Thursday, August 6, 2015

Our rabbit fence, or The Maginot Line redux

We are in our sixth year gardening here, and the first full season while actually living here. Over this time, we've slowly been upgrading our infrastructure, learning from our mistakes, and getting a bit better at growing our own food.

Last year, we spent quite a  bit of money to put a combination deer/rabbit fencing around our two main garden plots. We used eight foot fence posts, cattle panels and rabbit fencing to show those critters who was boss. A bit hard to see in the the photo, but the rabbit fence is the lower 24", and the cattle panels extended up to around seven feet above the ground.

The deer got the message, and besides there is a cornucopia of green growing things all about and surrounding the garden anyway. 

The rabbits did not get the message. 

But my beef is not with the rabbits. Rabbits will do what rabbits do.  No, I'm ticked at the fence manufacturing industry, and their obvious drive to compete with the cheapest design possible, and still call the product a rabbit fence. 

In theory, rabbit fencing has wire spacing that is close enough in the lowest strands, with slowly widening spaces toward the top, so that rabbits can't squeeze through. 

The problem is, that the widening is happening much too soon and too low, so that rabbits hop right through it. We've seen both little spring tykes and full grown rabbits get through ( not under), with devastating results to our beans, which they love.

Next possible solution(s) 
plant a "trap crop" outside the fence- say some soybeans for them to munch on. Would have to churn up some more of the deep pasture sod to do so.

Put one more layer of fencing along the upper half of the rabbit fence, where the problem seems to be.- more cost and hassle.

Snares,traps, other lethal schemes inside the fence- I'd rather not, as it is wasteful and one more thing to monitor and maintain.
For now, it looks like we are still going to get a decent crop of dry beans, so maybe we just live with it.

Anyone else find that rabbit fence doesn't serve the purpose?


  1. Hi Steve,

    Fencing is expensive and has to be maintained. You place is looking very good, by the way! You're right about snares and traps being one more thing to maintain. Have you ever considered a pack of dogs? I keep four here and have only seen one rabbit in about 9 years and that one was fleeing for its life. The eagles, foxes and the owls clean them up when the dogs are not loose.

    As an interesting question: Do your rabbits consume the bark on your fruit trees? I've had a citrus tree with some of the bark eaten and I'd heard that rabbits do that, but was also wondering whether rats do the same thing?

    As for fencing, I use very heavy duty chicken wire to keep the wallabies off the fruit trees and it seems to mostly work (the wallabies fit the same niche as the deer).

    Seriously, the photos look good.

    Cheers and all the best for a big harvest. Chris

  2. Chris: Yes, dogs are in our future, but just haven't done it yet. Soon. I agree they solve some problems, besides being good companions. This has been a very heavy rabbit year, and we haven't heard the coyotes much lately. I may do a little hunting this winter.......

    Fruit trees- yes, rabbits can girdle young fruit trees, and even take the tops if the seedling is small enough, so I have double protection on the ones I have planted. Mice and voles can even girdle them in the winter, if the base has too much mulch around it and they nest there in the winter. Our winters are a bit colder than yours, getting to -20F ( -29C), with deep snow. On the plus side, we get much more annual precipitation than you do.

    For large plantings ( our main field has 2400 + hazelnuts in it) we don't get that elaborate, and aren't seeing much damage. Maybe mice and rabbits don't like the taste of hazelnut bark? I will be doing a post on tree protection soon.

    We are lucky enough to not have rat problems yet, so no need for a chooktopia, or tree protection from rats.

    BTW- I was amazed at the lengths you went to to exclude the little buggers, but don't blame you at all. Chicken feed ( organic as well) is not cheap, and rats don't just steal food and create a nasty mess, they cause damage.