by Texas Homesteader ~
How will I protect baby rabbit kits in the nest from my dog’s killer instincts until they’re old enough to fend for themselves? See this rabbit’s nest guard I came up with to keep them safe. It was free using things I already had.
(Note: Some links in this post will take you to other related articles for further information. But links preceded with * are affiliate links. If you click and buy something I could receive a tiny commission.)
Rabbits Build Nests In Unsafe Places
Sometimes mama rabbit makes a nest somewhere that’s not ideal. That’s when I try to protect the baby bunny kits until they’re old enough to be out on their own.
For instance, planting time is almost here & I’ve been in my veggie garden a lot lately. A LOT!
Unfortunately with all my coming & going I inadvertently left the garden gate open for a few days.
In a golden moment of opportunity a mama rabbit got into the garden, made a nest and had babies.
Rabbit’s Nest In My Vegetable Garden
As I was clearing away some mulch I first saw some fur balled up. As I tenderly checked deeper I found a rabbit’s nest.
It’s my fault, that’s what I get for leaving the gate open!
You see, my garden is fenced & typically keeps rabbits out. (my bad on leaving the gate open long enough for mama to nest & give birth!)
How Are Baby Rabbits Protected From Predators?
Baby rabbits have almost no natural scent. And mama rabbit will only tend to them in the early morning and evenings. This is nature’s way of protecting those baby rabbits.
So don’t worry if you see a rabbit’s nest but no mama. She’s purposely not drawing attention to that nest!
But since this nest is inside my garden, I need to find a way to allow mama to tend to those baby kits, raise them and for all of the rabbits to move on to greener pastures. Then I can once again lock them out and away from our food.
But I need to protect them from our mini-Schnauzer Bailey in the meantime. Her instincts make her a seasoned baby rabbit killer and it just breaks my tender heart!
Protecting A Wild Rabbit’s Nest From Our Dog
I knew I needed to cover the nest with something. So I came inside and eyeballed an 18″ plastic stackable bin in our closet. This will be perfect!
It’s got a scooped opening on one side and is semi-solid on the other three sides. But the sides offer some much-needed ventilation while still offering protection. The bottom is solid plastic. My bin is similar to *These Plastic Bins at Amazon.
Here’s how I put my protective cover together to let mama rabbit in but keep our dog out.
I took the plastic bin outside and turned it upside down so that the open top was on the ground. Then I placed it over the rabbit’s nest.
I tried to put the nest itself as far as I could from the opening to protect the kits as much as possible.
But our dog can still paw inside and remove the babies. I needed a way to keep our dog out but let mama rabbit in to raise her kits.
Making An Entrance In The Protective Rabbit’s Nest Cover
To make an entrance big enough for mama but too small for our Mini-Schnauzer Bailey, I decided to use a concrete cinder block.
I laid the concrete block on its side which results in the two holes in the cinder block to be facing outside, like two little tunnels.
Then I slid it in front of the open side of my plastic bin that I’d turned upside down over the rabbit’s nest.
The cinder block measures 8″ x 8″ x 16″. So by having this cinder block in front of the plastic bin opening, it adds another 8″ depth for our dog to have to paw past.
That plus the fact that I placed the actual nest at the very back of this overturned bin means there’s no way our dog can reach the baby kits from the outside.
Plus the little square openings of the concrete block are too small for our mini-schnauzer dog to squeeze through. But they’re plenty large enough for mama rabbit to come & go to raise up her babies.
Finally I placed a heavy stone on top of the plastic bin. That will weigh down the cover so Bailey can’t paw the lightweight bin away to get to the nest.
Although probably not necessary, sometimes I’ll add some old hay around the enclosure just to disguise it. I’m not sure if it fools any wildlife or not, but hopefully it does.
In any event, it makes the little protective cage a little less obvious.
Now all that’s left to do is wait until the kits grow up & leave the nest. Then I’ll lock them all out of the garden again. Thankfully it shouldn’t take long.
