Rabbits have a vegetarian diet that consists of grass blades and roots, carrots, broccoli, tree bark, shrubs and a vast variety of flowers and fruit. Keeping rabbits off the grass can be challenging without the proper steps. Installing a fence or scare device and trapping rabbits are the most common methods used to keep rabbits away.
Rabbits in the Wild
There are two main types of native rabbits in the western United States. The Nuttall Cottontail is about 14 inches long, grayish-brown and has a tail that resembles a cotton ball. The Pygmy rabbit is the smallest rabbit in North America. About 11 inches long with a gray coat and buff-colored tail, it is commonly found in sagebrush and moderately thick shrubbery. The Eastern Cottontail was brought to the West Coast in the 1930s for hunting and gaming. This rabbit is about 17 inches long with a light brown coat. Commonly seen along roadsides, thickets and areas where it was introduced, the Eastern Cottontail can cause problems in lawns and gardens. Because the rabbits have a large appetite, they eat flowers, vegetables and grasses in the summer and bark and shrubs in the winter.
Keeping Grasses Alive
To help grass stay alive when rabbits are eating it rapidly, water it regularly and make sure it has good drainage. Fertilize the grass as needed, and add soil amendment, such as gypsum, to help the dirt become loose so the roots can grow quickly.
Putting up a fence is the best way to keep rabbits out of the garden and lawn. The fence must be 4 to 6 feet tall and have at least 2 feet of chicken wire at the base to stop smaller rabbits from coming into the yard. To prevent larger rabbits, such as the jackrabbit, chicken wire should be 3 feet tall. Make sure the base of the fence is covered to stop all rabbits from digging their way into the yard. Planting a variety of rabbit-resistant plants along the boarder of the yard can also help keep rabbits away.
When fencing is not an option, install a scare tactic to prevent rabbits from entering the desired area. Pinwheels, scare tape or balloons work well to keep rabbits off the lawn and out of gardens.
Trapping rabbits also works well if you can relocate it to a safe environment where it will have food, shelter and water. Never handle wild rabbits outside of a cage because they can carry diseases such as rabies, which is transferable to humans.
Rabbits leave behind not only destroyed grass and plants, but also droppings. The droppings may contain parasites or disease. Droppings should be cleaned up with a rake and shovel and disposed of immediately. Neglecting to take care of this problem can allow an infectious diseases to spread to other animals, including dogs and cats.