How Can I Keep Rabbits Out of My Garden and Prevent Them From Coming Back?
If you've found rabbits in your garden, chances are they've chewed through some of your harvest. Finding these little creatures roaming around your garden can be maddening, but the good news is that there's some solutions. In this article, we examine what to do when you find rabbits in your garden, and how you can prevent them from coming back.
Are rabbits destroying the plants in your garden? If so, then you’ve most likely become desperate when it comes to learning how to keep rabbits out of your garden. While there are animals that will benefit your garden, rabbits and other rodents definitely aren’t garden-friendly.
They might look cute and cuddly, but these little critters will destroy plants right down to the ground. There’s nothing more frustrating than going out to harvest your lettuce finally and finding that rabbits ate half of it already.
Is there anything you can do to keep these furry pests away? Thankfully, there are several things to try. Let’s dig in and teach you how to keep bunnies away.
How to Know If Rabbits Are the Culprit
Make sure you’re dealing with a rabbit problem before using these tips. If another pest is running wild in the garden, then you probably need different solutions.
First, look at the leaves of any of the vegetables that keep disappearing at the hands of those “pesky wabbits.” Insects leave holes in the leaves. You might have a groundhog or woodchuck roaming the premises if most of the plants have made it past the seedling stage.
Rabbits typically like to eat younger plants that offer a tender food source. They don’t leave the plant looking jagged. Rabbits will leave your plants looking clean-cut after their munching sessions.
Look for rabbit poop near their eating area. Rabbits leave lots of little nuggets behind as they move through your garden. Rabbit poop typically appears as brown round or oval nuggets about 3 to 4 centimeters long.
Still not sure if you have rabbits? Grab a chair and sit quietly near your garden at dawn or dusk. That’s when most rabbits come out to eat.
Get a visual sighting if you need to. “Hey pa! Grab the bb gun, I’m goin’ wabbit hunting.”
We’re only kidding! You do know Elmer Fudd, though, right?
Ridding Your Garden of Rabbits
Four main methods exist to keep bunnies away from your garden:
- Rabbit deterrents
- Plant selection
- Physical removal
Use a Rabbit Deterrent
There are several rabbit deterrents you can use, starting with commercially scented repellents. You’ll want to be careful to pick a formula that will not harm your plants while deterring rabbits from digging around your gardening space.
Commercial Scented Repellents
Many odors exist that rabbits find repulsive. Rabbits exist further down the food chain and must remain aware of predators at every turn. Some scents can mimic a predator. Other strong scents make rabbits nervous because they keep the rabbits from detecting predators that may be in the area.
You can find commercial rabbit deterrent products to try. Some products come as sprays. Others exist as tiny granules that you sprinkle near the garden and around plants.
It’s essential to do your research and avoid any repellents not designed to work near food sources. You don’t want to put the rabbits and your family’s health in harm’s way all at the same time.
Sprayed scents work more effectively in environments where you don’t need to reapply them often. For example, suppose you live in the desert area of southern California, where you must water your lawn and garden almost continuously. In that case, the extra water simply washes the spray scents too soon to work well.
Read product labels to gain an understanding of how often you should apply them. Over time, rabbits become used to scent repellents, so find two or three you like best and alternate their use.
Natural Scent Repellents
One of the best homemade natural repellents is using chili flakes and garlic mixed in water. Try spraying that around the garden’s perimeter. You can also use chili powder or garlic (or both) and sprinkle them where you’re noticing the rabbit problem.
If you have a rabbit predator as a pet, such as a cat or a dog, then try sprinkling their droppings, hair, or urine so that rabbits think a predator is waiting for them nearby.
Make It Difficult To Hang Around
Rabbits don’t like to hang around open spaces for too long. They need to protect themselves from nearby predators such as cats, owls, foxes, or raccoons.
Keep plenty of open space around your garden. Clear away thicket areas, tall grass, or brush piles so that rabbits can’t hide there during eating sessions.
