This section is from the book "The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation", by George Abbey. Also available from Amazon: The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation.
Hares and rabbits are connoisseurs in respect of newly introduced trees and shrubs, and will roam under the most favouring conditions of food supply, being epicurean in taste, rarely failing to test newly planted, even of existing species or varieties, in quality of shoot and bark: therefore it is necessary to protect the stems of standard trees, and the whole plant in the case of bushes. The netting for this purpose should be 3 ft. high or wide, 1 in. mesh for stems, and 1½ in. mesh for bushes. The girdle for standard trees must be large enough to allow for several years' growth, and the enclosure for bushes be so far from the growths as to admit of at least one season's development, enlarging the enclosure from time to time until the circle reaches 6 ft. in diameter, when the tree or bush requiring more room, the netting may be dispensed with, as the stem will then, unless of particular acceptance, be hare and rabbit proof, or may be protected by a "smear," while the leading growths are beyond reach; and though the lateral branches may be nibbled, the tree, even a conifer, will not be materially disfigured as a specimen.
Fig. 125. - Boulton & Paul's Galvanized Wire-netting.
For masses or clumps, galvanized wire-netting 3 ft. wide, 1 5/8 in. mesh, fixed with wooden stakes, and with the lower edge resting on the ground, proves effective as a temporary protection for young trees against hares and rabbits. A neater fence, Fig. 125, is made with wrought-iron stakes. Hares seldom bound over 3 ft. high netting for feeding purposes, but often do so for "kindling," we having known enclosed clumps thus selected, evidently for safety of the leverets. Rabbits also do not climb over such fences if it be given a leaning outwards, or even burrow under the wire in cases of isolated specimen or clumps here and there in ornamental coverts: hence the netting serves for the needful protection until the shrubs and trees are out of danger. In snow-time, however, when the netting from drifted snow may unduly expose the trees to attack, stems and growths above snow-line, and within reach of hares and rabbits, must be dressed with an obnoxious substance. With these precautions, trees and shrubs may be got up on the residential portions of estates where ground game exists in considerable number, continuing the fencing for a period of from seven to ten years after planting.
Even at the expiration of the time named it may be necessary to protect the stems of shrubs with wire-netting, as rabbits trim off branches as high as they can reach, and in other cases applying a protective substance.
For farms, fields, nurseries, fruit plantations, market and private gardens, pleasure grounds, belts, clumps and plantations, good fencing with wire-netting must be adopted if hares and rabbits are to be excluded, and it is a moot question whether the proprietors of coverts should bound them by ground game proof wire-netting, or foresters, farmers and gardeners be under the necessity of protecting their crops against hares and rabbits. The former implies the hare-park and rabbit-warren, and the degradation of coursing, beagling, and shooting to the level of tame deer-hunting and rabbit-coursing, against which humanitarians are dead-set: and the latter relief from the depredations of ground game without expense on their part in keeping it at bay or even down. As bearing on these points, we may mention that in cutting eleven acres of wheat at Lenton, Lincolnshire, over 100 rabbits, three foxes, and several pheasants were disturbed: and that in Devon farmers found rabbits so numerous and committing so much damage - two acres of corn having been eaten right away at Cullompton - as to have recourse to killing and hawking them about the villages at the low price of 3d. each.
In the Lincolnshire case, it is clear that ground game and pheasants may live where there are foxes, and thus both shooting and fox-hunting may be indulged in: while in the Devon instance, in which no mention is made of foxes, rabbits have increased to the extent of there not being any corn to cut, and it is recorded that in the same year the Dartmoor foxhounds, hunting near Shipley, attacked a pony and killed it before they could be driven off.
Coverts enclosed by ground game proof wire-netting preclude all idea of sport, therefore the incubus of protection for crops rests, if sporting is to continue, with the cultivators, and this protection in a sporting district must not be of such nature as to unduly interfere with fox-hunting. Barbed top-wire fencing enclosing farms and fields practically preclude fox-hunting, and may be justifiable in the case of nurseries, fruit plantations, market and private gardens. Where such fencing exists or may be erected, and ground game is to be excluded, wire-netting is easily affixed, the only important points to attend to being the width, mesh and insertion in the ground. The netting, 3 ft. wide, 1½ in. mesh, should be placed in the ground 6 in. at an angle of 450 on the side from whence rabbits are to be prevented from beginning deep burrows. Where there is no fencing, iron or wood end posts may be used for fixing the netting, a top wire being stretched from post to post, and to this the upper edge of the netting secured.
Fig. 126. - Fixing Wire-netting.
For temporary purposes, iron stakes with prongs on one side may be used for fixing the netting, the prongs 6 in. long, and the part above 3 ft. this being " eyed " at 15, 30 and 35 in. respectively from the prongs upwards, No. 10 wire being stretched through all the eyes, and the wires being tight, the netting being secured to the two lowest wires and let into the ground, as shown, Fig. 126: it does not " bag," and rabbits seldom burrow under it. The top wire practically adds 5 in. to the height, as hares "see" it and shy, neither they nor rabbits passing over, especially if, on the approach of severe weather, the upper edge of the netting and top wire be coated with an obnoxious substance.