What are Rabbits?
Rabbits are small mammals that belong to the family Leporidae. They are known for their long ears, soft fur, and hopping gait. Rabbits are found all over the world, except for Antarctica. They are herbivorous and primarily eat grasses, herbs, and other vegetation.
Rabbits are well-known for their ability to reproduce quickly. They have a short gestation period of about one month and can produce multiple litters per year. Baby rabbits, also known as kits or bunnies, are born blind and hairless but grow quickly and are weaned within a few weeks.
In North America, two main species of rabbits are commonly found in gardens:
- Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus): The eastern cottontail is a small, brown rabbit that is commonly found in gardens and other open areas. They are known for their distinctive white tails and may burrow in gardens or other areas for shelter.
- Desert Cottontail (Sylvilagus audubonii): The desert cottontail is a slightly larger rabbit that is found in the western United States. They have a tan or gray coat and are also known for their distinctive white tails. They may burrow in gardens or other areas for shelter.
Several species of hares may be found in gardens, such as the snowshoe hare and the black-tailed jackrabbit. However, these species are typically found in more open or arid habitats and are less likely to be found in residential gardens.
Rabbits have been domesticated for thousands of years and are often kept as pets. They are also used for their meat and fur in some cultures. In the wild, they are an important source of food for many predators, including foxes, coyotes, and birds of prey.
What Do Rabbits Eat in the Garden?
Wild rabbits that visit gardens will often eat a variety of plants and vegetation, depending on what is available. They are herbivores and generally prefer fresh vegetation that is low to the ground. Some of the plants that they may eat in gardens include:
- Grass: They will eat grass as one of their primary food sources. They may graze on any type of grass available in a garden.
- Herbs: Many herbs, such as basil, parsley, and cilantro, are also attractive and can be nibbled on.
- Leafy greens: They will eat various leafy greens, such as lettuce, spinach, and kale. They may even eat the leaves of some plants, such as beet leaves or carrot tops.
- Flowers: Some species may eat flowers, particularly those with tender petals or leaves. Flowers such as pansies, petunias, and impatiens may be especially attractive to them.
- Vegetables: Rabbits may also eat garden vegetables, such as peas, beans, and carrots. However, they may avoid vegetables with tough, fibrous leaves or thick skins.
Rabbits are most active in gardens during the early morning and late afternoon or evening hours, which are their peak feeding times. However, they may also be active during the day or at night, depending on factors such as food availability and predator activity.
How to Identify Rabbits in the Garden?
Rabbits can cause damage in gardens and landscapes by feeding on plants and gnawing on bark. Here are some signs to look for to help identify their damage:
- Nibbled or eaten plants: They will eat the leaves, stems, and flowers of plants. Look for signs of nibbling or missing plant parts to identify their damage.
- Bark damage: In the winter, when food is scarce, they may gnaw on the bark of young trees and shrubs. Look for small teeth marks and stripped bark on the lower portion of the trunk.
- Tunnels: In the wild, they dig tunnels and burrows for shelter. Look for small holes or tunnels in garden beds or near the base of trees or shrubs.
- Feces: Their droppings are small, round pellets that are usually dark brown in color. Look for piles of droppings around areas where they may be feeding or sheltering.
- Footprints: Their footprints are small, with four toes on the front feet and five on the hind feet. Look for footprints in soft soil or mud to identify the presence of rabbits in your garden.
How to Prevent Rabbits?
Preventing rabbits from causing damage in gardens can be challenging, but there are several strategies that can be effective:
1 – Install a physical barrier
A fence or netting can be effective in keeping rabbits out of gardens. Be sure to use a fine mesh that is buried at least 6 inches below the soil surface to prevent them from digging under the fence.
2 – Remove hiding places
Rabbits need shelter and hiding places to feel secure. Removing brush piles, tall grass, and other hiding places around gardens can help deter them from entering.
3 – Plant rabbit-resistant plants
There are certain plants that rabbits are less likely to eat or avoid altogether. They tend to avoid some of the same plants as deer. Planting rabbit-resistant plants will help you get rid of them.
Plants can be unpalatable to rabbits because of their poisonous compounds
- Nightshade: The nightshade plants, such as potatoes and tomatoes, contain toxic compounds that can be fatal to rabbits if ingested in large amounts.
- Yew: The yew plant contains toxic compounds in its leaves, seeds, and bark, which can be deadly to rabbits if ingested.
