If you’ve seen one rabbit in your yard, you probably have a dozen (at least). Your neighborhood may be home to hundreds of them. If rabbits have demolished your ornamental or garden plants, stay tuned. We have everything you will want to know about how to get rid of rabbits.
How to Keep Rabbits Out
- Fencing is the most effective way to keep rabbits out. Install a 2-foot tall fence of 1-inch chicken wire, held up by sturdy stakes every 4 to 6 feet apart. Rabbits will try to go under a fence, so bury it 6 inches deep, line the bottom with bricks or rocks, or bend it down in an “L” on the animal side.
- Raised garden beds. You can try building or installing raised garden beds, but they usually need to include a chicken wire fence. If you hire a professional to build and install them, the professional will likely want to wrap the raised garden beds in some form of wire mesh fencing (which will look a lot like a chicken wire fence).
- Pungent plants. Plant asparagus, leeks, onions, garlic, squash, tomatoes, and/or peppers to create a perimeter that keeps rabbits away from the plants they (and you) like to eat.
- Repelling flowers. Sweet alyssum, cleomes, geraniums, marigold, salvia, wax begonias, and zinnias are flowers that repel rabbits. Plant them to protect your other flowers, most of which rabbits do like.
- Certain herbs: Rabbits dislike herbs such as basil, mint, oregano, parsley, and tarragon.
- Dogs and cats will keep rabbits away. If you have them, let them spend at least part of the day in the garden area. And if your yard is big enough, you might get a cat just to take care of any mice and to keep rabbits away.
- Mow your lawn. Rabbits will hide in tall grass, yet another reason to mow your lawn, and to mow it the right way.
- Remove cover. It can be a DIY project to take out brush piles, weed patches, and other debris that rabbits use as hiding places.
- Fill the burrows. If you come across the burrows of other animals, such as woodchucks or skunks, dig them out and fill them in before rabbits move in.
A pro’s tip: Lavender and lilac bush also discourage rabbits, and might be better to look at and provide fragrance than the other options.
How to Fight Back If You Think You Have Rabbits
- Netting. Use some form of thin but strong netting that can be wrapped over the top of plants you want to protect. As a DIY project, you will need a lot of netting, and expect to invest some time setting this up.
- Wrap the trunks. Use 1/4-inch mesh hardware cloth to wrap the trunks of landscape trees. Wrap them as high as rabbits can nibble, about 2½ feet from the ground.
- Powdered sulfur. It is considered the best rabbit repellent. Although sulfur is generally considered safe, follow the directions on the label for safe handling.
- Plain talcum powder. Similar to sulfur, but not as effective a rabbit repellent. It is not a threat if some gets on the plants you plan to eat; in fact, you can dust your plants with it. And do it again after any rain, or hosing of the garden.
- Pepper flakes. Flakes of cayenne or red pepper work to repel rabbits and can be applied as a DIY project. Spread this natural repellent on the ground around plants you want to protect, but remember to do it after a rain.
- Dried blood. Blood meal, which is powdered blood acquired from slaughterhouses (of cattle), can be mixed with water, enough to make it liquid, and spread as a rabbit repellent. Rabbits avoid it. However, it has to be reapplied after it rains. Don’t use blood if you have a dog; they will be attracted to the spot and dig it up. Over and over.
- Spray with Lysol. Mix a teaspoon of Lysol with a gallon of water to create a rabbit repellent and spray the garden or yard.
- Ultrasonic units, which rely on sound waves, are being marketed as a rabbit repellent. They will bother other animals, such as your pets, and the sounds make their way into the neighbor’s yards, creating issues for them. Plus, they have not been proven scientifically.
A pro’s tip: Trapping and removing rabbits won’t help you. The rabbits you remove will be replaced by other rabbits from the same burrow or warren. Perhaps while you are transporting the rabbit you trapped to a new location.
These work, and will make great stories to tell your neighbors:
- Irish Spring soap. Fill small bags, perhaps of burlap, with the shavings of Irish Spring soap and hang them throughout your garden. Some gardeners swear by it, and will tell you it also works against mice and deer. In theory, any deodorant soap will work, but when gardeners talk, they talk this one brand.
- Sprinkle hair around. Rabbits will retreat from the smell of human hair (perhaps worried that it means a human is nearby), so sprinkle some around your yard. If you don’t have enough human hair, you can use pet hair. And remember: Hair enriches the soil. It is a fertilizer, and it provides support to roots as they break up thick soil.
- Party balloons. Place ones made of mylar above the area you want to protect. Or use mylar tape. Some believe it drives away rabbits.
- Pinwheels. Stick them in the ground in the yard to deter rabbits.
- Fake snakes. Rabbits will flee from snakes. Since you certainly don’t want to add real ones to your yard or garden, you can get rubber or plastic snakes. They will deter rabbits and can cost less than a dollar.
