Keeping rabbits can be a great way to introduce kids to the joys of pet ownership. Note though that keeping rabbits as a pet is vastly different from having rabbits in your yard. Allowed loose, wild rabbits can be very destructive in gardens – especially if you happen to be growing crops. Worse, rabbits breed quickly which is why tolerating a couple of rabbits can quickly turn into a dozen. How do you solve this problem?
Signs You Have Peter Rabbit in your Home
Have you seen a bunny wrecking havoc in your house? If you have, there’s really no need for guessing. You just need to start working on a rabbit-proof backyard! If you haven’t actually seen the rabbit, the next best sign would be damage caused by the little guy. Leaves of vegetables would be nibbled off – particularly the newly-formed leaves. They can also chew on barks within their reach so try to look for marks of lower incisors close to the soil.
Another good sign would be scuffle marks on your garden. This is made by the bunny as he kicks with his legs. The small piles of droppings are an also unmistakable proof your garden has bunnies.
Finding a rabbit’s nest in your garden is also possible especially during the summer season. The nest is often a patch of dead grass in your garden. If you open that up, you will find holes inside where a bunch of babies could be resting. Later, we’ll discuss exactly how you can solve this problem if you managed to catch a whole fluffle of bunnies.
Why Keep Them Away?
Aside from the fact that they can destroy your crops, rabbits can also bring certain diseases with them. Lyme disease is a perfect example because the fur of a bunny is very attractive to ticks. If you don’t watch out, it’s quite possible that these ticks will move inside your home or attach to your other pets. For the sake of safety therefore, relocating the bunny should be done quickly once ticks are discovered.
What Plants Rabbits Love?
Rabbit are particularly attracted to certain kinds of plants but as long as the plant won’t poison them, rabbits consume almost anything – even woody plants. This is why you have to be on your guard as a female rabbit can quickly give birth to more than 10 babies at a time! Give them the chance and they will eat you out of a garden.
Here are some of the growths that will attract bunnies like magnets and will therefore need extra protection.
Many plants that bear flowers are also a favorite for these creatures, but not for food though! They mainly use these plants for bedding so they can sleep well in their favored den. This is why even if you’re not growing vegetables, your flower garden could be the one keeping rabbits in your yard. Examples of their favorites include the cosmos, morning glory, rose moss, snapdragon, sunflower, sweet pea, petunia, wishbone flower, zinnias, baby’s breath, bellflower, aster, iceland poppy, lilies, daisy, tulip, and so on.
While they definitely can’t completely destroy trees, shrubs are easy pickings for rabbits. They particularly love the forsythia, barberry, flowering crabapple, hawthorn, juneberry, lilac, rose, smokebush, and witch hazel. Actually, there’s a good chance that the list of plants rabbits do not like is shorter than the ones they actually do.
Does that mean you don’t have to worry about any tree in your yard? Well, not exactly. The bunny can chew on the bark of the tree and cause some damage. It may become harder for the tree to absorb nutrients or grow properly. If you notice any sign of nibbling around the bark, you should still do something about it.
Rabbits love fruits especially appeals, blueberry, blackberry, pears, kiwi, grapes, strawberry, and basically anything that’s sweet and juicy. Another animal may find these fruits attractive so be wary. If you’re OK with the little guys eating your dropped apples, however, there shouldn’t be a problem. Just remember that one rabbit in your backyard can quickly turn into 5 or 10.
Tender plants are a favorite especially for young rabbits. Specifically, they would happily eat beans, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, beets, and swiss chard. These vegetables are perhaps at their most vulnerable during their early growing phase. Do not underestimate these furry creatures – put up plant cages as early as possible to prevent stunted growth and damage of your plants.
How Do I Rabbit Proof my Lawn?
Bugs Bunny isn’t a big hit for nothing – the truth is that rabbits are very clever. Despite being small animals, they can be very good in navigating through half-baked deterrents. Give them the chance and rabbits can quickly destroy your garden. So what do you do? Here are some tips to follow:
The most obvious way to solve the rabbit problem is by setting up fencing or some sort of protection around the plants. You can buy chicken wire that you can fold and shape yourself depending on the size of the area you’re trying to protect. The great thing about chicken wire is that you can use it to protect irregular sections of your garden. It can be bent and shaped depending on what you need. Remember, though, rabbits are very good diggers so you want to make sure the chicken wire provides enough protection even from the ground. The fencing doesn’t have to be tall – a two inch fence should do it. Of course, if you have other curious critters in the area, you might want to modify your protective barrier.
