How to Identify and Get Rid of Rabbits


Learn how to get rid of rabbits and keep them out of your garden with these tips.

 Why Would You Keep Rabbits Away?

Anyone who tills the soil regards the rabbit as more than a cute threat to the carrot patch. This long-eared animal possesses a voracious appetite for all kinds of fresh vegetation—woody plants, perennials, annuals, vegetables, and berries. In fact, a menu of rabbit favorites is so ridiculously long that it’s easier to list the few plants they don’t enjoy.

Rabbits also have an extremely high reproductive potential, which is why keeping them around might quickly cause a total garden infestation. They reach up to three litters of six babies each per year in the north, and up to six litters of three babies each per year in the south. The first litter appears in March in the north, year-round elsewhere. The gestation period is 29 days.

Your backyard bunny’s primary concern is to eat without being eaten, a difficult task given that rabbits are relished by more than two dozen species of predators. Nibbling your petunias is therefore not a carefree picnic but a danger-fraught mission. However, if your neighborhood bunny can squeeze through a hole in your garden fence, it will be able to munch in safety. 

You can check our tips for keeping your plants safe from rabbits, but try to regard rabbits as Beatrix Potter did—part of a peaceful, pastoral landscape. Then protect the plants that you and the bunnies really love, and don’t worry about the rest.



How to Identify Rabbits in your Garden

Of the nine species of North American cottontail rabbits, it’s the eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) that is our most abundant and annoying. Ranging from Boston to Boulder and south into Mexico, this bunny-about-town is rarely found in forests; preferring instead brushy fence rows, field edges, brush piles, and—you guessed it—landscaped backyards. Its fondness for flowers, vegetables, bark, and bulbs often results in pruned peppers and clipped cosmos.

Even though its nicknames are adorable (among them bunny, bunny rabbit, and cottontail), and you’ll probably want to befriend it once you see its cute ears, the eastern cottontail can be a bothersome pest. It is gray or brownish, with a short tail and big ears. It can weigh 2 to 4 pounds, be 15 to 19 inches in length, and live for 12 to 15 months. Its vocal call is almost silent, but it will emit a scream when threatened. Its famous features include a short white tail resembling a cotton ball and long, tapered ears.

For an eastern cottontail, security is a pile of brush, leaves, or another animal’s abandoned burrow. Unlike their European cousins, these rabbits do not dig intricate burrows or warrens but make due with what they find. Rabbits rarely leave their shelters in broad daylight, preferring instead early morning or evening. Like most animals, they are sensitive to the change in day length as spring approaches. For rabbits, the longer days signal the start of two things: breeding season and spring dining.

Rabbit Damage

Rabbits are voracious eaters and leave clean-cut damage. Check the leaves and stems of your plants for cleanly cut damage; insects and other pests usually leave jagged edges on damaged plants. This clean-cut damage often happens at ground level, as rabbits tend to eat the yummy green shoots of tulips and other plants.

These low mowers graze close to the ground and sniff out the first tender young shoots and crop them short. They love to munch on flowers, clover, peas, lettuce, beans, and more. Many of these plants are also the favorites of woodchucks or groundhogs, so check for burrows before deciding you have rabbit damage. Once your plants have passed the seedling stage, they are usually safe from rabbit damage.

Although bunny nibbling occurs in every season, it’s especially discouraging in the early spring when rabbits mercilessly munch the tender green shoots of plants. As a Connecticut gardener remembers, “My tulips were just poking through the snow when suddenly it looked like they’d been weed-whacked. Cut clean off! I blame the bunnies—their little paw prints were everywhere.”


Control and Prevention

How to Get Rid of Rabbits

Though we’ve mostly been discussing eastern cottontails, keep in mind—these tips should work for any type of rabbit that loves to munch on your plants!

