Rabbits are adorable creatures that are fun to watch. That is until you find them snacking on your favorite plants.
The novelty soon wears off, and it can be devastating to see the devastation they can cause in your garden, especially after the months of hard work you put in.
But there are things you can do to keep rabbits out of your garden, or at the very least, off the most vulnerable plants you have.
Let’s take a look.
What Brings Rabbits To Your Garden?
In order to understand how to keep rabbits away from your garden, it makes sense to look at what attracts them in the first place.
While they can be adorable to watch, the novelty soon wears off when they start eating your favorite plants with abandon, and if you’re not careful, they will spread destruction and chaos to the rest of your garden.
In most seasons but especially in spring, they will pretty much eat any kind of new growth they can get their teeth into.
Here are some of the plants that rabbits are attracted to the most:
- Fruit trees: including apples, berries, plums, and almonds
- Vegetable crops: including peas, lettuce, carrots, beans, and broccoli
- Herbs: including parsley and cilantro
- Wildflowers: especially clovers, dandelions, and others usually found in lawns
They will also take advantage of young shoots of pretty much any ornamental plant you can think of.
Younger plants are much more tender and are an attractive snack for any rabbit, so these need protecting more than most.
Rabbits will also flock to your garden if there is a lack of natural predators, somewhere for them to shelter, and a reliable source of food and water.
If you come across lots of droppings on your lawn and find lots of plants that have had bites taken out of the leaves, or fully cropped to the ground, there’s a good chance that there’s a rabbit or two around.
How To Make Sure Rabbits Stay Out Of Your Yard
When you spot rabbits making themselves at home in your garden, it’s important that you act quickly.
Two rabbits that are cute to watch can quickly turn into a whole colony, and that’s the last thing you want!
Rabbits are very stubborn animals (on a related note, see also How To Keep Chickens Out Of Your Garden), and they will keep coming into your garden as long as there is food and safety, and you may even find a warren or two.
The good news is that there are many ways to keep rabbits out of your yard, and trying several methods at once is more effective than using a single tactic and moving on to another when that doesn’t seem to have had an effect.
The best methods rely on a few simple strategies:
- Using physical barriers: strong fencing, rabbit-proof wire, and chicken wire to keep them out of your yard, and off your plants
- Scare tactics: rabbits are prey animals, so capitalizing on their skittish nature is one of the best deterrents you can use, such as motion-activated deterrents and predator decoys
- Strong smells: using commercially formulated rabbit repellents, as well as strong-smelling plants that rabbits hate to make them unwelcome
- Turning to the professionals: when you find that nothing is working, or rabbits have already set up home in your garden for a while, consider turning to professional advice to help you out.
A good rule of thumb is to make sure you use at least two of the strategies above, and this will be much more effective than using a single method.
How To Keep Rabbits Off Your Plants
The good news is that just because rabbits have set up home in your garden, doesn’t mean that you have to stop growing the plants you love.
There are ways to keep your plants protected, and using more than one method at once will greatly reduce the chances of your plants getting eaten.
Protect Vulnerable Plants
One of the first things you need to do is to work out which plants in your garden are the most vulnerable to rabbits.
Crop plants, young shoots, and seedlings are all particularly susceptible to rabbits, so make sure you protect these first.
Use chicken wire with holes no bigger than a quarter of an inch, and form protective cylinders around newly-planted plants, young plants, or particularly vulnerable plants such as fruits and vegetables.
Make sure that you can’t make the barrier lean or fall over. Keep it steady and sturdy, and the rabbits will have a hard time getting past them.
Fencing And Chicken Wire
The best way to protect your garden is to have decent fencing around the line of your property.
If you find that rabbits are still getting into your garden, there is probably a hole somewhere that needs repairing. Bear in mind that rabbits will also dig under fences, so this is not enough on its own.
Chicken wire also helps hugely, as long as you get the type with small holes, at least one inch or smaller.
To stop rabbits from digging under any barriers, bury the chicken wire at least 6 inches below the surface of the soil, and as soon as they feel the metal, they will stop.
Use Raised Beds For Crops
One of the best ways to protect the most vulnerable plants in your garden is to install raised beds.
Rabbits like the path of least resistance. If there’s any food they can get to with little or no effort at all at ground level, that is where they will go.
While they might lean on their hind legs to get at a particularly tasty plant, you can install double protection by using a combination of a chicken wire cage and a raised bed, ensuring that they cannot dig or jump into your crops for a tasty snack.
Just make sure that you put chicken wire underneath the raised beds, otherwise they will dig into them from underneath.
Use Decoys And Moving Deterrents
Using predator decoys will help, such as owl statues, as long as you keep moving these around the garden every few days or weeks.
If they stay in one place for too long, the rabbits will soon realize that these ‘predators’ are nothing to fear.
Incorporating moving deterrents, such as rubber snakes, garden pinwheels, and highly reflective mobiles using broken CDs or aluminum foil can also help.
The sound and the reflections when the wind moves these deterrents will help scare the rabbits away, as well as any other unwanted visitors.
But just like the predator decoys, you will need to move them around occasionally to stop the rabbits from getting used to them and no longer seeing them as a threat.
