Ok to have rabbits visit my yard?
March 22, 2009 12:43 PM   Subscribe

Any reason to discourage rabbits from playing in my suburban yard? If not, then how can I encourage the rabbits to visit?

I live in the suburbs. We do not have a pet. We do not have a garden. We do have a family of rabbits that frolicks around our front yard sometimes in the mornings and evenings. We enjoy watching the rabbits and would not mind if they dropped by more often.

Is there a reason why I should be trying to chase the rabbits away?

If it's okay for the rabbits to visit, then are there things we can do to make the rabbits come by more often?
posted by Slap Factory to Home & Garden (22 answers total)
To summon rabbits:

Plant a yummy veggie garden. Jut don't plan on actually, you know, getting to eat any of the veggies.

Plant beautiful bulbs such as daffodils and tulips that you would like to see eaten down to leaves.

These two tactics worked beautifully for me.
posted by pjern at 12:46 PM on March 22, 2009 [8 favorites]

Your neighbors, or several families in the area, might have a garden (or even a few flower bulbs), and they might not be thrilled at the idea of having tons of bunnies around.
posted by amtho at 12:54 PM on March 22, 2009

If on the other hand you live next to me I WOULD be thrilled to have tons of bunnies around, garden or no.

I guess it might be nice to check with your neighbors.

BTW my parents live in the country, some years they have gardens, and they really enjoy having rabbits around to watch, regardless of the nibblage.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:00 PM on March 22, 2009

Yeah, if I found out my neighbor was deliberately luring rabbits I would be furious. I hate to break it to you, but rabbits in urban areas are pests. Might as well talk about luring rats. Anyway, morning and evening is when they tend to be active, so they seem to be luring themselves. Rather than trying to alter their behavior to fit your needs, just arrange your schedule a little bit more around them. Take a cup of coffee out in the yard and sit very quietly every morning. If you do this every day they will start to get used to you (unfortunately for your gardening neighbors) and may tend to hang out longer. No matter how used to you they get, you'll have to be very quiet and still or they won't show. Don't be surprised if any gardening neighbors respond by getting a big nasty cat or a noisy dog.
posted by nax at 1:04 PM on March 22, 2009

Grazing bunnies produce bunny droppings--a surprising number of bunny droppings, in fact. My parents had to till and re-seed their backyard after a season of bunny habitation, as there was more poo than grass at that point.
posted by magicbus at 1:04 PM on March 22, 2009

Yes. Rabbits are prolific breeders and, if they feel comfortable, will build nests in your yard by digging a hole of a large cereal bowl width and somewhat deeper. They then liberally cover the nest with the grass and flora they rip out of the yard, down to and often including the roots.

Even if you don't mind having voids to fill and replant in your yard because of the cute little babies you may get to see later on, it is annoying to trip over disguised holes because, you know, your backyard used to be relatively flat last time you strolled around out there.

On the other hand, I don't think you can completely stop rabbits from chomping things in your yard simply by chasing them away. If sufficiently agitated, they will nest somewhere else on your block and visit your yard as the buffet down the street. The reason I say chasing rabbits away won't eliminate flora predations is that I have two dogs, one of which is a terrier with many baby rabbits on his kill and optionally eat list, and yet rabbits still dig a couple of nests in my yard every year. But your chases may lessen the plant assaults, plus it's free exercise.

