Controlling and Deterring Rabbits in the Garden

Dealing with rabbits in the garden can be extremely frustrating. Rabbits can cause extensive damage to vegetable gardens and landscaping very quickly. Controlling and deterring rabbits takes patience and persistence, but there are effective solutions to help protect plants from these eager eaters.

Fencing and Barriers

Installing fencing is the most reliable physical barrier to keep rabbits out of garden beds and landscaped areas. The best fencing options include:

Hardware Cloth or Wire Mesh Fencing

  • Use 1/4-inch or smaller galvanized hardware cloth or wire mesh fencing. Bury the bottom edge at least 6 inches underground to prevent rabbits from digging underneath. Make sure the fence is at least 3 feet tall above ground.

Chicken Wire Fencing

  • Chicken wire fencing can work if the holes are 1-inch or smaller. Bury the bottom edge to prevent digging. Make the fence at least 3 feet high.

Wood Fencing

  • Solid wood fencing or closely spaced picket fencing at least 2 feet high can block rabbits. Make sure to bury the bottom edge to prevent digging underneath.

For smaller flower beds or around the base of valuable plants, wire cages or small decorative fences can help protect plants. Bender board edging that is at least 6 inches tall is another option. Just be sure to bury the bottom edge.

Row Covers

  • Floating row covers made of lightweight polyester or polypropylene fabric can be draped directly over plants or hooped over garden rows to create a protective barrier. Secure the edges well with stones, boards, or landscape staples.

Natural Rabbit Repellents

There are a number of natural scent and taste repellents that can help deter rabbits:

Blood Meal and Bone Meal Fertilizers

  • The strong odor of blood meal or bone meal repels rabbits when sprinkled around plants. Reapply after rain.

Hot Pepper Sprays

  • Spraying plants with hot pepper wax, hot pepper powder mixed with water, or other natural “hot” sauce can deter rabbits from munching. Reapply after rain.

Strong Scented Soaps and Human Hair

  • Placing bars of strongly scented soap or mesh bags of human hair around plants can deter rabbits. The scents need to be refreshed frequently.

Predator Urine

  • Applying fox, coyote or bobcat urine around plants can scare away rabbits. Urine granules or liquid formulations are available. Reapply every 7-10 days.

Motion Activated Sprinklers

  • Sprinklers triggered by motion detectors can effectively startle rabbits away from gardens. Use them overnight when rabbits are most active.

Dogs and Cats

  • Allowing dogs and cats to freely patrol gardens when rabbits are most active can help deter rabbit damage. Supervise pets and protect desired plants from damage.

Other Deterrent Options

Scare Devices

  • Wind chimes, aluminum pie pans, old CDs, and other noisemakers can help scare rabbits. Move them around periodically so rabbits don’t get used to them.

Garden Lighting

  • Keeping garden or landscape lighting on at night may help deter nocturnal rabbit activity.

Repellent Plants

  • Planting marigolds, chives, onions, garlic and other pungent herbs around garden borders may help repel rabbits.

Remove Hiding Spots

  • Eliminating brush piles, tall grass and hiding spots in or near gardens removes protective cover for rabbits.

Cleanup Fallen Fruit and Vegetables

  • Don’t give rabbits a free meal. Promptly harvest ripe produce and remove fallen fruits/vegetables.

When All Else Fails: Trapping Rabbits

If rabbits continue to cause significant damage despite fences, repellents and scare tactics, trapping and relocating the rabbits may be necessary.

  • Live cage traps baited with foliage can effectively trap nuisance rabbits. Check traps frequently.
  • Relocate trapped rabbits at least 5 miles away to suitable rabbit habitat.
  • Follow local ordinances for legal trapping and transport of wildlife.
  • As a last resort, it may be legal in some areas to humanely euthanize captured rabbits.

Controlling rabbits in the garden takes diligence and persistence. Start with proper fencing and repellents, use multiple tactics together, and be willing to adapt solutions until you find what works best in your situation. With commitment to deterrence and protection of valued plants, gardeners and rabbits can peacefully coexist.

Frequently Asked Questions About Controlling and Deterring Rabbits in the Garden

What is the most effective way to keep rabbits out of my garden?

The single most effective deterrent for keeping rabbits out of gardens is properly installed exclusion fencing or barriers. Use small-opening wire mesh or hardware cloth, wooden pickets, or wire cages to physically block rabbits from accessing plants.

How tall should fencing be to keep out rabbits?

Rabbit fencing or barriers should be at least 2-3 feet tall. Make sure to bury the bottom edge at least 6 inches underground to prevent rabbits from digging underneath.

Do mesh wire cages around plants really work?

Yes, sturdy wire cages or enclosures around the base of plants are an effective barrier against rabbits if they are tall enough (at least 2 feet) and the bottom edge is buried in the ground. Use 1/4-inch or smaller mesh openings.

What scent repellents work best for deterring rabbits?

Rabbits have a strong sense of smell, so they tend to avoid plants sprayed with pungent natural scents like hot pepper wax, garlic, and strong herbal oils. Predator urine granules also deter rabbits. Reapply smelly repellents frequently.

Are ultrasonic or electronic devices effective against rabbits?

There is little evidence that ultrasonic, electronic, or vibrating devices successfully repel rabbits in gardens for any length of time. These gadgets may have limited, temporary effectiveness at best. Rely on other methods as your primary deterrents.

Should I get a cat to keep rabbits out of my garden?

Free-roaming cats and dogs can deter rabbits, but they also may damage desirable garden plants. Supervise your pets and protect valued vegetation. A cat on patrol works best to supplement fencing and other barriers.

Is shooting or trapping rabbits my only option if other methods fail?

As a last resort, trapping and relocating rabbits, or lethally removing persistent nuisance rabbits may be an option. Always check your local ordinances first and prioritize exclusion and deterrence instead.


Protecting your garden from hungry rabbits takes commitment and diligence. Install reliable fencing or barriers, make plants taste and smell unappealing, scare rabbits away, and be willing to adapt your methods over time. Persistence with proactive solutions can allow gardeners and rabbits to live in harmony and both enjoy the bounty. With the right combination of deterrents, your plants can thrive rabbit-free and your garden will remain a peaceful sanctuary.