Make Sure To Remove Existing And Potential Burrows
This is one of the loudest messages you can send to the most stubborn of rabbits. If they have no home to go to, they are likely to move elsewhere.
Rabbits are enterprising creatures and will make their burrows near food sources (such as your garden). Make sure you keep on top of pruning shrubs and cutting lawns, and remove any open piles of wood, moving them to a log store instead.
Rabbits have been known to make their burrows in rockeries, log piles, raised beds, and anywhere that can offer them camouflage away from predators.
This does not mean you have to strip your garden bare, but you do need to remove any burrows you find by filling them in. Just make sure you aren’t sealing up any poor rabbits in their burrows while you do.
Use Motion-Activated Deterrents
Rabbits use their instincts to keep them from harm, and one thing that will scare any rabbit off pretty quickly is to use motion-activated deterrents such as sprinklers.
It also helps that these deterrents will give them a good scare, without actually harming them, and you don’t need to be in your garden 24/7 to fend off the rabbits.
They will learn pretty quickly that they are unwelcome, and they will look elsewhere for a safer place to eat and set up their burrows.
Let Your Pets Use The Yard As Much As Possible
Your pets are one of the most effective deterrents against rabbits and other pests! This can be difficult to remember sometimes, when your dogs (see also Keeping Dogs Out Of Your Garden if your dog is causing havoc on your beds!) or cats are incredibly sweet to you, but they are also effective hunters.
The smell of them alone is likely to make rabbits run in the other direction. The longer your pets spend in your yard, the more evidence of their presence, and the stronger their smell.
Be Clever With Your Planting Choices
It’s worth knowing that there are some plants that rabbits will avoid like the plague. Using these plants in your garden can help screen more attractive options, and prevent them from being eaten.
Trees and shrubs rabbits don’t like include: Japanese maples, rhododendrons, mountain laurels, boxwood, and azaleas.
Flowers rabbits will avoid include: daffodils, alliums, peonies, primroses, and geraniums.
Buy Rabbit Repellents
Another way you can tackle these un wanted visitors is to use rabbit repellents. You can buy them or use a homemade concoction, making sure that they are safe for plants if you do want to spray vulnerable plants to keep rabbits off.
You will also need to reapply repellents after rainfall and watering your plants, as the water will wash away the scent.
Bring In The Professionals
If all else fails, or if you don’t fancy a long and lengthy battle to get the rabbits out of your yard, it’s time to call in pest control.
Most pest control companies will humanely trap and release rabbits elsewhere, and you will benefit from their experience.
It’s important not to try and trap wild animals yourself, as you could injure them, yourself, or someone else, or trap another animal that you didn’t want to attract.
There are also regulations concerning where and when it is suitable to release wild animals, so it’s best to leave this to the professionals who know what they are doing.
How To Stop Rabbits From Being A Nuisance
Gardens are not just a point of pride, but they are a safe haven and a way of increasing your well being.
When something comes along and destroys your hard work, it can be more than disheartening, and play on your thoughts all the time.
Rabbits are not a bad presence to have in your garden, but the damage they can cause can be devastating, which is why you need to put your deterrents in place as soon as you see a single rabbit, or even better before you see rabbits at all.
Rabbits aren’t exactly known for their restraint when it comes to eating plants, so leaving them to their own devices will ensue chaos.
Always use more than one strategy at a time, rather than trying one and giving up when it doesn’t work by itself.
Different strategies will also work better in some areas than others, so make sure to use a mixture.
Other Things To Consider
Why You Shouldn’t Use Mothballs
Mothballs will repel certain animals that are considered pests, but they do more harm than good.
The reason for this is that they are only designed to be used inside, and the chemicals they contain are highly toxic, not just to rabbits, but to all sorts of wildlife.
They may even affect your children or pets, so make sure you only use mothballs for their intended purpose.
Natural Rabbit Repellents
There are quite a few natural rabbit repellents you can turn to. There are many homemade recipes to choose from, but most include garlic and chili peppers.
These ingredients are inexpensive, and will also deter the likes of squirrels (see also How To Keep Squirrels Out Of Your Fruit Trees) and groundhogs, too. Just make sure that you reapply natural repellents after watering and rainfall, as the water will wash away the scent completely and render it ineffective.
Protect Young Plants
It’s worth repeating that rabbits will make a beeline for younger plants, and go for them before they eat older plants.
Some plants may be strong enough to recover even when all their foliage is gone, but others will not, so it’s worth putting chicken wire around newly-planted plants, or perennials that are just emerging from the soil, to stop rabbits from eating them.
Rabbits can be a huge problem in many gardens, causing chaos and destruction in a very short space of time.
If you spot rabbits making themselves at home in your garden, it’s better to act quickly, as the problem will only get worse the longer that you leave it.
Using a combination of deterrents is your best bet, as this will help make your garden a much scarier place for rabbits, and they may soon turn elsewhere for food and shelter.
If all else fails, it’s time to call in the professionals, as there is only so much that you can do, and so much that your plants can take.
Most pest control companies will humanely trap and release the rabbits elsewhere so that your garden will soon be pest-free, and you’ll be able to enjoy growing your plants without worrying about them being eaten.