Controlling Rabbits In Your Garden

Pesky Rabbit (photo from unknown source)

Rabbits make their homes in brushy areas such as along fence rows or untended areas between neighboring yards. They frequent nearby yards and gardens, perhaps your own, in search of vegetation to eat. Most people, particularly young children, adore them but a cute bunny can cause lots of damage in a flower /vegetable garden or a newly planted fruit orchard.

Rabbits gnaw down newly planted tree and shrub seedlings and the bark of young fruit trees. They also puncture trickle irrigation tubing. The most effective method for keeping rabbits out of gardens is fencing. A 2-foot-tall fence made of chicken wire is very effective. The wire should be tightly fastened down to the ground or buried a few inches below the surface.

An electric fence composed of 2-3 strands of wire  4 or 5 inches apart with the bottom strand about 3 inches above ground is an excellent rabbit deterrent. Little harm comes to the rabbits as they quickly learn to stay away.  This kind of fencing can be relatively expensive and needs to be maintained. All vegetation beneath the live wire must be kept closely clipped with a string weed wacker. Another option is to spray a vegetation killer such as glyphosate (Roundup®) 2-3 times over the growing season.

Rabbits damage woody plants by clipping or gnawing the bark off stems, branches and buds. Seedlings can be protected by wrapping hardware cloth around the lower stems or by using “tree shelters” available at garden and farm supply stores. Taste repellents sprayed directly on the vegetation can be used with varying success, but need to be frequently reapplied.

Although few rabbits live longer than one year, their populations can multiply rapidly. A pair of rabbits can produce up to six litters per year with 2-3 young per litter. In many rural areas, sportsmen like to hunt rabbits, but this is not an option in populated areas. Trapping rabbits is legal in many areas, but first check with local wildlife officers. Live traps are generally most effective used along with several baits.

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