Tuesday, May 18, 2010

How do I stop wild rabbits from eating everything in my garden?

I have a lovely large garden with lots of flowers, trees, shrubs, and even a poly-tunnel with vegetables in it. The rabbits eat everything they come up to, they have even eaten holes in the poly-tunnel to get to my veg. They dont even run away when we go out now and my dog is fed up of them and doesnt even bother anymore. I have put fences, chicken wire, sheets of corrugated tin, everything I can think of - and to no avail. Help! What can I do????

How do I stop wild rabbits from eating everything in my garden?
like elmer fude would say its rabbitt seaon a hunting i shall go
Reply:grow something that they dont like
Reply:There's a small instrument you can get that is detects motion and sounds off in an octave so high that only animals can hear it. You may want to consider getting one of these, as they work very well to keep the pesky rabbits away. I used to have a whole ton of them living under my deck, but they quickly disappeared. I'd try looking at your local garden store or warehouse.

Happy Gardening!
Reply:If you want a solution, but don't want to spend a lot of money you can go to a local beauty salon or barber shop and ask them to save the hair they cut for you. Sprinkle the hair in your garden. The human smell detiers animals from the area. You do have to do this on a weekly basis. Though it wouldn't cost you anything but time, you may want a more permanent solution which would cost more. This is an inexpensive fix for the problem.

Good Luck!
Reply:You can have a feast of rabbit pie. Ask someone to set rabbit snares and that will settle your problem.
Reply:We have similar problems with hares. Blimmin creatures. Physical fencing is the only thing that works. Your chicken wire should work - perhaps there are gaps that need closing up?

We made a hare-sized electric fence for our veggie patch. It worked a treat! (using a battery cattle fence).
Reply:Put them in a dish and make a rabbit pie
Reply:Put some marigolds around it...
Reply:plant marigolds around your garden. they hate em... or is it goldenrod? crap.. i don't remember.. but planting one of the two of those around your garden stops em b/c they can't stand the smell
Reply:get a cat!!! or a jack russell, i know its cruel but it depends on how much you want it, we live right out in the sticks where theirs alot of rabbits, but my mum in laws cat, cadbury, eats them urgh!
Reply:get a ferret
Reply:shoot the vermin
Reply:UC IPM Home %26gt; Homes, Gardens, Landscapes, and Turf %26gt; Rabbits

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How to Manage Pests

Pests in Gardens and Landscapes

| More pests | About Pest Notes |

Common California rabbits (clockwise from top): black-tailed jackrabbit, brush rabbit, and cottontail.


Published 1/02

In this Guideline:

PDF to Print

* Identification

* Biology and behavior

* Damage

* Legal status

* Management

* Follow-up

* Publication

* Glossary

Rabbits are a form of wildlife enjoyed by many people but they can be very destructive to gardens and landscaped areas. Eight species of rabbits are found in California. Three of these species, the black-tailed hare or jackrabbit (Lepus californicus), the desert cottontail (Sylvilagus audubonii), and the brush rabbit (S. bachmani) are widespread and cause the majority of problems. Because of its greater size and abundance, the jackrabbit is the most destructive.


The jackrabbit is about as large as a house cat, weighing between 3 to 7 pounds with a body length of 17 to 21 inches. It has a grayish brown body, long black-tipped ears, relatively long front legs, and even longer hind legs. The top of its tail is black.

The desert cottontail rabbit and brush rabbit are distinguished from jackrabbits by their smaller size and shorter ears. The desert cottontail is 12 to 15 inches long, weighs between 1-1/2 to 2-3/4 pounds, and has pale gray fur with yellow tints. The brush rabbit is slightly smaller at 11 to 13 inches long, weighs between 1-1/4 to 1-4/5 pounds, and has brown fur.

A good sign that rabbits are present is coarse, circular fecal droppings or pellets found scattered over an area. Pellet size varies roughly with the body size of the species: jackrabbit pellets are about 1/2-inch in diameter, whereas pellets of the cottontail are closer to 1/4 inch.


Jackrabbits are usually found in open or semi-open areas of California valleys and foothills. They are seldom found in dense brush or woodlands. Within their preferred habitats, jackrabbits are quite adaptable and inhabit areas around the fringes of urban and suburban developments, green belts, golf courses, parks, airports, and agricultural lands. They make a depression in the soil, called a "form," beneath a bush or other vegetation and use it for hiding and resting during the day. Jackrabbits depend on speed and dodging to elude predators. In California an average density of about 1-1/5 jackrabbits per acre is typical, but during periods of high reproduction this number may increase.

