I came outside one day and all 5 of my Roma tomato seedlings were eaten, some almost back to the stump (picture below). I had a feeling that some bunnies were the culprits, as I’d seen a lot of them roaming around. I thought they were cute until that morning.
These plants were 1.5 feet tall the night before! I think rabbits are really on the hunt for food in early spring, around May, and will eat just about anything.
I discovered a pile of rabbit scat nearby and knew that rabbits had eaten my tomatoes.
They’re not so cute when they eat plants that you’ve been carefully tending to for months. So I went searching for a good way to keep them out of the garden.
I read a lot of lists, and the one thing I kept seeing was people saying that rabbits don’t like tomatoes.
Well, that’s definitely not true.
So I decided to put together this article to help others going through similar situations.
Rabbits are most active at dusk and dawn. This is when you will have your best chance of catching them in action.
You can also get an inexpensive trail cam to set up as well and catch them on camera.
How to Keep Rabbits Out of Garden
The truth is that there is no “one size fits all” solution to the problem. Different rabbits react differently to different repellants or deterrents and thus what works for one garden may not work for another. And that’s why I put a list of everything I’ve found that has worked in some capacity for you…in order of effectiveness from my tests.
1. Fences & Netting
A fence is, in my opinion, the best way to keep rabbits out of your garden. However, a rabbit can and will jump over fences if they are lower than 1-2 feet.
If your fence is higher than 2 feet, then you should have no problem keeping them out. And this has been my experience. They just stay away and eat other things. Problem solved.
I put together a fence made out of chicken wire and T-posts. It took me around 2 hours to put up, and my garden is 50×50 feet. So this is a pretty easy one to create if you have a smaller garden.
2. Chicken Wire Cages
Instead of building an entire fence, you can also just wrap chicken wire around the plants you want to protect. If you place it on the ground as well, this can discourage rabbits from digging around your plants.
These cages work wonders because rabbits seem to love tender plants and seedlings you’ve just planted in your garden.
How to Keep Rabbits out of the Garden Without A Fence
Okay, so we know a fence is most effective, but what if that’s not an option for you? Here are some other ideas to keep them from ravaging your garden.
3. Foul Smells & Sounds
This one might seem counter-intuitive. But the more you can put foul smells around, the better off you are at deterring them.
For example, crushed eggshells (yes, you read that right) have been shown to deter rabbits because of their smell. You won’t notice a big difference from day one after applying it, but over time and you will see less and less of them.
Loud noises help too.
Remember the Elmer Fudd saying “Shh! I’m hunting wabbits!” Well, yea. If you’re quiet they won’t feel alarmed. But if there are windchimes and unexpected loud noises, they’re not going to be around for long.
4. Motion-Activated Sprinkler
Motion-activated sprinklers are one of my favorite methods for keeping animals out of the garden. It’s pretty self-explanatory — animals (or sneaky neighbors!) create motion around the garden, and then WHAM! They’re getting showered with an unexpected torrential downpour.
Here’s how it works:
The best part, is you can set this to 30-minute intervals and water your plants at the same time 🙂
Pro Tip: Get a trail cam and put it near the sprinkler (maybe above or below it) and you will now have a new favorite TV show 🙂
I put this up mostly to keep squirrels away from my tomatoes, but this would definitely scare away rabbits as well.
5. Plant a Decoy Garden
This is one of the more effective options for me.
Aside from having a fence, I let the clover and weeds grow near the other end of my yard to keep the rabbits over there, instead of them trying to eat my garden plants.
This does require more work if you’re planting extra plants for them in another location, but it can be effective. After all, we can’t just get rid of nature and we have to understand we won’t get 100% of our harvest from the garden.
6. Companion Planting
Companion planting is a similar solution to growing plants elsewhere because you get an extra set of vegetables while keeping some of the other ones “safe” from predators.
They can also be used to deter rabbits from eating your veggies as well if you plant a few of these along with your flowers. Here are some of the plants rabbits aren’t huge fans of.
Rabbit Resistant Plants
- Bee Balm
- Black-Eyed Susan
- Hot Peppers
- Lemon Balm
7. Make the Environment Less Comfortable
Momma rabbits like building nests in higher grasses, or near shrubbery. Dense vegetation, debris piles, control vegetation near the edges of fences.
Don’t let weeds get high, and move your compost pile away from your garden if you can. Yes, it’s a pain because you have a further walk to add to your compost bin, but you can always use a wheelbarrow or garden cart.
Get rid of brush piles, bushes, and tall weeds around the garden. This can help prevent momma rabbit from building a nest for her baby bunnies near your garden beds.
8. Shiny Pinwheels
Some people have success with these, and that’s because wild rabbits are not big fans of shiny things, their own shadows, or moving lights.
I haven’t tried this method, but wanted to list it if you have tried everything else. But if you’re that desperate, a fence is really the most effective in my opinion.
9. Fake Owls
Owls will hunt rabbits and squirrels, so these are quite effective. You will want to move these around a little bit so they don’t get used to them. Again, not extremely effective, but they can work if you stay on top of moving them around.
10. Pet Presence and Animal Hair
Dogs LOVE chasing rabbits – mine almost caught one the other day ::facepalm::
An added bonus to this method is that dogs and cats leave behind hair, and the scent can keep rabbits, deer, squirrels, and other pests away.
Next time you give your dog or cat a brushing, save the hair and sprinkle it throughout the garden.
11. Cayenne Pepper Spray
You can use cayenne pepper spray on the plants rabbit seem to enjoy most to help keep them away. Thankfully, this method also works at preventing deer and squirrels from munching on your plants as well.
Mix 2 tsps of cayenne powder or other hot peppers and combine that with 6-8oz of water. You can also add garlic powder for added benefit. Spray this around your garden on the plants you want to keep rabbits away from.
What is the Best Fence to Keep Rabbits Out of the Garden?
The best fence to keep rabbits out of the garden is anything that is 2 feet high. You can get creative and use what you have. Here are some ideas:
- T- posts and chicken wire
- Hardware cloth
- Plastic fence with small holes
How to Tell if Rabbits Are Eating Your Plants
If you’re not sure if it’s rabbits that are eating your plants, here are some good ways to know:
- Have you seen bunnies around your yard or home? I know it seems obvious. but if you haven’t seen them it’s probably not rabbits.
- Check for holes that are 4-6 inches around in your yard, as this is where they might be burrowing. Keep in mind you might not find them, I have tons of rabbits each year and have only seen one.
- Look for rabbit prints. But, if you have only grass and no bare soil this won’t be helpful.
- Rabbit scat or droppings – Check for any droppings as well. Rabbits tend to be notoriously messy eaters and their poop will look different than other animal poop.
- Tracks in the soil or plants that look walked over could indicate their presence.
Hopefully, you find that one of these methods or a combination of them will help keep the rabbits at bay this season. If all else fails, just put up a fence. It’s cheap and effective.
If a fence isn’t an option, try a motion-activated sprinkler!