How To Keep Rabbits Out of The Garden- Naturally

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Gardening can be a therapeutic hobby that brings you closer to nature, but when it comes to dealing with pesky rabbits munching on your precious plants, it can quickly turn into a nightmare! So, if you’re tired of seeing your garden turn into a bunny buffet, it’s time to take action and hop into the article below to see all our tips and tricks to keep rabbits out of the garden naturally.

Cute fluffy rabbit on green grass outdoors.

Honey, We have a Rabbit Problem.

Have you noticed small, round pellets in your garden? Do you see bite marks on your plants? These are signs that you have a rabbit problem. Rabbits can cause significant damage to gardens, especially in the spring and summer months when they are actively searching for food.

Tips To to Identify Signs of Rabbit Damage

To identify rabbit damage, look for the following signs:

  • Small, round pellets that resemble cocoa puffs
  • Bite marks on leaves, stems, and flowers
  • Girdling on trees and shrubs (when rabbits chew off the bark around the base of woody plants
  • Burrows or tunnels in the ground
  • Disturbed soil around plants
  • Rabbits feeding on tender plants, in front of you, with no care in the world what you think about it.

If you notice these signs, you likely have rabbits in your garden.

A young tree trunk with bark stripped from the lower portion. Bite marks are visible right down to the bare wood.
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Identifying Cottontail rabbits Of North America

These adorable (yet destructive) wild animals reside all over North America. Here are three of the most common rabbit species you will encounter in your gardens:

  • Eastern cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus): This is the most common rabbit in North America, found in almost every state in the US and parts of Canada and Mexico. Eastern cottontails are small, with brown or gray fur, a white belly, and a small fluffy white tail.
  • New England cottontail (Sylvilagus transitionalis): This rabbit is found in the northeastern United States and is endangered in some areas due to habitat loss and competition with the eastern cottontail. It is similar in appearance to the eastern cottontail but has smaller ears and a smaller tail.
  • Desert cottontail (Sylvilagus audubonii): This rabbit is found in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico and is well adapted to desert environments. It has a sandy brown coat and longer ears than the eastern cottontail.

These are just a few of North America’s many types of rabbits. Each species has unique characteristics and adaptations that allow it to survive in its particular habitat.

Closeup of a rabbit on a lawn.

Are Rabbits Dangerous?

In general, rabbits are not considered dangerous to humans. They are typically docile and non-aggressive animals that prefer to avoid confrontation. However, like any wild animal, rabbits may bite or scratch if they feel threatened or cornered.

It is important to note that wild rabbits may carry diseases such as tularemia, also known as rabbit fever, which is transmittable to humans through contact with infected animals, bites, or scratches from young rabbits. Therefore, avoid handling or coming into contact with wild rabbits and seek medical attention if you have been bitten or scratched.

How much damage could a few sweet-faced wild animals do you your garden?

A LOT!!

These sweet-faced bandits can cause significant damage to gardens. They are voracious eaters and can quickly consume entire plants or crops. In addition to eating plants, rabbits can damage plants by burrowing under them and damaging the roots or chewing off the bark at the base of trees and shrubs.

Prevent rabbits with natural Solutions.

Natural solutions are essential for several reasons.:

  • First, they are generally safer for the environment, pets, and children than chemical solutions.
  • Second, they are often more sustainable and cost-effective in the long run.
  • Third, they help preserve your garden ecosystem’s natural balance by relying on natural repellents and predators to keep rabbits away.

Using natural solutions, you can protect young plants in your garden from rabbit damage while promoting a healthy, thriving ecosystem.

Closeup of a rabbit with an apparent surprised look on its face, eyes wide and mouth in an "O" shape.
Busted!

Deterring Rabbits Starts With Adding Physical Barriers

The most effective way to keep rabbits out of your garden is to create physical barriers that prevent them from accessing your plants. You can use several physical barriers to keep rabbits out, including fences, chicken wire, and rabbit-proof enclosures.

Install a Garden Fence

Installing a fence around your garden is an effective way to keep rabbits out. Choose a fence that is at least 2 feet tall and bury the bottom of the fence at least 6 inches deep to prevent rabbits from digging underneath it. Ensure the fence is sturdy and has no gaps or holes that rabbits can squeeze through.

