Protecting your Outdoor Rabbit from Raccoons and other Predators
If you choose to keep your pet rabbit outdoors, you will need to take steps to keep him or her safe. By making a few adjustments to an outdoor weather proof rabbit hutch, you can help protect your outdoor rabbit not only from the elements, but also from predators in search of an easy meal. This article will outline some simple steps that can be taken to provide your rabbit with further protection.
What dangers do outdoor rabbits face?
Outdoor rabbits are subject to weather that they may not be able to tolerate well; always consider the outdoor temperature and bring your rabbit indoors if the weather becomes too hot or too cold for them to be outside safely.
Another danger that outdoor rabbits face is that they are alone for long periods of time, which intelligent predators will take advantage of. This places them at risk of a human stealing them from their owner’s yard, and it places them on a predator’s radar. Even if you make an effort to spend as much time with your rabbit as possible, they will still be alone for hours while you are away at work or during the night while you sleep. Danger increases at night, as this is when most wild animals hunt and most people are asleep indoors. Play time outside of their hutch must also be supervised; allowing a rabbit to freely roam your yard places them in a perilous situation. As anyone who lives with children or animals knows, constant supervision is simply not possible and it only takes a moment for trouble to occur. This makes a sturdy hutch even more of a necessity.
The final danger is a significant one; predators. Your neighboring wild life do not have the same luxury that your pet rabbit does of having each meal served to them. Since they are constantly searching for food, it is likely that your pet rabbit is on the radar of at least one predator, no matter where you live.
Most rabbit owners are aware that foxes are a threat to their rabbit, but the list of predators to be aware of is actually much more extensive:
- Foxes: Foxes are smart, sneaky, and possess a talent for burrowing into rabbit hutches which are placed on grass.
- Birds of Prey: Hawks are the most common bird of prey to snatch pet rabbits. Depending on where you live, owls, eagles and falcons may also be a concern.
- Racoons: Yes, raccoons do eat rabbits! They are very smart and are able to use their hands to unlatch a rabbit hutch.
- Badgers: Badgers are known to eat small mammals such as rabbits.
- Wolves and Coyotes: Wild dogs often prey on rabbits for meals.
- Dogs: Domestic dogs tend to have a prey drive for rabbits, as they are fluffy and move quickly.
- Cats: Domestic cats are known to kill rabbits. Even if you manage to save your rabbit from a cat, a bite or scratch may make your rabbit very sick or kill them due to the bacteria in a cat’s mouth. The thin and fragile skin of rabbits makes bacteria entering their bodies a very real concern.
- Ticks: Rabbits may be afflicted with a tick borne illness, which may make them ill or threaten their life. If their hutch is located on grass they may become covered in tiny baby ticks, which would require veterinary care to address properly.
- Snakes: Large snakes eat adult rabbits, and small snakes eat baby rabbits.
- Stress: If your rabbit has a close encounter with a predator and you manage to intervene, the stress of the incident may be enough to threaten your rabbit’s life.
- Humans: The most intelligent of the predators we discussed above, humans may observe your family’s schedule and plan a time to steal your rabbit from your yard. Sadly, humans may plan to steal rabbits to use them as bait in dog fighting operations.
What hutch modifications are essential to keeping a rabbit outdoors?
A durable, high quality outdoor rabbit hutch is essential to keeping an outdoor rabbit safe from elements, however, most are not built to stand up to predators. This makes it critical to make adjustments to a regular weather proof outdoor rabbit hutch to give your rabbit real protection.
It is important to take steps to racoon proof your rabbit hutch, as raccoons have abilities that other predators do not, such as a useful little set of hands. Raccons are very dexterous; they are even able to open a latch on a rabbit hutch. By placing a lock on the latch to your rabbit’s hutch, you can protect your rabbit from a raccoon’s prying hands, and from a human thief.
Another way to racoon proof your rabbit hutch is to replace chicken wire with something more substantial, such as hardware cloth, which is thicker than chicken wire. For extra protection, use both chicken wire and hardware cloth, overlapped so there are no gaps big enough for a predator to use to enter the hutch or grab a rabbit. Raccoons have been known to reach their hands through chicken wire to grab prey, so it is very important to ensure this is addressed as well.
Just because foxes are not your rabbit’s only predator, it does not mean steps shouldn’t be taken to protect your rabbit against the attack of these clever red canines. If your rabbit hutch has an open bottom which sits on grass, a fox may burrow under the hutch to gain access to your rabbit. To prevent this from happening, you have two options; either relocate your hutch to a hard surface such as concrete or create a hard base, which can be done simply with wooden boards. If you choose to relocate your hutch to concrete, make sure that your rabbit has time to hop around in the grass daily, as constantly sitting on concrete would be hard on their joints. Also keep in mind that concrete can be a nice cool spot for your rabbit to sit on during hot days in the summer, but concrete will make their hutch more cold in the winter.
The best way to protect your rabbit is to keep him or her indoors, and allow supervised playtime outside when you think they might enjoy some fresh air in fair weather. If you want to take your rabbit outside to play, always supervise; it only takes a moment for a predator to notice your absence and take advantage of your rabbit being outside alone. This is especially true if your rabbit plays outdoors regularly; you may have local predators who have been watching your rabbit play outside and regularly check your yard for an opportunity to attack your rabbit.
Sadly, it is not possible to completely protect your rabbit from a predator attack if they live outdoors; however, it is possible to provide them with additional protection as mentioned above. If you will be keeping your rabbit outdoors, please racoon proof your rabbit hutch to ensure they will be more safe from raccoons and other predators.