About a week or so later as I was in the garden I saw the kits were starting to explore outside the nest and outside their protective enclosure too. It looks like there are three of them and they’re still tiny but growing fast.
They’re so adorable! It won’t be long until they’re old enough to be on their own.
How Long Do Baby Rabbits Stay In The Nest?
Baby rabbits (kits) stay in the nest until they’re about 3 weeks old.
So I kept an eye on the nest every day as I was in the garden. Little by little the baby rabbits grew. Then a few days later I looked and saw no rabbits.
So I removed the plastic bin and peeked into the rabbit’s nest. It was empty. I checked all around the garden and was pleased to see they were all gone, not only from the nest, but from my garden. Yippee!
So I washed out & once again stored away the plastic bin. The concrete block went back to RancherMan’s shed and I cleaned up the garden area where they’d nested.
Now, back to my gardening chores. I’ll be sure to keep that garden gate CLOSED from now on!
I’ve used this same enclosure setup to protect various bunny families over the years. It’s easy to set up and has been successful in protecting the baby rabbits.
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Did you find the mother understood to go into the cover? I have a nest I put a cover over (with a decent sized opening for the mother to go in) because my neighbours cat was nosing around it yesterday and disturbed the nest. I saw the mother rabbit go over to it and look at it for a second then hop away. Now I am terrified I have scared her off.
No, if the mother senses danger around her nest she’ll draw the perceived enemy away from the nest by hopping away to draw a predator away. Perhaps she perceived you as a danger? I’ve never once had the mama abandon the nest or be confused as to how to reach her kits. She kept at it until she got in and tended to them. I wouldn’t be concerned, although I’d keep my distance as often as possible so she doesn’t see you as a threat to her kits.~TxH~
though your idea was great re the cinder blocks if it has an opening for a doe, also meandering cats can get in too! we had a sundeck and i saw a cat bomb dive under there! we sacrificed our deck by taking it out and put thick buried wood deep into the ground to stop them from having babies under there. we found a burrow that was made going underneath our house! it seems i inherited this when i bought this house! been here 1 yr and have had 4 litters..7 each! unfortunately when they came out a few would disappear and no! i do not want ‘nature’ to take its course! i tried very hard to protect them, by sitting out there and watching that nothing got them, but alas there were the nights! so sad! i cried and got so stressed, sitting out there for hrs trying to secure their lives! it is the worse thing to hear a baby rabbit scream when it is taken! i thought for sure having taken our deck out and then securing the perimeter of that area, would fix our problems. that they rabbits would go across the street to the park, but today one seemed to have burrowed itself under the house at an area we thought was secured with wood, but a 12 inch area has been misssed! here i go again! sigh ;( luv these little critters and i want them to get big enough to be able to survive, my son is off to buy some wood and wire, we are going to build them a safe kennel sort of speak so when they come out they are not fair game! i will have to watch dusk and dawn, and even during the day, to make sure i can let mom in to feed them! i have a tight knot again in my stomach and an anxious for their safety! friends tell me why bother, eagles and cats and other predators will take them! pffttt to them! my sympathetic and compassionate heart will help as many as i can. it is not easy, it is time consuming, i am 73 and i stay home a lot to make sure they are ok. i hope i can make this work. last litter i did save 4 out of 7 babies. i was lucky a local animal shelter took them for safety. thing is on vanc isl where uncaring idiot morons have just dumped their pet rabbits when they no longer want them..who does that!!?? they have bred to having so many on this island now that a lot of people just don’t care, even animal shelters!…that to them it is what it is..i am glad i am not like that in my caring gentle hearted nature. i will keep doing what i can to see that the babies make it to adulthood. thing is they will be back and have more! i am beside myself! i am ready to move to an area where not a bunny is seen! this is SO stressful and so worrisome for me! Thanks for listening and thanks to those that care to help baby bunnies too..;)
Oh I hear ya, it’s so hard not to try to protect the sweet little kits. I suppose anything that allows mama rabbit to enter (ie: the cinderblock) stands the chance of letting in a small predator too. But baby kits have no scent so that’s part of their camouflage. Not perfect, but Mother Nature tries to help ’em out. And I figure if mama nested somewhere out in the pasture there would be no additional protection so we just do whatever we can to help when they nest nearby. This keeps them safe from their most fierce predator on our Homestead – our mini Schnauzer who’s just following her natural instincts. ~TxH~
Currently going through this! Neighbours cat found the litter in our garden box. He disturbed the nest but didnt kill any. They were all just hiding under my strawberries. They were just starting to open their eyes so I chased off the cat, rebuilt the nest and put each in with gloved on. I put a laundry basket over them with a hole cut out to protect them over night but tonight when mom came back to feed she seemed confused and didn’t go in. I feel sick!! When she hopped off I walked over (pretending to water) and picked the basket up. Now sitting and watching her hop around and snack in the back yard. She keeps looking back to the nest so I am praying she goes back.
