Rabbits like many of the same vegetables as humans. Because of this fact, vegetable gardens are often prime food sources for rabbits and are a constant battleground between gardeners and rabbits. There are various methods gardeners can use to stop rabbits from eating garden vegetables, including natural and man-made methods. Control and removal can be accomplished within governmental regulations in both urban and suburban areas while rural areas have more latitude.
Herbs and Vegetables
There are various plants that rabbits do not like either because of the taste or the smell. Plants that can be both beneficial to the garden, and a deterrent to the rabbits, include varieties of herbs and vegetables. Vegetables such as cucumbers, peppers, potatoes, corn and squash are good choices. Herbs such as catnip, aloe and agave are good examples of plants for a rabbit free-garden. Various flowers also work as deterrents for rabbits because of the smell; examples include impatiens, marigolds, zinnia, lupin, hosta and iris. Plant the herbs and vegetables around the outside perimeter of the garden as well as dispersed within the garden near other vegetables. Bamboo reeds planted in close proximity to each other around the exterior of the garden act as a natural fence.
There are various natural methods that stop rabbits from eating garden vegetables. Rabbits have a keen sense of smell to pick up scents of predators such as foxes, dogs and cats. Because of this, any scent of these animals near a garden will deter the rabbit from entering. The scent must remain strong for the rabbit to continue avoiding the area. Another method used in similar fashion is the placement of hair around the perimeter of the garden. When a rabbit finds hair dispersed around the garden it will think there are predators nearby and avoid the area. Hair from dogs, cats and humans will cause this effect and can be obtained easily.
Man-made methods to deter rabbits include fencing and plant cages. These are usually constructed of thick gauge metal wire strong enough to withstand attempts at chewing through the wire. Hole spacing for any man-made item must be under 2 inches to keep the rabbit from passing through the fence. Fences and cages are set deep into the ground and usually require a height of 2 feet above ground so the rabbits can't jump over the fence or cage. Covering vegetables with mesh fabric is another man-made method used to deter rabbits from eating the garden. The mesh is fine enough, and strong enough, so that the rabbit cannot gnaw through it.
Rabbits live in low-lying areas such as high grass, rock piles, under buildings and hedgerows. Rabbits can travel up to one mile each way from their habitat for food; cottontail rabbits live within a 15-acre area during their lifespan, according to the University of California at Davis. Because of this, controlling habitat may not be feasible or practical in urban and suburban settings. Placing wire mesh under buildings, removing underbrush from bushes and trees, maintaining lawns and vegetation near the garden, and removing debris can help control the habitat.
All methods of keeping rabbits out of a vegetable garden require constant observation and maintenance. Plants must be maintained and healthy to remain effective. Fencing must be checked for damage or repositioning if needed. Traps must be checked and disposed of after being used. Habitat controls must be maintained to continually deter rabbits from returning.
Killing rabbits in urban areas is usually restricted or illegal depending on the area and proximity to neighbors. Poisons can be effective but communities or other agencies have regulations stating that rabbits must be removed after being killed. Traps can be effective but live-trapped rabbits require removal by knowledgeable persons while killed rabbits must be removed according to local municipal regulations. Rabbits can carry diseases which can be transmitted through open wounds, bites or decomposing carcasses.