In the wild, hawks are natural predators that will feast on small birds and rodents. Unfortunately, this means that hawks will eat small animals like squirrels, moles, voles, mice, and even rabbits. A wild hawk cannot distinguish between a wild rabbit and a pet rabbit. Even pet rabbits in your yard are a potential target and food source for a hawk.
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Rabbits can be quite happy and healthy living outdoors, pending they have the proper protection. A rabbit needs to be well-protected from the weather and potential dangers like hawks. Keep your rabbit in a secure habitat that cannot be penetrated from above.
Can Rabbits Live Outdoors?
Rabbits can live outside safely, pending you take the proper precautions. Living outside year-round is possible, as long as your rabbit can stay warm and dry. Often, people will use a specific outdoor enclosure designed for rabbits to house their rabbits outdoors.
At a minimum, you will need to make sure your rabbit has:
- Exercise – Your rabbit needs to have access to an exercise run, so it can adequately stretch its legs and exercise. Rabbits are naturally active, so they need to be able to run, hop, and roam.
- Weatherproof – Ensure that your rabbit living outside is protected from the weather. Ensure the enclosure stays warm enough, is kept dry, and protected from droughts and wind. The floor should be clean and dry, raised off the ground.
- Predators – Plenty of natural predators in the wild will see your rabbits living outdoors as a quick and easy meal. You’ll need to ensure your outdoor rabbit habitat is properly protected from savvy predators, like hawks and foxes.
- Ventilation – Your rabbits need plenty of fresh air and natural sunlight. Ensure that your rabbit has enough ventilation without being cold and can access natural sunlight without becoming overheated.
- Escape – Rabbits are curious by nature and can quickly escape an enclosure. Be sure that your outdoor rabbit habitat is properly secured to keep your rabbits safe. Rabbits are diggers, so you’ll want to protect the area surrounding your rabbit’s enclosure as well.
Keep in mind that if you purchase rabbits in the autumn or winter, you’ll have to wait another year to put your rabbits outside. Rabbits need time to adjust to the colder temperatures. They may become sick and potentially die if they are immediately forced to endure cold and wet temperatures when they are not accustomed to the different indoor climate.
How Can I Protect My Rabbits From Hawks?
Hawks are predators that come from the skies, so it is important to protect your rabbits with a well-secured habitat. Keeping your rabbits outside is safe as long as their habitat is secure. To protect your rabbits outside from hawks, the habitat should include:
- Secure – A secure roof that keeps the rabbits well protected from above. You’ll want to make sure the roof is weatherproof but still provides enough ventilation.
- Sturdy – Hawks are powerful animals, so it is important to make sure the habitat is made of solid and secure materials. Wooden rabbit hutches outdoors with strong metal grating are preferred to protect your rabbits.
- Wire – Any open areas, such as exercise runs, should be protected with thick, sturdy wire grating or mesh to prevent a hawk from tearing through the protective covering. Chicken wire is not thick enough to protect your rabbits from hawks. Ensure the metal covering is secured in place and cannot be torn with a hawk’s powerful talons.
What Birds Will Eat Rabbits?
Hawks, among other predatory birds, will hunt rabbits in the wild. Unfortunately, predators cannot differentiate between wild and pet rabbits. Many predatory birds do not become as much of a threat in urban areas, but suburban and rural birds can be dangerous for your pets. Birds like hawks, eagles, owls, falcons, and crows have been known to prey on and eat small animals, including rabbits. Always be wary of threats from above, even if your predatory bird isn’t specifically a hawk.
See also: Which Animals Eat Rabbits?
What Hawks Pose a Threat?
Hawks are a major concern for rabbits living in the backyard. In the United States, several types of hawks can attack and eat rabbits. In particular, the sharp-shinned hawk, red-tailed hawk, and Cooper’s hawk are known to frequent backyards to prey on smaller animals. On occasion, the American kestrel, although smaller, has also attacked small rabbits.
These hawks are extremely strong and agile and are opportunistic hunters. They can easily fly around birdbaths, feeders, and buildings to attack rabbits. Be sure to keep your backyard rabbit safe and protected to avoid allowing a hawk to prey on your pet.
How Can I Get a Hawk To Leave My Yard?
If you keep your rabbits outside, you will constantly face the threat of hawks attacking your rabbits. Knowing that a hawk or predatory bird is in the area is the first half of the battle. Deterring your hawk from your yard can be a challenge, though, especially once the hawk understands that your rabbits could be an easy target. To get hawks to leave your yard, you can:
- Protected Feeders – Although hawks may be eyeing your pet rabbits, they are also drawn to small birds in your yard. If you have bird feeders, make sure to keep the feeders away from your rabbit enclosure. You want the feeders to have a cover on them to protect the small birds, making a hawk less likely to feast in your yard.
- Remove Feeders – Although watching small birds at a feeder can be fun, removing bird feeders is the best way to get rid of hawks. Although your pet rabbits may tempt hawks, they’ll also prey on small songbirds. Removing the bird feeders can help remove hawks.
- Avoid Ground – Birds and animals that feed on the ground are an easy target for hawks. Keep bird feeders and your rabbit’s food in a secure area. Even if your rabbit enclosure has a protected net or screen, keep food indoors, off the ground. When your rabbit is in the open, feeding, it can look extremely enticing to a hawk and will encourage it to stick around.
- Remove Vantage Points – Hawks are opportunistic and need a high perch to survey their potential prey. Remove dead branches from surrounding tees which may be a tempting vantage point for your hawk to attack. If you have a fence, make it uncomfortable for a hawk to perch on the posts.
Allowing your rabbits to live outside is the perfect way to give your pets freedom and room to run and play. It is essential to realize how many potential dangers exist outside, coming from wild animals like hawks. In the wild, hawks will prey on small animals, and they cannot differentiate between a wild rabbit and your pet.
Ensure your rabbit has a safe and secure dwelling outdoors that will keep it well protected. You’ll want to ensure the habitat has a secure roof that will protect rabbits from an aerial attack. If you already have hawks in your yard, mitigation factors such as eliminating bird feeders and removing potential vantage points can encourage hawks to leave.