Keeping Rabbits Out of Your Garden

Although cute, rabbits can be a real pest in the garden. They can quickly devour all of the plants you are growing. This is a guide about keeping rabbits out of your garden.

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A rabbit sitting in grass.Tips for keeping bunnies out of gardens from the ThriftyFun community.

Use Hair Clippings

Go to your local hair salon and ask them for a bag of hair sweepings. Get a large bag full and spread it around the perimeter of your garden. You may have to repeat this after each rain fall but as a hair stylist, I know that we always have plenty to spare at the shops where I have worked. Many folks around my town know that animals do not like the scent of humans and will avoid it at all costs. Also, the hair is biodegradable and will nourish you garden as well. This is free and a easy solution to prevent wild critters from entering your garden.

By Honeydoya

Chicken Wire

Surround the garden with a chicken wire fence. Bury about 4-5 inches of it into the ground to keep bunnies from digging under it.

By Carol

Sweet Alyssum

I was told that bunnies don't like sweet alyssum because of the sweet scent. Where I live, we don't have a rabbit problem. Just scatter the little white seeds among the plants, they re-seed and grow with no problems.

By Rosebud

Marigolds

Bunnies do not like marigolds. You could plant them around the edge of your garden!

By michelle h

Bury A Bottle

I've heard that planting an empty beer or soda bottle wih just enough of the neck exposed for the wind to make it whistle will scare them away.

By Siris

Plastic Snakes

I read that if you purchase a couple of plastic snakes from the dollar store and put them into your garden, it will keep the bunnies from entering the area. Good Luck.

By Watinwood

Several Bunny Proofing Ideas

I have heard that you can put hot sauce in a spray bottle with some water on the plants and that can ward off their little taste buds. I have also heard to buy plastic snakes and put them in the garden. I haven't personally tried either one. I usually put up a wire bunny proof fence bought at the local hardware store. This year my husband cut the bottoms out of some 5 gal. buckets and placed them over the tomato plants while they were still small. Push them down a tad bit into the dirt. This kept the plants out of reach. Typically, I only seem to have trouble with my tomato plants, not my lettuce, which you think would be the main problem.

By momof2girls

Urine

If you're not thrilled about spreading your hair clippings around, human urine works as well. I try to remember to take a late-evening whiz in the mulch near my Asian Daylillies every now and then. The local rabbit now understands that it's my territory and doesn't munch on them anymore.

Wolf urine works too, but it's very inconvenient to chain a wolf in your yard and force him to drink coffee. I haven't tried it.

By Backyardigan

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How do we keep the rabbits from eating the bulbs I plant for next year's growth?

Hardiness Zone: 5a

By Rox from Champaign, IL

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Wow, that is awesome info, thank you very much....I love to see the rabbits in our yard, but I do want it to stay pretty with flowers and shrubs and since my little dogs chase them the info on rabbits being territorial is very good to know.

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How do you get rid of bunnies in a garden?

By RuthC.

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A friend plants comfrey. The bunnies would much rather eat it than anything you have in your garden.

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What can I place in my vegetable garden and around my flowers to deter rabbits from eating them? I know I can fence in the garden, but what about flowers?

By Joe B

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My grandpa always put bone meal around the garden.

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They are cute and fuzzy, and only too eager to share the fruits of your gardening labor. Nothing is more frustrating than watching your hard work literally get nipped off at the bud. Here are some tips for helping you win the war against rabbits.

Ecology and Behavior

In order to keep them out, first you've got to understand them. The three most common garden rabbits are Jackrabbits, brush rabbits, and cottontails - with cottontails being the most widespread. Rabbits are active both day and night, but feeding usually begins in the early evening hours and continues throughout the night and into the next morning. Most rabbits have a small home range consisting of a few acres, and as long as local resources are plentiful (food and shelter), they are happy to stay put in one area.

