If you keep a garden or spend your time trimming your lawn to impress your neighbors, then the sight of a rabbit in your beloved garden is enough to give you anxiety. Far from being the cute and cuddly bunnies, people tend to view them, rabbits are a menace to any patch of vegetables or rose bush you might have.
When rabbits take over your garden or lawn, you can’t stand around and watch them destroy every last vegetation that grows there. You can either resort to scare tactics using decoy owls and snakes to chase them away. Or you can set your dogs on them to make them know you don’t want them on your property. Spraying plants with vinegar and garlic will certainly keep the bunnies off your garden. And don’t forget to install fences around your property to stop these gluttonous animals.
Rabbits are known to multiply in record numbers within a short time. This alone makes them a nightmare to many property and farm owners. That and the fact that they cause huge damage to any property they invade. From digging burrows to eating anything that grows, many people feel at a loss when confronted with this menace. Read on to find out how to recognize the signs of a rabbit infestation and what to do about it.
Reasons You’d Want to Keep Rabbits Away
Imagine you wake up in the morning, look out your window at your garden, and see a couple of rabbits fleeting about. The sun is out, the birds are singing, and your tulips, your pride and joy, is blooming. All is good with the world. You shrug off the rabbits as a couple of bunnies passing by.
Then you start to notice a change coming over your garden. The change is subtle at first but unmistakable. It doesn’t look as cheerful as before. It’s like a sickness hangs over it. Then you see it. Your pumpkin patch is destroyed. No fruit, flower, or green leaf left. You scratch your head wondering what happened.
A few weeks later you no longer have a garden. Just wasteland with holes everywhere. What started as a couple of bunnies has become a family of eight now. Eight hungry mouths eating your petunias and leaving their droppings everywhere. The rabbits have taken over your garden and pretty soon they’ll move into the house once they’re done with your tulips.
Know Your Rabbit
In North America, cottontail rabbits are a real menace. They have a new litter every four weeks and their appetites know no boundaries. No plant is off-limits to the cottontail. Except for a few plants which we will cover later when talking about how to repel them naturally.
The cottontail rabbit has about nine species. But the eastern cottontail is the one to watch out for. Since they have many natural enemies, they don’t like forests or areas with hedges where their enemies might hide. Instead, they like fields, brushes, and of course lawns and gardens.
Their diet covers plants, flowers, and bulbs of every shape and form. Even bark has a place on the menu. You can recognize it by its gray fur, short white tail, and long ears. They weigh between two and four pounds and grow to 15 inches in length. The average eastern cottontail lives for about 15 months and in this relatively short life span, they try to reproduce as much as they can.
Signs You Have a Rabbit Infestation
While a lot of wild animals and insects feed on plants, rabbits leave telltale signs which the keen eye cannot mistake. The first sign is the clean-cut devastation left on the plants. Unlike insects that nibble, rabbits have sharp front teeth that cut through the stem of the plant like a surgeon’s scalpel. No plant can survive this thorough destruction once a family of rabbits goes through the area.
Other herbivores like gophers and groundhogs will leave jagged marks on the plants and they’d eat the top of the plant. Rabbits, however, go for the tender shoots at the bottom and eat them all, stem, leaf, and flower. This is why spring is usually the most devastating time of the year as far as rabbits are concerned.
Another sign you’re dealing with a rabbit invasion on your hands is, of course, the burrows. A rabbit’s hole is its castle. It will run to it at the first sign of danger. So they like to have as many holes in the ground as they can. Besides the burrows and rabbit droppings, you might also see bunny paw marks all over the ground. This is all the proof you need that rabbits have taken over your garden.
Because rabbits are notoriously elusive animals, you need to know as much as you can about their habits and habitat before you set out to chase them away. The following questions cover everything from their diet to what frightens them. This knowledge will help you find the best methods to get rid of them and keep them away from your precious tulips and rose bushes.
How Do You Scare Rabbits Away?
To scare rabbits away you have to think smart. Ask yourself what is the natural predator to rabbits? And that’s how you find out what rabbits are afraid of. Rabbits are on the menu for many predators including owls, snakes, foxes, and badgers, not to mention that domestic cats and dogs hate them.
What this means is that if you have a dog or cat, then setting them on the lawn will make rabbits think twice before they crawl into your garden. Of course, your pets won’t hang around the yard all the time which means rabbits might just hide in their burrows until your pets are back into the house before they set out on their destructive path.
If you don’t have pets, you can always use decoy predators. A strategically placed fake owl near your tulips will deter rabbits from getting near them. Snakes are another predator who likes to lurk so a decoy snake will fool any adventurous rabbit any time. Keep in mind that scaring rabbits won’t always work and you will need to use these scare tactics in combination with other deterrents for better results.
How Do You Keep Rabbits from Eating Your Plants?
We mentioned that rabbits like to eat small plants and offshoots. They’re quite finicky about grown plants. So you can use that knowledge to your advantage as you try to protect your growing plants from the munching rabbits and their voracious appetite.
