Rabbits are cute, but they can also be destructive pests that can damage a garden beyond repair. Rabbits love to eat home grown crops and chew, so they can completely ruin a garden if you can’t find a way to keep them out. A fence is a good deterrent, but if that’s not an option for you, what else can you do?
Here are nine ways to keep a rabbit out of your garden without building a fence:
- Add protection to individual plants.
- Plant plants that rabbits don’t like.
- Keep your garden and yard neatly trimmed to avoid nesting.
- Include visual deterrents and move them around.
- Get a dog or cat (or make rabbits think you have one).
- Buy or make a rabbit deterrent spray.
- Use motion-activated sprinklers.
- Grow your crops in a raised bed.
- Use live traps.
Reading this article will equip you with many ideas to keep pesky and curious rabbits out of your garden. If you’d like to grow vegetables without worrying about rabbits eating them, or if you’re simply ready for a stress and rabbit-free life, these ideas will come in handy.
1. Add Protection to Individual Plants
If you don’t want to build a fence around your entire garden, another option is to protect your plants individually with cages.
Plant covers, usually made from chicken wire or metal, can keep rabbits out, and many are easily removable, so you can tend to the plant quickly and hassle-free. Once rabbits discover that they can’t get to your tasty plants, they’re likely to avoid coming into your garden altogether.
Ensure that you bury your plant cover at least six inches (15.24 cm) deep to prevent rabbits from burrowing underneath the cover and getting to your plant anyway.
You can get a trunk protector if you have larger trees and shrubs in your garden that you want to protect. If you use a trunk protector, make sure you adjust it when it snows. Rabbits can reach higher and higher if snow accumulates, and sometimes they can reach above the trunk protector if the snow is high enough.
Protecting your plants individually is a great option if you have a small garden or only a few plants that you’re worried about. However, this may not be your best bet if you have a large garden, as buying individual protection for each plant could get expensive.
2. Plant Plants That Rabbits Don’t Like
If rabbits hate the smell of your garden, they’re less likely to get into it, even if you’re growing plants that they love. There are a few plants that you could include in your garden to help deter rabbits:
- Ageratum. Ageratum is a fuzzy, fringed flower that rabbits tend not to like. They are low-maintenance plants, so you won’t have to waste too much time on them, and they flower from summer to fall. Some kinds are pink or white, but blue is the most common.
- Lantana. Lantana has an intense aroma that some rabbits don’t like, but you’ll love the colorful flower clusters that attract butterflies. The berries that grow on lantana also have a toxin that animals avoid.
- Cleome. Cleome has prickly stems, which rabbits will want to avoid, and they have a strong smell that deters pests. Unfortunately, you may not like the catty odor either! The smell may be worth keeping the rabbits away, though, and they bear pretty purple flowers.
- Geraniums. These flowers have a pungent odor that keeps most rabbits away. They even bloom in winter if they have enough sun, so this is a great choice if you want to add some color to your garden year-round.
- Marigold. English marigolds feature orange and yellow blooms with a bitter taste that drives many rabbits away. They may not like the fragrance, either.
- Strawflower. Strawflowers have stiff and papery petals that rabbits don’t like. They need rocky soil, though, so they may not be compatible with other plants you want in your garden. Furthermore, they need a lot of sun and drainage.
- Snapdragon. Snapdragon blooms are pretty, but they are toxic to rabbits. There are many different varieties, some that are very small and some that can grow up to four feet (1.21 m) tall, so you’ll be able to find a type for every garden size.
- Shirley poppy. These flowers have milky sap, which rabbits don’t like. They can be pink, red, orange, purple, yellow, or white, so you can find one that suits your style and aesthetic wishes.
- Peppers. If you want to grow peppers in your garden, maybe opt for a spicy one because rabbits like to avoid spicy scents. You’ll also benefit from some yummy peppers when it’s time to harvest!
- Salvia. Deer and rabbits don’t like the smell of salvia, so they tend to avoid it. Butterflies and hummingbirds, however, are attracted to the scent and the bright blooms of this plant.
- Milkweed. Milkweed has a milky sap that is poisonous to rabbits, so they’ll avoid it. However, milkweed is also poisonous to dogs and cats, so this may not be a very safe option if you have pets.
- Globe thistle. This plant has gray stems and spiny leaves that rabbits tend to avoid. Their unique look makes them a standout in vases and bouquets, so they may be a great attribute to your garden.
