Over the past few weeks, the Chayne’s recently scant rabbit population has suddenly started to boom. Rabbits have been turning up in totally unexpected places, and the hayfield which usually holds just two or three sullen old hoppers now wriggles with more than two dozen keen, sparky little bunnies. My ferreter’s eye is already looking forward to the first frost, but there is something undeniably pleasing about rabbits. They give the place a noticeable buzz of life, and a farm without any rabbits is a dead place indeed. I’m not so naive as to think that their population increase comes without a cost, and given that I’ve killed more rabbits during my life than I could count on a thousand hands, I don’t think I’m being sentimental – they just complete the picture and bring a peaceful balance to situations which would otherwise seem vacant. Just as with woodpigeons (which really are fantastic birds), it’s too easy to curse and swear at rabbits. They have a charm beneath all that hum-drum stupidity, and they can be very exciting to work with.
The nature of their cycles has meant that rabbits have been long absent on the Chayne. I remember being able to shoot dozens in a single afternoon around the old barns at the back of the farm, but those huge, formidable warrens have been lying empty for at least six years. On the whole, the entrances have filled in and left the impressive excavations looking like little more than ripples in the ground. Here and there, holes have been serruptitiously widened and used to stash the occasional fox cub, but otherwise the farm is ominously silent.
While on one hand I’m keen to see rabbits back, they do bring with them a variety of problems. I will have to get on top of the stoats otherwise their numbers will rise along with their food source and start to pose a problem, and I will certainly take high velocity exception to finding those flossy tailed cutie-pies in amongst my game crop, which will be planted this week.