The breeding season for jackrabbits runs from late January through August, although breeding is possible during any month of the year where winters are mild. Litter size averages between two to three, with as many as five to six litters per year. Young jackrabbits are born fully furred and with their eyes open. Within a day they can move about quite rapidly.

The food habits of jackrabbits are variable, depending on location and the availability of appropriate plants. Rabbits prefer to eat succulent, green vegetation; grasses and herbaceous plants make up the bulk of their diet. In some areas rabbits eat leaves, bark, or seeds of woody shrubs. Feeding usually begins during the evening hours and continues throughout the night into the early morning. Jackrabbits can survive without a supply of drinking water.

If food and other necessary resources are found in one place, jackrabbits exhibit no major daily movements. If food sources and areas for shelter are separated, jackrabbits will move between these areas in the morning and evening. Daily travel of 1 to 2 miles between areas is common. During dry periods, roundtrips of up to 10 miles have been observed. These travels are habitually made on the same trails every day, producing noticeable paths through herbaceous vegetation.

Unlike jackrabbits, desert cottontail and brush rabbits generally inhabit places with dense cover such as brushy areas, wooded areas with some underbrush, or areas with piles of rocks or debris. Abandoned structures and sometimes cultivated fields are also used for cover. Open areas are used more at night, while dense cover is used more during the day. The brush rabbit, however, seldom feeds more than a few feet from its cover.

Most cottontails and brush rabbits have a home range of up to 10 to 15 acres. A good habitat, such as a park with a clump of low-growing junipers about 30 feet wide, may harbor 10 to 15 cottontails, but normal density is considerably less (an average of one rabbit per acre). Cottontails and brush rabbits are not territorial but maintain home ranges that overlap broadly with other individuals of all age and sex classes. Cottontails and brush rabbits do not exhibit the same magnitude of daily travel as seen in jackrabbits, although they do make habitual use of travel lanes within their home range.

The breeding season for both cottontails and brush rabbits begins in December and ends in June. Average litter size is usually between three to four, with up to six litters per year. Rabbits give birth in a shallow depression on the ground. The newborn rabbits, which are nearly furless and have closed eyes, remain in the nest for several weeks.

The food habits of cottontails and brush rabbits vary with the location and time of year. Cottontails feed seasonally on grasses, sedges, herbaceous plants, willows, oaks, blackberries, and wild roses. Brush rabbits prefer clover and also feed on the stems and berries of woody plants such as blackberry.


Rabbits can be very destructive in gardens and landscaped places. This is particularly true where wild or uncultivated lands border residential zones, parks, greenbelts, or other landscaped places. Open lands such as uncultivated, wild areas provide resting and hiding cover during the day within easy travel distances to prime, irrigated food sources.

The cosmopolitan tastes of rabbits are well illustrated by the following partial list of crops and plants they damage: vegetables (beans, beet, broccoli, carrot, lettuce, peas); tree and berry crops (almond, apple, blackberry, cherry, citrus, pistachio, plum, raspberry, strawberry); herbs (cilantro, parsley); and ornamental plantings (various flowers, shrubs, trees, and turf). Rabbits also gnaw and cut plastic irrigation lines.

Most rabbit damage is close to the ground, except where snow allows rabbits to reach higher portions of plants. Rabbits use their incisors to make a characteristic diagonal, 45° cut when clipping off woody twigs, buds from saplings, or flower heads. Twig clipping by rabbits is sometimes confused with deer browsing. Deer damage can be identified easily if it occurs above a height that rabbits can reach (about 2 feet) and by careful examination of the damaged twigs. Deer have no upper front teeth and must twist and pull when browsing, leaving a ragged break on the branch. Rabbits clip twigs off cleanly, as if with a knife.

Rabbits tend to gnaw the smooth, thin bark from young trees. The rough bark of older trees discourages gnawing, although old damage and gnaw marks are often present on old bark along with fresh patches of gnawing in areas of younger growth. Gnawing can completely girdle a tree, and clipping can remove the terminal shoot and lateral branches from plants. Damage by cottontails and brush rabbits is often concentrated in areas near escape cover. Jackrabbits, however, will feed far into open areas and can eat 1/2 to 1 pound of green vegetation each day.