Females give birth to an average litter of 2-3 "kittens" and can have as many as 5-6 litters per year. The babies are born in shallow nests in the soil (called "forms"), which are covered by leaves, branches, rocks or other debris. The kittens stay in the nests for several weeks, with the mother leaving them hidden during the day so as not to attract the attention of nearby predators. (Note: If you find what appears to be an "abandoned" rabbit nest, it's likely that the mother is hiding close by. She'll come back at night so leave it alone! The mortally rate for baby rabbits is high - even higher for those raised by well-intentioned humans!).

Signature Signs of Damage

Rabbits consume as much as 1-1 1/2 pounds of vegetation each day. If something has been stripping bark from your young trees, nibbling vegetable seedlings, or mowing down your ornamentals, you may have a rabbit problem. Most damage is inflicted close to the ground (lower than 2 feet), except during winter snows, which can elevate rabbits to greater heights. Using their incisors, rabbits make a characteristic diagonal cut that is at a 45 degree angle. Deer don't have upper front teeth and must twist and pull when browsing. They tend to leave a ragged cut on branches. The rabbits' knife-like teeth leave a clean cut.

Trees, Shrubs, And Plants Rabbits Love

  • Almond trees
  • Apple trees
  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Blackberry bushes
  • Blueberry bushes
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cherry
  • Cilantro
  • Citrus
  • Lettuce
  • Ornamental flowers (e.g. coneflower, black-eye Susan, Asiatic lily)
  • Parsley
  • Peas
  • Pistachio trees
  • Plum trees
  • Raspberry canes
  • Strawberry plants
  • Various other shrubs, trees, and turf

Management Tools

Fences: This is the best and most effective long-term solution. Erect a fence around garden beds or individual plants. The fence should be at least 48 inches high to prevent rabbits from jumping over. Bury bottom of the fence 4-6 inches into the soil and turn the fence outward to prevent rabbits from digging underneath. If the bottom is not buried, the fence should be staked down around the perimeter to discourage digging. Poultry wire works great for this, just make sure the mesh size is no larger than 1 inch to exclude baby rabbits from entering. If a rabbit should get in it may not get out, so check fenced in areas often.

Trunk Guards: Individual plants and small trees, shrubs, and vines can be protected using homemade or commercially bought trunk guards. To make them yourself, simply roll 1 inch mesh into a 18-24 inch cylinder (or larger if needed) and surround the plants. Close the seam using thin gauge wire or zip ties. Make sure to make the cylinders large enough so the rabbits can't browse on leaves through the mesh. Bury them into the ground a few inches or secure them with stakes to keep them securely upright.

Repellents

Like all prey animals, rabbit have a keen sense of smell. Some gardeners have reported success with odor repellents (e.g. blood meal, powered fox urine, dog or human hair, cat litter, rotten eggs). Whether homemade or commercial, these products need to be reapplied frequently (especially after it rains) and tend to lose their effectiveness after a period of time. Still, they may work long enough to get young plants to a growth stage where rabbits are no longer interested in them (is there really such a stage?).

Live Trapping

Live trapping of rabbits is only a temporary fix and not recommended for a variety of reasons. Rabbits tend to panic and injure themselves when trapped. Are you prepared to deal with an injured animal? Although rare, rabbits can transmit certain diseases to humans when handled.

Trapped animals need to be relocated to somewhere. Laws may vary locally, but many times this requires a written permit to do so. Once trapped rabbits are moved out of the area, those same resources become available and new rabbits move into the area. The cycle simply continues to repeat itself.

If you do decide to use live traps, check with your DNR or animal control regarding laws first. Always locate traps in the shade, check it daily, keep pets away, and have a release location planned before you set the trap.

