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Catching a domestic rabbit before the monsters get it  RSS feed

 
master steward
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We came home a few days ago and there were these two big, dark grey bunnies running away from my geese (who are encouraged to attack any unknown critter that comes near their nest).  One of them was about the size of a newly hatched lamb, the other a bit smaller.  Not at all like our usual 'wild' rabbits or like the ones that are usually pet store releases.  Probably Flemish giants. 

Unlike normal bunnies, these ones hopped a bit towards the humans and didn't seem afraid of us.  We could get about 4 feet away from them before they skedaddled.  We couldn't catch them.

That night, a lot of noise and stuff, and there is only the smaller (but still huge) rabbit left.  I have a big long rant about urbanites leaving pests and domestic animals on my farm but this isn't the place for it.  this is the place for it.

The remaining rabbit is digging huge holes (dangerous for humans, damaging to the earthworks and disruptive to the garden) eating things it should not, and really upsetting the geese who have now decided it should be food and must be eaten.  It's really having a bad time of things and its coat has gone from lovely and glossy, to dull. 

I want to catch it before someone else does.  By someone else, I mean someone that is going to eat it.  I also want to catch it before it multiplies. 

Any thoughts on how I can do this?
 
pollinator
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I have a Flemish Giant at home. Mine is curious as anything and loves dried blueberries and mango.

I would try a live-capture trap with a drop door baited with dried blueberries and mango, probably on a bed of whatever it considers candy from your garden. I would be shocked if it didn't work.

-CK
 
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Keep in mind that all our domestic rabbits are descended from European hares.  Our wild jack rabbits and cotton tails are North American rabbits.  They will cross breed, but you will have a barren "mule" type litter of bunnies.  I.e., one generation but none beyond that.  There is just enough genetic difference to make them infertile.  However, if you catch a white or black and white rabbit in your yard, it is probably a domestic rabbit that escaped and became feral. The gray bunnies you saw could be either native or escaped rabbits, hard to tell without a picture.  Of course, either one will strip your garden bare.  And if you only want to raise them for meat, not breeding, you could catch them and fatten them.  Just a heads up, our native N American rabbits usually don't tame down at all and may bite you when you reach into the cage (voice of experience).  Never underestimate a few hundred years of domestication.  It really makes a difference.
 
r ranson
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We have no native bunnies to our island.  They are all domestic or meat rabbits of European decent.  In the 'wild' they breed like, um, oh, I can't bring myself to say it.

The way this bunny is sticking to such a small area and her other behaviour makes me think she might be 'with kit'.  I need to catch her before we have a bunch of little owl feed hopping around.  Once the bunnies are gone, they start on the chickens, but their first love is bunnies. 

Personally, I don't like rabbits.  I was raised on Monty Python, not Bambi.  But, of course, I've had the domestic bunnies as a kid and the meat rabbits when I first started farming.  And the scars to prove it. 

If I catch this bunny, I need to decide what to do with it.  Can I put it to work on the farm?  Not interested in eating it or making it a pet.  But rabbits are a really good way of transforming compost into soil. 

But first I need to catch it.

I have two live traps I've been baiting with grain.  Not working.

 
Chris Kott
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The only thing they will pig out on hard enough to hurt themselves is anything sweet. Any pungent and sweet dried fruit should do.

-CK
 
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I had to "relocate" a bunny that someone had as a pet and let it be free on a friend's property, it was digging burrows under their front steps. I set a have-a-heart trap out baited with timothy hay, baby carrots, and dried strawberries. Caught it after a few days trial and error, I had to start with the "bait" outside of the trap, and slowly move it towards the inside of the trap. Was able to rehome it with a co-worker. You might want to see if you have a local org that will come trap and relocate for you, I'd suggest doing a few internet searches on bunny and adoption with your respective area to see if there are any close to you that will help. Good Luck!
 
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How about a long-handled fish net?  If you can get within 4 feet, surely that might work.

Any way you can shepherd it into a building (probably with help) to better your chances?
 
pollinator
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Er It is my understanding that Domestic rabbits are from wild european rabbits not european hares . I know its possible that wild rabbits here in france will breed with domestic rabbits and have seen it happen . Hares are much much bigger than rabbits who are native to the mediteranian area and were introduced to other parts of europe including the UK and Eire by the romans . Our hares do not dig holes and instread rely on speed to escape preditors I have hares in my park and garden they do not cause much damage as they live in low concentrations and cause us no bother . Rabbits ...they are lunch if I find them on our property they have the potential to eat everything .