  • As their twitching noses indicate, rabbits sniff a lot. Try sprinkling dried sulfur around or on your plants. Rabbits also dislike the smell of onions, so try planting these around your garden to further deter the furry creatures.
  • To discourage pesky rabbits, try dusting your plants with plain talcum powder.
  • Since rabbits are great sniffers, powdered red pepper sprinkled around the garden or on targeted plants may keep them out.
  • Irish Spring soap shavings placed in little drawstring bags around the garden will also help to keep rabbits away.
  • Make a bad-tasting rabbit cocktail by grinding together three hot peppers, three large onions, and one whole bunch of garlic. Add water to cover, and place into a covered container overnight. Strain, and then add enough additional water to make a gallon of the mixture. Spray onto plants, repeating after rainfall. Commercial products using pungent garlic oil are also worth a try.
  • Spray your plants with a mixture of 1 teaspoon Lysol and 1 gallon of water.
  • Some people protect plants with individual “collars” of tin cans or screening so that the plants may reach a less vulnerable size. Put the collar around each stem for protection.
  • Use cylinders of ¼-inch mesh hardware cloth to keep rabbits from nibbling on young fruit and landscape trees. The cylinders should extend higher than a rabbit’s reach while the rabbit is standing on the expected depth of snow, and they should stand one to two inches out from the tree trunk.
  • Some of the deer techniques related to odor are also said to work against rabbits. Deter rabbits with commercially-available deer repellents that contain a mixture of dried bovine blood, sulfured eggs, and garlic.
  • Legend has it that rabbits are terrified of their own reflection, so try an old-time rabbit remedy and place large, clear glass jars of water throughout the garden. Garden centers sell ready-made reflectors, as well as other devices—crouching cats, fake snakes, menacing owls—designed to frighten bunnies away from your plants.
  • Sometimes, humane traps are the best solution. If you don’t want to buy a trap, consider building one. Place the trap where you’ve seen the rabbits feeding or resting, and cover it with a piece of canvas. Apples, carrots, cabbage, and other fresh green veggies make excellent bait. Check it often, and release bunnies in rural areas several miles away.


How to Prevent Rabbits

The best way to keep rabbits out of the garden is to start early in the spring using the things they don’t like, then be consistent throughout the growing season. 

  • It’s best to keep rabbits from crossing into the garden to begin with, and many old-time remedies rely on spreading various products around the perimeter of the garden such as dried blood or dried blood meal or human hair. Sprinkle dried blood on the surface around all your plants as early in the season as you can, and repeat after a heavy rain. Note: If you have dogs, don’t try this method because they might be attracted to the scent and start digging up your garden.
  • Do not rely on repellents alone. The most effective way of keeping out rabbits is chicken wire fencing. Install a fence that is 4 feet high and bury it 6 inches deep. Bend the top foot of the fence away from the garden like a security fence, so that they can’t climb or jump over it. For new bulbs, try a dome or cage of chicken wire secured over the bed.
  • Rabbits don’t like to leave their shelters, so try to reduce the possible rabbit homes around your yard. Brush away piles of brush and leaves, and fill in abandoned burrows. If a rabbit doesn’t have a place to live, hopefully it won’t stay and munch. Rabbits will also breed much more if they have a good habitat available—all the more reason to have no vacancy!

Plants That Rabbits Dislike

According to bunny experts, rabbits have plant preferences based on taste, nutritive value, the presence of poison or prickles, and ease of availability. Their tastes in food can also vary by region and season, so not all plants work for all rabbits. Be tricky and tend plants that rabbits don’t find very appetizing.

Rabbits tend to avoid some of the same plants as deer and Japanese beetles. If you’d like to control all these pests, check our list of deer-resistant plants and best and worst plants for Japanese beetles to know which plants might do best. Choose plants such as forsythia, lilac bush, marigolds, zinnias, daffodils, lavender, and snapdragons for rabbits. This might help to reduce your rabbit population. This is not a guaranteed solution, as hungry rabbits will eat almost anything, but filling your garden with these plants might make your garden less appetizing than another one. Here are more plants that rabbits dislike:


Azalea (Rhododendron sp.)
Boxwood (Buxus sp.)
Bush cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa)
Butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii)
Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster sp.)
Japanese maple (Acer palmatum)
Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia)
Rhododendron (Rhododendron sp.)
Tatarian dogwood (Cornus alba)
Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera)


Adam’s needle (Yucca filamentosa)
Creeping phlox (Phlox stolonifera)
Foam flower (Tiarella cordifolia)
Lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina)
Meadow rue (Thalictrum rochebrunianum)
Peony (Paeonia hybrids)
Perennial salvia ‘East Friesland’ (Salvia x superba)
Primrose (Primula x polyantha)
Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)
Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ (Sedum)
(Veronica sp.)
Spring cinquefoil (Potentilla verna)
Stokes’ aster (Stokesia laevis)