- Noise. Rabbits will flee from the slightest of sounds. You can use a wind chime; that will cause rabbits to leave. You can also place cans on a string, and accept the sound they make over that of a wind chime.
- Rabbits themselves. Rabbits run from their own reflection, so it is likely that if you put up a bunch of reflectors, you will cause the rabbits to flee. In theory.
Rabbits: A Description
A rabbit is any bounding and gnawing mammal from the Leporidae family.
Basic Biological Data for Rabbits
|Life span||6-13 years|
|Amount of urine||About 130 milliliters per day|
|Water intake||50-100 milliliters per day|
|Preferred temperature||65-75 degrees (Fahrenheit)|
|Heart rate||130–325 beats per minute|
|Respiratory rate||32-60 beats per minute|
|Amount of blood||55-65 milliliters|
|Gastrointestinal transit time||4-5 hours|
Source: Textbook of Rabbit Medicine
By contrast, the human heart rate is 60-100 beats per minute.
- Ears: That are long
- Tail: That is short
- Hind legs: That are long and strong
- Incisors: That never stop growing (They must constantly chew to keep their teeth healthy in the wild.)
- Color: Gray or brown, mostly
- Size: 10 to 18 inches
- Weight: 1 to 4 pounds
Rabbit Droppings are Distinctive
The kind of droppings you will find in your yard, garden, or flower beds are dark pea-sized pellets. It is great for composting, though it wouldn’t be great to have that much of it.
Rabbits also create a soft form of droppings that they carry back to the nest and excrete there, often to feed their young. It is a process known as coprophagy, and is the same as cows chewing their cud.
Signs You Have a Rabbit in the Yard
- Clean-cut damage. Most animals leave jagged edges behind. But rabbits make a clean cut with sharp edges.
- Angled cuts. Rabbits are known for a distinctive kind of cuts, ones at an angle.
- Preferred meals. Rabbits go after flower heads, buds, and young stems up to ¼ inch in diameter.
- Signs of gnawing. The stems of woody plants, fallen twigs and branches in your yard will have been gnawed if you have rabbits.
- Low damage. The majority of their damage will be within 2½ feet of the ground.
A pro’s tip: If the damage to your landscape occurs more than two feet high, it isn’t from a rabbit. It almost certainly is from a deer, and because deer have no upper front teeth, they twist and pull, leaving damage that is ragged.
Rabbit Nests: What to Look For
- In landscaped areas, nests and dens will turn up under cover, in brushy places (often by fencerows or the edges of fields), and in gullies that have shrubs.
- Females create a shallow bowl for a nest and cushion it with leaves, grass, and/or fur plucked from their bellies
- Burrows. Some rabbits excavate burrows for their den.
- Warrens. Some rabbits live in groups in large, complex burrow systems. These are what is meant by the term “warrens.”
- Sheds, porches, and low decks are places that can hide rabbits.
A pro’s tip: If you notice small (about a foot across) circles of sandy soil or dry soil in your yard, it might be a sign you have rabbits. They will roll in such dust baths to rid their bodies of parasites, with grass or groundcover then rubbed away, leaving the circles.
What Do Rabbits Like to Eat From Your Garden?
- Rabbits are curious, so they will nibble any garden plants they come across.
- Rabbits are so curious they will nibble at plants known to be repellents.
When to Call In a Professional
Rabbit-proofing your yard or garden or trying to drive out the creatures can be just the kind of DIY project that appeals to you. But if it doesn’t, or if the rabbits keep coming, it is time to call a pest control expert near you for professional help.
Wild rabbits breed with speed, giving birth to as many as 50 kits each year. If you see one noshing on your lawn, the rest of his family is nearby.
One way to tell you have a rabbit problem even if you haven’t seen them is that brown spots will appear in your lawn and flower beds. Those are spots caused by their urine killing the growths.
Female rabbits give birth to blind, hairless young that require a lot of attention. Female hares give birth to babies fully furred with their eyes open. Newborn hares will start hopping within hours of their birth.
Rabbits (and hares) get out and about at dawn and dusk. A tip: Because their eyes shine when hit by the beam of a flashlight, they can easily be discovered at night. (Their eyes are yellow or red.)
A Call to Action
Rabbits are considered to be cute and fun little creatures … by people who don’t have them in their vegetable garden. You may like to look out your window and see them enjoying your yard, but make no mistake: If one likes your yard, you will quickly get another, and another. The rabbit population will surely move in, building nests, burrows, and perhaps a warren.
Don’t let it get away from you. As soon as you see a rabbit, or evidence of a rabbit, make a decision to call a pest control pro. Don’t wait until you have a rabbit population problem. Take action.
And if the decision is to manage the population, hop to it.
No pun intended.
Additional sources: Almanac.com, Premeditated Leftovers, Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife
Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only. Consider consulting a professional for assistance if you encounter rabbits on your property.
Main Image Credit: Kevin Jump / Flickr / CC BY 2.0