- Catmint. Rabbits don’t like the smell of catmint, but the smell is very pleasant to humans. Furthermore, catmint is the catnip plant, so the rabbits don’t like the cats surrounding the plant either!
Another way to make your garden less attractive to rabbits is to avoid planting the plants they are attracted to and want to eat. Here’s a list of some rabbit favorites:
- Perennial flowers: baby’s breath, black-eyed susan, daylilies, iris, tulip, tree peony, pincushion flower, and creeping phlox
- Annual flowers: gazania, morning glory, pansy, sunflower, and snapdragon
- Shrubs: barberry, flowering crabapple, lilac, oakleaf hydrangea, rose, and witch hazel
- Vegetables: beets, beans, broccoli, peppers, peas, and spinach
- Fruits: apples, grapes, kiwi, pears, and berry bushes
However, avoiding these plants entirely may not be realistic for gardeners who want their own food to eat. The key is having a good balance of plants and crops that rabbits (and you) like with plants that repel rabbits.
3. Keep Your Garden and Yard Neatly Trimmed To Avoid Nesting
If you think having one rabbit in your garden is bad, imagine having ten or more baby rabbits running around! A good way to keep rabbits out of your garden is to make it inhospitable for nesting, so female rabbits have to go elsewhere to have their babies, and those babies don’t become familiar with your garden.
Rabbits like to nest in grassy areas with taller plants and overgrowth, so if you want to deter a rabbit from nesting in your garden, you must keep it neat and trimmed.
4. Include Visual Deterrents and Move Them Around
Some rabbits may be scared of any visual deterrents you add to your garden, but make sure that you move these deterrents around, so they don’t get too used to the sight and lose their fear. Here are some ideas for deterrents that can scare rabbits away.
Shiny, Colorful Pinwheels
The movement and shine of these pinwheels keep some rabbits away. Aside from their deterring effect on rabbits, I like their bright and cute look in the garden and that they are a lot of fun for kids.
Additionally, rabbits will be scared of the reflective material that shines in the sunlight. The pinwheel also moves quickly in the wind, and the sound of this could frighten rabbits.
Rabbits, understandably, tend to avoid snakes, so if they think there are some in your garden, they will likely stay away.
If you don’t have any rubber snakes on hand, you can easily grab them online. Just be sure to check that they’re made with eco-friendly and non-toxic rubber and look realistic enough to scare rabbits (and your friends, if you’re feeling up for a prank).
Rabbits also tend to keep away from owls, so adding one or more owl statues to your garden isn’t a bad idea. Make sure they look scary enough to keep pests away and can be filled with water or sand to add stability. The paint should also be non-fading and waterproof, so they’ll look realistic for a long time.
Rabbits don’t like shiny materials, so if you tie some aluminum foil to some twine in between some stakes, this may be sufficient to keep rabbits away.
If rabbits see any or all of these things in your garden, they’re likely to stay away. After all, they’re easily frightened creatures!
5. Get a Dog or Cat (or Make Rabbits Think You Have One)
Dogs and cats are great deterrents for rabbits, so if you have a pet already, make sure that you give them ample time outside, so rabbits are aware that they’re there and your garden is to be avoided. Certain dog breeds, such as terriers, are particularly good at keeping rabbits away.
If you don’t have a dog or cat and can’t or don’t want to get one, another option is to trick rabbits into thinking that a dog or cat lives there. One way to do this is to get dog or cat hair from a local groomer, put the hair in little burlap bags, and place these bags around your garden. Rabbits will smell the hair and keep away.
You’ll need to replace the hair, as wind will pick some of it up, and weather conditions can wash away some of the hair and the odor, but groomers always have plenty of hair they’re willing to give away.
6. Buy or Make a Rabbit Deterrent Spray
There are some deterrent sprays available to spray around your garden to keep rabbits away. However, some of these may not be safe to spray on any food crops, so be careful and always check the label before spraying your plants.
Another option is to make your own rabbit deterrent spray. There are a variety of recipes you can try to see what works best for you.
For this first recipe, you’ll need an empty one-gallon (4.5-liter) container. An emptied milk jug will work perfectly. You’ll also need:
- Five cloves of garlic
- One teaspoon (4.2 g) of crushed cayenne pepper
- One tablespoon (0.52 fl. oz.) of dish soap
Once you’ve all the ingredients, follow these steps to make the repellent:
- Fill the container with water.