She’ll be back. They only feed their kits in the morning and at night. No worries. ~TxH~
Any idea how to keep rabbits out of backyard to prevent this from happening in the future? This is the second time a rabbit nest of babies has been found. Of course, I never find them. My Siberian Huskies do! If the next was four feet in a different direction, it would be safe in my neighbor’s yard where there are no dogs. Is there anything I can do to keep the rabbits out of the yard since huskies have such a high prey drive?
Oh no Amy, I know how heartbreaking that is. The only thing I know of that might keep them out of your yard completely is to remove any safe hiding place for them to feel comfortable nesting. But that’s difficult to do at the typical household with landscaping shrubberies, flowers and such. The next best thing is to watch for rabbits showing up in your yard during morning or evening hours. They’re either looking for a nesting place or have already nested and are tending to the babies. That’s usually our first indication to keep watch and search around the exterior of the house to see if I can see where a nest might be (and I find almost all of them this way). Also I watch Bailey when she goes outside. Although baby kits are born with almost no scent at all, she’s often able to detect the scent of a mama rabbit that’s been around recently. Again that tells me to look around for a nest and place this cover on it if I find it. Bailey’s a small dog so this cover with a cinderblock entrance & topped with another cinderblock is usually enough to keep the kits safe until they grow and head out on their own, which takes place pretty quickly. ~TxH~
Thank you for the great idea! We used to have a mini schnauzer. Our current indoor/outdoor cat was raised with him as her big brother. She found a rabbit nest this week. It’s under a bushy evergreen tree. We are building a “catio” for this cat, but wondering how to cat-proof the nest in the mean time. The poor cat is tortured being kept indoors. I took her on a leash walk yesterday. If I leave her unattended for a minute she will go right to the nest! Trying to figure out something the mama rabbit can fit through the my cat, or her paw can fit through! Maybe two cinder blocks?
Well, our mini Schnauzer is about 13 lbs and she’s typically not able to get to the rabbit’s nest through the openings of the cinderblock. But cats seem to be more nimble and able to squeeze into smaller spaces. I’m not sure how big your cat is, but as you mentioned the challenge will be to find something small enough that she can’t squeeze through but large enough for the mama rabbit. The last time I set this up I was limited by the bush that mama bunny had nested beneath and couldn’t get the nest far enough for my comfort from the cinderblock opening. I was worried our pup would reach a paw through the cinderblocks and paw out the babies. So I took metal rods – in my case it was portable push-in fence posts – and pushed a couple into the ground in front of the holes in the cinderblocks to reduce the size of the opening (I sure hope that makes sense) Maybe you can try something like that? Put the actual nest as far back from the opening as you can and reduce the size of the opening if necessary. Just make sure you don’t make it too small for mama too! Good luck! ~TxH~
Please help! Do you have any ideas on how to protect babies from cats?! Your idea of a cinder block and basket looks great for dogs but how can I keep neighborhood cats from getting in? Thank you
Oh Christina, I’d think any opening large enough for a mama rabbit would be large enough for a cat also. It’s best not to disturb the nest if possible. Baby rabbits have almost no natural odor to best protect them from predators. And mama rabbit only comes to the nest to tend to them once in the early morning and once late evening to keep the trail to her nest as secret as possible. Although sadly some times their nest is victim to predators (it’s just nature), most of the time mama knows best and those babies are raised quickly until they’re old enough to be on their own! 🙂 ~TxH~
