Posted: 14/01/2015 at 20:29
Jane, all the above suggestions have merit. Cats, especially if sourced from a farm are highly effective predators when it comes to rabbits, and a terrier will also, have huge fun chasing and sometimes catching rabbits. I lived right in the sticks in the middle of a wood some years ago, the dogs (spaniels) ignored the rabbits, the cat(who adopted us), kept the rabbits under control and we rarely bought any food for it. It would eat an adult rabbit on the lawn almost every day.
Rabbit resistant planting is the best way to start the garden, protect young trees and shrubs with rabbit guards, easily obtainable, or chicken wire, wrapped around the stems.
It will take a year for the rabbits to learn this is a dangerous place, they are not as stupid as they look, but the word gets round trust me.
Rabbit proofing such a large area, would be very expensive, and probably ineffective, so choose area's away from the edges of the grounds, start near the house where a dog will happily roam, and create plant free area's around any beds you create. This has the effect of leaving open spaces, rabbits prefer to feed near cover, it's safer. Open area's are easier to predate in, so you rarely see a rabbit in the open, other than those with a death wish.
Go slowly, and you'll soon find out what works and what doesn't. Just remember, rabbits love cover, so leave space. We don't have many birds of prey that will take an adult rabbit, but the smaller ones are another thing, the youngsters will be the main problem.
Finally, if your'e up for it, get a gun licence for pest control, they are easier to obtain than people realize, and learn to use it. A .22 is the best with silencer and scope. They are easy to use, but get some lessons if you do go for it, safe handling of firearms is essential.
It all may take a year or two, but with such a large area, it'll be huge fun and get more interesting as time passes.