If you want one of those total back-to-nature yards, and local regulations permit, these issues may not be a big deal to you.
posted by mdevore at 1:11 PM on March 22, 2009

My sister and her husband had so many bunnies visiting their little patch of grass every evening that they ended up having to regularly use a shop vac on the grass to rid themselves of the bunny poo.
I think it is a courtesy thing: if your neighbors take great care of/pride in their yards and their yards are full of grass and gardens and such, then drawing bunnies to the area might be considered unneighborly.
posted by Brody's chum at 1:14 PM on March 22, 2009

I also loved watching our suburban bunny visitors, but my kids played in the yard where the bunnies romped and I got tired of them running through bunny poop, so I had to crack down on the bunny invasion. I did it gently, using a motion-sensitive sprinkler. A sprinkler which I frequently forgot about, so that I got strafed every time I crossed the lawn. I am not as smart as a bunny.
posted by padraigin at 1:37 PM on March 22, 2009 [3 favorites]

We have a wood pile. It works wonderfully as a bunny condo. (which was unintentional, of course, but I haven't had a problem with too much poop or anything, and they're cute, so they get to stay.)
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 1:41 PM on March 22, 2009

Depending on where you are, if you have rabbits you will get coyotes.

And coyotes are dangerous. They will also kill cats and small dogs, and they can be a threat to small children. Plus they can carry rabies.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:43 PM on March 22, 2009

A brief anecdote: This winter, my yard was a communal bunny toilet. There are numerous patches where I could see piles of rabbit poop and yellow ice on top of the snow. It doesn't bother me much, but when I looked at my neighbours' yards, they didn't have any sign of being targeted. So for some reason, bunnies like my yard. To crap in.

Drawbacks to bunnies: They dig holes in your lawn; they poop in your yard; they eat your flowers and vegetables. If you don't mind the above, and your neighbours don't either, then leave them some rabbit-friendly food (whatever that is) somewhere in your yard on a consistent daily schedule; plan on being out when they pass by so that they can get comfortable with your presence. (Once they're comfortable with you, it's easier to shoot them -- assuming that was your plan the whole time. Mwa ha ha ha!!...)
posted by Simon Barclay at 1:51 PM on March 22, 2009

Umm... that's generally not a good idea. By using the shopvac you are essentially aerosolizing anything in the droppings. For rabbits in particular, I'd worry about tularemia.
posted by sbutler at 2:28 PM on March 22, 2009

Opps.. forgot to quote. My comment about shopvacs was in response to this: My sister and her husband had so many bunnies visiting their little patch of grass every evening that they ended up having to regularly use a shop vac on the grass to rid themselves of the bunny poo.
posted by sbutler at 2:31 PM on March 22, 2009

I live in an urban area. Most any animal that is willing to adapt to this noisy, messy and polluted space is welcome to join me. Rabbits. Squirrels. Pigeons. They are not nearly the pest obnoxious neighbors who are under the mistaken impression that they completely control that pitiful plot of dirt, bugs and grass under their temporary care-taking. Those people are the devil.

Now is a great time to allow a space in your yard where some bunnies might eke out an existence alongside yours. Provide some shrubbery or low bushes that will give cover for them - and it encourage them to live there rather than in the middle of your grassy yard. Bunnies usually only dig one hole at a time, so people with lots of holes have a different critter. You could choose bushes that wild birds would like (berries or something else with fruit) or you could get something that stays green year round. I wouldn't actively feed the bunnies - over population is an issue, and they are likely doing just fine- provided it isn't a drought or something. Its still fun to feed them once in a while.

As evidenced above, neighbors are often a big drag, so advertising active support for the local bunnies might not endear you to them. Your yard can still look totally nice and conform with all the others on the block, but passively support a little bio-diversity. Expect some of the bunnies to find an untimely end by car or dog, so try not to take ownership of them or think of them as pets. The local bunny population will be tied to a larger cycle so some years there will be more and some none, and once in a while they will be legion.

Natural predators, like coyotes, will be exceptionally rare and are hardly the threat that dogs pose. They are not a credible danger to you, your children or your small dog. Your cat who wanders around outside in the dark might get it, but that is about it. Humane Society's got a whole project dedicated to provided some apparently much needed perspective on coyotes. I've seen actual coyotes with my own very eyes: they are shy. And smart. They are really great. Note: they are a small wild creature with teeth so use your head.