Altering Habitat

Another way to manage rabbits is by altering their habitat. Remove cover (brush piles, stones, debris) to discourage cottontails and brush rabbits, especially in urban areas where alternative hiding spots are limited. You're also wise to start with plants that rabbits prefer not to eat. Here is a partial list:*
  • Allium (flowering onion)
  • American Holly
  • Astilbes
  • Azaleas
  • Bamboo
  • Boxwood
  • Buddleia
  • Campanula
  • Cat Mint
  • Clematis
  • Daphnes
  • Epimediums
  • Euphorbias
  • Foxgloves
  • Gaultherias
  • Hardy germaniums
  • Hostas
  • Hydrangeas
  • Hypercium
  • Hypericums
  • Irises
  • Juniper
  • Leucojum
  • Lonicera (including Honeysuckle)
  • Monkshood
  • Pampas grass
  • Peonies
  • Peppers
  • Philadelphus
  • Poppies
  • Red Hot Pokers
  • Rhododendrons
  • Spotted dead nettle
  • Spruce
  • Sunflowers
  • Thyme
  • Vinca (periwinkle)
  • Winter Creeper
*You'll find much larger lists than this is you search various Internet sites. Just remember, rabbits can't read. They are also animals and highly unpredictable. I've personally had rabbits damage several "rabbit proof" plants, including several from the above list. Yes, these plants may be less appealing to rabbits than others, but large local colonies competing for limited amounts of food and rabbits coping with severe winters are not as picky.

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Can someone tell me how to keep rabbits out of my garden safely?

By Sharon from East Hampton

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Also, try buying children play snakes and place them around. See if that helps. It would keep me out. lol.

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How do I naturally repel rabbits in a garden?

By John from MA

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Mass home improvement stores such as Lowes and Home Depot will also have predator urine located in their garden pesticide section. Of course, if you or a neighbor has dogs, you could always walk them around the perimeter of the garden and let them do their business.

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Three rabbits have eaten all 16 of my pepper plants. How can I keep them away next year? I tried deer scent, but that didn't work.

By Holly A. from Copley, OH

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I cut up old garden hose (approximately 8-10 inches long) and place them around pepper plants and anything else the rabbits might eat. I have not had any problems with the rabbits in my garden since I started doing this and I have done this for several years. The reason that I heard that this works is because the rabbits think the cut-up garden hose are snakes and they are afraid of snakes. Good Luck! Hope this works as well for you as it does for me.

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How do you get rid of rabbits in a garden?

By Ruth

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I think with dogs.

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Dried blood should be available at your local garden store. It is a biproduct of cattle beef processing. It comes in a powdered form and is effective for discouraging deer and rabbits from eating your plants.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon dried blood
  • 2 gallons warm water

Direcctions:

In a large bucket, combine dried blood and water until dried blood is disolved. Apply using a spray bottle or garden sprayer.

Caution: Use this solution sparingly. The nitrogen in the dried blood may burn your plants if it gets too concentrated. You can also try sprinkling a little dried blood mixed with bonemeal around threatened plants.

Sources: Rodale's Book of Practical Forumulas

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Use empty gallon milk jugs for back yard planting season. The rabbits would eat all our new pepper plants. The only way to keep them away was to cut off the bottom and top of the milk jug and bury the wide bottom part in the ground a couple inches. Sunlight and rain could come in from top and rabbits somehow didn't bother the plants. It worked every year.

By LadyD

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If you have a cat or dog in the home then you are vacuuming their hair off everything all of the time. Empty your vacuum canister or bag each time around the perimeter of your gardens. The pet hair scares away rabbits, gophers, and other wild animals. They smell it and think there is danger so they head elsewhere for their munchies!

By Pattie from Bridgton, ME

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Grow lettuce, broccoli, and veggies in large containers on your sunny porch or in your yard to keep the rabbits from chewing them to a nub! :)

By Aeromama

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If you have a problem with rabbits munching on your flowers, try brushing your cat and then sprinkling the cat hair over the plants. This was the only solution that helped me after I had tried other remedies such as sprinkling cayenne pepper, human hair and blood meal over my plants (the rabbits ate the cayenne pepper!). By using cat hair, I think the rabbits avoid the plants because they think a predator is close by.

NorskyGal

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We're having a lot of trouble with rabbits eating all our plants. Any ideas? Thanks.

HeatherD

Answers:

You may need to employ a variety of tactics to achieve success. If it repels rabbits, it should also deter gopher and woodchucks. Here are several ideas:

1. Fences: This is really the only foolproof method for protecting your garden from rabbits. Fencing should be 4 ft tall and extend at least 6 inches into the ground. Use metal wire with an inch mesh and you will keep them out.

