Rabbits are cute and fun to watch, but the hungry little charmers wreak havoc on flowers and vegetables in the garden. Protecting your garden from these furry marauders isn't easy, but with plenty of patience, persistence and a few safe, natural techniques, you can discourage rabbits from digging in your garden and snacking on your plants.
Habitat modification requires elimination of protective cover. Without convenient hiding places, rabbits often move on to areas where they feel safe from predators. Mow tall grass and tall brush frequently and remove rocks, brush piles and junk. Seal holes or spaces under buildings and storage sheds. Eliminate ponds and other sources of water because rabbits require a consistent source of drinking water. Often, a patch of clover planted a safe distance from your garden distracts rabbits and provides a safe feeding area.
Chicken wire fencing with 1-inch or smaller mesh provides the most effective exclusion of rabbits. A fence measuring 36 inches is tall enough to exclude jackrabbits, but a 24-inch fence may protect your garden from cottontails and other small rabbits. Bury the bottom of the fence at least 6 inches deep to prevent rabbits from digging under. For extra protection, bend the bottom of the fence at a 90-degree angle, with the angle facing away from your garden.
Rabbits are wily, adaptable animals that soon lose their fearfulness. However, various scare devices are worth a try and may provide temporary benefit. A motion-detecting sprinkler often frightens animals away from the garden. Similarly, strips of shiny polyester film or aluminum foil tied to plants may discourage rabbits, or you can try tactics such as rubber snakes, metallic balloons or plastic owls or hawks.
A variety of repellents with strong, unpleasant flavors or aromas may discourage rabbits from chewing on ornamental plants and vegetables. However, like scare tactics, repellents are often temporary. Bad-smelling repellents include coyote urine or vinegar. Blood meal is sometimes effective and the substance is never wasted because it enriches the soil as it decomposes. Bad-tasting repellents include mustard, garlic or hot pepper sprays. Although you can make homemade repellents, commercial repellents containing substances such as bitter fatty acids or capsaicin are also available. Alter the type of repellent often and change the location regularly.