David
 
r ranson
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I've finally caught the smallest bunny by finding out how it got into my garden and putting a through trap there.



Now I need to figure out what to do with it.  I'm also pretty certain this is the female.  A female that has had extramarital relations with at least one of the other semi-domestic rabbits we've had dropped off here this month.

I don't really want to start buying bunny food.  It's been wild long enough it's probably used to eating mostly greens, so maybe I could transform it into some sort of composting factory like this



(raised beds, cage with strong wire all around and a wooden shelter up one end?)

Now to catch the other 3 surviving drop-offs and figure out what to do with this little creature until I can build it a home. 

Oh, and to look up bunny gestation time.  Good thing I still have a nesting box from when I kept meat rabbits.  Just wish I still had the cages.   Right now I'm wishing I still ate bunny.  This is a whole lot of unwanted work and stress - I just keep thinking about the lovely composting factory she will make.
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Be very vigilant in taking care of it. Rabbits die very easily.
 
r ranson
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Do wild rabbits have anything that can harm humans or other livestock?  Diseases?  Parasites?  Other?
 
r ranson
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My biggest concern is that rabbits are highly sensitive to changes in diet.  She's 1 to 2 weeks away from pooping out babies so she's going to be pretty sensitive to changes right now. 
 
Denise Kersting
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You might want to try contacting the Canadian chapter of the House Rabbit Society, https://www.vrra.org/wp-beta1/?page_id=2 or the parent organization, https://rabbit.org/. They might be able to give you answers regarding parasites/bugs/etc and they may be able to relocate them to homes for you. That bunny does look like it had been a "housed bunny" before, and during the spring or summer I'm sure it would be fine free-ranging, but I'd worry about it over winter. The parent org link above has some really good info on care and FAQ. Good Luck!
 
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This happened to me a few years ago. 
https://permies.com/t/28734/critters/domesticating-rabbits-ve-questions



I bought them a pretty standard bag of pelleted feed, some timothy hay and then a steady supply of the things they were eating while they were wild.   AS you'll see,  that began my venture into raising rabbits. 
 
r ranson
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The rabbit is pretty depressed but we are building trust.

At first, every time I went in, it would run and cower in a corner.  Now she just cowers in place.  I touch her very lightly when I feed her.  Just to say I'm friendly. 

She's getting hay each morning and fresh weeds and grass twice a day.  Her favourite is kale, flat grasses and chicory.  Her least favourite is chard and lawn clippings.  I was worried her water didn't go down, so I put a bowl of water in the cage.  This is going down and she's more friendly since I did that, so I think she doesn't know how to drink from a rabbit water thingy. 

I talked with the pet food supplier about salt and minerals needs.  I wasn't all that impressed because, like many people who care for animals, she didn't know the difference between salt and minerals.  I think with a varied diet the rabbit shouldn't need too many minerals, but I would like her to have a salt lick.  Any ideas if a cobalt salt lick would be okay for bunnies. 
 
Craig Dobbson
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You could try putting a little peanut butter or apple butter on the waterer's nipple.  That might entice her to try licking it.  Then she'll quickly figure out that that's a place to get water.  Since she's got a litter on the way, you'll need to keep her well hydrated, so if the bowl is working... great.

Have you got a nest box ready for her?
 
r ranson
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Craig Dobbson wrote:
Have you got a nest box ready for her?



It doesn't fit in the cage.  It was designed for much larger rabbits.  I'm pretty sure this is still quite young and not finished growing. 

I'm wondering if a shoe box will do the trick.
 
Craig Dobbson
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I guess it depends on the size of the shoe box.  I think something made of wood is better.  From my experience, a next box that's 10 inches wide, 10 inches high and 18 inches long is big enough for most breeds.  The high sides are needed to keep the kits from jumping out.  Once they get out, they have a hard time getting back in the nest.  This also gives adequate room for the doe to get in and out of the nest one one side without jumoing directly on the kits. 