- Rhubarb: Rhubarb leaves contain high levels of oxalic acid, which can cause kidney damage in rabbits if ingested in large amounts.
- Lily of the Valley: The lily of the valley plant contains cardiac glycosides, which can be toxic to rabbits if ingested in large amounts.
- Daffodil: Daffodil bulbs contain toxic compounds that can cause vomiting and diarrhea in rabbits if ingested.
- Foxglove: Foxglove contains a toxic compound called digitalis that can harm humans and animals if ingested.
- Hellebore: Hellebore contains toxic compounds that can cause severe gastrointestinal upset if ingested.
Plants can be unpalatable to rabbits because of their fuzzy or aromatic leaves
- Lamb’s ear: The fuzzy leaves of lamb’s ear can be unappealing to them.
- Mulleins: The fuzzy texture of the foliage helps protect the plant from predators.
- Russian sage: The fuzzy leaves and strong scent of Russian sage can help get rid of them.
Plants can be unpalatable to rabbits because of their strong scent
Plant these around your garden: their scent will mask the appealing aroma of your nearby plants.
- Lavender: Rabbits tend to dislike the strong fragrance of lavender and will often avoid it.
- Rosemary: Like lavender, the strong scent of rosemary can help deter these animals.
- Thyme: The pungent aroma of thyme can make it less attractive to rabbits.
- Sage: The strong scent and flavor of sage can make it less appealing to them.
- Oregano: The strong scent of oregano can help mask the scent of other plants that rabbits may find attractive.
- Catmint: The minty fragrance of catmint can help mask the scent of other plants that rabbits may find attractive.
- Alliums: Plants in the allium family, such as onions and garlic, have a strong odor that is unappealing to rabbits.
- Marigolds: Marigolds have a strong, pungent odor that is unpleasant to many pests, including rabbits.
- Mint: Mint is also a deterrent. Mint plants, such as peppermint and spearmint, can be planted near your plants and garden to help get rid of rabbits.
It’s important to note that rabbits can be unpredictable in their feeding habits, and even plants that they dislike may be eaten if they are particularly hungry or if there are no other food sources available.
How to Get Rid of Rabbits in the Garden?
Getting rid of rabbits in the garden can be challenging, but there are several methods that can be effective:
1 – Trapping
Live trapping is a humane method of removing rabbits from the garden. Set up a live trap and bait it with fresh vegetables or fruit to entice them. Once trapped, release the rabbit safely away from your garden.
2 – Repellents
Repellents can be an effective way to get rid of rabbits in the garden. Here are some methods for using repellents to deter them:
- Commercial repellents: There are many commercial rabbit repellent products available in garden supply stores, such as sprays, granules, and ultrasonic devices. Follow the instructions on the product carefully, and reapply as needed.
- Homemade repellents: There are several homemade rabbit repellent recipes that can be effective. Some common ingredients include garlic, hot peppers, and vinegar. Mix the ingredients together and spray the solution on plants or around the garden perimeter.
- Scent repellents: Rabbit repellents that use strong scents, such as predator urine or blood meal, can be effective in deterring them. These products are available in most garden supply stores.
- Taste repellents: Taste repellents work by making plants taste unpleasant to rabbits. Some common taste repellents include cayenne pepper, soap, or human hair. Apply the repellent directly to the plants or around the garden perimeter.
3 – Scare tactics
Scare tactics can be an effective way to deter rabbits from the garden. Here are some common scare tactics:
- Scarecrows: A scarecrow can be a visual deterrent that can help keep rabbits away from the garden. Make a scarecrow from old clothes and a hat, and place it in the garden.
- Shiny objects: Shiny objects, such as old CDs or aluminum foil, can be hung near the garden to create reflections and movement that can scare them away.
- Noise-makers: Loud noises can scare rabbits away from the garden. Use noise-makers such as wind chimes, bells, or whistles to make noise around the garden.
- Motion-activated devices: Motion-activated devices, such as sprinklers or lights, can effectively deter them. These devices turn on when a rabbit enters the garden, scaring them away.
It’s important to note that it’s not legal to harm or kill rabbits in many areas without a permit, so it’s important to be aware of local regulations regarding wildlife control. If you are experiencing persistent damage in your garden, it may be necessary to consult with a wildlife expert or local extension office for assistance.
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.