Four o’clock flower (Mirabilis jalapa)
Geranium, zonal and bedding (Pelargonium x hortorum)
Mexican ageratum (Ageratum houstonianum)
Pot marigold (Calendula officinalis)
Spiderflower (Cleome hasslerana)
Vinca (Catharanthus roseus)
Wax begonia (Begonia x semperflorens-cultorum)


Daffodil (Narcissus sp.)
Hyacinth (Hyacinth orientalis)
Persian onion (Allium giganteum)


Summer squash



Do you have any tips for controlling rabbits in your garden or yard? Please post below!


Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

I got bird problems

I see lots and lots of rabbits but my problem this year is defiantly the birds. They are digging up my onions, cucumbers, squash, watermelon, radishes and now my pepper seedlings. I liked the one girls comment where what works for one might not work for another but lets keep trying ha ha.

Keeping pests out of the garden

The Editors's picture

Hi Jennifer, Though this article is about rabbits, see our article devoted to keeping certain birds ouf of the garden.

Marigold and snapdragons - they ate them ALL !

You state in your article that rabbits don't eat and can be deterred by marigolds and snapdragons ... well 3 years in a row now those are their first and favorite plants to eat down to the ground !
So I would suggest editing where you state " Rabbits are deterred by some of the same plants as deer and Japanese beetles. If you’d like to control all these bests, check our list of deer-resistant plants and best and worst plants for Japanese beetles to know which plants will do best. Choose plants such as forsythia, lilac bush, marigolds, zinnias, daffodils, lavender, and snapdragons for rabbits. This will reduce your rabbit population."
As clearly it's incorrect information.

-from an unhappy gardener with no more marigold or snapdragon plants!

Marigolds and Snapdragons

The Editors's picture

Hi Bonnie,

We’re sorry to hear about your marigold and snapdragon plants. We do state that rabbit preferences can vary. Marigolds and snapdragons are sometimes not appetizing to rabbits, and planting them has worked for many people. However, a hungry rabbit will eat almost anything, and it appears that the rabbits love your garden. Growing plants that are not very appetizing to rabbits is meant to hopefully keep them away, but we do state that the most sure-fire way to keep rabbits away is to put up a fence. Based on your feedback, we have made the language more clear in that section to indicate that this is not a guaranteed solution and that rabbits have varying tastes. We would recommend putting up a fence or trying some of our other tips to stop this damage from happening again. Thank you for your feedback, and good luck!

Knockout Roses

We live in the mountains close to Lake Tahoe. Knockouts grow well and thrive in most gardens. I planted 10 plants last summer, covered them with pine needles and mulch over the winter - they sprung right back in spring and were getting buds in early June. Then the rabbits came. I put up a fence (not chicken wire as it's so ugly - probably a big mistake). Got anti-rabbit stuff from Home Depot, used cayenne pepper - you name it. I have two big Siberian Samoyeds who love everyone and everything - they chase a rabbit but it isn't serious business for them. So now I'm taking the plants out - probably give them away. Sometimes we forget that we share all this natural beauty with other living things! Anyway, will probably put in salvia. Ugggg.

Rabbit eating my garden.

I have a problem with a rabbit eating the tomatoes in my garden. I have seen the rabbit before and all the damage left to the garden fits the discretion of what a rabbit would do. I also have Parsley and Basil in my garden. Is there an explanation for this.

rabbit food

The Editors's picture

Some rabbits will eat tomatoes and other plants that the species normally avoids. Sometimes this might have to do with the availability of other food – when it is scarce, some might go for less preferred fare. Most of the tomato plant is not good for the animal to eat, but the fruit is edible. You might try spreading dried blood (available in garden centers) around your tomato plant to deter the rabbit, or surround your plants with chicken wire, at least 2 feet tall (3 feet is better), with the bottom buried a few inches into the soil. Eliminate any brush piles on your property, which rabbits like.