For the most part she'll stay out of the nest.  She's only going to go in there to feed the kits roughly three times a day.  So there needs to be enough room in the nest box to hold enough straw and fur to keep the kits warm while the doe isn't in the nest.

 
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Wild Rabbits do carry Tularemia which can be deadly for humans that eat the rabbit. Even getting it on your hands can transmit the organisms, but I think it's just in the blood, not on the coat. But you might want to research it and see. I know that the disease is active in the summer and that's why you are not supposed to eat wild rabbit in months that do not have an "r" in them ( rabbit hunting rules).

We used to raise rabbits in a colony situation( not in little cages) and offered them a Redmond Salt "rock" that you can find in a lot of feed stores these days. They really liked it. It's a naturally occurring salt lick complete with good minerals including the trace minerals.

Rabbit poop is the best for creating an earthworm farm. We would let the poop build up and it would compost in place. When we dug down a foot or so, it was absolutely loaded with earthworms. Added to the garden or made into worm casting tea....it was a super amendment.
 
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I don't really want to start buying bunny food.  It's been wild long enough it's probably used to eating mostly greens, so maybe I could transform it into some sort of composting factory like this


I successfully used such composting factories. Here is what I learned. wood and rabbit urine don't mix well.  Therefor make the floor by bending the edges up about 6 inches on all sides and staple 2x4s around the outside so there is no wood under the wire and no wood on the inside. [they will chew the wood]  Have the long sides stick out for handles and to fasten the uprights which make both the legs and support for the top of the pen which can be 2x2 material. I like a 2 foot depth of welded wire  Make a matching frame of 2x2 to hold the roofing which can be metal or plastic and will also serve as the door for the pen hinged on one side.
I used 8 foot roofing so I had 2 pens with a V manger of the welded wire in between.  When I cut grass for the other animals I would fill their manger also. They will normally make their toilet on the opposite end of the pen from the manger and use some of the uneaten hay to sit on and possibly save some soft pellets to rechew as a cud. So don't be alarmed if you find such a stash but if they sit on it then clean it out. Be sure to add some tree pruning branches to chew on and a small amount of scotch broom which they use a medicine for the coxadeosis which destroys their livers. Sometimes they were interested in the salt donuts make for rabbits but most of the time they were ignored.
 
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I recommend you visit https://riseandshinerabbitry.com/about/ ; He is an abundant source of info for feed, well being, herbs for pregnant does, etc.
We feed our rabbits barley that has been soaked overnite and allowed to sprout.  We do this in a bucket, because the set up I had in trays was way too time consuming.  The feed needs to be in a cool, dark space, so a bucket works well.  Our rabbits have been eating this for over 4 years and are very healthy, good breeders and taste good.  In the spring, summer and fall they get a variety of hand picked greens and tree (birch, beech, apple) limbs and leaves.  They eat less barley during that time. Hay is necessary for digestion to keep them from getting impacted, but twigs and leaves probably serve that purpose as well.  Good luck...their poop is fantastic..full of minerals and ready to put on the garden as is.
 
r ranson
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I forgot to mention the apple branches.  It's eating them with great enthusiasm.  I need to cut some more today.

I'm not happy with the cage it's in as I think it's small for a rabbit - even if it is an old pet store rabbit cage.  Thankfully this rabbit is smaller than I expected.  I'm counting on it raining this weekend so that I can build it a better one.  The problem is designing one that is raccoon proof, heat proof and cold proof. 

I ran my hand over it's back today to try to judge the health.  It's pretty boney.  But each day it eats more food.  Having the water dish in the cage seems to have increased its appetite tremendously.
 
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This sounds like an interesting adventure you're having, R Ranson! It is sort of on my long term project "to do" list, so I hope you keep posting updates. I keep hearing about all the diseases domestic rabbits get and I'm very aware that in the wild, rabbits don't live very long. To me, what you're doing is similar to the people who say that if you catch bees from the wild, their genetics and disease resistance will be better and will help to undo the damage humans have been doing. The problem is that you may not be sure whether this bunny is a recent escape (or sadly dumped) rabbit, or if she was produced in the wild. She clearly looks like domestic European heritage - more so than the wilder but still European rabbits that are in our field - but even the recent domestic rabbits seem quite capable of surviving and reproducing without human intervention in this area, so some of them must be capable of naturalizing. It will be interesting to see what her young look like.

