Cute and cuddly as rabbits may appear, they can wreak havoc in the garden, feasting on the stems, leaves, fruits and flowers of every low-growing plant they pass. These highly-adaptable creatures are a problem for gardeners in both rural and urban settings, as they are able to hide in all types of brushy vegetation, from hedges and foundation shrubs to thickets and pasture fields. Fortunately, there are a number of tactics that can be used to prevent, repel and control rabbits in the garden.
Rabbits use their highly-developed sense of smell to determine which plants are safe to eat and which should be avoided. Consequently, scattering a variety of odoriferous, but plant safe, materials around the perimeter of the yard will help keep these four-footed pests out of the garden. For example, one traditional anti-rabbit remedy recommends the use of bloodmeal in areas where rabbits are a problem. As the name suggests, bloodmeal is made from dried animal blood. As it decomposes, it emits an off-putting aroma that deters most mammals, including rabbits and deer. As a bonus, blood meal is an excellent source of nitrogen, which bolsters the growth of nearby plants.
Biting into a hot pepper creates an instant, and often unpleasant, burning sensation that can linger on the lips for hours. To keep rabbits from munching their way through the garden, make the plants too hot to eat by spraying them with a hot pepper solution. Simply chop up a spicy pepper such as a habanero or a jalapeño and combine it with 2 tbsp of ground red pepper and 2 qt. of water. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow it to simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside for 24 hours. The next day, pour the mixture through a coffee filter to remove any solid pepper pieces, then transfer the solution to a spray bottle and apply it any vulnerable plants. Reapply the spray once a week to keep rabbits at bay all season long.
Rabbits must always be on the lookout for predators as they are hunted by every meat-eating animal under the sun; scattering used kitty litter throughout the garden plays into this instinct, as it suggests the presence of carnivorous cats. By that same token, the use of manure purchased from the local zoo has a similar effect, as does hanging mesh bags filled with human hair throughout the garden area. The indication of nearby predators is enough to discourage the presence of most rabbits and other small mammals.
Rabbits have not been known, historically, for their bravery. Scare tactics for keeping rabbits and other pests out of the garden include erecting plastic owls, putting out rubber snakes, creating noise with pie tins, or motion with whirligigs and reflective ribbons. These methods do work, but they rarely work for long, as rabbits eventually catch on to the trick. To use scare tactics effectively, change devices regularly as this will keep the animals from adjusting to their presence.
- Fort Valley State University College of Agriculture; Rabbit Control; Dr. Mark Latimore, Jr.
- Prairie View A & M University Cooperative Extension Program; Cottontail Rabbit Damage Management
- Michigan State University Extension; Cottontail Rabbit Damage Control; Glenn R. Dudderar; November 1999
- "Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things"; Marylin Bader, et al; 2005
- "New Complete Guide to Gardening"; Susan A. Roth; 1997