How to Keep Rabbits Out of Garden With or Without Fences

Keeping rabbits out of your garden can seem like an impossible task, especially if you don’t want to or can’t build a fence around the perimeter. Rabbits can squeeze through very small spaces and can jump surprisingly high, making traditional fencing often ineffective. However, there are many clever ways to deter rabbits without breaking the bank on expensive fencing. With some planning and commitment, you can find solutions that will humanely and effectively keep the rabbits from feasting on your hard work.

Evaluate Your Garden’s Vulnerabilities

The first step is to walk around your garden beds and borders and evaluate where rabbits are likely to enter and exit. Look for gaps under or in existing fences and walls, as well as areas of cover near the beds such as tall grass, brush piles, or low shrubs. These are the weak spots that you will want to shore up. Also look for evidence of areas the rabbits are already using, like small dug burrows, trails in grass, or piles of pellets.

Pay special attention to the specific plants and crops that seem to be getting targeted. Take notes on which parts of the garden are getting hit the worst so you can focus your efforts. For example, rabbits may be attacking low-growing vegetables and ignoring taller crops. Knowing their habits will allow you to customize your deterrents.

Remove Cover and Clear Access Points

Now take steps to remove cover along the garden perimeter and block access from burrows or gaps. Here are some tips:

  • Trim back any overgrown grasses, weeds, or ground cover bordering the beds. Rabbits feel safest moving under dense cover. Removing cover forces them into the open where they are more exposed.
  • Clear away brush piles, debris piles, or other hiding spots around the beds.
  • Use wire mesh or rocks to plug any holes, gaps, or burrows allowing rabbits entry from under fences or walls.
  • Check for openings under garden gates or doors and patch with weatherstripping or metal flashing.
  • Make sure fence bottoms extend all the way to the ground or are buried a few inches underground.
  • Prune away any overhanging or touching branches that could allow rabbits to climb over fences.

Choose Physical Barriers

Installing fencing is the most effective permanent solution for keeping rabbits out of gardens long-term. Although it can be a significant investment, over time the cost is recovered since you avoid continued crop losses. Here are some of the best fencing options:

Wire Mesh Fencing

A fence made of 1″ x 2″ welded wire mesh, 36-42 inches tall, provides an excellent barrier that will turn away most rabbits. Bury the bottom edge 3-6 inches underground to prevent digging underneath. You can also try bending the bottom edge outwards in an “L” shape. Be sure to check local fence codes for height regulations.

Chicken Wire Fencing

Chicken wire fencing can work if the holes are 1″ x 1⁄2″ or smaller. Bury at least 6 inches underground since chicken wire has larger holes that are easier to dig under. The minimum height should be 36 inches. Make sure to check it frequently for holes or gaps and secure it firmly to posts. Chicken wire is lighter weight than welded wire so may need additional tension support.

Hardware Cloth Fencing

Hardware cloth is a metal mesh fencing with very small 1⁄4 inch openings that no rabbit can squeeze through. 24-30 inch tall rolls are readily available and effective. As with other wire fences, securely attach to posts and bury at least 6 inches underground to prevent digging. Hardware cloth comes in galvanized steel, aluminum, and stainless steel. Galvanized is the cheapest but rusts faster.

Electric Fencing

Electric fencing can provide an adjustable and economical alternative to fixed wire fencing. Look for portable systems designed for small animals rather than large livestock. Place the wire around garden beds 6-12 inches off the ground, secured to stakes. Bury a few inches underground as well. The mild but startling shock will quickly teach rabbits to avoid the area. Check local regulations since electric fences close to sidewalks may not be permitted.

Fence Panels or Rolls

Pre-welded wire garden fence panels or rolls are available at home and garden stores. They come in various sizes and metals. These can create quick, attractive barriers around in-ground beds or elevated beds, without requiring wood or metal frame construction. Look for 1″ x 2″ openings maximum. Use U-nails or garden staples to secure to soil or rim boards.