I know that J. Salatin has done some pastured rabbit hutches, and I've also heard of the trends towards raising rabbits in colonies, but neither of those will help you collect their "production" for vermi-composting. Considering rabbits like it cool, designing a cage system that can be skidded or wheeled to different locations depending on season or needs might be an idea to consider. Their are a number of portable systems designed to hold chickens, so that might be a source of ideas that could be adapted. I have heard of mixed systems where there are cages for night safety but paddocks for day use. That requires time to chase animals in at night and you'd lose daytime poop production, but it depends on your goals and resources.

 
BeeDee marshall
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I've read differing opionions about water for rabbits.  My experience is that pregnant does need more, but mainly I have noticed that sometimes they are thirsty and others not so much.  Not like chickens at all because they are not building eggs.  If chickens don't have enough water the egg production literally dries up.  So, especially in the winter, if their water bottle or bowl gets frozen, I don't worry, they will slurp up water the next time I feed them and be fine.

The cage, especially since she is pregnant, is somewhat of a dilemma.  You could go for wood until her kits are bigger and then change up to something she won't chew and stink up.

One more thing,  females are generally not as friendly as males.  My bucks let me handle, pet and squish them up , but the does are only bold when they are pregnant, because they are hungry.  Mostly they are timid and shy and will back away from a hand.  There are those does, however, that are very agressive and will bat and scratch.  Had two like that and they became dinner pretty quickly.  Those nails are dangerous!

Make sure that whatever kind of birthing box you make/get, that the kits can't climb out, cause they will even when they are still sightless days old.
 
BeeDee marshall
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Some podcasts you can download and enjoy later
http://www.thesurvivalpodcast.com/episode-875-rick-worden-of-rise-and-shine-rabbitry
http://www.theselfsufficientgardener.com/podcasts/SSGP1471.mp3
http://www.theselfsufficientgardener.com/podcasts/SSGP172.mp3

I am sure there are more recent out there, but that is what I found on a quick search
 
Sunny Baba
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I raised rabbits for many years in a colony situation and have to disagree with Jay in that we collected and used their droppings very effectively this way.
We enclosed an approximately 12x 20 foot space with 7 'welded wire fencing. It was not fastened tightly and it angled outwards slightly so that it was wobbly enough to deter any raccoon or cat trying to climb in. Since the welded wire has 2x4" holes- big enough for bunny kits to escape through- we added 3 feet of poultry fencing to the bottom , all the way around. 6 inches of it was bent to run along the ground, so they could not dig underneath. Then.....all the way around the inside, we overlapped another 3 feet of poultry fencing that lay  on top of the ground all the way around the "coop". This kept them from tunneling out close to the fence. This was secured with earth staples.
But, in the middle of the pen was an area without anything on the ground. This was where they would dig their burrows. Eventually there was a network of underground tunnels and burrows where they would go to keep cool in summer, warm in winter and to have their kits. Heat is a big killer of rabbits and we never lost any to heat with this system. If you get a lot of rain, it can be helpful to have some kind of roofing over an area to keep the tunnels from flooding. 
When the kits were about 10 days old, they would emerge from the burrows and start eating with the others. We had 20 to 80 bunnies in a colony like this, including the bucks. When they became mature they would start fighting, so we would have to cull to make sure there weren't too many at one time.
Rabbits tend to self-regulate their numbers based on available space in a colony, so if the population became too large , they would have smaller litters.
We really enjoyed giving them a chance to live a somewhat "natural " life, running and hopping and digging and interacting with one anther. I could never have my bunnies in cages again after seeing how well they thrived in this kind of environment.
And twice per year, we would go in and harvest already-composted manure. Gold for the garden!

Joel Salatin's son has raised rabbits for many years and they put Basic-H in the water to keep them from getting parasites. We did have pinworms in the rabbits before we did this. But other than that the rabbits were extremely healthy. Joel's son did a lot of "linebreeding" , as did we, and we never had problems with the close breedings even after 8 years of not introducing any new genetics. If you start with healthy genetics, it makes all the difference.
 
r ranson
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She's taking fir off her belly now. 

How much longer? 
 