Fences are spendy, we’re getting quotes now on putting a 400 linear ft fence around our vegetable garden to keep our deer problem out, but we’ve also designed it so the rabbits can’t get in either. The quotes are eyewatering and painful.

But if you can’t afford a fence, there are many more options for you to try to keep those rascally rabbits out of your garden beds.

Add Chicken Wire to an Already-established Fence

Adding chicken wire to your fence can deter rabbits from entering your garden. Attach the chicken wire to the rails using zip ties or staples, ensuring it is at least 3 feet tall and buried 6 inches deep.

By creating physical barriers around your garden, you can prevent rabbits from accessing your plants and causing damage. Choose the type of barrier that works best for your garden size and needs, and make sure it is secure and sturdy.

Add Plant Cages To Protect Individual Plants

Rabbits are herbivores and enjoy eating a variety of plants. Here are some plants that rabbits are known to enjoy:

  • LettuceRabbits enjoy the tender leaves of lettuce, especially varieties like romaine, butterhead, and looseleaf.
  • Carrots: Rabbits love carrots, which are high in sugar and nutrients. However, they may be unable to access them if grown in raised beds or containers.
  • Radishes: Rabbits enjoy the leaves and roots of radishes.
  • Beans: Rabbits enjoy the tender leaves and pods of beans, especially when they are young and tender.
  • Peas: Rabbits love the young shoots and pods of peas and will beeline for new seedlings.
  • Cabbage: Rabbits enjoy the leaves of cabbage a lot. If you have rabbits, protect your cabbage! For more cabbage growing info, check out our guide to cabbage companion plants.

While these plants are known to be the favorites of rabbits, it’s important to remember that rabbits will also eat a variety of other plants if they are hungry enough. Protecting your garden with physical barriers, natural repellents, and companion planting can help prevent rabbits from causing damage to your plants.

Mesh tree guard protecting young tree from wildlife damage.

Electronic Rabbit Repellant

An electronic rabbit deterrent will repel rabbits from gardens, lawns, or other areas where they may be causing damage. These devices work by emitting high-pitched sounds, flashing lights, or both, which are unpleasant to rabbits and can deter them from approaching the area.

Most electronic rabbit deterrents use ultrasonic sound frequencies, which are above the range of human hearing, to create an uncomfortable sensation for rabbits. When rabbits hear these high-pitched sounds, they may become confused or disoriented and decide to avoid the area altogether.

While some people report success with electronic rabbit deterrents, their effectiveness can vary depending on various factors, including the size of the area and the level of rabbit activity. 

It’s worth noting that rabbits can quickly adapt to new stimuli. Therefore, while an electronic rabbit deterrent may be effective initially, it may become less effective over time as rabbits become used to the device. Additionally, some rabbits may be more stubborn or persistent than others and may not be deterred by these devices.

Why We are Against Using Non-Harmful Live Traps

I am not a fan of traps, harmful or not. I’m too soft, and trapping a wild animal sounds not fun for the animal or me. I garden for pleasant thoughts and memories, and trapping, caging, and locating a bunny isn’t going to make for a good gardening day, at least not for me.

Also, trapping and relocating rabbits can be stressful for the animals and even result in injury or death. Additionally, trapping and relocating rabbits can be illegal in some areas, as it can disrupt natural ecosystems and spread diseases.

Furthermore, trapping may not be an effective long-term solution for rabbit damage. Even if a gardener successfully traps and relocates one rabbit, others may move in to take its place. Caging can create an ongoing cycle of trapping and relocating that is inhumane and unsustainable.

Wild rabbit in western North Carolina, eating lush grasses.

Use Natural Repellents

In addition to physical barriers, you can use several natural repellent ways to keep rabbits out of your garden. These include plants, homemade sprays, and natural predators.

Plants That Repel Rabbits

Several plants naturally repel rabbits. Here are some of the most effective rabbit-resistant plants:

Add these plants around the perimeter of your garden or interspersed among your other plants to discourage rabbits from entering.

Serious, concentrated cottontail bunny rabbit in the green grass in the field, meadow. Wildlife, closeup. After the rain.

Homemade Rabbit Repellent Sprays

You can also make homemade sprays to repel rabbits. Some effective ingredients include cayenne pepper, garlic, mint, rosemary, and lemon balm. Mix these with water and spray them on and around your plants. Be sure to reapply after rainfall.

Also, test a small part of a plant before going all in with any spray. 

