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Baby Rabbits In My Yard

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From: Michele B
City:
Streator, IL
A rabbit recently (within past month) had babies in my chain link fenced yard. I have been successful at keeping the dogs away from the burrow. But they are now venturing outside of the burrow and are likely to be anywhere. Besides the dogs, I have another problem...mowing the grass. I almost hit one this week, and it probably scared me as much as it did that baby rabbit. And, one of the dogs found one this morning, before the little guy slipped through the fence. How long will they hang around my yard? Will they venture out and make their own burrows away from their birth place? Or will they make homes in the other 3 or 4 burrows the momma rabbit made in the yard? Is there anything I can do to encourage them to leave the yard?

 
Extension Message
From: Laura Kammin
Visiting Extension Specialist, Pollution Prevention
Extension-Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant College Program
lkammin@illinois.edu
This response was provided by Darryl Coates, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, District Wildlife Biologist.

Good afternoon,

Rabbits spend their lives in a fairly small area, typically 10 acres or less. Home ranges of one to five acres have been reported in central Illinois. Most residential lots are quarter acre 75' X 145' lots. Rabbits use forms (a shelter made from grass or weeds) and scrapes beneath the cover of vegetation.

Rabbits are polygamous (mate with several individuals), and they start breeding when they are as young as six months old. They breed from February through September, with the peak occurring between March and May. Gestation is 28 to 30 days, with four to six young born per litter. Rabbits often have three litters per year. The female digs a small, shallow depression about the size of a woman's hand. The nest is lined with grass and the female's fur. The top of the nest is camouflaged with grass and leaves. The young are born blind and without fur, but within a week their eyes are open and by the second week their fur has grown in.

If you find a rabbit nest do not disturb the young or the nest. The female has not abandoned her young. To keep predators from finding the young the female only visits the nest twice a day to nurse them, typically once in early morning and again in the evening. Young rabbits develop quickly and will leave the nest when they are about three weeks old. The best way to protect young rabbits in your yard is to leave them in their nest. Keep cats and dogs away from the area, and be careful when mowing overgrown lawns.

To encourage rabbits to leave your yard: Habitat modification - remove brush piles, weed patches, stone piles, and other debris and keep the grass cut short. Exclusion - Works well for small areas but is not practical for a large yard. Exclusion fencing is 1/4 inch hardware cloth. Very effective if protecting a small shrub and tree. Repellents: Repellents can be used but must be reapplied as plant material grows or heavy rain washes taste repellent off. Practical for small border planting but cost prohibitive for yards. Thanks for contacting us.

 
Extension Message
From: Laura Kammin
Visiting Extension Specialist, Pollution Prevention
Extension-Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant College Program
lkammin@illinois.edu
Now that the rabbits have left the nest, they will start venturing further from "home". They may stay close to your yard for a couple of weeks but will soon move out to other parts of the neighborhood. Mowing and being chased by dogs are likely to prompt the young rabbits to leave sooner rather than later. The habitat modification suggestions provided by Darryl Coates, District Wildlife Biologist, should help make your yard less attractive to rabbits, both young and old. The young rabbits will not breed until they are about 6 months old, and they will build their own nest. They will not reuse the nests that the female built. If you keep the grass cut short and deny them access to taller vegetation (i.e. exclude them from flower beds, gardens, etc.) they will most likely choose a different yard to raise their young.

 
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