Rabbits can be irritating and damaging pests in a garden, especially a vegetable garden. Their rate of reproduction is very high. They give birth to several litters every year, with 4-7 babies in each litter, so population in an area has a tendency to increase rapidly. They are active all year long, mainly in daytime hours. In winter, they gnaw on bark, twigs and buds and prefer young fruit trees. In the other three seasons, they feed on carrots, peas, lettuce, beans, beets, tender young plants and just about anything else. The more difficult it is for them to find food in their natural habitat, the more they will visit your garden. There are, however, a few preventative measures that can be effective in deterring rabbits from your property:
A mesh chicken wire fence is easily the best protection against rabbit damage. It should be 2’ above ground or 2’ above snow level in areas where snow accumulates and free of holes. The bottom of the fence should extend 4-6 inches or deeper into the ground to prevent rabbits from digging underneath. Be sure the mesh is 1/2″ wide, otherwise young rabbits will be able to squeeze through it. To protect single trees, build a 2’ high cylindrical chicken wire fence around the trunk.
Many of the natural/chemical repellents that work on deer will also work on rabbits. Liquid Fence spray, Deer Scram biodegradable granules and Scoot Rabbit & Deer (bead or spray) are commercially available options and will work best if applied as a preventative measure rather than after damage has occurred. Dried bone meal, blood meal and wood ashes sprinkled around the perimeter of the garden will help, as will planting a border of wormwood, which rabbits can’t stand. A spicy homemade spray (cayenne, black pepper, garlic and water) applied to your garden plants will repulse rabbits as it would chipmunks or squirrels.
Keeping pets such as cats and dogs, drawing natural predators like hawks and owls or having a garden snake (real or rubber) will frighten away rabbits. There are a few crops that rabbits don’t like and will stay away from including squash, tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, peppers and potatoes. Planting an easy-access row of lettuce in an area away from your garden plants is another option. Live traps are generally discouraged, as it is illegal to relocate rabbit populations and make them someone else’s problem.