Use Physical Barriers Without Fencing

For some situations, installing full fencing may not be feasible due to cost, rental situations, or aesthetics. Here are some ways to create stand-alone barriers without putting in permanent perimeter fencing:

Wire Cages

Protect young seedlings or vulnerable crops by covering with chicken wire cages. Use wire cutters to fashion cages in various sizes that fit over rows or individual plants. Use U-nails or tent stakes to secure cages in place. Lift cages up as plants grow taller. Handmade cages are less expensive than pre-formed wire ones.


Cloches are small greenhouse-like structures that sit over plants to protect and support growth. Use cloche hoops over seedlings instead of rows. Anchor the edges with soil, rocks, or metal garden staples. Make DIY cloches cheaply from materials like PVC pipe and plastic sheeting. You can also buy decorative glass or plastic cloches for larger plants.

Row Covers

Floating row covers are lightweight sheets of spun polyester that drape directly over plants. Anchor the edges with rocks, U-nails, or edging. The material allows air, light, and water through while keeping pests off tender growth. Row covers also retain warmth and prevent frost. Use them over seedlings and foliage plants that rabbits target.

Wire Mesh Bottoms

For elevated beds, line the bottom with 1⁄2” hardware cloth or wire mesh before filling with soil. Staple the mesh securely to the bed frame. The mesh prevents access from under the bed while allowing for drainage. Use wire mesh liners for freestanding pots as well to block burrowing.

Use Repellents

There are both commercial and homemade repellent options to make plants and soil less palatable:

Liquid Fence Deer & Rabbit Repellent

This is a popular commercial repellent spray made from putrescent egg solids and garlic. Apply it to foliage and as a perimeter spray around beds. Reapply after rain. The rotten egg and garlic smell deters browsing but dissipates quickly. It’s safe for edibles when used as directed.

Hot Pepper Sprays

Sprays made from hot peppers deter rabbits when applied to plant leaves or stems. Products like Liquid Fence Hot Pepper Repellent use capsaicin extracts from habaneros and other chili peppers. Reapply weekly. Exercise caution, as pepper oils can irritate skin and eyes.

Ammonia-Soaked Rags

Soak rags in household ammonia and place them under bushes or along garden edges. The strong scent drives rabbits away. Re-wet the rags weekly. Don’t place them directly on edibles. Ammonia may also deter beneficial insects.

Milky Spore Powder

Milky spore powder contains bacteria that kills Japanese beetle grubs in soil. Spreading it around gardens helps control grubs, an attractive rabbit food source. Apply as directed 1-2 times per year. It takes a few years to establish but lasts 10+ years in soil.

Blood Meal Fertilizer

Sprinkle blood meal fertilizer around the perimeter of beds. Blood meal provides nitrogen while acting as a repellent. The strong blood scent repels rabbits from digging or nibbling where it’s applied. Reapply after rain. Avoid getting it directly on foliage.

Homemade Chili Pepper Repellent

Make a spray by blending hot peppers with water and a bit of liquid soap in a food processor. Let sit overnight, then strain. Reapply the spray onto plants after rain. The capsaicin in peppers drives rabbits away from treated vegetation.

Scent Repellents

Apply predator urine along garden borders to make rabbits avoid the area. Look for fox or coyote urine at garden centers. Human hair clippings from barber shops scattered around plants also help repel rabbits. The scents make them cautious. Reapply urine and hair monthly.

Use Physical Barriers Along with Repellents

For best results, use repellent sprays, granules, or powders in combination with physical barriers like fencing. Natural repellents often work for a short time but need reapplication. Physical barriers prevent access so repellents have longer to take effect before the rabbits return. Check often to make sure repellents are still present.

Try Scare Tactics

In addition to fencing and repellents, use various scare devices to frighten rabbits away from the garden:

Motion-Activated Sprinklers

Set up motion-detecting sprinklers that send a short blast of water when rabbits are near the garden. The ScareCrow brand detects from 35 feet away. Place them around beds and motion-detecting side aimed out. Rabbits learn to avoid the sudden spray.