- Crush the garlic cloves and add them to the water with the crushed cayenne pepper and dish soap.
- Shake the container for three to five minutes.
- Place the container in a sunny spot outside for two days.
- After two days, shake the container again.
- Pour or spray the mixture around your garden.
Other recipes follow the same basic steps but with different ingredients. Here are some other combinations you can try:
- Tabasco, dish soap, garlic, and water
- Crushed black pepper, chili, raw egg, and water
- Chili powder, eggs, milk, and water
- Linseed oil, dish soap, and water
These foul odors are likely to keep rabbits away from your garden, and they won’t like the taste of your plants after they’ve been treated either. As a bonus, these homemade repellents are easy to make, and you probably already have the ingredients on hand!
Another repellent you can try is adding blood or bone meal to your garden, especially around the edges. Rabbits are herbivores, so they don’t like the smell of blood and bone, and they’ll want to leave your garden alone.
You can try using a combination of a repellent and bone or blood meal to really drive rabbits away. Keep in mind, though, that pets are attracted to the smell of blood or bone meal, so your dog or cat may be inclined to dig up your garden if you add these fertilizers.
7. Use Motion-Activated Sprinklers
Another effective way to keep rabbits away is to scare them with water. Motion-detecting sprinklers can detect when rabbits are coming close to your garden and spray them with water so they’ll run away.
A motion-activated sprinkler is a nice, humane way to keep rabbits away. However, some of these sprinklers can be quite expensive, so you’ll have to consider if it is worth the investment for you.
8. Grow Your Crops in a Raised Bed
You can use raised plant beds for some or all of your plants to keep them safe from rabbits. The beds need to be about waist-high to be completely out of reach from even the most determined garden pests. Beyond protecting your plants from hungry critters, there are also other benefits to planting in raised garden beds:
- Fewer weeds
- Less strain on back and knees while tending to plants
- Soil stays warmer for longer
- Less soil erosion
- Better drainage in areas prone to flooding
- You can plant earlier in the season.
Once rabbits discover that they can’t get to your crops, they’ll stop coming to your garden. Your plants and your back will thank you!
9. Use Live Traps
If other deterrents aren’t keeping the rabbits away, you may have no other choice but to trap them using live traps. Live traps are used to capture the rabbits without killing or harming them, but then you’re left with the problem of where to take them after they are captured.
This can be tricky. Rabbits are considered a nuisance in most areas, so there may be local laws and regulations that prohibit the release of rabbits on public lands. Another issue is that you’ll need to keep trapping rabbits, as more will show up to replace the ones you’ve already caught because your garden is still attractive to them.
You’ll also need to check with your local municipality about any laws about live trapping. In some areas, this is illegal, and in others, you need a permit. Therefore, you’ll need to do some due diligence to ensure that you are not breaking any laws if you choose to go this route.
Here are some tips for live-trapping a rabbit:
- Bait the trap with food rabbits love. You can use Brussels sprouts, carrots, lettuce, apples, or biscuits to lure rabbits into the trap.
- Place the trap in an area with high rabbit activity. You should spend a few days observing where you spot the most rabbits and put your live trap there.
- Place a brick on the trap to keep the rabbit from knocking it over. Sometimes rabbits can push the trap over while trying to get to the food inside. Adding weight on top of the trap prevents this issue.
- Put the bait in the back of the trap. Make sure that you put the bait far enough back that the rabbit has to step on the trigger plate to reach it.
- Once you’ve trapped a rabbit, put a towel over the trap as you transport it to your drop-off location. Putting a towel over the rabbit cage will keep the animal from getting too frightened during transport.
Ideally, you’ll be able to use one of the other ways I’ve suggested in this article to keep rabbits away, but if nothing else is working, you may need to try live-trapping.
Rabbits may be adorable, but they can also be a serious nuisance to gardeners. However, there are ways to keep them out of your garden, even without a fence. If you’re struggling with rabbits, try the ideas above to keep them away.
By using these tips, you can protect your garden from hungry and destructive rabbits without needing to bear the eyesore, cost, or hassle of a fence.
If you want to learn more ways to keep rabbits out of your garden, check out my other article. I’ll discuss 19 safe and natural ways to keep rabbits from eating your plants: 19 Natural Ways to Keep Rabbits From Eating Your Plants