Rabbit under pool concrete patio

I have a problem rabbit nest I have to get rid of. This giant rabbit has made a burrow underneath our inground pool concrete pad. It’s totally damaging this area and despite our best efforts to keep it away…it’s frantically trying to get back in. I can only assume it has babies in there, but the hole is so deep there’s no way to tell for sure. We’ve decided to let the potential babies grow and leave the nest before trying to seal off the area for good…I just don’t know when that will be. I’d hate to seal them in there!!! When is the best time for me to do this? It’s now end of May, no baby bunnies in sight but we’ve spotted the large (we assume) female. I’d prefer not to harm them, but I really need them gone. They’ve been burrowing in this spot for years I am told by the previous house owner, but I want them gone. Wouldn’t mind them anywhere else in the backyard, but the damage they’re starting to cause in this spot could be $$$ for me. Help!
P.S. I have a dog, I have a fenced yard, I tried sealing the hole with thick garden plastic liner and dirt, and I don’t want to shoot it or harm it…even though it’s an a-hole lol.

Hi Abby,

The Editors's picture

Hi Abby,

Sorry, we are not rabbit experts. Trapping and removing the rabbit is one option. You can also call a local animal control officer for advice. Here are a couple of websites with some information about wild rabbits.








What kind of rabbit suitable for small gardens

Deter rabbits

Moth balls or moth crystals work. Sprinkle in & around the holes(usually more than 1) in replace fill.


I tried moth balls they eat those too! I planted liliac bushes they do nothing!

Eats everything

The list above shows that Rabbits dont like

Unfortunately, the rabbits ate everything listed above. To the ground!! So, chicken wire was the only thing that worked. The blueberries, potato plants, my entire herb garden, just to name some of the destruction. Then they even ate the apples that dropped from the tree. We had to add chicken wire to the orchard as they were getting the trunks of the trees. Our property is not fenced. Nor is the any of the neighbors. So the rabbits come and go as they please between all of us. They have dens everywhere. The colonies are growing by the day it seems. I can't bring myself to have them destroyed. So I live with them.

Wascally Wabbits!

I have found that fencing around my sapling shrubs and trees keep rabbits from chewing them to death, and for flowers and herbs, the rabbits around here don't like basil or foxglove. They have left the tomatoes alone as well. Bloodmeal worked too, but I didn't want to pour too liberally until the plants got an overload of nitrogen. So for me, using multiple strategies at least keeps my garden going.

Toilet paper rolls as collars

Toilet paper rolls as collars around stems and they hate pinwheel. 1 1/2 tbsp neem oil in gallon water with tsp soap pour around plants for larvae. Spray leaves with solution for spider mites. Make tea with water and cedar chips or planks. Brew 24 hrs strain spray leaves for Japanese beetles. Dusty mildew 10% milk in water i use sponge squeeze all over foliage once a week. Diatinaceous powder slices soft belly insects circle plant e.g., slugs etc. Lots of cayenne pepper for squirrel etc but cover up well or you will discover true meaning of fire. Wear a dust mask so u don't inhale. Those are some of the things that work for me.

Cold Upper Michigan Weather

Cold Upper Michigan Weather slowed down my gardening in the past 2 yrs. I started my plants in a small green house which I then made into a garden by putting chicken wire over the pipe skeleton. on colder evenings I put the top/tarp back on and take it off during the day. Now rabbits, cats and deer stay away from my plants and things are now finally growing and ripening as they should. I think Im going to have to get a bigger green house :)

We use them for target

We use them for target practice. Problem solved!

Can u give my a way to keep

Can u give my a way to keep out armodillos?


I had an armadillo issue a few years ago and did some research. Apparently they are nocturnal nomadic loners, working an area then moving on. They don't usually eat plants, but will make a mess and uproot them by digging little holes all over the lawn, garden etc. I even stayed up and caught him a couple times, he ran away but of course came back. Earlier that summer we had quite a few (hundred) Japanese beetles, and the armadillos' favorite meal is the larva - nasty fat white grubs in the ground. They also eat voles. The following year we had very few beetles and the lawn seemed to benefit from the aeration it apparently had needed. So unless there is a convention of them, probably let them finish their work, even though it will need a little clean up. Otherwise, hope for vehicular accident, which they seem prone to by not really looking where they are going, concentrating only on the ground in front of them.