Wind Chimes and Wind Socks

The movement and sound of wind chimes and socks will scare away some rabbits. Hang them around the garden perimeter. Vary the locations occasionally so the rabbits don’t get used to them in one spot. These work best at deterring initial visits and may lose effectiveness over time.

Shiny Objects

Reflective surfaces like old CDs, aluminum pans, or mirrored pinwheels will frighten rabbits when they see glints of light and their own reflection. Suspend old CDs from garden fence or beds with ribbon or monofilament. Rabbits dislike seeing themselves.

Sounds and Smells

Set up a radio tuned to a talk station and place it in a covered spot near the garden. Keep the volume low to avoid annoying neighbors. Human voices will help deter rabbits. Devices that intermittently spray scents like citronella, garlic oil, or vinegar will also repel them.

Remove Food Temptations

Make your garden less appealing by removing prime food sources rabbits seek:

  • Weed thoroughly around beds to take away tender greens rabbits enjoy.
  • Clear fallen fruits, berries, or nuts under trees so rabbits aren’t attracted into the area.
  • Use bird netting to cover berry bushes and fruit trees to prevent access.
  • Don’t add rich compost that encourages worms and soil creatures rabbits dig for.
  • Avoid using bark mulch, which rabbits are drawn to dig through. Use stone mulch instead.
  • Grow lettuces and greens in elevated beds or containers, not at ground level.

Use Rabbit Resistant Plants

When choosing annuals, perennials, herbs, and vegetables, select varieties that are less favored by rabbits. Here are some good options:


  • Lavender
  • Salvia
  • Geraniums
  • Marigolds
  • Zinnias
  • Iris
  • Daffodils
  • Canna Lily
  • Columbine


  • Chives
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Lavender
  • Sage
  • Rosemary


  • Potatoes
  • Corn
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Onions/Chives
  • Carrots
  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Asparagus

Avoid These

  • Lettuces
  • Cabbage
  • Squash
  • Cucumber
  • Radish
  • Beets
  • Basil

Protect Trees and Shrubs

Prevent rabbits from damaging valuable trees and shrubs by wrapping trunks and applying repellents:

  • Wrap trunks of young trees up to 18-24 inches using tree guards or hardware cloth. Check for a tight fit each year as trunks grow wider.
  • Spray dwarf trees and shrub bases in fall with Liquid Fence or hot pepper repellent before snow cover arrives.
  • Paint trunks with a sand-lime wash made of sand, hydrated lime, and water mixed into a thick paste.
  • Smear trunks with petroleum jelly to prevent gnawing. Apply over bottom 12-18 inches.

Use Dogs, Cats, or Falcons

Where regulations allow, using dogs or cats as garden guardians can be very effective at keeping rabbits away. A barking dog or prowling cat covers more ground than deterrents.

Some companies offer trained hawks, falcons, or owls to patrol properties and scare rabbits. Raptors are an eco-friendly option but services can be costly. Check local laws, since some municipalities prohibit using birds of prey on private property.

Practice Acceptance as a Last Resort

If rabbits are still persistent after trying all reasonable deterrents, you may have to practice some acceptance. There are a few ways to be a bit more zen about sharing some of your harvest:

  • Focus your defenses only on the most vulnerable or valuable plants.
  • Plant extra of certain crops so you have some to spare for bunnies.
  • Shift efforts towards container gardening or elevated beds that keep plants out of reach.
  • View rabbits as an unavoidable force of nature and let go of frustration. Their cuteness outweighs the damage.
  • Find humor in rabbit acrobatics as they jump fences or squeeze through holes. Their ingenuity is impressive.
  • Appreciate that rabbits are an important part of the local ecosystem and provide balance. Their feeding sustains predators like coyotes, foxes, hawks, and owls.
  • Take pride in tasty plants grown so well that even the rabbits can’t resist them. It’s a backhanded compliment.
  • Accept that the garden exists to nourish wildlife as well as people. Watching nature’s cycles unfold fosters resilience.

