Those people who have read my articles in the past might well have concluded that I have a bit of a soft spot for the humble rabbit. Having said that, I have hunted, shot and ferreted rabbits throughout most of my life but I have missed seeing the little blighters hopping around. Having moved, fifteen years ago, to an area in Dorset which didn’t seem to have a rabbit in sight I had all but given up any hope seeing them around. Well, lo and behold, about two years ago I went out as usual to feed the horse and there, at the bottom of my field, as bright as a button was a rabbit. This was cause for considerable excitement, the said rabbit stayed around and grandchildren were taken to see it and we were all highly delighted. However, my excitement was tempered with a large amount of caution as I was well aware we have a pretty healthy fox population in the area. Not least because the railway which passes some distance from us has a man-made embankment which is probably the best fox earth location for miles around. Quite apart from the fact that railways are no longer attended by gangers who once walked the lines and kept them trimmed and in good order, that embankment was constructed of fox friendly material and provided an obvious location for both foxes and badgers. There are few other banks in this area and the soil is a very heavy clay so not at all suitable for any animal that digs it’s home in the ground. This, I guess, is also the reason that there are few rabbits in these parts.
Well, having lost numerous poultry to the fox over the years I didn’t hold out much hope for the survival of my rabbit. To my great joy, after several months, the rabbit was still around and then one morning there was rabbit number two. I do have a very large bramble thicket in the bottom corner of my field and both rabbits seemed to come and go from within its depths. The months rolled on and for the most part the rabbits kept appearing. There were periods of a few weeks when I saw nothing of them and then all of a sudden there they would be again. Then there were three. Not only have my bunnies avoided the fox but they have also avoided the dreaded myxy.
Time moved on and the rabbits became a common sight. Then it was, as part of my ongoing garden development, I decided to construct a new flower bed. This was to be stocked with butterfly and bee friendly flowers of the cottage garden type. The new bed was to go in a large area of garden to the rear of the house where my pond, polytunnel and Japanese garden are located. These are separated from the garden immediately bordering the house by a fence and big hedge so the area is quite secluded. The new bed was constructed and the plants in place, all nicely watered in and looking fine. Fine, that was, until about three days later when I went to inspect them only to find that with the exception of two or three, all plants had been eaten down to the ground. The truth dawned, my lovely little rabbits had eaten my plants. There was no question of shooting them, I had given the little devils sanctuary. Plan B was wire netting, this was put in place and the whole flower bed was now secure behind the fencing. I am happy to report that all plants recovered and are now, once again doing well.
A few days later I planted some Curly and Black Kale in the polytunnel. Nice plants, very healthy and strong. A couple of days later I went into the tunnel to check that the plants had all taken only to find they had all been eaten off to soil level. It didn’t take long to find a hole in the side of the tunnel just about bunny size, the little devils had now gained entry and had before them was an array of veg and salads to gorge upon. The polytunnel is surrounded by a four foot wide raised bed in which, amongst, other things, Rhubarb grows. So, more wire was purchased and the complete outside of the tunnel fenced to a height of four feet. During the process of putting the wire up I almost stepped on one rabbit which was hiding beneath the Rhubarb leaves. Behind the polytunnel is an area where I had been depositing the soil removed from where the new, previously mentioned, hut is being built. This pile of soil is due to be used to create another flower bed. A few days ago I wandered down there to ponder over the shape and size of the proposed new bed only to find my rabbits had moved in. I now have my own rabbit warren, there are holes every where. Don’t you just love them. Sadly, I was talking to my neighbour at the Harvest Supper a few days ago and he told me his colony of rabbits had gone down with Myxy. His farm is opposite me and quite large, his rabbits are at the far end of his land which is quite a way from me so I am hoping the dreaded disease does not reach me, but I am not over optimistic.