Last year, we had to learn to work around a menace of a fox, who had a taste for our free-range chickens.  We lost a few, but between Athena, the donkeys, the kids playing, Will being outside, and other steps we took, we found a compromise that mostly protected our chickens.  At the same time, we always worried about our uncaged,”Hare-pen” rabbits, so we also took precautions there.  We installed fencing on the bottom of their pen as much to keep them from digging out as to keep a predator from digging in.  We also used the highest scrap fencing we had–about 5 feet high to be exact–as the perimeter fence.  Originally, we also hot-wired the outside of the fence at dog-nose height.  Over time, though, we never had any trouble with the fox getting rabbits, the wire shocked more visitors than predators, and it eventually came down.  Then, last spring, when the fox began acting suspiciously and approaching the children in broad daylight around the same time a rabies alert was sent out, we had to shoot it.  Problem solved, albeit temporarily.

Happy Hare-pen bunnies

Well, you can imagine our surprise late last night, when S stepped outside on the back deck (which hangs over the rabbit pen) to check on something unrelated and heard a noise in the pen.  He shined his flashlight down there, just in time to see a fox leap straight up and out, over the top of the fence, sort of using his paws to climb the upper portion of wire as he went.  Fearing my son would find his colony dead the next morning, I took the light, and went to inspect for casualties.  I couldn’t find any trace of blood or rabbit fur.  So, I began opening all the boxes.  I couldn’t help but smile as I found small groups of rabbits huddling safely together in about half of the underground nest boxes and in the community feeder box.  When they saw me, it was like they knew they were safe now, breathed a sigh of relief, and poked their little heads up for a pet or two.  I did what I could to re-enforce their lids and entrances (so they could get in and out, but hopefully a fox couldn’t), added some extra food and water in hopes they would have what they needed to remain sheltered for the night, and went on to bed.  This morning, I got up and re-installed hot wire, but this time, I put it along the outside of the TOP of the fence.  Since we now know the fox JUMPS, he would easily clear anything lower, but if his paw or tail so much as bump a fence wire at the same time he bumps the hot wire (I THINK it would be impossible not to do so), then he will get a zap he will never forget, which will hopefully cause him to forget about rabbit for dinner!

Notice the strand of hot wire across the top.

There are a few things I don’t really like about our current Hare-pen design, but last night, it proved it’s worth, that’s for sure.  There are some very friendly rabbits in that pen, including our only mature breeding buck and doe, and our last litter of weaned kits.  And we didn’t lose a single one!  Thank the Lord!!  Their shelters and underground tunnels proved (surprisingly) impenetrable to the fox, and I am hoping the failure to find a meal will deter him from trying again.  In the mean time, I am now considering other ways to improve our design at Red Gate.

A very relaxed Hope, with not a care in the world, just lounging in the Hare-pen, apparently having totally forgotten about her near-death experience less than 12 hours earlier.