Instead of wire, you can try using cages to scare the rabbits off. The cage house is ideal for leafy crops that won’t grow too tall. The beauty of cages is that you buy them pre-made so all you need to do is install them into place. Note though that even installation requires a bit of knowledge so be prepared. Make sure the ground level where the cage is placed is strong and sturdy as rabbits are not easily discouraged by a protective wall.
Commercial Rabbit Repellents
Rabbit repellents are also a good idea if you don’t want to re-do your entire garden. Repellents are unobtrusive and perfect for people who just don’t have the time to build fences against them. When using repellents, it’s best to place the product only on the concerned area. Perhaps you can put it around tender shoots that are most vulnerable to predators. The use of repellents would give your plants enough time to grow and withstand the bunny onslaught. A plus of repellents is that they can also work for other animals. If your garden is a favorite for all kinds of animals, the repellent should help deter them from munching on your plants.
Put Plants that Rabbits Dislike
Of course, if you’re dedicated to a garden and want to keep things natural, you can always grow those that naturally repel rabbits. Red pepper and black pepper are good examples of plants that will make rabbits hop the other way. This is because they don’t like the smell of these plants. The same goes for catnip, pot marigold, yarrow, wormwood, snapdragons, garlic, sunflowers, geranium, and even tomatoes. You have tons of options. A good technique is using these plants as a fence. You can put them around the growing plants to keep them safe.
If you want to keep things simple, using powdered talcum powder should also do the trick. Just sprinkle this around the parts you want protected and the bunny should steer clear of these plants on their own. Try to sprinkle the powder right before they eat which is very early in the evening and then once again before night time.
Some people also like to create their own rabbit repellents. For example, you can combine water and crushed pepper. Put the mixture in a spray bottle and start using this in your garden. Some gardeners make more complicated concoctions which combines several ingredients like garlic or lemon. The beauty of this method is that it can actually double as a natural pesticide for your plants, depending on the ingredients you put in there.
Plastic Tree Guard
For damaged tree bark, you can try buying commercial tree wraps for the lower portion of the tree. This should discourage the critters from munching on the lower portion and therefore causing damage. Some people go as far as creating a decoy pile away from the tree. This way, the rabbit would feast on the ready-made food pile instead of causing damage to an existing tree.
If you want a clean-cut way of repelling rabbits, why not try a modern approach? There are now ultrasonic devices that can offer you ongoing protection against rabbits and basically any other animal. They work through a frequency that quickly repels a rabbit and makes sure they don’t go within the covered distance of the device. The great thing about using ultrasonic is that there’s minimal upkeep needed. Some of these devices even come with solar panels so you wouldn’t have to worry about power. In some cases, the device can also be set up to scare other animals like birds, foxes, deer, squirrels, owls, and perhaps even dogs.
Understand that there are different types of ultrasonic devices available in the market today. If you decided to go this route, compare different products to see which one would work for your space. You want to make sure that the device manages to cover the exact amount of space you want it to.
Cats and Dogs
Other good tips you can try out would be introducing a cat or a dog in your garden. Rabbits have a good sense of smell so the presence of either cat or dog would be a strong deterrent. Don’t worry – it’s unlikely that your dog would be able to catch them. However, the constant presence of your pets should convince the furry family to move for greener pastures.
Of course, catching rabbits in your garden can also be great fun! Live trapping is a more permanent solution to your problems. For avid gardeners, their garden may be too big to cover every single plant or create a cage for each plot. A solution is to simply set up live traps for the rabbits and relocate them somewhere that’s not harmful to you. Note though that some states may have relocation laws on wildlife so you might want to check on that. If you’re going to relocate rabbits, try to build brush piles that they can actually use for shelter. The brush piles would be a good starting point as they get used to their new surroundings.
Finding the Nest and Relocating
As mentioned earlier, this animal can be an excellent breeder. There’s a good chance that at some point, you will have a nest in your property. This is why finding the nest and relocating it as soon as possible is often a good idea. Calling animal control is usually a good option once you’ve found the nest. The authorities can take care of the relocation and make sure that it has a safe place to go. But what if you don’t have animal control in your area?
It’s often best to leave the babies alone so that their mother can take over. Often, it is enough that you protect your crops to deter the critter. Once they realize that food is no longer as welcome in the garden, there’s a good chance that they will relocate themselves to a more food-plenty area.
To wrap it up, no matter how cute they are, rabbits can easily wreak havoc in your garden. Fortunately, there are ways you can address rabbit problems in a more humane but effective way. Just be persistent with your protective measures and pretty soon, the rabbits will get the hint and hopefully move on to greener pastures.