Rabbit Care: How to Fix the Lawn
So you got yourself a little pair of flufflets and you’ve put them outside during the day in a safe rabbit run or bunnyproofed garden so they can play and explore a new environment. The only thing is, they’ve ruined your lawn.
Why it matters:
Even if you don’t care about having a prize lawn, you need to care about fixing your lawn before it all dies because your rabbits will have nothing to nibble in their run if they’ve overgrazed all the grass. It takes surprisingly few rabbits to kill a lawn, as I’ve found out over winter. Even if they’re swimming in hay and straw, they still have a strong urge to graze outdoors.
What to do about it:
In the first instance, constantly moving the rabbit run around the lawn to stop overgrazing. Do it before the rabbits are playing in a patch of barren mud, so the grass has a chance of growing back.
If it’s happened over a longer period of time, or your rabbits don’t have enough grass to avoid it, or if your run is particularly large, or if it’s winter and all the grass couldn’t keep up with what the rabbits were eating (they don’t hibernate), you will probably need to look at replacing your lawn.
Having five rabbits, I like to ensure that the three outdoor ones have 24/7 access to their play area because they don’t keep the same circadian rhythms as humans (the thing that makes animals and people wake up or go to sleep), so they like to play out at odd times of the day. This means all of our lawn (which is half of our garden) has been a bunny village since August last year, when we used the panels of modular rabbit run to divide up the lawn for our bunnies. The two biggest outdoor bunnies have over winter had two thirds of the garden because the house rabbits haven’t wanted to go out at all. This means that Katie, who is above average size (but not giant) has overgrazed those two thirds of the lawn and the grass is all dead.
If this happens, you have two options:
1. Buy pre-made turf
Generally this option is only available in late spring/summer. Garden centres sell little patches of turf that you can unroll onto your lawn, stamp down, and water until it takes root and it should just keep growing. A good choice if it’s the right time of year and you need grass fast. The cons are that it’s fairly expensive to cover a garden, and it takes some time to get it to establish, and there’s no guarantee of quality; usually it’s better if you can get it first thing in the morning because by evening the rolls of turf tend to look like hay.
2. Buy grass seed
This is the hardest option, takes ages to work, but sometimes it’s your only choice. There’s no turf for sale anywhere near my house at the moment so I had to buy grass seed. I scarified the lawn by getting a garden fork and digging it into the soil, and turning it over to aerate the soil (which has become quite compacted). It’s always funny to me that grass seems content to grow in places with no soil where you don’t want it, but seems to have a hard time growing in its ideal conditions. I planted my seeds 6 weeks ago now. They were supposed to be a lawn by now because I bought fast growing seed. After 2 weeks, I got three metres by three metres of nothing. Not only that, but my rabbits are peeved that they can’t go into half of their rabbit run at the moment because I closed it off to ensure the seed had the best chance of growth. After 4 weeks, we got some sparse stubble – I would say about 40% of the seeds I planted actually sprouted. After 5 weeks, we’ve got some longer sparse stubble. But no more of the seeds have sprouted, and I still can’t let the bunnies on it because it’s not looking edible yet. I did make the mistake of trying to get them out there between week 3 and week 4, as some grass grew in, although I think it was just the original lawn reanimating itself into patchy zombie grass, but when they went out there was nothing edible. There’s still a lot of ungerminated grass seed sitting around in the soil.
Things I’ve learned about grass seed:
1. It makes your hands green.
2. It just sits there. It doesn’t even try to grow. How it’s survived as a dominant, hardy species I don’t know.
3. You need to rake it into the soil, and you need to stamp it down, and your garden looks awful while its growing.
4. You need to water it regularly while its growing. I am literally using about 5 buckets of water (2 gallon buckets) on that lawn every second day (you can’t water it in the sun so you have to wait until it’s shady, and I tend to forget) and I HATE wasting so much water but it’s the only way to get the stupid stuff to grow.
5. It doesn’t remotely grow at the density that you planted it at. I would say only 40% of the seeds I covered the lawn with have grown through as grass.
6. The rabbits will not stop chewing it at a reasonable point, they will eat it down to the soil, so to enable it to grow back, you have to stop them going near it until it’s growing in and ready to eat.
Whatever you do, it’s going to be expensive and time consuming, so as I’ve learned the hard way, the best thing to do is get the rabbits off the grass over winter so it stands a chance of growing back in time for spring. If you have little runs, moving them around the lawn is a good answer. Unfortunately, if like me you gave the bunnies the entire lawn to play on, you will need to monitor the situation carefully to make sure they don’t bite off more than they can chew. But hey, look on the plus side – now you have rabbits, you will probably never need to mow the lawn again!