Predator proofing for rabbits involves creating a safe and secure area that prevents any predators from gaining access to your bunny’s environment.
So, if you intend keeping your rabbits in an outdoor hutch and run or allow them free time your garden. Ensuring they are protected from predators is vital for their safety and must not be overlooked.
In this post, we’ll list the rabbits predators and explore some methods of keeping them out of your rabbit environment.
predator proofing for rabbits
There are currently seven wild ground dwelling known rabbit predators resident in the UK. Plus, domesticated cats, dogs and any other predatory pets neighbours may keep.
Found throughout the UK and are commonly found in urban areas. With cat like agility, they can climb or jump over a 1.83M (6ft) fence.
Found throughout the UK except parts of the Scottish Highlands and UK islands. Habitat, mainly, but not restricted to woodland. Diet varied, but known to include mice, rats, squirrels and rabbits.
Found throughout the UK, but not in Isles of Scilly, most of the Channel Islands and some Scottish Islands. Stoats live in a wide range of habitats and can climb walls and fences. However, they are more commonly found close to populations of their main food source, wild rabbits.
Found throughout the UK mainland, but not in Northern Ireland or most UK islands. These small carnivores diet mainly consists of small rodent and birds, but they will take young rabbits.
Found throughout the UK, but not the far north of Scotland and various UK islands. Habitats close to water, rivers, streams and wetlands. Diet anything it can catch including, fish, rodent, birds and rabbits.
Found in the south and east of England, Wales and Scotland. Habitats woodland, grassland, marshes and riverbanks. This nocturnal predator has a variety of prey, with wild rabbit at the top of its list.
Once driven to near extinction by loss of habitat and persecution in England and Wales. The Pine Marten is rare, but with help, slowly being reintroduced from Scotland. Habitat, diverse woodland, Diet, omnivorous but will take rabbits.
Protecting a hunch and run
- The hutch or shed should be, constructed using decent quality timber, with no rotten wood or gaps in the cladding.
- The keepers accesses should be fitted with lockable bolts. Secured with a lock or spring clip.
- The run frame should be, constructed using materials strong enough to give protection, not just to keep rabbits confined.
- The frame and roof should be covered using heavy gauge small mesh wire netting. But not chicken wire. as rabbits and predators are capable of chewing through it.
- Extending the wire mesh 300mm below the ground will deter rabbits digging out and predators digging into the run.
A well-built hutch or shed and run should give adequate protection from ground dwelling and airborne predators. However, if you allow your rabbits to free roam unsupervised in the garden at any time during the day. The garden will need to be predator proof and rabbit proof to keep them safe.
protecting rabbits in a garden
If you intend or keep free range rabbits or, allow your rabbits unsupervised free time in a garden. Then they will need adequate protection from predators! However, keeping rabbits indoors with no access to a garden, or actively managed while out in the garden. Do not require any extra protection.
To start predator proofing your garden from ground dwelling predators, it will need fencing to a height of 1.83M. Preferably with no buildings overhanging trees or bushes that will help cats and foxes gain access. But if there are some problems, the majority can easily be solved.
The garden fence needs to form a solid barrier, and a closely boarded wooden fence with no gaps is recommended. However, predators must be stopped from climbing or jumping over the fence by one of the following methods.
Fixing wire netting along the top of the fence angled at 45 degrees or rolled outwards. Alternatively run small mesh wire net along the top supported with brackets angled outwards at approximately forty five degrees.
However, if your existing fences are less than 1.83 metres high, or there are outbuilding close to them. They can be extended using well supported wire netting angled or rolled outwards at the top.
Bushes that predators can use to access your garden should be cut back if they cannot by removed altogether. Bushes need to be kept well below the top of predator proofing fences. While overhanging tree branches able to support a cat should be removed.
Predator Proofing from Airborne Attack
Covering the area with netting, is the only totally effective method of protecting rabbits while they are free roaming outdoors. So, if you live where large birds of prey are a common sight, I strongly recommend you do so.
That said, not seeing a large bird of prey does not mean you never will! Because, they are now protected by law, and being reintroduced or returning to their historic habitats across the UK. Therefore, you need to provide your rabbit with some means of escape from a threatened attack.
There are seven resident and one summer visiting birds of prey that breed in the UK that may present a threat to heathy adult rabbits.