Exactly how did you place the plastic tub I have a nest in my back yard and my dog already took one out but didn’t kill it cause I was standing there when she did it . Mom has came back after I put dog in but I want the babies protected and her to be able to come and go
The plastic ‘bin’ I used was taller on 3 sides with a lower scoop opening in front. I simply turned it upside down over the nest. The 3 sides touch the ground, but now the lower scoop section is like a small doorway. Our mini-schnauzer is small enough to reach in & paw the nest through that opening, so I placed a cinder block in front of the opening, allowing access for mama but denying access to Bailey. This method has had to be incorporated several times over the years, but always successfully. I’ll leave the protection up until the babies grow enough to move away and then I remove the protective cover & put it away until next time. Good luck and bless you for protecting the babies! ~TxH~
I just found a nest in the middle of my yard and I am not sure what to do to protect it from my puppy! Our grass is not tall and it is in a very open area. What should I do to protect them?
You can do the same thing I did in this post Brianne. I covered them to protect them from our Mini-Schnauzer. I’ve done this several times now when I find a young nest and they always grow up & move out just fine, then I remove the cover. ~TxH~
A wild cat has discovered a rabbit nest in my yard and I’ve basically done what you’ve done here to protect the surviving babies.
Approximately how big is the cinder block you used? Thanks in advance!
Awwww… Good for you for protecting them! I just used a standard cinderblock, about 8x8x16 with the two holes in it. For us it worked great since the holes were large enough for mama to come & go but too small for Bailey to squeeze through. Not sure how big the cat is but you might have to amend the size of the holes somehow if they’re too big to restrict the cat’s access. Good luck! ~TxH~
Good on you for protecting the bunnies and helping them thrive! I’m glad they made out ok and also seem to have left your garden alone. The are so adorable, but can be so destructive to our plants.
You’re right of course Adrienne. I have a fence to keep them out of my garden. (thumps forehead) It doesn’t help if I leave it open! LOL But I’ve not had any noticeable damage from rabbits in our yard. Of course our little mini Schnauzer Bailey helps keep them away too. ~TxH~
I had a rabbit nests in my strawberry pyramid garden, my perennial bed, and my asparagus bed which I left alone until the babies were gone, but last year one started making a nest in my fenced veggie garden (mama got in through a tiny opening where the fence wasn’t tight enough). I caught it early enough to secure the garden and force her to look for another spot. We have 4 adults living in the wood pile this year so there’s going to probably be lots of babies hopping about! How nice of you to protect those baby bunnies.
LOL Shelley. They’re multiplying like, well like RABBITS! 🙂 ~TxH~
Two days ago I looked out my window and saw a bunny looking in the window at me. It was on the deck in my built in planter. It slept there all night. I had put some straw around my sage to protect it from Michigan’s winter weather. We never even thought it might be looking for a place to nest and have babies! The bunny just peaked at me again but there are no babies yet. I told my husband I am removing the straw today. I love seeing baby bunnies but my deck is not a good place for me or them lol!
If you’ve seen her 2 days in a row she may have already nested. Mama returns to her nest in the morning & evening to tend to the babies. I’ve learned (by accident) that they love to look for places where hay is thick on the ground, perfect nesting material. Both times that I’ve had to incorporate this protective cover the mamas had sought shelter for her nest in hay mulch. But thankfully the babies grow super fast. So both times I used this upside-down-plastic bin and within a 2-3 weeks they were grown & gone. Then I just removed my protective items and carried on. Our mini-schnauzer Bailey delights in finding the nests & killing the babies. It’s just her instincts, but my tender heart just can’t take that. WHEW! ~TxH~