Tularemia, or rabbit fever, may be carried by rabbits. This disease is relatively rare in humans but can be contracted by handling an infected rabbit with bare hands or by eating insufficiently cooked rabbit meat.


Jackrabbits, cottontails, and brush rabbits are classified as game mammals by the California Fish and Game Code; however, there is an important distinction between the three species as to when control is permitted. Jackrabbits may be controlled (i.e., killed or trapped) anytime or in any legal manner by the owner or tenant of the premises, or employees thereof, if they are damaging growing crops or other property, which includes ornamental plants and irrigation lines. Cottontails or brush rabbits may be killed or trapped by the owner or tenant of the land, or by any person authorized in writing by such owner or tenant, when the rabbits are damaging crops or forage. If any person other than the owner or tenant transports cottontails or brush rabbits from the property where they were taken, they must carry written authority from the owner or tenant. These rabbits cannot be sold. Wildlife enforcement officers may not allow killing or trapping of cottontails or brush rabbits when the damage they are causing is to ornamental plantings or to property; contact your local game warden for information.


A number of methods can be used to reduce rabbit damage but physical exclusion, trapping, and, to a lesser degree, repellents are recommended for protecting garden and home areas. In cases where these methods are not practical, contact your local farm advisor or agricultural commissioner for further information.


Fencing. Probably the most long-term, effective way to protect plantings from rabbit damage is to build a fence. Use a 48-inch-tall wire fence with the bottom buried at least 6 to 10 inches in the ground. Bending a few inches of the fence bottom outwardly will further deter rabbits from digging under it. If the bottom of the wire fence is not buried, then the bottom edge must be staked down to deter rabbits from passing under it. Mesh size should be no larger than 1 inch to exclude young rabbits. Use tight-fitting gates with sills to keep rabbits from digging below the bottom rails. Keep gates closed as much as possible because rabbits can be active day or night. Inspect the fence regularly to make sure rabbits or other animals have not dug under it. Poultry netting supported by light stakes is adequate for rabbit control.

Reusable fence panels can be used in place of a wire fence. Construct a wood lath or PVC frame 24 to 30 inches in height. Length of the panels can be varied to match the size of the garden or area to be protected. Attach 1-inch mesh wire to the frame. Wire the panels to lightweight, temporary fence posts. The low panels allow gardeners easy access and can be moved when required.

Cottontails and brush rabbits will not jump a 2-foot fence. Jackrabbits ordinarily will also not jump a 2-foot fence unless chased by dogs or otherwise frightened. Discourage jumping by increasing the above ground height to 3 feet. In snow areas, a higher fence may be required. Remember, once a rabbit gets into the fenced area, it may not be able to get out.

Electric netting (a type of electric fence) is also suitable for rabbit control. It is designed for ease of installation and frequent repositioning. Electric netting is intended for temporary use at any one site, making it ideal for seasonal gardens. Because of the many variables affecting the selection of a power source and operation of an electric fence, it is best to consult a reputable dealer for specific details regarding its use.

Trunk Guards. In some cases protecting individual plants may be more practical than excluding rabbits from an entire area. Poultry netting (chicken wire) with a 1-inch mesh, 18 to 24 inches wide, can be cut into strips 18 to 20 inches long and formed into cylinders to be placed around the trunks of young trees, shrubs, or vines. Bury the bottom of the cylinders 2 to 3 inches and brace them away from the trunk so rabbits cannot press against the cylinder and nibble through the mesh. Inspect these barriers regularly and be sure to keep the area inside the barriers clean of leaves, weeds, and other debris to eliminate feeding sites for small rodents. Commercial tree trunk protectors are also available.


Live trapping of cottontails and brush rabbits is not recommended because it creates the dilemma of what to do with the trapped animal. Rabbits can carry certain diseases and are considered agricultural pests; according to California Fish and Game Code, it is illegal to release them in other areas without a written permit. Handling a live rabbit also creates the possible hazard of disease transmission to the trapper.

Cottontails and brush rabbits can be trapped with a Conibear trap (No. 110), which kills the animal outright. The Conibear trap can be placed inside a covered box constructed out of 3/4-inch exterior plywood with a 4-inch wide entrance. To further reduce hazards to children, pets, and poultry, position the trap back from the entrance. Slots at the back end of the box help in positioning the trap, as does the hinged lid. The hole cut in the top of the hinged portion and covered with 1/4-inch mesh hardware cloth serves as a means to check the trap or bait. Other kill-type traps, such as a tunnel trap, are also available.

