“Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were–Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Peter. ” ~Beatrix Potter
Is that not the sweetest little face you have ever seen….for me it is pure joy…and a bit of mayhem. But I should start at the beginning. Last summer we discovered baby rabbits in the garden. One met his demise and the hands of our new young fox, Hunter. The other grew up in our garden and we fondly named her Beatrix….Bea for short.
At the end of Bea’s story in late fall, she had left our garden and we thought she went to live under the garden shed next door. My parting words to Bea were:
“Perhaps she will raise a family close by in spring. Of course, we only admit well-behaved rabbits to our garden as Beatrix can attest to.”
Little did I know what was to happen this spring….and as my mother always told me, ‘be careful what you wish for’. Apparently I have not mastered this wise lesson yet!
It was a chilly April dawn, cloudy and drizzling….bone chillin’ weather. As I was looking out over the flooded garden, I spied a bit of activity. There was a rabbit around the berry bed. Now a few days before this, I had found a hole in my garlic bed….the perfect size and shape for a rabbit’s nest not yet lined. Well that could not be allowed so I filled it in, replaced a few moved garlic bulbs, and never thought more about it.
Not until this rabbit was suspiciously hanging about. So I decided to go out in the rain and chase it. As I approached, the rabbit was reluctant to leave, but I was successful in chasing him. And as I glanced over to the raised bed where he had been, I saw another rabbit laying on top of the bed. It was a very large rabbit, the color of the leaves, hard to see in the murky gray dawn.
My first thought was how did it get inside the netting we had over this bed….netting specifically put there to protect the plants from the rabbits! Huh, well that didn’t work….and as all this was running through my head, I never once thought about the hole in the garlic bed, or why were 2 rabbits hanging about this bed, as there was little to eat here….
All I could think about was shooing the rabbit out of the bed. It finally left jumping under the netting loose on one side. Well that must be how she got in. The rabbits ran off behind the gazebo, not far. And as I walked over at the bed to secure the netting, I saw why they were there….a nest of newborn baby rabbits were exposed to the elements…actually called kits or kittens. They were blind, hairless and writhing in the nest….and OH MY GOD, they were not covered and it was cold and raining. So I quickly moved back to the house in hopes the parents would come back and cover them. It took 5 minutes, but they returned…the male rabbit, or buck, to stand guard, and the female momma rabbit, or doe, to nurse and cover the nest.
She entered through a hole in the netting, not discernible to me until I later went over and felt around for it….clever rabbits. Females will return only once or twice a day to nurse because their milk is so rich in fat. They come when it is dark or just about dark near dusk and dawn. Most of the pictures here are taken at these darker times and hard to see details.
We didn’t see momma coming into the garden or even around the meadow for days. So of course the worried godmother, me, was obsessing about these babies. After about a week, I had to assure myself they were OK. After all it had been in the 20s at night and barely 40 during the day with pouring rain. I slipped out to the nest, carefully uncovered the nest (wearing gloves), and saw the furry little balls sleeping. I gently nudged one to make sure they were alive and was reassured when one moved a little. I quickly covered them, and worried a bit more until the end of week 2.
I read that at around 2 weeks, the kits are supposed to come out of the nest now, and move about getting used to their surroundings and munching on plants found nearby. I was concerned about them wandering since the nest is in a RAISED BED about 1.5 feet off the ground. And if in their wandering they were to fall out of the bed, they would not be able to get back in….not to mention they might get tangled in the netting. Yes we left the netting on as the rabbits chose this protected bed for a reason…birds of prey, cats, fox, etc would not be able to get to the babies. The only predator who might get inside the bed was a snake, which we did find later caught in the netting dead, at the base of the raised bed.
So exactly 2 weeks after I spotted the nest, momma came just before dusk…which was good as we finally had a better view. She took her time getting to the nest so as not to draw attention to herself. And she stood and looked at the bed from all angles before approaching the opening in the netting. Once she leapt inside, she quickly uncovered and nursed the kits. We had spied 4 adorable little bunnies with little wiggly feet and ears (just under momma on the right) just like Thumper (from the Bambi movie)….look carefully below to see all four.
Then she left them uncovered, so they could wander about the 4′ x 4′ bed, and she left. SHE LEFT…OH MY GOD….what is going to happen to them…should we go out and cover them. The voice of reason (my husband) said we can’t do anything its nature, and we have to leave them alone. So we did.
The next morning I was going to check that nest though. And as daylight dawned, I was peeking out the window surveying the garden and the bed from afar. Just about the same time my neighbor decided to mow his lawn right next to our fence. As he got close to the corner, I saw something jump….OH MY GOD, it was a baby bunny. So I raced outside and tried to find it to no avail. I checked the nest and it was covered. My worst fears were realized…one of the babes had fallen out of the raised bed, and thankfully found cover in the garden.
I mentioned it to my husband, and we decided to see if the momma came back at dusk. Momma did come again, fed the bunnies quickly….and as she was feeding and letting them wander, I spied a little baby bunny head jumping at the side of the raised bed trying to get back in. Of course it couldn’t…it just kept running around the bed. The mother left rather quickly, and the baby took after her hoping to get his dinner….can we say heart breaking.
The next day as we were working in the garden near the beds, I saw the nest looked caved in a bit. As I looked to the side of the bed, I spied a little baby bunny between the bed and chive plants that grow alongside it. My husband thought it would be good to put him back in the raised bed so he grabbed his net and easily captured the little cutie pie (also pictured at the top of the post). The baby wasn’t afraid, rather I think he was confused. He just looked at us and laid down, and waited until we walked away. Then he jumped out and ran away.
We weren’t sure what to expect the next day. So we decided to check the nest and found it empty. Sadly the bunnies were gone. They are not old enough to be weaned or to leave the nest, so we think momma moved them for the next several weeks where they could do their wandering and exploring without worrying about anyone falling out of the raised bed. Fingers crossed, we hope to see them eventually running around the garden or meadow.
Oh and we do think it was Bea who brought her babes to our garden…the momma rabbit is living under the shed where Bea was, and since Bea was born in the garden we think she came back to give birth in the garden again. And speaking of returning mothers, our crazy robin returned in April. We awoke one morning to a familiar banging at our front windows to see the robin sitting there saying, ‘I’m back’……oh no here we go again!
UPDATE: We have seen a young bunny in the neighbor’s meadow living under their shed. And we have seen the parents back in the garden checking it out. I think they have another nest somewhere…so around the middle of July we may see baby bunnies again roaming the garden.
And the robin’s built a nest next door, but we just had the babes fledging in our garden….cute as a button. I named this one Stanley….he was already looking for his own food and flying high into the trees. I think he is an overachiever already.
With this wildlife story, I am joining in the meme Wildlife Wednesday hosted by Tina@My Gardener Says that happens the first Wednesday of every month, and with Saturday’s Critters hosted by Eileen@Viewing nature with Eileen that happens every Saturday. I am also linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme. It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every week.
And I am sharing this lesson with Beth@PlantPostings for her wonderful Garden Lessons Learned meme. I hope you will join her. Please check out all these great blogs.
Also as the solstice approaches, please join me join in at my garden blog, Gardens Eye View, for my quarterly meme, Seasonal Celebrations, where you can find all the details for linking up to this celebration of the new seasons around the world.
I leave you with another thought about my garden lesson learned this spring. Feel free to download the photo and share.