Rabbits are adorable, hopping along with their fluffy tails. These cute little bunnies can also be a menace – chewing up your garden and landscape and destroying all of your hard work. Rabbits love eating new shoots and leaves, and they’re particularly drawn to woody plants, annual flowers, vegetables, raspberries, blackberries, and apple trees. (They tend to ignore tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, squash, and corn.)
You don’t have to be a detective to figure out if rabbits are the pests eating up your garden. Look for telltale round, pea-sized droppings as your first clue. The evidence of their nibbles is distinctive, too: clean bites at 45-degree angles. Jagged, torn edges are more likely evidence of deer.
To keep rabbits from nibbling away all of your hard work, there are a few options to try and the possible drawbacks.
Fencing: A good fence or other barrier is the most effective way to protect your garden. Don’t plant anything tempting along your fence row. An effective rabbit fence will have hole openings of no more than 1 inch and be at least 2-3 feet tall and reach 3-6 inches underground. Poultry wire works well and can be used to protect individual trees and shrubs as well. Use flashing under your gates, and always close it behind you.
Habitat modification: Make your yard and garden uninviting to rabbits. Trim lower branches of shrubs and bushes. Control weeds, keep the grass mowed, and clean up brush piles, debris, or anything that might provide cover for rabbits to hide.
Deterrents: You can apply fertilizers of bone meal or blood meal to keep rabbits out of your garden. These must be reapplied every time it rains.
Pets: Dogs and cats can help keep the rabbits at bay. Of course, they also can cause all sorts of damage to your garden, too. Outdoor cats can also be devastating to the bird population, so this might not be your preferred choice.
Traps: There are rabbit traps available for purchase if you want to try the catch and release route. Rabbits have about a 10-acre territory if you’re trying to decide where to relocate them. Rabbits are wild animals and can harbor diseases, so this might be a job you would prefer to leave to professionals.
Repellents: There are some chemical repellents out there. These repellents often are toxic to humans or will make your vegetables taste terrible. They also tend to only work in the short term and must be reapplied frequently. For those reasons, we don’t recommend this method of rabbit control. If you do choose to try this route, please follow the instructions carefully for safety.
Rabbits can be sneaky and smart. Remember the Peter Rabbit stories from your childhood? Luckily, you’re even smarter. It takes a little work and persistence, but you can keep the bunnies from eating up your harvest.