Despite their innocent appearance, rabbits can do extensive damage to a yard. They dig holes to get under fences or make underground dens, and they munch on your prized plants. Gardens often attract rabbits because they have safe hiding spots and many food sources. For example, rabbits may hide in and munch on dense ground covers. They also cause damage by chewing on tree bark and irrigation lines. Fortunately, you can deter and exclude rabbits without harming the adorable critters.
Before fencing in an area of the yard, make sure that no rabbits get trapped inside the area you are fencing. Rabbits are timid prey animals and will generally scare away easily when uncovered by humans. Check for them in sheltered areas such as brush piles, debris piles, old woodchuck burrows and densely grassy areas. Before filling in rabbit holes, always check carefully for baby rabbits to ensure that you do not bury any.
Defense With a Fence
Rabbits cannot get through a chicken wire fence with small holes of 1 inch or less. You can fence an entire yard or fence individual plants and plant groups. Rabbits will not usually jump over a 2-foot fence, but they might if chased by a dog or other animal. To be sure that rabbits will not jump your fence, make it at least 3 feet tall. Buy chicken wire that is taller than 3 feet so that you can bend the bottom outward and bury it at least 6 inches deep to prevent rabbits from digging under the fence. You can use PVC pipe or wooden stakes to hold up the fence.
Trunk and Vine Protectors
You can protect trees and vines from rabbit chewing by creating a protective cylinder around them. Poultry netting or wire fencing 2 to 3 feet tall can be wrapped around tree trunks to exclude rabbits. Choose 1 inch or smaller holes, and make sure the wire sits at least 1 to 2 inches away from the tree trunk or vine to prevent rabbits from chewing the tree through the fencing holes. If you live in a snowy area, make sure the wire is tall enough to stand above the deepest snow you will get.
Besides creating fencing barriers, you can also make your yard less appealing to rabbits. Remove as many potential hiding places as possible, such as junk piles, piles of wood or stones, and patches of weeds. Cut grass frequently to prevent tall patches. After checking for baby rabbits, fill in old burrows created by other animals. You can spray plants with commercial rabbit repellents, although most sprays are not safe to use on plants that you intend to eat. Rotten eggs deter rabbits too, but they will also make the yard smell unpleasant to humans. Because rabbits are prey animals, having a pet dog in the yard can also scare them away.
It often seems like rabbits damage just about everything in the garden, but they do avoid certain plants. For example, they dislike some fragrant herbs, such as rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). Rosemary is hardy throughout winter in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 and 10, and lavender is hardy in USDA zones 5b to 8a. To further discourage rabbits from feeding in your yard, research that grow in your local climate.