High Density of Cotton-tailed Rabbits in Poultry Area

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by centrarchid, Mar 20, 2017.

  1. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    Something is amiss. We have lived in this location for 8 years where rabbits where seen but not abundant enough to provide quality hunting. Starting last fall the number of rabbit is so high they denuded the cover patches of edible plant forages for chickens. Over winter they actually killed a lot of small trees. It is nothing to go out and see a dozen withing 50 feet of front porch. They are now major consumers of grain and feed left in feeding stations even during the day. The rabbits have rendered my live-trapping for raccoons and opossums ineffective because every single trap will have a rabbit in it within 12 hours, whether traps baited or not.

    My dogs are part of the problem. Normally they catch and eat a lot of rabbits, especially nestlings. My three year old participates in that type of carnage. Dogs pursuing on rabbit can not run a rabbit more than a 100 feet before jumping up another providing another target. The dogs are loosing interest in the rabbits. Dogs are running off consumers of rabbits (i.e. foxes, coyotes) and Great-horned Owls are not coming in very much which good for chickens roosting in barn.

    I like rabbit but have limits on how much we will eat. Season also closed now. So far, spring growth of plants is being consumed giving poultry area and yard a golf course look. Heavy rains with warm weather should fix that. Otherwise I will have some serious forage quality issues since a significant portion of what chickens consume is plants.

    Unless something knocks the rabbits back soon, we are going to have a plague of rabbits this growing season and they will cause damage.

    Two years back we had a plague of voles throughout area that extended beyond my property. I could have kept my family in meat by hunting those with a wiffleball bat and just swung at what I could see running over ground.

    This boom and bust stuff is new to me when it involves mammals.
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2017
  2. wcbpolish

    wcbpolish Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 16, 2017
    Pierson, Michigan
    I have an acquaintance that does a "raw meat" diet for her dogs. She does not mind wild game. If I had that problem. I'd trap them for her. Perhaps reach out on you local craig's list and see if anyone there is interested in "removing" your wild rabbits for a similar purpose? On a side note, I caught a wild rabbit in my live trap over the weekend. I guess it wanted hot dog for dinner... or just wandered in. Poor thing was dead by the time I found it. We don't have a rabbit population problem, so I would most likely have released it. But, hating to waste protein (or anything valuable!) I fed it to the cats. I was going to skin it for the cats... but on Sat morning when I sent to skin it, there was a lethargic flea on it, and I said "no thanks" to that. Ran out of time in the evening, ended up just throwing the whole thing next to where I feed the cats. It was gone this morning. I assume the 5 cats ate it/dragged it off.
  3. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    That could be a big part of it.....along with other swings in predator population.
    Predator and Prey populations teeter-totter one another.
  4. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    I am seeing predators in area but not in immediate vicinity of poultry area. Second dog just came on line as almost 2 years old now.
  5. Flock In Texas

    Flock In Texas Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 7, 2016
    You could always help your dogs out with a .22. They might not lose interest if you wound them first. Assuming it's legal where you live of course.
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2017
  6. thomasboyle

    thomasboyle Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 28, 2013
    Northwest Hills of CT
    Tough call, too few predators, too much prey. This is why I don't try to kill every predator on my property. I just make the other prey animals easier targets than my chickens. I wish I had a suggestion for you. 1 breeding pair of rabbit can have over 100 kits in a year! You are set to celebrate Easter this year!
  7. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    At this point, no intention by me to reduce rabbit population. Just observing and relating what seen.
  8. Zoomie

    Zoomie Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 6, 2015
    Mora, NM USA
    This is what I have observed: there is a cycle where rabbits start to reproduce in high numbers, then there are lots of rabbits, they eat everything in sight, then the population crashes - sometimes due to a rise in coyote or other predator population, sometimes due to starvation from range degradation. In our area coyote and rabbit population expansion/contraction are tied together. We also have rises and falls in the populations of prairie dogs, but for them, they seem to get crowded and then disease goes through and takes a lot of them out. I guess that can happen with rabbits too... in which case you might be glad the dogs have less interest in the rabbits, you don't want your dogs contracting disease from them.

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