You can try the mechanical way first. Cover your beds while the plants are still young. Rabbits are rather lazy and won’t try to rip the covers open. Instead they’ll look elsewhere for some juicy offshoots and an easy meal. This solution works best during the spring when the tender offshoots appear making them an irresistible meal for the hungry bunnies.
Repellents are another method to make plants unpalatable for rabbits. Powdered fox urine is especially potent against rabbits since foxes are their most feared predators. Spray the powder on the plants directly and reapply every few days. The odor of the repellent is enough to keep rabbits away. You can combine both methods, the repellent and the row covers during the spring.
How do I Keep Rabbits from Eating My Flowers Naturally?
For some reason flowers attract rabbits more than any other parts of the plant. They don’t smell them of course. They devour them with amazing speed. It is estimated that a single hungry bunny can go through a flower bed in the span of an hour. This is especially true of sunflowers which rabbits prefer over other flowers.
To protect your delicate flowers you can try to convince the rabbits that they’re not as tasty as they look. The odor method won’t work here since the flowers might have a natural pleasant odor that you don’t want to sprinkle with fox urine. Instead you should go with a spicy repellent.
Mix two tablespoons of garlic powder and cayenne pepper in two cups of warm water and keep them for a day. Spray this potent mixture on your flowers every few days. Rabbits won’t come near your flowers as long as they’re covered with this garlicky flavor. You can also surround your flower beds with a circle of chili powder as a natural line of defense.
Does Vinegar Keep Rabbits Away?
Rabbits and vinegar don’t mix. There’s nothing about the acidic liquid that rabbits like anyway. Neither the odor which they can detect from far off nor the taste is to their liking. In fact, rabbits will go out of their way to avoid getting near a garden or an enclosure that emanates the unmistakable odor of vinegar.
So how would you use that to your advantage? Obviously, you can purchase large amounts of vinegar and go to chemical war with the invading rascals. Use vinegar generously in your homemade rabbit repellents. The only drawback is, vinegar is a natural compound and will dissipate easily leaving no trace. So you’ll need to make it stick to the plants and flowers.
One way to keep vinegar in the air, so to speak, is to soak corn cobs in the liquid then place them around your garden edges. It will take a few days for the vinegar in the cobs to dry off. Meanwhile the rabbits will make sure to avoid your garden as long as you have your vinegar-soaked sentry guarding the place.
Does Garlic Keep Rabbits Away?
Garlic is one of the few plants that rabbits don’t have a taste for. It’s not clear why. Rabbits would eat anything, and I mean anything, that grows in your garden. From cabbage to sunflowers and cucumbers. Munch, munch, munch. That’s all they do all day. But they draw the line at garlic.
And they’re not the only animals who don’t care about garlic. Deer, mice, and even moles are notoriously squeamish when they get a garlicky waft in the air. So how would you use garlic to protect your well-manicured garden from the enormous appetite of the fluffy bunnies? You can’t just leave cloves of garlic lying around. They’ll dry off on their own without offending anyone.
Sprinkle your plants with a garlic-infused liquid. The strong and pungent smell might put off even you from the garden for a while. You can make it at home by boiling three tablespoons of garlic powder in water for a few minutes. You’ll only need to use it once a week on the plants. Don’t spare any part of your garden.
What Food do Rabbits Hate?
While garlic is too pungent for rabbits to stomach, it’s not the only plant the cute bunnies don’t care about. As your gardening gets better and your knowledge of plants grows, you’ll be surprised at the number of plants you can use to your advantage to fight off the munching rabbits.
Granted, most of those plants are not common in every garden, but by introducing them to your lawn, you’ll not just add color and aroma, but also keep off plant predators like the famous bunnies. Some of the plants include artichokes, onions, potatoes, asparagus, tomatoes, allium, spruce, juniper, and vinca.
Rabbits also don’t have a taste for peppers although they wouldn’t mind eating the offshoots and tender plants while they’re growing. Squash is another food that bunnies absolutely hate. What all these anti-rabbit plants have in common is either fuzzy leaves or a strong fragrance. So make sure to include some of them in your next gardening plans.
What Food is Irresistible to Rabbits?
We listed in the previous section many of the plants and perennials that rabbits don’t care much about or downright detest. Anything outside that list is a welcome addition to the all-you-can-eat open buffet that is your humble garden. We’ll try to list some of the most popular foods in the realm of rabbits.
Vegetables, fruits, and herbs of all kinds, except for the one we listed above, are too tempting for rabbits. This includes but not limited to carrots, lettuce, beans, broccoli, spinach, peas, and parsley. A rabbit won’t pass fruits or berries either.
Annuals and perennials are not immune to rabbit attacks either. Their offshoot is succulent and juicy and there’s no way a rabbit that finds broccoli and parsley tasteful is going to skip such a delicious delicacy. Lilies, coneflowers, tulips, violets, sunflowers, and pansies are just a few on a long list. Having bunnies as pets must be really easy and cheap. You can just feed them any vegetable leftovers and withered flowers instead of throwing them in the trash can.