Wingspan 200-240cm. The largest bird of prey in the UK has a diet of mostly fish, birds and carrion. But given the opportunity and space for a diagonal attack will take rabbits and hares. Now being reintroduced, so may be seen almost anywhere in the British Isles.
Wingspan 204-220cm. The second largest bird of prey has a diet of birds, mammals and some carrion. But needs the space for a diagonal or horizontal attack to take a rabbit. Resident in the open moorlands and mountains of Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Wingspan 175-195cm. The third largest bird of prey in the UK has a diet of Carrion, worms and small mammals. However, lacks the strength to take anything larger than a small rabbit, while hunting by flying low over open country. Prefers woodland close to open grassland and farmland but may also be seen in urban and suburban areas.
Wingspan 135-165cm. With a diet of birds and mammals. This bird of prey has the speed and agility to chase and catch a bolting rabbit in open ground. Prefers woodland next to open grassland, and hunts from perches along the edge of the wood.
Wingspan 113-128cm. With a diet of small mammals, birds and carrion. Buzzards are the most common bird of prey, and widespread throughout the British Isles. When hunting they will swoop on their prey from a perch, or while hovering close to the ground.
Wingspan 100-120cm. Finds prey with a slow low flying search looking and listening for small birds, mammals and insects to pounce on. May be encountered anywhere throughout the British Isles
Wingspan 115-130cm. Fly slow and low over marshes and wetlands and drop on to their prey. Diet: small birds and mammals, including hares and rabbits. Habitats: wetlands coastal areas.
Wingspan 100-120cm. Hunt flying low on established flightpaths over open ground. Diet: Small birds, and mammals. A rare summer ground nesting visitor, to grassland, farmland, moors and heathland in the south and east of England.
Adult rabbits are by instinct wary and run for cover when they feel threatened by large flying objects. Hence, eagles, goshawks and buzzards use a diagonal or low level horizontal attack to successfully take adult rabbits by surprise. But they need enough space to carry out this form of attack.
In a garden with high fences and no trees an airborne attack is less of a risk but not impossible. However, as you should give your rabbits covered areas for protection from sun and rain.
Combining these with a secure escape route using one or more tunnels, while avoiding large areas of open space. Will increase you rabbits ability to evade an attacker if one appears over the fence.
But trees within 100M of your garden may increase the risk from airborne predators. By providing goshawks and buzzards with hunting perches.
The goshawk poses the biggest risk to free roaming rabbits! Its speed, agility, and determination make it the most difficult predator for rabbits to evade.
However, increasing the height of a solid fence by 1M with wire mesh. Will force the bird to fly higher and increase your rabbits chances seeing the threat and escaping.
My Predator Proofing
When I started keeping free range rabbits, I installed plastic spikes on top of my larch wood panel fences. Primarily as protection from cats, but they are not 100% effective!
A fact that was proved to me by my rabbits bolting through the door closely followed by a cat. Therefore, I do not recommend you use them for predator proofing! But this incident did push me into researching rabbit predators and methods of preventing their attacks.
Hence, my 12 x3M garden with 1M of wire mesh on top of the 1.83m fences resembles a small prison! Mainly because it was a rush job to solve the cat problem, which I intended to improve. But 2 years later it’s still there!
Because having the extra height provided by the wire helps protect my rabbits from birds of prey. By enabling them to spot a threat before it appears over the fence, giving them extra time to reach safety.
My rabbits escape route is to one side of the garden, provided by garden furniture, hutches and tunnels. From which they exit on the patio 2M from their access to the house and safety.
Does it work? Yes, they have used it to escape from a perceived threat (a black backed gull), flying low over the gardens.
Assessing the predators, their habitats and possible risks in your location is fundamental to predator proofing. Because knowing the enemy is better than guesswork when planning the defences to protect your rabbits.
While visits from birds of prey to gardens are rare, they should not be completely ignored. Rare they may be, but it only takes one visit to lose your hairy hopping friend.
However, basic predator proofing against cats and a safe escape route is the minimum requirement they need. Leaving rabbits unsupervised in a garden with no predator proofing or escape route is putting your pet in danger! So, please do not take the risk!
To get the best from free roaming rabbits outside they need to be and feel safe! If they do not feel safe, they’ll be reluctant to spend long periods outside enjoying the free range lifestyle.