Place traps near cover where the rabbits feed or rest. For bait, use whatever the rabbits are feeding on or carrots, cabbage, fresh green vegetables, or apples. Place the bait at the back of the trap; some placed just outside the trap is helpful too. Check traps daily to replenish bait or remove the catch.


Various chemical repellents can reduce or prevent rabbit damage. They are most useful when applied to trees, vines, or ornamentals. Repellents can be classified as area (odor), taste, or contact (sticky) repellents. Research has shown that repellents with putrescent whole-egg solids can reduce browsing by rabbits.

Apply repellents before damage occurs and reapply them frequently, especially after a rain, heavy dew, or sprinkler irrigation, or when new growth occurs. In all cases, follow the label directions for the repellent you are using.

The usefulness of repellents is limited. They work best to protect woody plants during the early years before they bear fruit or during winter. Most, except for some of the taste repellents, cannot be used on plants or plant parts to be eaten by humans. Repellents usually fail when used in a vegetable garden, which contains highly preferred rabbit foods, even if the repellents are registered for use on edible crops.

Habitat Management

Remove hiding cover to discourage cottontails and brush rabbits, especially in suburban habitats where alternate habitats may be limited. Remove brambles, piles of brush, stones, or other debris where rabbits might hide. Control vegetation along fence rows, ditchbanks, or brushy areas. Keep in mind vegetation management may affect other wildlife, notably songbirds. Removing cover will probably have little effect on jackrabbits because they can use cover that is often great distances from the feeding sites.

Other Control Methods

Shooting can be an effective means of eliminating small numbers of rabbits where it is safe to do so in rural locations, but it is prohibited in urban and suburban locations. Best results are achieved in early morning or around dusk when rabbits are more active. Check both local and game regulations for license requirements and any restrictions on shooting in your area.

Frightening devices, such as noisemakers and flashing lights, are generally not effective. Ultrasonic units, which rely on sound waves to repel rabbits, are not effective. A pet dog loose within the area to be protected can be somewhat effective, depending on the dog, in keeping rabbits away.

Toxic baits are registered for use in agricultural situations to resolve serious crop damage problems where jackrabbits are numerous, but their use in urban and suburban situations is not practical. Rabbits killed by toxic baits must be recovered to comply with label instructions. Because the rabbits are likely to die outside the baited property, carcass recovery is almost impossible.

Rabbits serve as food for a number of predators, including hawks and coyotes, but in urban and suburban situations, the greatest threat is from cats and dogs. Although relatively vulnerable to predation, rabbits generally cope well and maintain their populations in spite of this threat.


If barriers have been built to exclude rabbits, follow-up consists of regularly inspecting the area to insure rabbits are not breaching the barrier(s). Inspect previously undamaged plantings for new damage, as the rabbits may switch to new food sources after being excluded from an existing feeding site.

If the rabbit population has been reduced by trapping or shooting or is at a tolerable level, periodically search the area for signs of an increase in rabbits. Look for droppings, trails, and the characteristic 45° diagonal cut feeding damage on twigs and stems. Rabbits are easily seen but because they frequently feed during darkness, you may have to examine the garden at night with a flashlight to see them: their eyes shine yellow or red in a flashlight beam.

Because few, if any, rabbits can be tolerated in a garden or landscaped area, take appropriate action when signs of rabbits are first observed. Rabbits that have been observed nearby will frequently invade a garden when the plantings become desirable to them. Therefore, consider exclusion methods such as a fence before damage actually occurs.

Reply:uzi 9 mm
Reply:get a 22 rimfire.
Reply:Do what I used to do when I lived on the farm. Get a wooden stake about 6" in length, attach a loop wire to it so that when the head goes into it the rabbit is chocked. Your local butcher will buy the rabbit. Make a profit!

Don't forget to put the snare on a regular run and if you like make a few more and multiply your profit!
Reply:try a product called liquid fence it works well on deer and rabbitts u can get it a nursery
Reply:Run, don't walk to your nearest garden center and purchase a bag of blood meal (genearlly for roses) sprinkle it around the plants and areas that are getting attacked. They hate the smell of blood and should depart.
Reply:A low electric wire (live!) around the plot should do it! But don't forget when you go there yourself!
Reply:i have had this problem also.if you will put you some stobs around the area and then tie string all the way around, then get you some aluminum pie plates, put holes in them and tie the plates to the string it will work. when the wind blows and when the rabbits go through them they will rattle and scare them off.

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