They may look cute, but that doesn't mean you want bunnies munching on your garden. Here's how to keep them away.

By Charlotte Germane
Updated July 21, 2020
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No matter how soft-hearted you are, you probably don’t want rabbits nibbling on your plants, no matter how adorable they look hopping through your garden. These small but voracious mammals hanker after tender greens, including baby lettuces and the fresh new growth on a hosta. With their sharp upper and lower teeth, they make clean cuts on plants; if it looks like someone came along with a pair of snips and sliced through lower stems, you’ve got rabbits doing some unwanted pruning work for you. Whether your unwanted bunnies are cottontails or jackrabbits, your best bets are to fence them out, stink them out, or try scaring them away.

bunny eating grass near daisy
Credit: Edward Gohlich

Install a Rabbit-Proof Fence

Fencing is the most reliable way to protect your vegetable garden. All those veggies that taste good to us are also delectable for rabbits. Putting up a fence takes some time, but once it’s done you have a permanent barrier and you won’t have to run around spraying after each rain. Rabbits hop but they don’t jump very high, so a 2-foot fence can keep them out. Hammer in some stakes and unroll wire fencing with openings of 1 inch or smaller. Use chicken wire or “rabbit wire” that has smaller openings near the ground. Although rabbits don’t jump they do dig, so block that pathway by burying the lowest 3-6 inches fencing underground and angle it away from the plants.

Smells That Repel Rabbits

Rabbits will turn up their twitchy noses at the rotten eggs and garlic stench in pest repellant garden sprays. Keep the stinky smells going by spraying again after each rain. Wear waterproof gloves while you’re spraying so you don’t end up smelling awful, too. If you use repellent sprays on your vegetables, be sure the spray is one of those approved for edible plants.

How to Frighten Rabbits Away

Chasing after a rabbit with a rake didn’t work well for Mr. McGregor in the story of Peter Rabbit, and it probably won’t for you either. Scare techniques are temporary fixes at best, because the rabbits will soon figure out that no actual harm comes to them. Motion sensor lights or water sprays, air horn sounds, flashing CDs hanging from branches, or sparkly streamers moving in the breeze may all help a little at first, but it won't be long before your resident bunnies will just ignore them. The one exception is having dogs that will enthusiastically chase any rabbit that dares to set a furry little toe in your yard. Otherwise, you're better off spending your efforts on fencing and repellents.

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