While rabbits may be cute to look at, they’re not animals you want to share your garden with.
In addition to reproducing rapidly, rabbits will destroy your plants and can wreak havoc on your landscaping, yard, and flowerbeds.
Fortunately, you don’t have to resign your property to rabbit damage. In fact, there are many humane removal methods that can stop rabbits from eating your plants.
In this blog, we’ll discuss how to get rid of rabbits without killing them. Our tips will help you remove wild, cottontail, and European rabbits from your backyard, garden, or lawn.
- Rabbits are common pests in North America. They live throughout the country, have a ravenous appetite for fresh vegetation, and can be very difficult to eliminate.
- If rabbits are destroying your property, there are many humane, DIY ways to get rid of them, including with deterrents like red pepper and Irish Spring soap or exclusion methods like fencing.
- Maintaining your yard, mowing grass, and filling burrows and holes are great ways to prevent rabbit re-infestation.
- Severe rabbit infestations may require the help of a professional wildlife removal company, which will make exclusion, trapping, and removal recommendations tailored to your property.
How Do Rabbits Damage Lawns & Gardens?
For such a small animal, rabbits can do a surprising amount of damage to lawns and gardens.
Here’s a breakdown of the havoc rabbits can cause:
- Damage to landscaping and gardens. Rabbits are voracious eaters with razor-sharp teeth. They’re known for drawing (and, in some cases, killing) fruits, flowers, young trees, and other plants. They can strip the bark off young trees and clip their buds, creating clean-cut damage at ground level. Rabbits also eat plants at all stages of growth – consuming sprouts, stems, leaves, and buds, as well as mature fruits and vegetables. In just days, rabbits can devastate your garden.
- Damage to lawns. Like other burrowing rodents, rabbits dig holes to keep themselves and their babies safe. As they dig, they displace soil and create cavernous openings. They also trample grass as they feed, creating brown spots and dead grass. In time, rabbits can turn a well-manicured lawn into an unsightly mess.
- Possible disease transmission. Rabbits can carry diseases like Tularemia. Also known as “Rabbit fever,” Tularemia is most commonly associated with Cottontail rabbits and can be spread to humans via infected ticks or fleas. Rabbits can also be hosts for ticks with Lyme disease.
Although bunnies cause damage all year long, they’re especially active in the early spring, when they feed on tender green buds of plants and grass.
During the winter, they’ll pop out of their underground burrows to eat the bark of trees and shrubs, sometimes girdling the trees or preventing the emergence of foliage in the spring.
What Attracts Rabbits to Your Yard?
Are rabbits suddenly taking over your yard? Here’s why:
Rabbits are voracious eaters, and strict herbivores. They eat a variety of vegetation, including fruit, buds, flowers, seeds, bark, and twigs.
Cottontail bunnies may also eat crops like peas, beans, and lettuce. In the winter, rabbits will eat bark, twigs, and shrubs, eventually re-ingesting their own fecal pellets to boost their vitamin and mineral intake.
Rabbits love yards with unfenced gardens or other easily available food sources.
Rabbits drink about 4-8 ounces of water each day. They get much of this water from their food, since vegetation has a high moisture content.
The rest of their daily intake comes from chemical reactions in the rabbit’s body and through sources of drinking water, such as puddles, irrigation lines, and ponds.
Since rabbits are prey animals, they need habitats that provide plenty of protection, and they’ll seek out areas with tall grass to hide in or fences and trees that provide shelter.
Once rabbits show up, they’ll breed rapidly. Females have a 30-day gestation period and can have several litters of 4-8 young each. Baby rabbits are fully mature in a matter of weeks, so rabbit populations can quickly get out of hand.
How to Get Rid of Rabbits in Your Yard Naturally & Humanely
Want to get rid of rabbits for good? Try these home remedies:
1. Use repellents and exclusion methods
Rabbits have a strong sense of smell, and they use it to guide them to safe, tasty food sources. Fortunately, you can use that sense of smell in your favor if you’re trying to repel rabbits.
To keep these pests from returning, try using various homemade deterrents.
Here are our top suggestions:
- Use repellents like dried blood meal or sulfur to keep bunnies from entering your garden in the first place. Sprinkle your repellent of choice in the parts of your yard that you want rabbits to stay out of. Make sure to re-apply the repellent after every heavy rain or anytime you water your lawn or garden. If you have dogs, be wary of using this method since they may be attracted to the blood meal.
