free-range rabbits?

Discussion in 'Other Pets & Livestock' started by chickenannie, Dec 5, 2007.

  1. chickenannie

    chickenannie Songster

    Nov 19, 2007
    I was just reading some posts about rabbits ranging freely in the yard, and am wondering how feasible that is for my 3 New Zealand whites. They live outside now but in cages without a floor. They make a burrow there and I feed them every day. They are pets but about 85% tame. I live on a 40-acre farm, but not too far from civilization. I just assumed that if I let them loose, they would either be eaten by hawks and cats (since they're so visible with white fur) or they would immediately run off. Does anyone have experience with this?

    The problem is, I'd rather let them go free than send them to the butcher, which is where they'd go in a few weeks anyways. I can't bring myself to have them butchered, but I can't keep them either, and I haven't found pet homes for them. There are 2 males and 1 female and the 2 males fought like crazy before once or twice when they were in the same pen, so I think one would probably chase the other one away from the farm for that reason, no?

    Any feedback is appreciated.
  2. Queen of the Lilliputians

    Queen of the Lilliputians Songster

    Apr 5, 2007
    I have two thoughts on this...

    My husband's boss has a free range bunny. He has a farm, but is right next to a busy road. The bunny stays in the yard. I was shocked when I saw it, because I thought that foxes or such would make a quick dinner, but doesn't seem to be a problem (the foxes DO eat their free ranging chickens though.. so gofigure!). His bunny is brown though, so maybe that makes a big difference.

    And.. when I was very little we had 2 rabbits. Somehow they escaped their cages, and made a home on our backlawn. They bred and bred and multiplied like.. RABBITS! They were EVERYWHERE. Just wanted to warn you (if you think that's a problem! I love those guys, so it wouldn't matter so much to me [​IMG] ).

  3. chickbea

    chickbea Songster

    Jan 18, 2007
    It is never a good idea to release any domestic pet to fend for itself in the wild.
    You don't mention where you live; in colder climates a domestic rabbit (depending on the breed) may not grow enough of a winter coat to survive. The chances of it being killed by a predator are enormous, especially if its survival skills have been dulled by being a pet.
    The only somewhat responsible way to release them would be to spay and neuter first, and that is a costly prospect in bunnies, at least for females.
    Please look at the House Rabbit Society's web site. It is They help rehome bunnies.
  4. chickenannie

    chickenannie Songster

    Nov 19, 2007
    Thanks both of you for your feedback, and for the house rabbit website.

    Just to clarify -- I wasn't necessarily thinking that these rabbits would become wild rabbits -- I was thinking that perhaps they could free-range like my chickens do in my yard and they could live in the burrows underground that they have already built... During summer, I had put a wire netting in a circle on my large lawn and moved it to a new patch of fresh grass every day, so in that sense they aren't in typical enclosed cages, and they got to eat lots of grass and greens and I thought they would be happier and healthier not being in a small cage. I would put a large plastic half-barrel on it's side for shade and shelter and they started to dig burrows underneath it since they can dig down under the lawn. Anyways, they seemed to love this setup, so I stopped moving the netting and now they've set up a really cool living space where they are kinda living like wild outdoor rabbits would in a regular burrow. Funny thing is they never try to dig outside the netting enclosure. I also give them food and water twice a day, so they've been pretty darn happy so far.

    Sometimes they have a halter put on them and go for "walks" and sometimes they come into the house for a little while, so they are pets too.

    Once one escaped because a hole was torn in the corner of his netting and he just ended up hanging around for the day until i put him back in his burrow. That's what made me think maybe they could be 'lawn rabbits," still pets getting fed daily, but with lots more freedom and ability to eat a natural diet -- like my chickens. Having grown up on real grass, they pretty much hate anything that is pelletized and comes in a bag. I feed them alfalfa and oats and wheat and fresh greens and apples straight from the farm.

    But you're right -- they have no fear of the cats because the cats have always just sat outside their netting staring at them, and the bunnies go up and sniff noses. The bunnies have no idea what the cat is really thinking.

    I may try to find other homes for them, but I tried before and its tough.

    Thanks again.

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