Rabbits can destroy entire vegetable and flower gardens, and damage grass through digging. A sure sign that rabbits are in your garden is th...
Latin Name: Oryctolagus cuniculus
Months of Activity: January - December
Rabbits were probably introduced into Britain from France in the 11th century by the Normans, who kept them for meat and fur. Descendents of the few which escaped from captivity can now be seen throughout the UK.
Rabbits will eat almost any vegetation in a garden, and can be a true pest. A sure sign that rabbits have invaded your garden is the faecal droppings and pellets scattered over the area that has been damaged. Rabbit droppings are very coarse and spherical in appearance and quite unmistakable for anything else.
Colour can vary slightly from light brown to grey through to black, but generally they are brown with long dark hairs giving a well camouflaged appearance. An adult will weigh in the region of 1.7kg but larger specimens often occur. The bucks (males) have a broader head and heavier body than does (females) and often show signs of fighting for dominance of a warren, with ragged and torn ears being common.
Breeding mainly takes place between January and July but can occur any month, with young females capable of breeding at 3-4 months of age. Gestation is 28-30 days with an average litter size of 5. Females are capable of breeding 4-5 times a year in ideal conditions. Mating and conception within 24 hours of parturation usually occurs with ovulation being induced by mating.
The young are born hairless with their eyes closed in a nest chamber called a 'stop' which is prepared by the doe. This can be within the main warren, but more commonly is a short distance away, and is a short dead end tunnel. The entrance is blocked when the doe has completed feeding (which takes place at 24 hour intervals), to prevent predation. The stop contains dry grass and bracken and is lined with fur from the doe's under parts. Eyes of the young rabbits open at about 10 days and weaning takes place at 3-4 weeks of age.
Rabbits feed by grazing, taking any young shoots close to cover and nibbling them down squarely to 10mm or so above the ground. In cereal crops extensive grazing can occur and crop loss can run into many £1,000's.
Rabbit populations can be brought under control by shooting and trapping. A rabbit proof fence (3ft high) can also ensure rabbits don't freely wonder onto your land.
For gardeners, swapping to plants that are less attractive to rabbits might also be considered. For example, Arum Lilies, Cactus, Red Hot Pokers, Iris, Daffodils, Bottle Brush, Heather, Marigolds, Lupins, Agapanthus, Aloe, Lavender, Jasmine, Black Eyed Susans, Freesias, Foxgloves, Oleander, Rosemary and Sage.
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