Staying flexible, creative, and diligent with deterrents will help you gain the upper hand on rabbit raiders over time. With observation, prevention, and persistence, you can reduce losses and still reap a bountiful harvest. The key is using an integrated program of fencing, repellents, plants choices, and scare tactics. Pay attention to rabbit behavior patterns and fine-tune your defenses accordingly. Don’t become discouraged – every gardener battles rabbits. With a multifaceted plan of attack, you can outwit them and grow a thriving garden.

Frequently Asked Questions About Deterring Rabbits

How do I know if rabbits are eating my plants?

Rabbits leave behind some telltale signs:

  • Neat 45 degree angled cuts on stems and vegetation as if cut with scissors. Deer and other pests tear and rip.
  • Small brown pellets similar to cocoa puffs left behind. These are easiest to spot in mornings.
  • Lower leaves or growth completely removed, leaving bare stems. Upper foliage often untouched.
  • Plants pulled completely from soil leaving small holes.
  • Bark gnawing damage on trees up to 18-24 inches from ground.

What scent repellents work best for deterring rabbits?

Some effective scent repellents are predator urine like coyote or fox urine, ammonia-soaked rags, garlic powder, and sprays made from rotten eggs or very hot peppers. Strong spices like cayenne pepper, chili powder, cumin, and cinnamon can also deter rabbits. Reapply scents frequently.

Should I use chemical rabbit repellents on my edible garden?

Read labels to check if a repellent spray is approved for edible gardens. Products like Liquid Fence are OMRI rated for organic use. Never spray repellents directly on fruits or veggies, just around the perimeter. Avoid using mothballs or pesticides not meant for rabbits.

What are the best fencing options to keep out rabbits?

1″ poultry netting, 1” x 2” wire mesh, and 1⁄4” galvanized hardware cloth make very effective rabbit fencing. Bury bottom edges underground and make sure there are no gaps. Chicken wire can work if holes are 1⁄2” or smaller. Electric fencing is also an option. 36-42 inch height is ideal.

Should I use raised beds instead of ground level planting?

Elevated beds with wire bottoms are an excellent way to protect vegetables and greens from rabbits. Frame beds with scrap wood or stone and line underneath with 1⁄4” hardware cloth before filling with soil. Choose at least 12-18 inches of height. Surround beds with chicken wire if desired.

How often do I need to reapply liquid repellents?

Expect to reapply liquid repellents like Liquid Fence weekly, especially after watering or rain. More frequent application may be needed for new plantings before maturity. For maximum results, combine repellents with barriers like fencing or cloches rather than relying solely on sprays. Reapply granular products monthly.

Are noisemakers effective for scaring away rabbits?

Noise deterrents like radios, wind chimes, tin pie pans banging together, or ultrasonic devices have limited effectiveness. Rabbits may initially be startled but then become accustomed. Combining sounds with changing locations of visual repellents works best to incorporate various scare tactics.

Is rabbit damage always preventable in gardens?

Even diligent gardeners commonly deal with some degree of rabbit damage. No solution is 100% foolproof if local bunnies are very persistent. Focus on protecting the most valuable plants. Accept that wildlife may claim a small share and find ways to plant extra as a tradeoff. A flexible mindset reduces frustration.


Deterring rabbits takes creativity, vigilance, and persistence. By using fencing, repellents, scare tactics, and plant choices strategically, you can reduce the losses substantially and still harvest bountiful crops. Observe where and how rabbits enter your garden and customize your defenses accordingly. Combine multiple tactics like perimeter fencing with plant-based repellents. Accept that bunnies are clever and may outsmart solitary efforts. Don’t become discouraged! With an adaptable, multipronged approach, you can gain the upper hand and nurture a thriving garden that meets the needs of both people and wildlife.