In their natural habitat, rabbits are enjoyable creatures. Gardeners, however, often have less favorable viewpoints. Rabbits can cause considerable damage to flowers and vegetables in home gardens. When damage becomes unacceptable, control measures are in order. Control options include habitat modification, repellents, trapping, and fencing.
Brush, junk, and tall weeds near flower and vegetable gardens provide good food and cover for rabbits. Removing debris (brush and junk) and cutting tall weeds should make the area less attractive to rabbits.
Rabbit browsing can be discouraged by repellents. Taste repellents, such as thiram and ziram (Rabbit Scat) make plants distasteful. Odor repellents, such as Hinder (ammonium soaps), repel rabbits from treated areas by their strong odor. Unfortunately, repellents are not always effective. Rabbits may become accustomed to the disagreeable odor. Others may ignore the poor taste. In addition, most repellents must be reapplied after heavy rains.
Live traps can be used to remove rabbits from the landscape. Traps can usually be purchased at garden centers, hardware stores, and garden catalogs. Place traps where rabbits are frequently seen eating or resting in the yard and close to protective cover. In the spring and summer months, bait the trap with apple slices, carrots, cabbage, or lettuce. Check the trap daily and place fresh material in the trap. When successful, release the trapped rabbit a few miles away in an area where it will not cause problems for others.
The most effective way to prevent rabbit damage in home gardens is by placing chicken wire fencing (the mesh should be 1 inch or smaller) or 1/4-inch hardware cloth around vulnerable plants. Fencing material that is 2 foot tall should be adequate. Support the fence with wooden stakes or metal posts. (Rebars work nicely with chicken wire fencing.) To keep rabbits from crawling underneath the fence, pin it tightly to the ground with u-shaped landscape pins or bury the bottom 1 to 2 inches below the ground.
Rabbit control is difficult. In the home landscape, a combination of fencing, trapping, repellents, and habitat modification typically provides the best results.
This article originally appeared in the June 21, 2002 issue, p. 87.