Garlic and Cayenne Pepper Spray Recipe to Keep Rabbits Away

We have had good results (damage reduction is about 70%, give or take) using this garlic and chili pepper spray. We were surprised that a spray like this had such good results, but it did!

Ingredients:

  • Ten garlic cloves, crushed
  • One tablespoon of cayenne powder or two fresh hot peppers, chopped
  • 1-quart water
  • One teaspoon of liquid soap (optional)

How To Make Garlic and Cayenne Powder Rabbit Repellents

  1. Combine the crushed garlic, pepper powder or fresh peppers, and water in a large pot.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  3. Remove the pot from the heat and let the mixture cool for 24 hours.
  4. Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer to remove solids.
  5. Spray the mixture directly onto your plants, covering the leaves’ tops and bottoms.

Important Notes: 

Even natural sprays can harm beneficial insects. Spray when pollinators are no longer in your garden, such as early morning or evening. 

Always test the spray on a small area of your plant first to ensure it does not damage it.

Wild baby rabbit in western North Carolina, eating lush grasses.

Natural Predators

Another natural way to keep rabbits out of your garden is to encourage natural predators. These can include hawks, owls, foxes, and snakes.

Encourage these predators by providing habitat and nesting sites like birdhouses. You can also create a more natural and diverse garden by incorporating native plants and wildflowers, which will attract a variety of insects and animals.

Add garden decoys like fake rubber snakes, coyotes, foxes, hawks, and owls. Fake snakes are particularly effective IF snakes are natural predators of rabbits in your area.

An excellent gardening trick I picked from another gardener was using a green garden hose and letting it wind and rest outside the garden. The rabbits think the hose is a snake!

Plastic snake isolated on a white background.

Add Scents Around The Garden That Rabbits Hate

Rabbits have a keen sense of smell and certain scents they are known to dislike. Here are some scents that rabbits may find unpleasant:

  • Human Hair
  • Dog hair and cat hair.
  • Predator urine
  • Irish spring soap ( your mileage may vary, we tried, but it didn’t work, but other gardeners claim it does!)
  • Dryer lint
  • Peppermint
  • Hot Pepper
  • Lemon Balm
  • Rosemary
  • Dried Sulphur

It’s worth noting that while these scents may be unpleasant to rabbits, they may not necessarily be enough to deter them completely.

Why We Do Not Recommend Using Moth Balls

Mothballs have naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, toxic chemicals harmful to humans and animals. When used in a garden, mothballs can leach these chemicals into the soil and water, harming beneficial insects and animals and contaminating the food grown in the garden.

In addition to being harmful to the environment, mothballs are not effective at deterring many garden pests, including rabbits. While they may have a strong odor that some animals find unpleasant, rabbits and other animals can quickly become accustomed to the smell and ignore it.

A light brown rabbit chilling on some greenery.
.

Make Your Garden Unattractive to Rabbits

In addition to physical barriers and natural repellents, you can make your garden unattractive to rabbits by removing potential homes and food sources and implementing methods like companion planting.

Remove Potential Rabbit Homes

Rabbits like to make their homes in tall grass, brush piles, and other areas with thick, dense vegetation. Removing these potential homes can make your garden less attractive to rabbits. Keep your lawn mowed and remove any piles of brush or debris. If you have a large property, consider creating a designated area away from your garden for rabbits to live and place a food source there to keep them at home and not wandering into your garden.

Remove Potential Food Sources

Rabbits are attracted to gardens because they provide a ready (and tasty!) food source. By removing potential food sources, you can reduce the likelihood of rabbits entering your garden. This simple method includes removing fallen fruits and vegetables, regularly harvesting crops, and keeping your garden clean and debris-free.

Close-up of a rabbit eating grass on the side of the trail.

Use Companion Planting

Companion planting is planting certain plants together to benefit each other. Some plants can repel rabbits, while others can attract natural predators. For example, planting onions, chives, or leeks alongside your other plants can help deter rabbits, as these plants have a strong odor that rabbits don’t like.

How to Keep Rabbits Out of Garden Spaces

In conclusion, keeping rabbits out of the garden can be a frustrating challenge for gardeners. But don’t worry; with some creativity and the tips mentioned above. You’ll be able to outsmart those pesky bunnies. And if all else fails, remember that rabbits are like nature’s lawnmowers, so at least your grass will be well-trimmed!

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