How to Keep Rabbits Out of the Yard and Garden

Rabbits reproduce quickly, are masters at camouflage, and can quickly destroy your flower and vegetable plants. Here's how to keep them away.

From Peter Rabbit to the Easter Bunny, make-believe rabbits are the cute, furry creatures that great tales are made of. But real-life rabbits destroying your yard and garden? That's a whole other story. Most people know that rabbits have a reputation for having a lot of babies. Quickly. And often. In fact, a female rabbit can give birth to more than 1,000 offspring in just two years. Yet, even with that many potential rabbits roaming the yard and grazing on vegetables, flowers, and plants, they can be hard to spot. You may, however, recognize these telltale signs:

  • Small piles of pea-sized droppings
  • Clean-cut leaves or razor-trimmed vegetation
  • Uprooted or missing plants, especially young seedlings and tender shoots like pea plants and Swiss chard
  • Digging, bedding down, or tufts of fur

To keep rabbits (and their rodent pals, such as squirrels and groundhogs) from cleaning out your flower or vegetable garden, you need to have a plan. Here's how to keep them out of the garden and away from your yard.

  • Pick your plants wisely. Rabbits favor young, tender plants as well as varieties like beans, broccoli, lettuce, pansies, and petunias. While there is no such thing as a "rabbit-proof" plant, their picky palates may play in your favor. Consider planting things they have a natural distaste for, including strong-scented plants like garlic, onion, rhubarb, oregano, basil, and geranium.
  • Keep the yard and garden cleaned up. Tidy, open spaces are far less attractive to rabbits and other small animals than overgrown areas with lots of handy hiding places, so keep the lawn mowed, landscape beds weeded, and debris piles to a minimum.
  • Use repellents. Rabbits tend to turn their twitching noses away from certain scents and tastes. Use that to your advantage by applying essential oils-based repellents like Tomcat® Repellents Animal Repellent Ready-To-Use and Tomcat® Repellents Animal Repellent Granules. These long-lasting, rain-resistant formulas deliver a smell and flavor that rabbits simply don't like. Don't forget to follow label directions.
  • Scare them away. Lights, shiny aluminum pie tins, and motion scare devices can be enough to ward off rabbits, at least for a time. Dogs and cats running free in the yard are a great deterrent, too.
  • Put up barriers. In addition to big appetites and even bigger families, rabbits are big into digging, too. Keep them from getting to your plants with chicken-wire fencing, hardware cloth, or plant cages made of livestock wire. Just be sure barriers are at least two feet high and buried at least six inches deep (though higher and deeper is better). Monitor barriers for holes, making sure to quickly repair tears and other critter-created openings.
  • Skip the live traps. While it may be tempting to try the catch-and-release method, it's best to leave that kind of animal control to the experts. Live trapping can lead to injury to the trapper and to the animal as well (due to distress), and nobody wants that.