How to Keep Rabbits Out of Your Garden Without Harming Them

Fed up with bunnies eating your plants? Follow these tips to prevent rabbit damage in your yard.

Marsh Rabbit

Marsh Rabbit

Rabbits can wipe out plantings overnight with their incessant munching. This bunny is a marsh rabbit, native to the East Coast. It’s not likely to cause garden damage unless you garden near bodies of water, the types of areas it prefers to nest.

Photo by: Mark Danaher for U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at FWS.gov

Mark Danaher for U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at FWS.gov

Cuddly and cute, rabbits are perfect characters for children’s stories. But when it comes to your garden and landscape, they’re more of a terrorist, working under cover of darkness to destroy entire crops.

Rabbit Eating Container Plant

Rabbit Eating Container Plant

Just because a plant is in a tall pot doesn’t mean it’s out of the reach of hungry bunnies. Rabbits stand, lean and stretch to reach tasty flowers, like this Campfire Fireburst Bidens.

Photo by: Julie Martens Forney

Julie Martens Forney

Given a choice, rabbits prefer munching young, tender growth on plants. Seedlings are a favorite target, including peas, beans, lettuce and other cool-season crops. But they’ll also chomp on everything from pansy to petunia and clematis to sunflowers. They also have a taste for fresh berries and other fruits.

Adult rabbits can stand on their hind feet to get to plants that might seem out of reach. Young rabbits are especially troublesome, as they discover the world through their taste buds and nibble even plants that are traditionally rabbit-resistant.

Cage Over Strawberries

Cage Over Strawberries

Protect plants and young seedlings from hungry rabbits by covering them with a barrier. This strawberry patch outsmarts rabbits with a pvc-and-hardware-cloth cage that’s lightweight and easy to remove for berry picking. The top of the cage is bird netting, which rabbits can bite through—a feat they can’t achieve with the hardware cloth sides.

Photo by: Jim Martens

Jim Martens

How To Prevent Rabbit Damage

The secret to preventing bunnies' smorgasbord is using several different techniques. Try some of these tips to beat the bunnies at their own game.

  • Exclude them. This is the surest way to prevent rabbit damage. Fencing is the top choice — use a 1/4- or 1/2-inch mesh for best success at a minimum height of two feet (to keep rabbits from jumping over it). Bury the edges six inches, bending the fence bottom outward (underground) to outsmart burrowing bunnies. For raised beds, make a crop cage using hardware cloth, zip ties and PVC pipe. In winter, protect woody plants from gnawing rabbits by surrounding stems with a cylinder of hardware cloth or mesh fencing. Keep the fence at least two inches away from vulnerable stems so rabbits can’t press against it to reach a stem. If you live in an area with large snowfalls, use a taller fence so rabbits standing on a snowdrift can’t reach over to nibble plants.
  • Limit hiding places. Rabbits need spots to take cover from predators. Inspect your yard and think like a bunny. Look for things that could provide cover, including tall grass, a wood or brush pile, or a shed or deck with no barrier to keep rabbits from going under it.
  • Give them a scare. Letting your dog run freely in your yard is one of the best things you can do to keep rabbits from hanging out. Other scare devices like fake owls, aluminum pie pans or flashing lights may work for a time, but rabbits eventually ignore them (once they realize they pose no real threat).
  • Repel them. Rabbit repellents work by releasing a scent that rabbits find repulsive (often dried blood or garlic oil) or making plants taste bad (hot pepper or dried blood sprays). Flavor-based repellents are usually more effective. Just be sure to follow instructions carefully, especially as it relates to reapplying after rain. Use care when spraying vegetables — you don’t want to make your harvest inedible. When food is scarce, rabbits will eat anything, so even go-to repellents might become ineffective.
  • Choose rabbit-resistant plants. Create a garden featuring plants that rabbits tend to dislike. This list includes lamb’s ears, herbs, onion family plants (allium, leek), cleome, Russian sage and rudbeckia (black-eyed Susan).
  • Welcome weeds. Rabbits love clover and violets, plants that most people work to remove from lawns and planting beds. Let these plants grow, at least in a few places, and rabbits will tend to feed on these first before they hit your prize petunias.
  • Encourage predators. Rabbits have natural predators, including owls, foxes, snakes and hawks. Tend a wildlife-friendly yard to make these predators feel welcome, and they’ll thank you by hunting rabbits.

20 Flowers and Plants Rabbits Hate

See All Photos

Shop This Look

Next Up

Requiem for a Chicken: How To Catch a Raccoon

What to do when furry pests come calling.

Making a Stink: How To Keep Skunks Out of Your Garden

Learn how to get ride of skunks while protecting yourself from their best defense.

Are Ladybugs Good for the Garden?

Ladybugs, also known as lady beetles or ladybird beetles, are considered beneficial insects in the garden because they are predators for many known garden insect pests. Learn more about ladybugs and how to attract them to your garden.

5 Frequent Questions About Yard Prep for Growing Vegetables

Preparing the yard for a vegetable garden may take time, but it will pay off all season long.

Yes, You Want to Attract Bats to Your Yard and Here's Why

Everyone knows birds and bees help pollinate your landscape but did you know bats are pollinators too? Not only will they help your garden grow, bats can eat THOUSANDS of insects in just one hour! Buh-bye mosquitoes!

What Do Ladybugs Eat?

Keep pest problems in check with these adorable garden visitors.

How to Plant Bare-Root Vegetables

Discover the best way to plant asparagus, rhubarb and strawberries in your garden.

Getting the Most Out of Vegetable Gardens

These tips will teach you how to reap bigger, better and more plentiful produce.

Maintaining a Vegetable Garden

Follow this step-by-step guide for growing a productive vegetable garden.

Garden With the Moon

Wonder if lunar gardening is right for you? Learn more about following the moon as you tackle garden tasks.

Go Shopping

Spruce up your outdoor space with products handpicked by HGTV editors.

On TV

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.