Man. Animals are not out to get you or eat your baby or trash your precious arugula and ruin civilization. Try going outside once in a while, it might kill you, but probably won't.
posted by zenon at 2:41 PM on March 22, 2009 [16 favorites]

Rabbits are prolific breeders and, if they feel comfortable, will build nests in your yard by digging a hole of a large cereal bowl width and somewhat deeper. They then liberally cover the nest with the grass and flora they rip out of the yard, down to and often including the roots.

That's hares actually (jackrabbits in some places). Rabbit-rabbits dig burrows.

The first thing ot do is to figure out what kind of rabbits you have: cotton tails, jackrabbits, feral pets? They all have different habitat requirements so knowing what you have is helpful.
posted by fshgrl at 3:11 PM on March 22, 2009

Set up a few bird feeders. You're feeding the birds; how can the neighbors complain?

The rabbits (and the chipmunks and the squirrels) will browse for what falls to the ground.
posted by megatherium at 3:48 PM on March 22, 2009

I assumed the rabbits in question were eastern cotton tails (w/ pics) because they are the most common. fshgrl is correct different bunnies and hares have different ways of doing things. There is more info about living with cottontails here.
posted by zenon at 3:53 PM on March 22, 2009

Animals are not out to get you or eat your baby

Here comes the "zomg don't abuse the bunnies" post. Allow me to follow up with related comments and counter a few points raised.

Rabbit may only dig one hole per batch, but that's one hole per breeding mother and they don't seem to reuse them. They definitely don't reuse them after you've accidentally run over the hole with a lawn-mower, or stepped in it, or a dog has stuck his nose in it, or you had to dig around it for your garden. At night I've seen up to six rabbits in my yard; this, a place that has a persistent predator. That figures as at least three holes per nest if momma likes the place, plus I'd guess they breed four or five times a year.

It is a rabbit's hole when you lift the bedding to see squeaking baby bunnies. No other common urban animal I've encountered makes that deep bowl-shaped hole with fur lining and plant coverings. And according to references, the "rabbit" here is not a hare, because the babies are born blind and (mostly) hairless. I'm not even sure we have hares around here, since I have never heard anyone refer to the animals as anything other than rabbits. In any case, it is unlikely the original poster is making a rabbit/hare distinction which would be academic to many.

Urban coyotes are not small. Wikipedia says coyotes range up to 46 pounds, and I know the ones I've seen here in the urban jungle are well over 30 pounds; they significantly exceed my 20-lb dogs in size and weight. Coyotes certainly aren't all that rare in many suburbs, increasingly less so, and urban-acclimated coyotes are not particularly shy either. We had one walking the sidewalks mid-day here, until some resident freaked and called animal control. Plus, having had to clean up after a couple of their snacks, I can say coyotes do like to eat rabbits. Good for them, go coyotes.

I think coyotes are pretty cool myself, but I'm not going to downplay why other people one has to live around might not want them to hang around, regardless of how irrational one thinks the fear may be. It's certainly something for the poster to look into before creating a rabbit haven.

This isn't some anti-nature suburbanite vs. Mother Earth conflict. Rabbits are opportunistic prey animals with very few natural predators in the suburban setting, and they overpopulate easily. I suspect my city's local parks and greenways alone support more rabbits than would several square miles of pristine wildlands with an intact pre-human explosion food chain. Avoiding steps that could keep rabbits from overrunning one's neighborhood is neither irresponsible nor anti-nature. People can still enjoy their antics without actively encouraging them to propagate.
posted by mdevore at 4:12 PM on March 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

zenon: They are not nearly the pest obnoxious neighbors who are under the mistaken impression that they completely control that pitiful plot of dirt, bugs and grass under their temporary care-taking.

