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Like many wildlife, deer and rabbits have become extremely adaptable to living within human environments. Unfortunately, when searching for food they can quickly lay waste to vegetable and flower gardens. Although physical barriers like walls and fences are the most effective means to keeping them out of your garden, they are not always a practical or affordable solution.
"Scent fences" can be a practical alternative - especially when local deer and rabbit populations have plenty of other places to go in search of food.
Of the dozens of home and commercial remedies routinely tested by gardeners, the following seem to be the most effective:
Cat Litter: Create a scent fence with used cat litter by sprinkling it on the lawn and around ornamentals. Replace weekly or after heavy rains. Used cat litter will also help repel moles and gophers when dumped into active burrows.
Use caution when handling and distributing litter: Cat feces may contain toxoplasmosis parasites, which can infect humans. Do not use litter around edible plants. If you can't stand the thought of digging cat litter into bare soil, put small amounts into the bottoms of coffee cans that have several holes punches in their sides and set them around your garden.
Hair: A lot of gardeners have successfully kept deer and rabbits away by hanging human or dog hair from trees or by spreading it in loose clumps around their landscape. To hang it from trees, use mesh bags with a 1/8 inch or smaller mesh, and place two large handfuls of hair in each bag. Hang the bags at a height of about 4 feet and spaced no more than 3 feet apart.
You can also spread wads of loose hair near the base of vulnerable plants. A scent fence of hair works best if you replace the hair at least once a week. Contact local barbers and groomers - most will be more than happy to help out.
Deodorant Soap: String bars of deodorant soap on wire and hang them on the branches of the trees or shrubs that need protecting. Space them no farther than 3 feet apart and try to hang them at deer-nose level (about 4 feet). Hint: If you leave the bar soap in their packages they will last a bit longer.
For repelling deer and rabbits from individual plants, try scented dryer sheets. Cut them into strips about an inch wide and tie the strips on the plants you want to protect. Deer especially, do not like the smell and tend to stay away.
Rotten Eggs: Another effective scent fence can be made from a rotting egg spray. Yes, it's stinky. Fortunately, the deer and rabbits think so, too. Here is a good recipe:
Many pre-mixed versions of this type of concoction are available at home and garden centers. I highly recommend a brand called Liquid Fence. After just one time of using it on my vulnerable flowers and shrubs, the deer and rabbits have learned to steer clear.
Garlic: No one likes garlic breath, perhaps least of all deer. Recent research has shown that selenium, the component in garlic which gives it its garlic smell, prevents deer from eating tree shoots and seedlings. Give your plants garlic breath by spraying a garlic oil solution on trees and shrubs. (Reapply after it rains). As an alternative, plant time-released garlic capsules (available at health food stores) at the bases of trees or shrubs.
Homemade garlic oil: Soak 6 cloves of minced garlic in 2 tablespoons of mineral oil for 24 hours. Strain out the garlic and add 1 pint of water to the remaining liquid. Mix well and spray plants.
Urine: In the animal kingdom, prey species like deer and rabbits must follow a cardinal rule to survive: avoid predators at all costs. Predatory animals use urine to define their territory. Because the scent of urine is sometimes the only warning prey species have that predators are nearby, when they smell it, they instinctively flee the area.
Bottled urine from predators like coyotes, mountain lions, and wolves can be purchased commercially to create a scent fence around garden plants. If you're so inclined, you can also collect and use your own.
Vinegar: Some gardeners report that vinegar helps repel rabbits. After enjoying a meal of corn on the cob, cut the cobs in half and soak them in a bowl of vinegar for 10 minutes. Then create a scent fence by scattering them throughout your flower or vegetable garden. Store the used vinegar in a labeled bottle and repeat the process every two weeks.
As the odor of your scent fence fades, so does its effectiveness. To keep animals away, you need to keep things smelling "fresh". Always test spray-on repellants in a small area before applying to plants.
Plan to reapply your odor repellants after it rains, and after they have spent some time being exposed to the elements. Eventually, the animals may become used to the scent and start to ignore it. If and when this happens, switching to a different type of scent fence can be effective.
By Ellen Brown
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!).
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.
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.
By Ellen Brown
Tips for keeping bunnies out of gardens from the ThriftyFun community.
By michelle h
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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Here are questions related to Keeping Rabbits Out of Your Garden.
How can I keep rabbits from eating my tulips and other plants?
By Amy C.S.
By Lilly M 05/09/2013
Hi Amy...There are a number of things to help with this problem that won't hurt the bunnies. These tips also work with deer and mice/voles. They don't work well if squirrels are eating the tulips. I watched a cute little red squirrel one year chomp on my beautiful Red Appledorn tulips! Bunnies, deer and mice have very sensitive noses and are afraid of movement.
You can take strong scented unused fabric softener sheets, clothespin them to bamboo skewers and place them around the tulips. If you have a fence around the tulips you can clip them to the fence. You can also take one of the little muslin drawstring bags (you can find them at a feed store), take a small piece of original scent Irish Springs soap and put it in the bag, close the bag and again clip it to either the skewers or a fence. It is the odor that they don't like so the stronger smelling the better.
You can also buy some of those inexpensive (think Dollar Store) aluminum whirly things on a stick and stick them around the plants. They will usually turn with just a slight breeze and it scares the animals. Plus it will make you the talk of the neighborhood as the eccentric neighbor! But it really does work.
I am a licensed wildlife rehabilitator and an advanced master gardener and I do talks on how to have gardens with harming the animals. Good luck and happy gardening.
What can I use to get rid of rabbits in my flower beds? They are eating my flowers. I have a sprinkler system that comes on every morning for 5 minutes in these beds so it has to be unhurt by water.
I read that you can use crush red pepper sprinkled in your garden. That's fine, but does it harm you plants at all?
By Eric m.
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
By Ruthie 07/31/2012
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.
How do you get rid of bunnies in a garden?
By marty 08/17/2011
A friend plants comfrey. The bunnies would much rather eat it than anything you have in your garden.
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
By Sinnamon Pratt06/23/2011
My grandpa always put bone meal around the garden.
Can someone tell me how to keep rabbits out of my garden safely?
By Sharon from East Hampton
By Patricia Hamm 07/14/2010
Also, try buying children play snakes and place them around. See if that helps. It would keep me out. lol.
How do I naturally repel rabbits in a garden?
By John from MA
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.
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
By rox 04/14/2010
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.
Thrifty Fun has been around so long that many of our pages have been reset several times. Archives are older versions of the page and the feedback that was provided then.
Rabbits are eating my flower tops and tomato plants.
Can anyone help?
How can I keep rabbits from eating my plants? They eat everything: vegetables, flowers, shrubs, ornamental grasses.
Hardiness Zone: 7b
Alicia from Raleigh, NC
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. * 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 Luna Llena Feliz