How to Keep Rabbits from Eating Outdoor Plants

Updated February 21, 2017

Rabbits can be viewed as "pets" or "pests," depending on which side of the fence they are on. Rabbits foraging through a garden or potted plants fall into the pests category. Rabbits have a voracious appetite and will eat a garden right down to the bare soil. Without any malicious intent, rabbits will destroy your outdoor plants and your hard work right along with it. Rabbits will eat vegetable plants, herbs, flowers and even the bark off of certain trees. Fortunately, there are several humane methods of deterring rabbits and preventing them from eating outdoor plants.

Build a fence using chicken wire and wooden garden stakes. Drive the garden stakes into the ground 6' to 8' apart and 24" high, and dig an 8" deep trench between the stakes. Stretch the chicken wire out between the stakes and to the bottom of the trench. Fasten the chicken wire to the stakes with staples, nails or garden ties, and fill in the trench with garden soil. Pre-made removable fencing panels are also available at garden centres, hardware stores and home improvement stores. Note that removable fencing should always be sunk 8" into the ground to prevent rabbits from digging their way underneath.

Cut the bottoms off of old plastic milk jugs and soda bottles, and place them over young or newly planted plants to protect them.

Make a rabbit repellent spray. Boil hot peppers or cayenne pepper in approximately one gallon of water for 20 to 30 minutes, remove the pot from the stove, and cover. Allow the hot peppers to steep overnight. Strain the hot peppers and pour the remaining liquid into a spray bottle. Use extreme care not to inhale the steam or touch the water, because the active ingredient, capsaicin, will burn skin, eyes and nasal membranes. Spray outdoor plants with the spicy water, reapplying twice per week or after a rainfall. Capsaicin-based commercial repellents can also be purchased and used the same way.

Guard tree trunks with protective shields made of metal hardware, cloth or plastic. These barricades, which are approximately 2' tall, stand on their own and encircle the trunk of a tree, not allowing rabbits to strip the bark.

Scare rabbits away with balloons, metallic tape, pinwheels or motion-sensor sprinklers. Tie balloons to a stake near plants. When the wind blows, the balloons will move--scaring rabbits away. Metallic tape is a thin metal ribbon which is drawn between two posts and works the same as balloons, creating noise to scare rabbits. The sound and motion produced by a pinwheel has the same result. Motion sensor-sprinklers will detect the rabbits' movement and spray water to scare rabbits.

Thin out thick vegetation and tall grasses. This will take away the rabbits' safe haven. Rabbits need a nearby area to run for cover in case of predators. Without a hiding place, they will feel unsafe and leave the area.

Plant a rabbit garden and leave food out for rabbits, away from your prized plants. A rabbit garden is a small garden tucked away in a corner of the yard with plants that are intended for the rabbits to eat. Leave twigs with buds and other plant cuttings out for rabbits to feed on--and they may leave your outdoor plants alone.


To humanely deter rabbits, avoid glue traps, poisons and relocation. Relocation can be inhumane if the rabbit has babies depending on her for food and care.

Things You'll Need

  • Chicken wire
  • Garden stakes
  • Plastic bottles
  • Hot peppers
  • Tree guards
  • Balloons
  • Metallic tape
  • Pinwheels
  • Motion-sensor sprinkler
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About the Author

Sal Marco began writing professionally in 2009. He has written many online home improvement articles based on his more than 20 years of experience in the home improvement and building industries. He has worked as both part of a team and as a site supervisor. Marco has a Bachelor of Science in management science from Kean University.