Owls are predatory birds that require a steady stream of meaty proteins to keep them healthy. Owls will prey on small animals like mice, rats, voles, and squirrels in the wild. Sometimes, larger owls will attack and eat rabbits. Although smaller owls may not be able to eat large rabbits, keep in mind that they can still attack rabbits causing grievous injury. Smaller species of rabbits could be more prone to owl attacks.
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What Are the Benefits Of Allowing Rabbits to Live Outside?
Several rabbit owners choose to house their rabbits outside. Although extra precautions should be taken for outdoor rabbits, there are numerous benefits to keeping rabbits outdoors. Some of these benefits include:
- More Room – Generally, outdoor hutches and exercise runs can be much larger because the available space in your yard does not limit you. Having a larger area for your rabbits to roam and run will not only keep them happier and better exercised, but they will be healthier too with daily exposure to natural sunlight and fresh air.
- More Rabbits – Having a bigger hutch and run means you can potentially keep more rabbits. This pet is a social animal and does well in small groups. With more room for your rabbits to explore, you could keep more at once and possibly explore breeding your rabbits.
- Encourage Natural Behavior – Keeping rabbits outside helps encourage natural behavior. In the wild, rabbits are constantly moving, eating, and foraging. When they are allowed to explore an outdoor exercise run, they can mimic the same behaviors as wild rabbits.
- Better Food – Depending on how you arrange your hutch and exercise run, you may be able to give your rabbits a steady stream of fresh grasses and hay. Planting rabbit-friendly grasses and flowers around and in your hutch and exercise run can encourage your rabbits always to eat a healthy stream of fresh vegetation.
How Can I Protect My Outdoor Pet Rabbits?
Although keeping your rabbits outdoors is mainly beneficial to your rabbit’s overall health and wellness, ensuring your rabbit stays well-protected is essential. Housing your rabbit outdoors requires special precautions to not only protect your rabbit from the weather but also potential predators. Always ensure your outdoor rabbit hutch has:
- Sturdy Construction – Owls are powerful and clever and can get into rabbit hutches that are made of plastic and thin wire. Be sure to always use a solid wood rabbit hutch for your outdoor rabbits.
- Solid Roof – Owls will attack from above, so ensuring your rabbits have a safe covering is essential. A solid roof made of thick material is preferred to deter aerial predators and prevent rain and wind from penetrating the hutch.
- Strong Latches – Rabbits are clever and can quickly figure out how to unlock simple latches. A rabbit left outside its enclosure is unprotected and prime for an owl attack. Always make sure that locks are strong, complex, and bolted to prevent potential escape.
- Thick Wire – Although chicken wire is commonly used in outdoor hutches and cages, this material will not be strong enough to prevent an owl attack. Always use thick chain link mesh and grating for any hutch area, including the exercise run, that is exposed to the elements.
Although there are commercially available outdoor rabbit hutches, these generally do not meet the minimum requirements to keep your rabbits safe. Designing and building your own hutch is the best option when it comes to keeping your rabbits safe. A minimum hutch size should be 6 feet x 2 feet x 2 feet. Use the strongest and best materials available to protect your rabbit from predators.
How Do I Know an Owl Lives in My Area?
Owls are stealthy creatures that can go largely undetected. They are silent fliers, often giving them the advantage while hunting. For many people, seeing signs of an owl presence is the closest they will come to seeing the owl. Some sure signs that an owl may be in your yard include:
- Owl Pellets – Owls will usually eat their food whole and later spit up what is called an owl pellet. The pellet contains bones and fur that are not easily digested. These small and oval pellets will vary in size depending on the owl frequenting your area.
- Sounds – At night, you may hear owls calling to one another and marking their territory. Owls have a very distinct call that sounds like a low, mournful “hoot!”.
- Feathers – An owl will go through a molt once per year, where it loses its feathers. You may see signs of feathers in your yard. Owl feathers can be soft and downy or long and colorful. The type of feathers you find will help identify the type of owl in your yard.
- Scat – Scat is the technical term for owl droppings. Usually, owl scat is white and runny, often looking like a paintball splatter. It is common to find scat below where an owl has made its nest.
What Other Birds Prey on Rabbits?
Rabbits are fair game for several predatory birds. Usually, birds considered raptors are the biggest threat to a rabbit. Owls and eagles, hawks, falcons, and even crows have been known to hunt and eat rabbits. On occasion, tiny American kestrels have also attacked and eaten rabbits, particularly smaller breeds that are easier for the kestrel to attack.
Can I Deter Owls from My Yard?
One of the best ways to keep your rabbits safe is to make your yards as uninviting as possible to potential owl inhabitants. By removing an owl threat from your yard, you can significantly reduce the chance that an owl will attack your rabbit. Some great ways to deter owls from living and hunting in your yard include:
- Remove Feeders – Owls have been known to prey on small songbirds and rodents. Although bird feeders are enjoyable to watch, they bring a buffet of small birds into an owl’s area. Plus, rodent activity increases with the dropped and discarded seeds and shells surrounding the feeder. Removing the bird feeder helps to remove a potential food source for owls.
- Lighting – Owls will primarily hunt at night and are afraid of bright lights. Installing additional outdoor lighting around your property can help deter owls. If you hear owls in your yard or catch an attack in progress, shining a bright light onto the owl can help scare the owl away.
- Prevent Nesting – Owls will look for suitable holes to make a nest. Not only will owls nest in trees, but they’re attracted to chimneys and openings around your house. Close off any gaps, cover chimneys with screens, and remove dead trees from your property to deter a nesting owl.
- Noise – Owls are silent hunters and are generally scared of loud noises. If you hear owls hooting to one another, or you spot an owl attempting an attack, make loud and frightening noise to scare the owl away. Owls have phenomenal memories and will often remember how scary the loud noise was and refuse to return to your yard.
Protecting your outdoor rabbits is the best way to keep your pets happy and healthy. Aside from normal dangers the weather and elements can pose, keeping your rabbits outdoors makes them a prime target for predators. Birds of prey, including owls, are likely to hunt and potentially kill rabbits. Although larger owls, like great horned owls, are more likely to eat a rabbit, smaller owls can still injure and kill small breed rabbits. Always keep your outdoor rabbits in an appropriate enclosure, and be sure to provide a sturdy, durable, and protective exercise run for your pet rabbits