Rabbits may not like Tomato

Rabbits may not like Tomato plants, however the baby rabbits that I have a problem with love the tomatoes themselves. This is the first year I have ever attempted to plant anything and every single time I get a tomato getting close to red, it winds up with chew marks out of it. I keep chasing very young rabbits out of the garden. I know I should have put up chicken wire, however I'm probably too late at this point. A big learning lesson for next year for sure!

Everyone needs to buy a

Everyone needs to buy a pellet gun... Problem solved. I've tried it all. This is the only thing that works... Sorry but it's survival of the fittest. Or your feeding everything but yourself. It is the last resort. Spend hundreds of dollars trying then you'll understand... Besides they'll be back next year!

rabbit troubles

rabbits are terrible, after we got snow they have been eating everything, they have been distroying all my shrubs which it has taken years to get to a stage i could call them a shrub, they even ate the wire to the starter silinoid on my car which cost me $300 (towing to a repair place,diognosting, labor ,they arn't cheep having around

The wire eating was probably

The wire eating was probably rats. They will crawl up onto your tires and chew on your wires.

I have a back yard flower bed

I have a back yard flower bed area, which I think previous owners of our home might have attempted to garden. It is terribly overgrown with wild mint ... Every inch of the soil, is literally covered with it, except for 2 mulberry bushes, that somehow prevailed the front perimeter of the garden. I have planted my first baby pumpkin plant this week & have erected a fine mesh wire fence, anchored to the ground with metal stakes around it, hoping to protect the early stages of the plant's life - only 3 sprouts so far. The other wild-growing plant I found that I thought was a weed, appears to be onion grass? The tall blades appear sporadically & randomly in the garden, mostly because all the mint is hiding them. Aware of the bunny, groundhog, squirrel, & deer population that exists in my area, could the wild onion grass also be a natural deterrent for the animals that otherwise would want to eat the pumpkin plant? I was trying to weed the overgrown mint & onion grass, thinking they were weeds, to create more space in the garden for the pumpkin plant to grow ... But, now I am considering leaving a perimeter of these plants around the garden, hoping to hide the presence of a new garden, & hopes of reclaiming the land for better use with other veggies in the future.

Try human hair clippings from

Try human hair clippings from the salon...
I have used it successfully for rabbits, skunks, groundhogs,and squirrels. Just be sure you have short pieces. Coloured blonde hair will turn green eventually. I use brown. No worries with animals thinking it is a snack!

Hello, I was wondering why


I was wondering why you recommend 'short pieces' of hair? What would the length matter ? Thanks.

Don't think length matters. I

Don't think length matters. I used hair from our hair brushes to rid a racoon. By stuffing it in his hole.

We went on holiday and on our

We went on holiday and on our return rabbits had eaten all the young herbs including garlic and others on the list of those they dislike. Also daffodils and heathers. It seems they eat any tender growth. Spraying a solution of calcium chloride and calcium oxide over vegetation and soaking the lawn results in a bitter taste that deters them. A high powered air rifle is also very effective, but make sure you get a direct hit!

I am a newer garden grower of

I am a newer garden grower of my own. This is my first full year of growing with a small space urban environment to grow in with a huge rabbit population. Had a lot of trouble at the start with the young vegetation. I first started with putting chicken wire around half cause the other half had chain link fence. Now they have resorted to squeezing through the chain link fence. I have to small dogs and they love chasing them. My garden size is 4'x 30'(limited on space). We started with (6)larger sized tomatoes, (6)roma, (4)carrots, (4)bell peppers, (4)sweet peas, (4)cucumbers, (4)zucchini, (4)yellow squash, (4)yellow beans, (4)bush beans, (4)green beans, (4)broccoli, (4)basil and (1)spear mint.
RABBITS ate (1)broccoli, (1)carrot, (4)sweet peas, (1)cucumber, (1)zucchini and now they are hiding under the tomatoes and taking bites out of the ripe fruit. So as for the above list of disliked vegetation it blows that out of the dirt. LOL
I will have to try onions next year.

The bunnies are eating the

The bunnies are eating the wicker off the furniture on my deck. They climb two steps, come onto the deck and when we are not there, munch away. We placed mothballs only to see them trot right over them. Also tried ammonia soaked rags and spray furniture with Lysol, to no avail. Every week we find a new hole dug under the deck [we have filled previous holes with mothballs and rocks, now there is one going under the house!



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