- Sprinkle cayenne pepper around the garden or near plants that rabbits love to eat.
- Use a small, mesh bag to contain shavings of strong-smelling bar soap, and place it in high-traffic rabbit areas.
- Grind together three hot peppers, three large onions, and a whole bunch of garlic. Add water to cover, let the mixture sit overnight, strain it, and add water to make a gallon of homemade rabbit deterrent. Spray it anywhere you’ve noticed rabbit activity.
- Apply a light coating of animal lard to the stalks and base area of new seeding replacements to repel rabbits.
We recommend Liquid Fence Deer and Rabbit Repellent Concentrate if you’re looking for a more powerful repellent. This long-lasting, rain-resistant repellent is safe for use on landscaping, ornamental gardens, flowers, trees, vines, and shrubs and is harmless to plants and animals when used as directed.
Remember that repellents are only effective if you use them repeatedly and frequently since they can wear off quickly.
Pros: Easy, effective, affordable, non-toxic, gets rid of rabbits without killing them or harming dogs and other pets
Cons: These DIY deterrents require re-application after every heavy watering or rain (except for fencing of course)
2. Use exclusion methods
Use repellents and exclusion methods together to keep rabbits out of your garden for maximum effectiveness.
While fencing is time-consuming to install, it is the best way to control rabbits.
To prevent their entry, install chicken wire fencing or wire mesh around your lawn, garden, flower beds, and other areas you’d like to protect.
To ensure the fencing is rabbit-proof, we recommend using 15” tall poultry or bird netting (this product is a great option), although anything taller than 12” will work well. To prevent bunnies from digging under the fence, bury it at least 6” underground.
The top of the fence should be bent away from the garden bed, so rabbits can’t jump over it. You can protect bulbs with a dome or cage of chicken wire.
Pros: Fencing is affordable and humane and can keep other pests out of your garden.
Cons: Fencing can be difficult to install and requires routine repairs and maintenance.
3. Protect your plants
Create a second line of protection to keep rabbits away from your plants by using cylinders of ¼ inch-mesh hardware cloth to protect young fruit and ornamental trees.
For maximum protection, ensure the cylinders extend higher up the trees than a rabbit can reach while standing on its hind legs. The cylinders should be at least 1-2” off the tree trunk.
You can also use individual tin calls to create “collars” around plants so that they can grow to a less vulnerable size.
Pros: Easy, effective, inexpensive, nontoxic
Cons: Requires a good deal of manual work to install these barrier methods
4. Use chicken wire to protect your garden
Use chicken wire to protect your plants and keep rabbits out of your garden.
Simply wrap the wire around the garden. To prevent rabbits from burrowing underneath, dig the wire several inches into the ground.
You can also use netting to drape over your plants and prevent rabbits from nibbling on vulnerable growth.
Pros: Effective at preventing predation
Cons: Can be unsightly
5. Use live traps
While rabbits are intelligent animals that are very difficult to lure into traps, you can do it.
To use live trapping as an effective rabbit control method, you must invest time and patience into determining the rabbits’ daily habits and routes of travel.
Well-placed live traps can catch and contain rabbits without harming them. Commonly used by rabbit control companies, live traps are a great way to quickly reduce rabbit populations without using lethal methods.
Not sure which live trap to use? We recommend Wilco’s Collapsible Live Trap, which is safe for rabbits, humane, and easy to set.
To make your live traps extra-effective, we recommend adding Wilco Rabbit Lure and placing the traps in the rabbit’s normal path of travel. This bait is a non-toxic paste that’s made from food-grade ingredients. While it attracts rabbits to the trap, it won’t harm them if they ingest it.
If you’re going to use live traps, you must treat the animals ethically.
- All traps should be checked at least once a day.
- Any trapped animals should be handled with care.
- You should wear heavy gloves and protective clothing to avoid contact with diseases transmitted through the animal’s feces and urine.
If you choose to live-trap animals, you’ll need to understand your area’s relevant trapping rules and regulations, as it is generally illegal to relocate live-trapped animals.
If you choose to euthanize the animals, you must only use humane methods. Drowning is not an acceptable option.