What Will Scare Rabbits Away?
As much as rabbits have plenty of foods on their menu, they are themselves a favorite food for many animals. It’s no wonder then that rabbits are good at running. They’re skittish animals that would bolt at the first sign of danger. And there’s no surprise there.
That can come in handy when you’re trying to scare the little bunnies off your property. Plastic snakes and owls are a good scare tactic that you can use. Some people use tinfoil to fool the animals. But rabbits are not that stupid. They can tell when you try to set up a handmade decoy to scare them.
House pets are also hostile to rabbits. Because rabbits are relatively small with no natural defense mechanisms, that makes them easy targets for territorial cats and dogs. Just leave your dog out in the lawn for a while and all the rabbits would vacate the premises in a hurry.
Do Rabbits Eat Rose Bushes?
Known for their love for flowers, rabbits prefer flowers with soft petals like roses. A rose bush would attract a hungry rabbit a mile away. They’ll feed not just on the petals, but the leaves, the bark, the stems and bushes. In short they’ll leave nothing standing once they’re done.
If you’re planning on growing rose bushes or already have some blossoming in your garden, you’ll need to take precautions to protect them against the ravenous rabbits. You can’t really spray the rose bushes with repellents because that defeats the purpose of having roses in your garden in the first place.
Use chili powder to circle the rose bushes. Rabbits won’t be able to get near to the rose bushes since they very much dislike chili powder. Using vinegar-soaked corn cobs around the bushes will also deter the bunnies from making a meal out of your roses.
Where Do Rabbits Nest?
Cottontails are masters at hiding. Most of the time they’ll just hide in plain sight. Rather than running, they rely on their natural camouflage to hide them from their many predators. They apply the same rule when it comes to nesting.
Rabbits prefer to nest out in the open. They dig a burrow in a yard or a clearing when the mother is ready to give birth. She then makes a comfortable home of that hovel lining it with leaves and fur she plucks off her own chest.
After she gives birth, a mother rabbit will cover the hole of the burrow with twigs, dirt, and leaves. She visits the baby bunnies only twice, at dawn and at dusk to feed them. She’ll spend most of the time away from the burrow to prevent her enemies from locating it.
What Won’t Work Against Rabbits
Before we get to the best way to get rid of rabbits, let’s quickly cover some common methods people use to fend off the wild bunnies. Methods like rat poison don’t actually work on rabbits so don’t waste your time on them.
Scarecrows have been used by farmers for thousands of years. There’s no proof that they actually scare birds at all. Often you’ll see birds perched on the extended arms of a scarecrow. So why would people think that scarecrows would scare off rabbits? They simply don’t.
The same thing applies to flashing lights and excessive noise or ultrasound devices. They might make the rabbits run off at first, but the bunnies are more startled than really scared of them. Once they find out that there’s no predator lurking around the lights, they’ll come back and blissfully ignore the noise and light and go on eating your rose bushes.
How Do You Keep Rabbits out of Your Yard?
We covered many ways to repel rabbits so far. So in this section we’ll add some more effective ways you can use. There are mainly three ways to ward off rabbits. They are trapping, repellents, and fencing. Repellents are the easiest and most hassle-free way to get rid of rabbits.
Since rabbits rely on their sense of smell to guide them to their food, then using odorous repellents is an easy way to steer them clear off your property. Besides vinegar and garlic, and chili powder, you can also sprinkle dried sulfur on the ground or plant a patch of onions to ward them off.
Talcum powder also has a sharp smell and taste which when you dust a plant with it, rabbits will leave that plant alone. Some people use deer repellents which are commercially available in the market against rabbits.
If none of the above work well for you, then you could try laying traps for the rabbits in your garden. You still have to deal with the trapped animal though and if you have too many rabbits in the garden, then trapping them might not be very effective.
While repelling rabbits can have good results, it requires a lot of work and the repellent needs to be reapplied every few days. Sometimes people would resort to drastic measures to deal with the invading rabbits. One of those measures is hunting them.
The laws regarding killing rabbits vary widely from one state to the next. So before you cock your gun, you need to make sure you’re on the right side of the law here. If you get the OK from the local authorities to go ahead and hunt them, it’s rock ‘n roll time.
Hunting rabbits can be an effective way to solve a tough problem quickly. However, there’s no guarantee that rabbits won’t come back once you lay down your gun. So it’s better to use this in combination with other methods like trapping and repellents.
Once you’ve got the offending bunnies off your property, it’s time to make sure they don’t find their way back. Fencing is an effective way to prevent rabbits from entering your yard. A chicken wire fence is the best type of fencing here. It has to be four feet high to prevent them from scaling it, and about six inches deep in the ground.
Another way to prevent rabbits from making a home in your yard is to clean any piles of leaves or brushes and let your pets loose in the yard. Make sure to fill up any abandoned burrows. When rabbits find they can’t hide on your lawn or make burrows, they’ll move to more welcoming gardens that offer both food and shelter.
Mike Zhang. Founder of FamilyLifeShare