How to Repel Plant-Eating Rabbits and Protect Your Garden

Bill Taylor
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Identifying Rabbits in Your Garden

Contrary to popular belief, rabbits, especially non-native (wild and industrially farmed) rabbits, do not consume vegetables and plants due to some physiological issue. Rather, they are opportunistic feeders that prefer fast-growing, high-energy foods such as clovers and plants grown with chemical fertilizers; so their tastes are nothing more than a by-product of being fed, in the ground, plants that have been grown more for ease of harvest than for their nutritional value.

While your plants may enthusiastically support all of the rabbits that live on your property, one of their favorite foods is the fescue grass that covers most of your front yard. Remove that grass, and they will be happier in your yard. The benefit of this is that they will eat the areas in your garden (particularly your edibles) that you don’t want eaten and leave the rest alone.

A common misconception is that rabbits will not eat plants if there is a bitter substance present. What the rabbits need is for the bitter taste to be present while they are learning what is or isn’t good to eat. In other words, they have to learn that your plants are not food before they decide to omit them from their diet.

How to Repel Plant-Eating Rabbits

Since rabbits like to dig in the soil in search of vegetables and other plants, you will have to keep your garden secure. Here are some ways to prevent them from destroying your crop:

  • Install rabbit fencing. They are electrified, are buried deep in the ground in a narrow pattern, and they are meant for use around vegetable gardens.
  • Use chicken wire, which is a good, inexpensive alternative to the fencing. However, make sure you poke holes in the chicken wire so that the plants can breathe and thrive.
  • Cut a slit in a plastic soda bottle and secure it with a vine to the fence. The sound of the water will probably prevent the rabbits from crossing over the fence.
  • Use a spray solution that is made of 1 tsp of Tabasco sauce and 1 cup of water. Spray it 6 inches deep and you should see visible results.

Targeted Coverage

When it comes to rabbits, you'll want to pay special attention to deterring them. Many people attract rabbits because they lay thick grass, which is a favorite food.

In order to repel rabbits, you should work to make your yard more unattractive to them. Remember that rabbits are most active at dusk and dawn. Plants that are toxic to rabbits can also be used in this way, but use them with care, as young children and pets may be attracted to the plants, as well.

Repellents

Rabbits are notorious for their love of treats from the garden. Unlike most other animals, they can cause a lot of damage to your garden in no time at all, devouring flowers and vegetables alike. They are even able to eat petunias, cucumbers, and tomatillos. Fortunately, there are a few tricks that can help keep rabbits away and protect your plants.

Use fences:

The best thing you can do is surround your garden with a fence that is too tall for the rabbits to jump over. For deciduous plants, a 2-3-foot fence is perfect. You can even build an underground fence. Layer chicken wire throughout the bed and bury the wire 2-3 inches down. A continuously running electric current, set to a low level, will also keep rabbits away.

Use rosemary:

Plant rosemary around the perimeter of your garden, so that rabbits won’t come in smelling the “bread and butter” in the middle. Make sure to plant it far enough away from your plants though, because it does spread pretty fast, and you don’t want it to take over. It smells like a deterrent to many pests, and even goes so far as to ward off bears.

Use a repellent:

Fencing

If your plants aren’t bolted or buried in the ground, consider fencing them if you have a problem with rabbits. The best kind of fence for your vegetable garden is a 3-foot high (0.9–m) fence. Rabbits can be a bit of a pushover when they can’t hop over the fence, plus fencing keeps out other pests.

Some gardeners have had success with fencing made from chicken wire and mesh. Just like any kind of fencing, it's best to install it before the rabbit population gets too out of hand. If you've already got rabbits in the garden, try leaving the damaged parts on the ground to act as a deterrent. The rabbits won't like moving through the prickly mess.

Except for wire fencing, which isn't realistic for most gardens, plastic or metal net fencing is the most cost-effective option for keeping out bunny rabbits.

Kevlar netting and other similar materials are very fine mesh materials which will keep even rabbits out of your garden. These materials are commonly called chicken wire or deer fencing, and they’re relatively inexpensive, and can be used to fence in an entire garden, or portions of a smaller garden.

Additional Considerations

The key in determining which fencing option will work best for your particular situation is understanding the behavior of rabbits. All rabbits like to dig; however, only three types of rabbit are commonly considered to be plant eaters among homeowners: cottontail, jackrabbits, and brush rabbits. All three of these rabbit species have their own set of unique behaviors that can be used to predict how rabbits will interact with your garden and the fencing you choose.

Cottontails need a bit more space to run around but will leave your garden alone. Jackrabbits and brush rabbits do not need a lot of space and like to dig. The best option is to protect your garden by using well-spaced, fence kits (5 or 6 feet) that contain a mesh-wire shield along the top. Plant your garden or crops inside the mesh wire of the kits and you can create your own barrier, keeping rabbits from digging up your vegetables.

Conclusion

Now that you know what plants and seeds to choose, how to prepare your garden, and when to plant, you're ready to repel rabbits and get your garden in top shape.

But there's one more thing…

Recognizing when your garden is in trouble is equally important as preventing your garden from being destroyed in the first place. Since rabbits are known for quickly and completely destroying your garden, being able to tell when rabbits are present is crucial to protecting your garden.

By taking the time to place and have a trail camera in your garden, you can ensure that you know when rabbits are in your garden and when they are not. Although there is no guaranteed way to learn how to tell when rabbits are in your garden, a trail camera will help you notice normal patterns, such as:.

Are rabbits in your garden at dawn and dusk?

How long do the rabbits stay?

Is there more than one rabbit?

Trail cameras are a great way to monitor the habits of animals in and around your garden. Once you are able to notice their patterns, you'll be able to tell when your garden is at risk. You'll also be able to determine whether your animal repellent techniques are working effectively.

Having a trail camera set up is the perfect way to guarantee that you can tell if your rabbit repellent methods are working.