While shooting can be an effective solution, it’s illegal in most municipalities and can be dangerous. DO NOT try to shoot rabbits unless you’re a skilled marksman capable of doing so safely and responsibly.
Pros: Effective, fast-acting, humane
Cons: Can be time-consuming to set up and manage, poses a risk of disease
Lethal Ways to Get Rid of Rabbits
If you want to eliminate rabbits, there are lethal methods you can use. That said, we always recommend using humane approaches and avoiding deadly techniques as much as possible.
1. Rabbit poisons
If you want to kill rabbits, poison is one of the fastest methods. There are many store-bought rabbit positions designed to kill rabbits fast.
There are also jackrabbit baits on the market, but they’re highly restricted and come with many risks.
We advise caution with all poisons since these poisons contain dangerous toxins and are likely not safe for kids, pets, or non-target species.
Pros: Effective, fast-acting.
Cons: These products are highly toxic and inhumane and are not approved for use around kids, pets, or food.
2. Lethal traps
While there are a variety of non-lethal traps available to help you get rid of rabbits, some people prefer lethal traps.
Lethal traps kill rabbits quickly and can be used to cut down large rabbit populations.
Pros: Non-toxic, safer than poisons
Cons: Requires re-baiting and re-setting of traps, and disposing of dead rabbits, inhumane. Live trapping is also dangerous: live trapping can pose a risk of injury for the trapper and animals and may distress rabbits.
How do Wildlife Removal Companies Get Rid of Rabbits?
Interested in hiring a wildlife removal company to get rid of your rabbits? Here’s what you can expect:
Step 1: Inspection
When you hire a wildlife removal company, most teams will start with an inspection of your property.
During this inspection, they’ll arrive at your property, identify rabbit burrows, and assess current rabbit damage.
Next, they’ll make treatment recommendations. During this inspection, they’ll evaluate your property, identify the source and severity of the infestation, and discuss treatment options.
Step 2: Treatment
Next, the wildlife removal company will deliver the treatment method they’ve deemed most appropriate for your property.
Since rabbits reproduce rapidly, getting rid of them usually requires multiple treatments rather than a single appointment.
Step 3: Follow-up
Once the pest control experts have completed their initial phase of treatments, they may move on to exclusion recommendations designed to keep rabbits from returning to your property.
How to Keep Rabbits Out of Your Garden & Yard
Keep bunnies off your property with these simple prevention tips:
- Plant onions, garlic, marigold, and other strong-smelling plants around the border of your garden to deter rabbits. While there are no truly “rabbit-proof” plants, rabbits tend to stay away from strongly-scented herbs and plants like oregano, basil, and rhubarb.
- Keep your yard as tidy as possible. Habitat modification is one of the best ways to get rid of bunnies. Remove hiding spaces by trimming back landscaping, raking up piles of brushes and leaves, and keeping your lawn mowed to limit shelter.
- Let your domestic pets outside often. Rabbits see pets as predators and will be hesitant to visit a yard with pets.
- Use scare tactics to startle rabbits. Motion-activated lights, shiny aluminum pie tins, old mirrors, and motion-activated scare devices can all help keep rabbits out of your garden without hurting them.
- Use store-bought ultrasonic spikes. These spikes emit a noise that’s too high-pitch for people to hear, but that creates an intolerable racket for rabbits.
Are Rabbits Destroying Your Lawn or Garden? We’re Here to Help
Rabbits can be tough pests to eliminate. If your DIY options have failed or you want expert help, it may be time to find a reputable, local wildlife removal company in your area.
Fortunately, we have a broad network of reputable partners in your area that can help you get rid of rabbits quickly and humanely.
Get a Free Quote
Give us a call today to receive your free, no-obligation pest control quote.
Rabbit Control FAQs
While rabbits don’t bite people, they can carry diseases that can pass to humans and domestic pets via infected ticks and lice.
To most people, wild and domestic rabbits look virtually identical. If there’s a rabbit in your yard, though, it’s likely wild. In California, seven species of rabbits live in the wild, but the most common are the black-tailed hare, the desert cottontail, and the brush rabbit.
Rabbits hate strong smells. To get rid of them, try dried sulfur. Sprinkling it on or around your plants is a great way to keep them away. You can also plant strong-smelling plants like onions or garlic to keep them out of your garden.