2. Bloodmeal or bonemeal: This gives rabbits the impression hungry predators may be lurking nearby. Sprinkle this on top of the soil or fill cheesecloth bags and hang them from trees and shrubs.

3. Hair: Collect discarded human or pet hair and spread it around the perimeter of susceptible plants. Again, rabbits become leery that hungry predators may be in the vicinity.

4. Mason jars: Some gardeners swear that placing Mason jars in 3 foot intervals around the perimeter of your garden will keep rabbits out.

5. Vinegar and corncobs: Soak corncob halves in vinegar for 24 hours and place them around the garden. Save the leftover vinegar and resoak the corncobs every two weeks to keep rabbits at bay.

6. Powdered fox urine: This stuff may not sound very appealing to work with, but exploiting the rabbit's natural fear of the fox is a good strategy. Find this at your local garden center.

7. Tree guards: These are available in home and garden centers, but are easy to make yourself using foil, or window screen. Wrap the trunks of susceptible trees to a height of at least 2 ft above the deepest level of normal snowfall.

8. Try planting Mexican marigolds or garlic.

9. Rotten eggs: Blend 4 eggs, 4 cloves of garlic, 4 tbsp. of Tabasco with 4 cups of water. Allow this to ferment in the hot sun for a few days and then pour around susceptible plants. You may not be able to stand the smell, but neither will the rabbits. Reapply it rains.

Many commercial repellents are available in the form of sprays or powders. These work on the premise that rabbits won't eat something that tastes or smells bad, and usually contain garlic and/or cloves. You will find a wide variety of repellents at home centers and feed stores.

Although rabbits will eat anything (and everything) if food sources become scarce, some plants have been found to be less appealing to their pallet. Contact your local extension agency for recommendations on which rabbit-resistant trees, shrubs and plants grow best in your zone.

Good luck.

Ellen

About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at http://www.sustainable-media.com

Feedback:

RE: Rabbits Eating Flowers and Plants

My domestic rabbits devour garlic leaves. It seems odd that they're being recommended to repel wild rabbits. (06/17/2008)

By Eddy

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How can I keep rabbits from eating my plants? They eat everything:
vegetables, flowers, shrubs, ornamental grasses.

Hardiness Zone: 7b

Alicia from Raleigh, NC

Answers:

Rabbits Eating Flowers and Plants

HOT PEPPER: If you go to an Asian, Mexican or Chinese store you can usually buy large 1 pound bags of Crushed Red Pepper for fairly cheap. You can make a spray (a "tincture") to use in a large 2 gallon plant sprayer or a simple small hand sprayer, Just take any container (with a lid) that's large enough to hold the crushed red pepper you've bought, then barely cover the crushed red pepper, black pepper or cayenne pepper with any form of alcohol (like denatured or rubbing alcohol, vodka cost to much!) Just buy whatever kind of rubbing alcohol you can find on sale, then leave the Hot Pepper in the Alcohol for at least several days up to 2 weeks or more. The longer it sets, the stronger it gets. Shake or mix it around once every day or 2. Then after it's sat for a while, strain it with a coffee filter, or any kind of wire strainer, or cheese cloth or whatever works, into a "holding" container.

NEXT: strain this alcohol/pepper tincture into a spray bottle or garden sprayer (you can add a bit of water if you want to make it go further) Next, spray this "Hot-Pepper Tincture" on to the plants that the rabbits like to eat. This hot pepper spray also works to keep cats & dogs & maybe deer out of your garbage & flower beds. In fact, I'm wondering if you can just buy the "Pepper-Spray" stuff you spray on Attackers & Thieves... It may cost more, but it might also work.

