rabbit-eaten plants

Rabbit pest control? I’m going cwazy!

by | July 18, 2017 | Blog | 0 comments

Effective rabbit pest control — how to keep eastern cottontail rabbits out of our garden — is a maddening quest that’s rapidly turning me into a cartoon. Visions of rabbit extermination have started taking over my dreams, and my days are spent shopping for ridiculous wild rabbit control solutions.

I honestly never expected that I would grow up to be Elmer Fudd.

As a kid, I idolized Chicago Bears legend Gale Sayers, the Apollo 11 astronauts, and Johnny Cash. Sure, I watched Bugs Bunny cartoons every morning before school on Ray Rayner and His Friends, but the thought of a grown man being driven over the edge by a cute, cocky rabbit was preposterous, right?

Now I’m 57 and researching foolproof ways to deter rabbits via the World Wide Web.

Our rabbit problem

It started with some small shrubs we planted on one side of our house — a burning bush and a couple of Viburnum. Rabbits hungry in the winter would chomp on the lower branches, and each new snowfall would allow them to reach higher up the plant.

After trying chasing and shoe-throwing, the best solution we found for this rabbit damage was a small, multi-panel rabbit fence made of welded wire coated with green vinyl. One of these portable fences positioned around each shrub during the colder months kept the bushes pretty much unmolested. Now these bushes are grown, and the bunnies don’t bother them.

Next, there was a clematis on the side of our house which was growing beautifully up its trellis — until it suddenly went dead. Closer inspection revealed that rabbits had bitten through its stems near the ground for no good reason. One of the green wire rabbit fences originally used on the shrubs now surrounds the clematis, which has regrown to bloom beautifully each spring.

This year, rabbits are eating various flowers and dinosaur kale in our yard, and it’s gotten to the point where even while typing this, I am stopping periodically to look out my window at the garden beds for little brown bunnies.

Already today, after seeing one of our rose mallow plants suddenly shrinking, I ran downstairs and outside to the garden hose. That rabbit vanished into thin air in the time it took me to turn the faucet. Not an hour later, a similar rabbit came galloping up the sidewalk headed straight for the kale, then took off again when I scrambled back down the stairs and out the door.

They say it’s good to break up your computer work with regular exercise breaks, so I guess I’ve got that covered.

Do marigolds keep rabbits out of the garden?

There are a number of common suggestions regarding what deters rabbits from gardens. Here are some of the ones I have tried with unsatisfactory results:

  • Rabbit repellent sprays — There are many of these products on the market and I have only tried a couple of the most popular brands, with zero success. One time, even while I was applying the $25-per-gallon mixture to some precious foliage, a wide-eyed little hare stopped beside me and said, “Say, Doc, that stuff is virtually a fence in a bottle! They’ll never get past it.” He was wrong.
  • Marigolds — I love marigolds. They’re bright, inexpensive, low-maintenance, and long-lasting. Rabbits have never eaten our marigolds. But I have seen rabbits sleeping among the marigolds, so I don’t believe marigolds keep rabbits away.
  • Blood meal as rabbit repellent — Blood meal can be used as a nitrogen supplement for your plants. This makes them greener and leafier — until the rabbits devour them.
  • Crushed red pepper flakes — Rabbits had munched our petunias down to nubs, and our neighbor with beautiful petunias suggested crushed red pepper flakes. We bought a jumbo Walmart container full, and applied some. Now our petunias are regrown and blooming. Meanwhile, pepper flakes don’t deter rabbits from our rose mallows at all.

What to plant to keep rabbits away

I don’t know of any plant that will naturally deter rabbits — but here are some of the plants we’ve grown which have never suffered rabbit damage:

Wild rabbit control

So far, I have mostly been blasting rabbits with our hose. They rarely even get wet, typically bounding off around a corner and under a neighbor’s fence. My latest response was to block one of their escape holes by driving a wooden stake into the ground at the bottom of the fence. To make this cartoon scene complete, I even used a rubber mallet.

And now I have started thinking about sending away to an all-purpose supply company for rabbit-deterrent contraptions — not Acme, though, but Amazon.

Check these out:

pest control water blaster
Hoont Powerful Outdoor Water Blaster Animal Pest Repeller – Motion Activated

An automated version of what I’m currently doing with the hose. But then the hose needs to be extended out to this gizmo and won’t be handy for other uses.

pest control coyote
Bird-X Coyote 3-D Predator Replica Visual Scare for Bird and Pest Control

The description says this “3D coyote effectively repels geese, ducks, birds, & other small pests off of your land.” It does not specifically mention rabbits — but c’mon, it has a moving fur tail!

For tonier neighborhoods, there’s also a fox:

pest control fox decoy
animal pest control ultrasonic
Anmago Animal Repellent Ultrasonic, Outdoor Electronic Pest Animal Control, with Motion Sensor For Repelling Raccoon Dogs Cats Chipmunk Squirrels Deer Rabbits Birds

Now here is some wily technology: a motion sensor, ultrasonic frequencies, strobe lights — and a knob you can set to “rabbit,” “raccoon,” “skunks,” “deer,” and so on. Acme wishes it sold something this advanced! The Amazon reviews are more favorable than not, but there is clearly some division over whether it actually works.

Leg Up Enterprises 91215 Real Coyote Urine

One of the reviews says it took only a few drops to deter rabbits most of the summer. Most agree it has a really vile and nasty  stench. Apparently, squirrels are unimpressed.

owl scarecrow rotating head
Ohuhu Horned Owl Pest Deterrent Rotating Head Scarecrow Pest Control Repellents Owl Decoy

I hear that my sister-in-law has something like this, and apparently is happy with it. The Amazon reviews for this one are mixed, but there are many similar items — owls with flashing eyes, owls with moving wings, and hawks. I want to rig one up with an audio speaker and have it sing Al Jolson tunes.

Zareba EAC25M-Z AC-Powered Low-Impedance 25-Mile-Range Charger

Rabbits are among the animals that can be controlled by adding this charger to your fence, making it an electric fence. But then I’d also need a horse for fence-inspection rides around the backyard.

Rabbit-proof raised garden beds

In the long term, I think we’re going to add some rabbit-proof raised beds. We built one wooden raised bed ten years ago, but wooden raised beds eventually deteriorate, and our is doing that now. It had a great run.

Doing a search for “durable raised bed” turned up the Durable GreenBed, a raised bed garden kit boasting a 25-year guarantee.

They’re not cheap, though.

I would want three raised beds, each of them two feet high. One of them would be 4 x 12 feet, costing $781. The other two would either be the same size, for a total of $2,343 — or else 4 x 8 feet, dropping the total to a mere $1,891.

I mentioned these beds to one of my neighbors, and she thought it would be cheaper to just buy kale at the store.

Do you have real-life experience with any rabbit deterrent methods? Please leave your insights in the comments below.