On the other hand, deliberately luring them and encouraging them to feast on my pitiful plot of dirt, which incidentally I use to feed my (obnoxious) family, or worse, my neighbor luring them, is not a terribly neighborly thing to do. How about we get to scare off the bunnies and other varmints, like food growers have done since humans figured out how to grow food? Or pretty flowers for that matter. Don't assume hubris just because some people don't want rabbits in their yards.
posted by nax at 2:39 AM on March 23, 2009

The OP appears to want to have rabbits visit their yard, and I encouraged such co-existing and greater bio-diversity through providing bunny and bird friendly fauna. I discouraged habitual feeding of rabbits, as the presence of bunnies indicate that they are getting enough food as it is.

Part of the fun of having a yard, and not being part of a national geographic team, is that you can do things like put up ugly gnomes and feed birds if it strikes your fancy. Its your habitat. Or you could plant a garden, and feed your family, which is really great. Not obnoxious. You can try to fence the little bunnies out, hose em down with water (padraigin - ha!) or shoot them and eat them. It is your yard, which means most other humans ought to leave you be, but bunnies aren't real great at reading titles or deeds, and so its not exclusively your habitat. You can attempt to make it a green wasteland like most golf courses, and wage holy battle on the varmints but then you are a human at war with rabbits, which is Carl Spackler territory.

As for coyotes, they should be a rare sight- if one is breezing down the street at noon definitely call animal control, and if there is any doubts, call it in. Coyotes have bitten and attacked children, and in nearly all cases the children or attending adults successfully fought the animal off. These events are unfortunate, but its sensational to over emphasis the danger a coyote poses, especially relative to the much more likely danger of a dog attack. There are on average 12 fatalities a year in the US from dogs, while the last fatal coyote attack was apparently in in 1981.

A single yard of with a few extra rabbits isn't likely going to be able to support or dramatically impact the local coyote population (if there even is any: the OP has provided no information on their geography) in part because most peoples yards are simply too small. The range of most any predator like the coyote is large, even in an urban setting, so an individual yard is simply insignificant.

The Washington Dept of Fish and Wildlife has a really great website about living with all the creatures native to that area and provides actual opinions of folks who really know these animals. They have guides including a Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary Program and even a book Landscaping for Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest and a great introduction over here.
posted by zenon at 8:02 PM on March 23, 2009

You can have nice gardens and landscaping and a yard that you can walk around on barefoot, or you can have rabbits.
posted by Ostara at 8:54 PM on March 23, 2009

but its sensational to over emphasis the danger a coyote pose

Man, we are getting waaaay past the original question into details of suburban coyote paranoia, which I freely admit is a common paranoia, but posting coyotes stats here isn't going to make it go away.

Back to the question, a fundamental idea is that in a suburb, as in most residential areas, you live in a community. If you act in ways that affect your neighbors, even act in ways that your neighbors merely think affects them, it can influence your interactions with the community.

The poster's question was: Is there any reason to discourage rabbits from playing in my suburban yard? The answer is: yes, there are reasons to discourage rabbits from playing in one's yard, at least, not to encourage the rabbits, which was a follow-up question. The reasons include not only the effect to your own yard, but the infamous "what will the neighbors think?". I know we're all rugged individualists who are not supposed to give a shit about what other people think, but once in a while it's a good idea to consider. If poster didn't care, why did they ask?

Of course, there are also reasons to encourage rabbits to come by, including the major positive of the poster's enjoyment, but that wasn't the question.

Many people have a low opinion of other people encouraging rabbits to hang out close to their plot of land. They believe rabbits to be vermin, pooping machines, or destructive pests. It may be that the poster's neighbors don't hold those opinions, and it may be the poster doesn't care all that much about what the neighbors think, but the reasons to discourage the practice exist nonetheless. And, frankly, the poster can probably get away with subtly encouraging rabbits without anybody noticing or caring, unless they live by one of those golf course lawn guys. Just don't do the daily sprinkle of Purina rabbit chow.
posted by mdevore at 4:54 AM on March 24, 2009

« Older Good Hockey Books   |   Condom recommendation request (possibly NSFW) Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.