WARNING: Please use care! WEAR EYE PROTECTION or at least a pair of sun glasses. You don't want to splash this on you, or have the wind blow it into your eyes while you're spraying it & wash your hands REALLY GOOD after handling this stuff! You don't want to touch your eyes, your face or any place sensitive after handling this nasty stuff! In fact wearing gloves would be a good idea while mixing & pouring this stuff.<?p>

* The GOOD news is, it's not bad for the environment & you can wash it off of vegetables you are growing for food before you eat them without it hurting you... Just hose the veggies off before picking them, then wash again before cooking with them...

* The BAD news is, rain will was it away & you'll have to do it again & again. You may be able to just sprinkle pieces of crushed red peppers on top of the flower beds, but then I'd be afraid the wind could possibly blow it into your eyes... so I'd probably stick with the alcohol/pepper tincture spray.

---> A second option: is those noise makers & spinners that send noise into the ground.

,p>A third option: There's a thing called "Rabbit Scram"... Read their advertisement, it says "If it doesn't work, you don't pay"... I think it's something that smells like the pee from an animal that hunts rabbits? but I really don't know... They also say it lasts for 45 days because it's rain resistant. It's granules that require no mixing.

RABBIT SCRAM:
http://www.rabbitscram.com/Managing_rabbits_in_your_landscape.asp

A 4th idea: I've read that rabbits like to feed at night, so you might be able to put a motion detector in your garden with a flood light that comes on (or talk radio?) when the rabbits come near? Just a thought. (03/06/2008)

By Cyinda

Rabbits Eating Flowers and Plants

I've heard (but haven't tried yet) that if you ask your barber/hair dresser for a bag of clippings & scatter it around your garden/plants, it will keep the critters away. Some thing about the human smell & the feel of it in their whiskers & mouth. I think I'm going to try it this year. (03/06/2008)

By doodles

Rabbits Eating Flowers and Plants

I am infested with rabbits. They are cute but pests. I have tried the homemade Pepper spray. It works but you have to reapply it on the plants after the rain but it does work. (03/06/2008)

By

Rabbits Eating Flowers and Plants

I do several things. Dog and cat hair, as well as human hair scattered about the garden (ask friends for animal hair and hair brush hair ) I also outline the perimeter with blood meal, (available at garden centers) and also figure that the little critters need a bite now and then too, so I put out lettuce and carrots in a spot as far away as I can from my other plants. I slow the squirrels done the same way...put treats out for them far away from my bird feeders and bulbs I have planted (they like to dig up and eat flower bulbs)
All of us have to live together :0) (03/06/2008)

By gardenlady58102

Rabbits Eating Flowers and Plants

They are really easy to fence out. The fence only needs to be two feet tall, and farm stores sell that fencing. (03/07/2008)

By kimhis

Rabbits Eating Flowers and Plants

Try planting marigolds. The scent is suppose to deter bunnies! Hope this helps. (03/07/2008)

By kamerz

Rabbits Eating Flowers and Plants

The fence is your best bet. Just make sure to bury about a foot of it underground to deter burrowing. The pepper spray seems to work but you have to constantly reapply it making it a lot of trouble. Although my sister seemed to think her rabbits enjoyed a spicy diet if memory serves me right. Or you could create a structure akin to a cold frame but covered with chicken wire and put it right over the vegetables - kind of like a mini fence. Good luck! (03/15/2008)

By Luna Llena Feliz

Rabbits Eating Flowers and Plants

My master gardener neighbors suggest human urine. That is, the man of the house walks around the perimeter of the garden and "marks" it as his own territory, like a dog. I told him some things are definitely men's work. (04/11/2008)

By Jantoo

Rabbits Eating Flowers and Plants

Grate up the original Irish Spring and scatter it around the beds. It lasts quite awhile if you don't have alot of rain. Don't know how Green it is, but it works. (04/14/2008)

By PrairieLady

Rabbits Eating Flowers and Plants

Sorry, most of these ideas have not worked for me. The rabbits love the hot pepper spray and have eaten a new shrub down to the ground overnight. Then attacked coral bells in the same area (also sprayed), then the hydrangea. Garden store tried to tell me that they don't like these things. They must like the pepper spray. (05/27/2008)

By Pat

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Click to read more ideas from older posts on ThriftyFun.
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