Rabbits

How to Identify and Get Rid of Rabbits

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.

eastern-cottontail-habitat.jpg

Identification

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.”

keep-rabbits-out-of-garden.jpg

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.

keep-rabbits-away.jpg

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:

WOODY PLANTS

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)

PERENNIALS

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)
Speedwell
(Veronica sp.)
Spring cinquefoil (Potentilla verna)
Stokes’ aster (Stokesia laevis)

ANNUALS

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)

BULBS

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

VEGETABLES

Asparagus
Leeks
Onions
Potatoes
Rhubarb
Summer squash
Tomatoes

HERBS

Basil
Marjoram
Mint
Oregano
Parsley
Savory
Tarragon

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

2021_gardening_calendar_christmas_ad.png

Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

I have lots and lots of

I have lots and lots of them-they ate my marigold at 5 inches as well. They are afraid of nothing-I have tried everything including mothballs, The spray and everything-Now they have decided to hit my bushels out front-I am going to try an onion there right now. Everyone has great ideas unfortunately I have tried them all. I will let ya all know about the onion bc I am tired of these rabbits. they have taken up squatting under our shed and have more and more weekly as it seems. Wish me luck it maybe worth putting the onion out I want my bushes back- I have these rabbit- I ant them to just go away! Short of sitting out with a sling shot I will try anything,

If nothing else, you have

If nothing else, you have made me laugh. I feel your pain and share it. I call them my Sylvanian family and they fear little. I am going to try the onion suggestion. Thanks.

Too many rabbits

I too have an over abundance of rabbits, so many that even the coyotes, owls and hawks are full. I didn't have so many when I had my cat. I need to get another one. He was a good mouser/rabbit'er'/ mole'er', etc. That and a fence seems to be the only sure measure on our country property.

avoid rabbits

I was told to take lots of plastic forks with pronges up and handles in ground all around your plants !! the rabbits don't like the feel of the forks and will stay way ? I have not tried it yet but thought it was worth a try this year???

AVOID RABBITS (Using plastic forks)

I've used plastic forks for many years in my (in ground) veggie gardens and flower gardens they work, sometimes. :-(
However; I've watched the rabbits from indoors, they get up on their hide legs and reach for the flower buds (Daisies and Echinaceas, they leave my Autumn Joy Sedums alone.) and chew them off.
The forks worked well w/ my garden veggie seedlings (straw bales) as I had 8 forks surrounding all sides of every one of those tasty treats.

if you have a 4 legged

if you have a 4 legged critter attacking your garden, to me that's a 3 or 4 course meal just waiting to be cooked! Take advantage of that & the pest problems will disappear.

I'm not sure what it is that

I'm not sure what it is that is getting into my garden, but I found a pile of pea pods under my pepper plants. It has to be something that climbs since i have a fence up. And whatever it is, climbed up onto my hanging tomato and ate a cucumber. I'm tempted to put a camera out. The blood repelant doesnt seem to be working at all. Suggestions?

if you plant cucumbers with

if you plant cucumbers with the spikes still on them, the rabbits will most likely stop eating them.

I have heard/read to sprinkle

I have heard/read to sprinkle human hair around the perimeter of garden.( see your hairdresser) Also a motion detector light will scare the coons and critters. Human urine( your little boys will help) around perimeter. Nasturtiums in the holes of cinderblocks around the garden help avoid aphids. Plant tomatoes in 1/2 of cinder blocks and fill 1/2 block with 8-8-8. the fertilizer leaches the lime from the cinder block and this also helps avoid cutworms.
Put castor beans in mole holes. They love them and it will kill them. Be careful handling Castor beans, use gloves, they are toxic.

If you have dogs, springtime

If you have dogs, springtime means brushing /combing out winter coats. Try placing those fluffy clumps of their hair from the brush around the perimeter of your garden, also works for birds at the berry patch.

Hang Wind chimes to scare the

Hang Wind chimes to scare the deer an Pie Tins tied on a string on the bean trelis or fence works well on rabbits,squirrel's an Birds.

Ways to control rabbits:

Ways to control rabbits:

1. find their warren and plant a small garden for their use. When the babies are born the adults will not like to travel far to get food and they may leave your garden alone in early spring. Figure out the preference of the rabbits and plant only that in their garden.

2. Fencing is fine but it can be cumbersome and expensive. Interplant the prickly vine veggies (vine squash, pumpkin, vine zucchini etc.) throughout your garden. The rabbits dislike the prickers on the vines and in general will not pass through them to get to your beloved veggies in the center. This interplanting is very successful in the northeast where the research and experimentation was implemented and the entire garden interior was left alone while the veggies along the edges of the garden were nibbled.

3. Plant a living fence of raspberries, black berries around the garden edges and tie them down to the ground to create a prickly barrier. This must be done around the ENTIRE garden and will make getting into the garden difficult for the gardener but worth the effort if you have any rabbits, dogs, or other animals such as deer.

4. Plant an aroma barrier of chives, garlic chives, walking onions or seed onions. For some reason potatoes and rhubarb also work as an aroma deterrent.

A combination of all four of the suggestions above was the most successful but using only 1, and 4 of the suggestions above also proved successful.

5. Fox urine, dog and chickens feces can also be a deterent when spread around the perimeter of the garden. The problem with this type of deterrent is that it has to be re-applied after a rain or watering the garden.
Blessings!!!!

Well, like every other great

Well, like every other great idea that worked for them, but didn't work for someone else, I have to say that planting prickly squash vines does not deter rabbits. (or ground squirrels, whichever it is that I have) They are eating my squash plants to the ground (along with my brussels sprouts and my almost ripe tomatoes!)
Loralee

The leaves of nightshades

The leaves of nightshades (tomato, potato, eggplant, peppers, nicotiana) are toxic, as are the plants which contain a lot of oxalates, like rhubarb leaves and pokeweed.

It might just be that old, traditional varieties of marigold, onion, etc are more objectionable to pests -- modern varieties are frequently bred to be more mild and sweet. ... Just a thought!

We have a pet rabbit in the

We have a pet rabbit in the house, and for a while we tried to keep it in an area using a baby gate. It was too low at 2 feet and we moved it up. Our little jumper can clear and/or climb over the gate up to at least 3 feet.
If using a fence to keep the wild ones out of your garden, definitely bury it as suggested and make it up to four feet high. Also, you might try angling the top 1 foot of the fence away from the garden like a security fence. Rabbits shouldn't be able to climb over that.

My experience with pet and

My experience with pet and wild rabbits is that they are all basically pretty lazy. If there is no reason to jump or dig under a fence, they won't bother. They will always take the path of least resistance. By planting a variety of herbs and tender greens around your backyard, they will not feel the need to destroy your vegetable garden. By all means, a fence is your best protection, but it probably doesn't need to be that elaborate. I have had good success with a 2-foot fence and and offering of easy-access food. I seeded my lawn with clover, and the rabbits seem to be quite happy with that, and a few nips out of the herb garden.

Thanks! Had a garden last

Thanks! Had a garden last year,the rabbits ate just about everything. They didnt start on the peas until they were ready to pick. They ate peas,and all! they prefered the purple hulls!am putting up a fence this time.

Pages

FREE BEGINNER'S GARDEN GUIDE!

Sign up for our email newsletter by entering your email address.

BONUS: You’ll also receive our Almanac Companion newsletter!

The Almanac Webcam

Chosen for You from The Old Farmer's Store