Cottontail rabbits are frequent visitors in many yards and gardens. A few rabbits are usually welcome and even entertaining to watch but as numbers multiply they can begin to cause serious damage in to your vegetable garden and plants in your landscape. It’s important to get rid of rabbits if this happens.
Dealing with rabbit problems is not a quick fix but for long-term success persistence is key. Today I’m sharing proven ways to get rid of rabbits in the yard and garden, or at least reduce and deter their presence.
Get Rid of Rabbits
We live in a suburban area and rabbits have been a problem since we moved in but over the years their damage has decreased due a few measures. I am able to grow a vegetable garden and edible landscape with success.
Rabbit Habitats and Characteristics
Rabbits are active year-round. Rabbits begin to breed in late winter and have a gestation period of about 28 days. Each litter averages three to five young rabbits. Cottontail rabbits typically have four to five litters throughout the year. Rabbits live about 12 to 15 months.
Rabbits tend to live in grassy areas and thickets. What do rabbits eat? They feed on many vegetables including lettuce, peas, carrots, beet tops and broccoli.
Unlike other wildlife that cause damage, such as deer, rabbits are small so they tend to eat the plants they can easily reach. Their damage is typically at ground level or very low to the ground.
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Are Rabbits the Cause of Your Damage?
Many wild animals and pests can cause damage to the garden and landscape. First you want to verify that rabbits are the cause of your damage, before deciding to reduce or deter their presence. Look for a few signs of rabbit damage to help you determine if rabbits are the cause.
You can ask neighbors what kind of wildlife problems are common in your area. You can also watch your garden closely to observe wildlife. In particular watch at dusk and dawn as this is when animals are typically most active.
Another method is to look for rabbit droppings or tracks around your yard and garden. Rabbit tracks are usually left in pairs. They may be seen in soil during the green season, or on top of snow in the winter.
You can consult with a local wildlife guide to identify them. Rabbit droppings are usually the size of a pea. Additionally, you can consult with your local University Extension Office, state wildlife agency or with a Certified Master Gardener.
Keep Rabbits Out of Garden
What Does Rabbit Damage Look Like?
In addition to the observation tactics mentioned above, you will want to look closely at the damage in your garden and landscape. Rabbits most commonly bit off small branches of plants to reach the inner green bark and then know at that. Branches are bit off cleanly at a 45-degree angle.
What do wild rabbits eat? Rabbits also like to devour spring flowers including tulip shoots. You might not even see your flowers bloom as the rabbits got to them first! They also cause damage to trees, shrubs and woody plants by chewing at the park and stems of the plants.
Getting Rid of Rabbits
How to Get Rid of Rabbits in Your Yard
Now, let’s look at proven tactics for rabbits in garden. You may start with one tactic, or more. Depending on the severity of the problem and the rabbit population you may need to take a laid back or an aggressive approach.
The key to any approach is education, persistence and a long-term commitment. If you do not do anything to deter rabbits from your garden and yard the problems will likely continue and destruction will continue as well.
I am providing several options for rabbit deterrence so that you can pick the tactic(s) that best fit your rabbit problem and what you feel comfortable with in terms of eradication.
1) Make Rabbits Unwelcome
The first tactic is to make your yard and garden an unwelcome place for wild rabbits. First start by removing excess vegetation around fences and ditches. Remove thick brush and overall make sure your yard is cleaned up and maintained. When we moved into our home we had a massive rabbit problem. A good string trimmer also helps with clean up.
We chose later to remove many decades-old arborvitae trees and instead install fencing. This simple step reduced our rabbit problem by several fold! Apparently our yard had been the rabbit haven in the neighborhood for a long time!
Additionally clean up debris and low lying branches under shrubs. Also be sure to seal off areas under decks, steps and storage buildings. Lattice is a nice decorative option for this tactic. This is a good option for how to get rid of rabbits under deck.
2) Use of Area and Contact Repellents
Contact repellants are applied directly to plants, in particular foliage, to make them taste bad when a rabbits takes a bite, and deter them from eating more. These mixtures often include animal blood or black pepper or other strong odors. Dried blood also breaks down and provides nutrients to surrounding plants.
Contact repellants are most commonly used in the vegetable garden where rabbits eating is especially damaging, as they are costly and are difficult to use throughout large spaces.