Can rabbits get under your porch or hide behind nearby woodpiles? Look for anything that makes it easy for rabbits to target your yard and garden areas as safe eating grounds. Other things to look out for include:
- Bushy shrubs
- Rock areas with convenient hiding places
- Yard debris
Try Scaring Rabbits
Why not unleash your tiny predators on the rabbits if their droppings or urine don’t work effectively enough? Let your cat or dog loose in the garden at dusk and dawn. They can do the work of chasing rabbits away from the area.
Other scare tactics include:
- Garden decorations that move
- Spinning pinwheels
- Mirrored pie pans
- Sensor-activated lights or sprinklers
Unfortunately, rabbits aren’t stupid creatures. If they figure out eventually that your spinning decorations don’t pose actual harm, then they’ll ignore them and hop right past them.
Some plants exist that rabbits don’t enjoy munching on.
Examples include any plants that have:
- Milky sap
- Thorny branches
- Fuzzy leaves
- Thick leaves
- Strong scents
Plants that possess some elements of rabbit resistance include some types of asparagus, artichokes, tomatoes, potatoes, garlic, currants, onions, and rhubarb.
You can also plant these herbs in an ornamental bed and expect to see less rabbit activity:
This isn’t foolproof, by the way. If rabbits get hungry enough, they’ll quickly decide to eat anything that isn’t on their preferred food list. Rabbits will even happily munch your lawn’s grass blades down to the roots.
Before we leave plant selection, you should at least know some of the plants that rabbits do like best. Perrenial veggies are a prime target, and rabbits especially love the following:
Some rabbits will even mow down small trees that you’re planting around the yard. They easily eat the softer bark of a younger tree. You’ll need to protect seedling trees with fencing to allow them to grow to the point where rabbits won’t try eating the bark.
If you’ve tried any of the above methods and you still can’t keep rabbits out of the garden, then you may want to move into a more certain area of installing fencing.
Your friendly neighborhood rabbits can’t eat your garden if they can’t access it, to begin with.
Use Row Covers or Netting Around Plants
You might not have the opportunity to build a fence around the entire yard or garden. In this case, use cloth row covers or plastic netting around groups of your most vulnerable plants.
What can you do if rabbits simply end up chewing through those deterrents? In that case, try using some wire mesh instead.
Keep in mind that rabbits know how to dig underneath some types of fencing. No matter what kind of netting, cover, or wire mesh you might use, they’ll try to dig underneath and pop up inside the barrier to continue their chewing sessions.
Build a Fence
You may need to build a fence if the barriers mentioned above don’t deter rabbits. Nothing does a better job to keep rabbits out of your garden than physical barriers they can’t chew through or dig under or around.
Think carefully about the size of your fence and the materials used. Similar to squirrels, rabbits can squeeze through small areas. A wire mesh fence, for instance, shouldn’t go any larger than one inch.
You need to build the fence high enough so rabbits can’t hop over it. You’ll see some resources recommending two-foot-high fences to keep rabbits out of the garden. That’s not entirely safe enough. Build your fence to at least four feet high to stay confident that it does the trick.
The most crucial part of installing a fence for keeping rabbits away is digging a trench first. Dig six to 12 inches down so that your fencing keeps enterprising rabbit diggers from making their way through that way.
Eliminating the Problem Itself
Have you tried all of the above methods without success?
It’s time to consider trapping those pests and relocating them. This step gets tricky, though, depending on where you live.
Your town or city might have specific laws that govern whether you can trap and relocate rabbits. Call the local animal control office and ask them what you can do in this area.
If you get the green light to trap and relocate, then buy a trap, set it, and capture those bunnies. Typically, you can then take the rabbits to the animal control office so that they can relocate the mammals.
Another option is calling a trap and removal company in your area. They’ll come to your home to trap and remove the rabbits for you.
Now it’s your turn. Decide which of the above tactics make the most sense for your specific situation. Then, go to work on using those strategies to keep rabbits out of your garden. You’ll find peace of mind knowing you can enjoy gardening again!