MOre QuailMore posts

Short Steps to Quality Rabbit Habitat

Apr 04, 2014

Cottontail rabbits have always been one of the most popular small game animals in Missouri. Many sportsmen and landowners enjoy seeing rabbits on their land throughout the year. Given the proper habitat conditions, cottontail populations can flourish in a relatively short period of time. Having hundreds of acres of land, or months of prep time to manage for them isn’t always a necessity. In fact, much of a cottontail’s life is spent on a small area of land, 1 acre or less in most cases. They tend to thrive in a diverse array of early successional habitats that exist in many of Missouri’s landscapes such as smaller brushy fields, brushy/shrubby fencerows, and managed native warm season grass fields with thicket borders or brushy edges.

Landowners managing habitat for cottontails should think of two things: cover and food. Managing habitat for food for rabbits is fairly simple. Rabbits in general feed on a wide variety of vegetation, especially younger tender bits of grasses, forbs, wildflowers, seedlings and even your favorite garden plants. For best results, you should have a variety of plants that are available year round in one form or another. Also, food plots should be in close proximity to areas of cover vegetation to provide protection from predators.

I like to spend a crisp early spring day with a chainsaw and working on some simple edge-feathering along the field timbered edges or doing a practice we have termed “Chop and Drop.” This technique can be completed in less than 1 or 2 hours’ time with a chainsaw and it makes a huge difference in the quantity and quality of available cover around your field edges for rabbits and small game. To do this, find a suitable location along your timber by picking several less desirable trees on your small field edge and as close to other grassy or brushy areas as possible. Then, either hinge-cut them down ¾ of the way through their diameter to let them fall slowly over to become a “living brush pile” or cut them all the way thru and let them lay where they drop, hence the term “Chop and Drop.” Both techniques work well depending on your preference of how you want the final product to look on your land and what types of trees you have to work with.

Adjacent to these edge-feathered or newly created “chop and drop” areas, a small thin strip of early successional grasses/forbs and desirable weeds can be created by light disking in early spring. Disk 12 to 15 ft wide strips to allow for new younger vegetation to come up thru the disturbance you have just created. Alternate your disking with an undisturbed area of existing grasses or habitat that is approximately twice as wide as the disked strip. If you have additional space available in the field, this entire process can be repeated again with an alternating strip disked area, thus creating an additional internal edge for the rabbits to utilize.

To maximize the amount of available food for rabbits throughout the year, a small ¼ to ½ acre area (depending on the size of the area you have to work with) can be seeded with either red or white clover near the center of the managed habitat zone. To assist in clover growth, lightly cover the newly planted area but do not bury the seed too deeply in the soil. Dragging a small piece of chain-link fence or smaller “chop and drop” tree behind an ATV works well to accomplish this task.

As you can see with just a few simple steps and a couple of hours invested in habitat management, you can create excellent habitat areas for rabbits to flourish. And, as an added bonus, you just might help other game species that require similar habitat conditions, such as quail, turkeys, and other non-game species such as songbirds. So, this early spring, get out your chainsaw, put on your work gloves and create some “Rabbit-tat” on your land.


Chop and Drop Edgefeathering
Chop and Drop Edgefeathering
Edgefeathering can be used to provide important escape cover for rabbits, quail and songbirds.


Hi JasonCedars are not well suited to hinge cutting, the wood is too brittle and you have to cut so much of the trunk that it usually doesn't survive. I would just drop them. What I have done on my own property to combat the small cedars is wait til the cedar piles rot down (5-10 years) and then use prescribed fire. This kills the smaller cedars and envigorates new herbaceous growth that the rabbits, quail and other wildlife will benefit from.If you cannot burn, then the next best thing is cutting or spraying before they get much growth to the new cedars.

I have a lot of cedars on my farm. Should I hinge cut or drop them and how do I control new cedar growth within brush piles?

Recent Posts

Blue-winged Teal In Flight

Testing the Waters

Sep 09, 2016

Have you ever been interested in duck hunting, but the idea of weathering the cold has kept you from taking that extra step out into the marsh?  Or perhaps you do duck hunt, but have that friend who tried it once, had leaky waders in the dead of winter, and swore he or she would never go back.  Well, it just so happens ... 


Busy Bees

Sep 05, 2016

Their sight and sound might bring panic at a picnic, but our need for bees is crucial.

Closeup of yellow garden spider on web

The Itsy-Bitsy Garden Spider

Aug 29, 2016

It’s a shame that little Miss Muffett was too frightened to meet the spider that sat down beside her. She would have discovered that spiders are exceptional creatures.