I’m working in my home kitchen garden. It’s a gorgeous day and I string up a dozen or more tomato plants before I head in to prepare dinner. My plan is to return after dinner and pull the lettuce plants to make way for sweet potatoes; the lettuce has bolted and we’re not going to harvest more of it this season.
So, I leave one panel of my rodent fence open. This provides a four-foot long entrance through a 92 foot perimeter. I’ll be away for an hour or two. A critter that discovers the opening in that amount of time isn’t likely to do much damage before I return.
Cooking, serving, and eating dinner takes about an hour and a half after which I head straight out to my vegetable garden. It amuses me to see a rabbit on the hill about 12 feet from my garden fence; there’s often one there and sometimes two. I’m far less amused to see a second rabbit standing beneath one of my tomato plants.
OK, a rabbit got into the garden. It would take just a moment to scare it out through the open fence panel. But this rabbit doesn’t look scared. In fact, this rabbit looks like it has a tad extra rabbit stuck to its right front leg. As I lean in for a closer look—and we’re talking about eight feet between me and the rabbit—she hops away to the back fence of the garden and freezes, now 14 feet separates us.
But! During the rabbit’s first hop, I noticed that the “tad extra rabbit” I’d seen was a bunny. There are now three bunny faces sticking out of the lawn clipping mulch I’d spread earlier around the tomato plants. There was an unmistakable bulge in the mulch that someone had excavated to build a nest.
In past years I’ve reported about rabbits reproducing in my home kitchen garden. I really don’t mind when they do that. This is altogether not that! Rabbit Mommy and her three rabbit puppies had not been in my garden when I broke for dinner. I had pounded around among the tomato plants: tying strings to the trellises, wrapping strings around stems, pulling weeds … if the nest had been there, I’d have stomped on rabbit puppies.
In the scant two hours I’d been away, Rabbit Mommy had carried her brood into the garden, hollowed out a nest in the mulch, and moved in! I returned from dinner while Rabbit Mommy was serving up dinner to her offspring.
I’m starting to believe that rabbits in my neighborhood covet my kitchen garden not for the food it produces, but for the security that the rodent fence provides. The rabbits have learned that if they’re inside that fence, the only critter likely to bother their babies is me, and I’m a softie. They pass this information down from one generation to the next.
I suspect this rabbit family settled near my raised vegetable bed and waited to pounce. The first time I left a fence panel open, they moved in. The bunnies are already old enough that they could wander around on their own so I suspect they’ll move out soon. I’ll keep watch and when I’m certain they’re no longer in the garden, I’ll close up the narrow gap I left in the fence just for them. With luck, I’ll keep Rabbit Mommy from hatching a new gaggle (in my garden) later this season.
More of my posts about rabbits: