To the home gardener, deer and rabbits are often classified as pests. Able to make their way through most garden defenses, these animals can make quick work of a garden patch, nibbling leaves off your shrubs and roses and snatching blooms from your flowering plants. You can try several techniques to repel deer and rabbits from your garden. Persistence in your efforts will be key.
The first step in preventing deer and rabbits from damaging your garden is to properly identify them. Deer do not have upper incisor teeth. They tear plant leaves, leaving behind jagged edges. Rabbits have upper incisors and will leave clean cuts on your leaves. Also, damage from rabbits will typically never reach higher than 1 to 2 feet from the ground. Once you have identified deer or rabbits as your culprits you can take steps to vanquish them from your garden.
Fencing your garden is one method of excluding deer and rabbits. Rabbit fences are best constructed with chicken wire, which has gaps too small for a rabbit to fit through. Be certain to install the fencing flush to the ground so they cannot burrow under it. Deer fencing, on the other hand, needs to be tall, in some cases as high as 8 feet. Tall fencing prevents deer from leaping over your fence. You may want to consider adding an electric fence to both your rabbit and deer fencing.
Both deer and rabbits prefer landscapes with plenty of room to hide when they feel threatened. Removing brush, tall weeds and other ground cover that provide good hiding places can make your garden less appealing. You can also consider buying plants that are less appealing to deer and rabbits, but more often than not what deer and rabbits won't eat in one garden they will eat in another.
Many find commercial repellents to be most effective defense. Repellents are products that cause plants to smell and taste bad. Smells such as rotting eggs or the urine of a local predator are often effective. If you choose a urine-based repellent the urine should be from a predator familiar to the deer and rabbits in your area. Repellents that only make a plant taste bad are effective, but the deer or rabbit may still damage the plant before they realize they do not like the taste. Several brands of repellent are available at your local home and garden store.
Consider using more than one method. Fencing plus repellents make an effective defense, for example. Gardeners have also had success with alternative methods of exclusion, including applying blood meal to the garden, which may trick deer and rabbits into thinking predators are nearby. You can also try placing a short piece of old garden hose near plants. Rabbits, in particular, may mistake the hose for a snake. Fishing line placed at knee height for deer can scare them away from a plant.