Craig Dobbson
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They usually make the nest a day or two before kindleing.  The nest box ought to be in place and filled up with straw.  Really pack it in there, she's gonna chew it into a fine fluff for the center of the nest.  And she'll take out any of it that she doesn't need.

Remember that she'll only be in the nest during feeding time. So roughly twice a day for maybe ten to twenty minutes.  She won't go in there otherwise, so the nest and the litter of kits is what keeps them warm.  The mothers stay away from the nest so that they don't risk exposing them to predators. 

Once she gives birth, you'll be able to see nest of fur moving ever so slightly.  The day after that, you will want to open the nest up and inspect it for dead kits.  remove the dead ones and return the nest to the cage.  Try to be quick about it and give the doe a treat (small apple slice) to keep her busy while you check things out. 

I hope it all goes well.  
 
BeeDee marshall
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Has she been grabbing hay and doing an up and down movement with her head as if she is trying to gather as much hay as possible (which she is ;^)) ?  Mine sometimes do that as much as a week before kindling, but the fur pulling is usually a good indication that the time is close.  After the kindling, everytime I want to look in the nest, I rub my hand over the doe and let her sniff my hand.  I guess some does are funny about foreign smells on their kits.  I have never had any problems that way.  Once the kits are born you have about 4 to 6 weeks before you need to start feeding them, although they will eat some of their mother's food as they get older.  My last set of kits was doing so well, that I placed them in their own cage when they were 3 1/2 weeks.  They are good eaters and are gaining weight and doing well.  Be sure to feed the does more  feed while she is nursing.  Soaked and/or sprouted oats work well to get the milk flowing.  Greens are always appreciated.  Enjoy the little ones, they eventually get pretty obnoxious and there are usually one or two piglets in the litter.  You can get anywhere from 4 to 10 kits in a kindling, depending on the breed.  We average 6 and that suits us fine.  Happy kindling!
 
r ranson
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I put the box in yesterday morning.  The rabbit thanks me for the new litter box.  :|
 
BeeDee marshall
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They do love to poop:*)  The little ones poop in their feeders, but the poo is small and easy to clean out.  The mother actually feeds the kits some of her poop at some point during the first week or so to get their digestive system going. 
 
Craig Dobbson
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I can't remember where I read it, but i think rabbits make two different "poo pellets".  One is kinda wet and sticky, well digested and sorta gross, while the other is more dry, fiberous and light.  I think the latter is what the mothers will deposit for the kits to eat in preparation for weaning. 
 
Chris Kott
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Rabbits are coprophagic, it's their version of chewing cud.

-CK
 
Hans Quistorff
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Chris Kott wrote:Rabbits are coprophagic, it's their version of chewing cud.-CK


Thank you for the word!  Yes especially when fed green or coarse material they may want to store some of their soft pellets to chew later. This can be messy if they don't actually do it.
 
r ranson
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Dang.  No babies inside the cage.  Lots appearing outside.  Looks like I caught the male.

One of many.

The baby bunnies emerged from under the woodpile.  Looks like we now have an excess of rabbits.  Time to step up our efforts to catch the blighters.

 
Hans Quistorff
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I thought you knew how to tell the sex of a rabbit. You can't presume with rabbits; Always push back the fur between the back legs and look for a point or a slit.
 
r ranson
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I didn't look because it was the smaller of the grey rabbits which was on the bottom when they were together earlier. 

That's okay, it's getting nice and plump. 
 
pollinator
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Best thread EVER.

The adventures of the wild bunny whisperer. 
 
r ranson
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Little do they know.  I am seriously considering eating red meat again. Until then, I'm trying to discover a way to transform this menis into something useful, food or cash. 

I opted against building a cage over the garden because the rabbit drops a lot of hay.  Hay has grass seeds.  grass in the garden is a weed. 

But he is eating almost twice his volume in greens a day and I've added in some flatted barley which he nibbles on.  As for the other adult grey rabbit, I'm earning her trust.  Hope to catch her soon. 

There are about half a dozen baby rabbits (hers I think) and about 4 of the normal wild rabbits (cottontail).  It won't be long before they start attracting predators and when the predators are done with the rabbits they will start on my chooks.  grrr. 
 
Are you okay? You look a little big. Maybe this tiny ad will help:
What would you cook first in a rocket oven?
https://permies.com/t/89866/cook-rocket-oven
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