rabbit habitat. You often find that your state has a ton of low to no cost help right at your fingertips.

    Grasses

    First off, there are a lot of non-native invasive grasses out there such as Bermuda, vasey and Johnson grass as well as fescue that really don't do a lot for rabbit. You can kill off these by tilling, covering with black plastic, or just plain old fire (check your local fire codes etc. before hand) prior to planting more native grass.

    Bluestem, Indian grass, switch grass, switch cane, or any number of native berries such as black berry can replace this. You can rake and sow seed by hand (get the kids out and have the spread it like chickenfeed) or with a broadcaster. Shallow trenches also work. In northern states, Blue Joint Grass works well especially in wet areas around those Minnesota lakes and bog areas. Stay away from grasses and plants such as Yarrow, Lupine, Lungwort, and Bee balm as they are natural rabbit repellants.

    This is the time of year to plant your grasses, as you want to keep the seeds in the soil whenever it's above 65 F.

    Example

    The below is a true case study provided by the Missouri Department of Conservation:

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    "BEFORE AND AFTER: In 2007, this Howard County landowner converted fescue to native warm-season grasses and installed shrub row plantings for quail and rabbits

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    See how the shrub row had grown by last summer! As a result, last fall the landowner had four nice coveys of quail and plenty of rabbits and was able to hunt the area for the first time."

    As they say, if you build it, they will come.

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