They also need to be reapplied periodically as plants grow and receive rainfall. Examples of contact repellants for rabbits include: Liquid Fence, and Plantskydd. Use a sprayer to apply the liquid. This tactic works well for how to get rid of rabbits without killing them.
Area repellants are placed near desirable plants to make the area around the plant smell bad, and therefore deter rabbits from trying the plant. What is the best rabbit repellent?
There is no single one but examples of area repellants include predator urine granules such as Shake-Away. Toxicants and poisons may be illegal to use with rabbits. Check your local state laws.
3) Hunting or Shooting Rabbits
In some areas rabbits are a game animals so hunting is an option. Make sure local laws permit the use of firearms in your area during hunting season. This is another rabbit deterrent in order to get rid of rabbits in yard.
4) Rabbit Repellent Plants
Another tactic to get rid of rabbits is to plant rabbit deterrent plants. There are some plants that are less tasty to rabbits. By planting these in your landscape or around your garden you might deter the rabbits from even entering.
Most animals do not like strong tastes like garlic and herbs so that is an option foremost. I plant a border of hardneck garlic around the beds in my vegetable garden. All of my garlic is ordered through Botanical Interests.
Garlic is an affordable rabbit deterrent tactic that also allows you to enjoy use of homegrown garlic in your kitchen cooking. Rabbits eat some herbs but a few they prefer less include Sage, Lavender and Rosemary. They also tend to not eat tomatoes.
Some other plants that rabbits tend to not enjoy include rabbit resistant annuals such as Forget Me Nots and Impatiens, perennials such as Yarrow, Coral Bells, Aster, Bleeding Heart, Daylily and Ferns.
In terms of groundcover try English Ivy, Vinca or Pachysandra. For shrubs plants rabbits hate consider Boxwood, Holly, Juniper and Lilac. They also do not tend to enjoy trees such as Oak, Pines, Cedar and Spruce.
5) Using Barriers and Fencing
Consider the use of fencing and barriers around plants susceptible to rabbit damage. The fencing may be temporary (such as a small tree or shrub that is young and susceptible until older) or permanent, such as around a vegetable garden.
For smaller areas burlap or chicken wire can be used to create a protective barrier around vegetation. Industrial vexar netting can be used around small trees and around individual seedings. When it comes to rabbit damage, newly established smaller trees and fresh growth are most susceptible.
When using chicken wire, look for fencing two to three feet tall and with 1-inch wide openings. The wire should also be buried three to six inches below the surface of the soil, as rabbits can burrow and dig. Bend the bottom of the wire to face 90-degrees away from the garden or plant.
Look around your property and secure any garden gates or small openings that may attract or allow rabbits to enter. In flower gardens you might want to put up a temporary fence, until flowers are mature and at less risk to damage from rabbits.
Rabbits frequently chew bark at the base of trees. You can surround the tree with a cylinder of wire at least two feet high. Keep the cylinder one to two feet away from the tree to allow the tree space for growth and airflow. Bury this fence at least three inches below the soil. Using 1/4-inch hardware cloth or tightly woven fence is best.
5) Trapping of Rabbits to Get Rid of Rabbits
Another method is to use a trap to capture rabbits. Live traps include wood box traps or wire traps. Traps are most effective for rabbits in the winter when food is scarce and they may more tempted to go after some bait. Examples of bait include fresh carrots, lettuce, apples or clover. These can help with how to control rabbits in your garden.
How to Get Rid of Rabbits
Rabbits in the home garden can be a source of destruction and frustration, but implementing a few or even one of these tactics can make a huge difference in the rabbit population and problem on your property. First, identifying rabbits as the cause of the damage and understanding their habits is key.
Next you can move forward with prevention and tactics to make your vegetable garden and landscape less attractive to rabbits. Keep in mind some of these tactics may only need to be used temporarily until the landscape is established and reaches maturity and rabbits eating plants isn’t as damaging.
For vegetable gardeners, the efforts to deter rabbits are worth it in my opinion as I enjoy having my own garden each year and enjoying vegetables and herbs all season long.
Are rabbits a problem in your garden?
Sources: Wildlife Damage Control Cottontail Rabbits Penn State Extension Fact Sheet, Preventing and Controlling Damage Caused by Cottontail Rabbits University of Missouri Extension Fact Sheet.