Most will agree that rabbits are adorable. However, if you’re into gardening as much as we are here at The Optimist Daily, and you live in a region with a thriving rabbit population, your feelings toward these cute furry rodents might be… complicated.
Rabbits, mice, squirrels, and other rodents have a way of getting into gardens and snacking away at your beloved flower beds and plants. Sometimes it’s difficult to know exactly which one of these critters is dining in your garden, but here are some tips for figuring out if they’re rabbits:
- Rabbits tend to be more active around dawn and dusk, so sit quietly in your garden during these times and take note of who arrives for a snack.
- Ask a local greenhouse, garden center, or university extension service if rabbits are known to live and thrive in your area.
- Inspect your leaves. Insects will leave holes in plants whereas rabbits will nibble on the edge, leaving your plants looking clean-cut rather than ragged.
- Check your garden for the round or oval, brown fecal pellets rabbits are notorious for leaving behind. You might also find a tuft of rabbit hair or fur caught on branches.
Keeping rabbits out of your garden
Once you’ve determined that rabbits are your uninvited dinner guests, there are many eco-friendly and sustainable ways that you can keep them at bay. The best strategy is to be proactive by creating and maintaining a rabbit-deterrent garden.
Place a rabbit fence
Erecting a rabbit fence is the best method of keeping rabbits out of your property long-term. Use heavy-duty galvanized steel mesh and ensure that the fence stands at least four feet tall, with the bottom foot sunk below ground level and the lowest six inches bent outward to keep rabbits from burrowing under it. The mesh should be narrower than three inches.
Protect garden beds
To save your garden beds, use chicken netting over the foods the rabbits seem to like best. It’s worth keeping in mind that rabbits are talented diggers, so you should bury hardware cloth around the base perimeter of your garden beds to deter rabbits from burrowing under the chicken netting.
Surround young trees and shrubs
Protect the vulnerable young trees and shrubs with a half-inch mesh hardware cloth or one-inch chicken netting. To hold it upright, form a cylinder with the hardware cloth/chicken netting and work it into the ground.
Set up repellents
If rabbits are your main problem, then you can use putrescent whole-egg solids to repel them. However, other pests might be attracted to the decaying organic matter.
Another option is to distribute a pouch or spray a liquid mix of any combination of garlic, red pepper, strong-smelling soap, or other strong odors around the perimeter of your garden and at the base of trees and shrubs.
Remove potential hiding places
Rabbits steer clear from exposed areas where they’d be visible and vulnerable to predators. Clear brush piles, weed patches, rock piles, and other debris from your garden to limit the hiding places available to rabbits in your garden.
Rabbits don’t like surprises, so anything new will be perceived as a threat. Make harmless disturbances with unfamiliar sounds or low-maintenance solar-powered LED lights flashing at timed intervals. You can also set up a motion-activated water sprinkler to startle rabbits away from your yard or invest in some wind chimes or spinning pinwheels.
Grow food that rabbits don’t eat
Once rabbits discover a yummy food source, they’ll come back again and again until it’s been exhausted. Rabbits love beans, carrots, lettuce, parsley, peas, and spinach, but don’t enjoy plants with fuzzy leaves, milky sap, thorns, and strong scents, as well as any member of the nightshade family because of their toxins. That said, when rabbits are hungry enough, they’re not that picky.
Can you humanely trap a rabbit?
We wouldn’t advise trapping a rabbit unless it’s your absolute last resort because doing so would risk harming or traumatizing the poor rabbit. It’s also not a very effective way of eradicating the source of the problem as it only removes single rabbits.