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Protecting the garden from Rabbits

 
                              
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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Ok, I know there are probably lots of threads with tips about protecting the garden from rabbits but I did some searching and didn't find too much.

Anyway, in certain garden beds the local rabbits seem to come in and do lots of damage to certain crops.  I don't know that I'll get much broccoli or kohlrabi from that bed as the bunnies are doing them in.  Why couldn't they like turnips better?

So, does anyone know of plants that will tend to turn the bunnies aside?  I hate spending money on something to scatter around the garden when I'll only have to do it again after the next rain!  I've used onions and garlic in the past to get squirrels to quit digging up potted plants but it doesn't seem to stop the bunnies from eating the broccoli leaves and pulling up entire kohlrabi plants.
 
Jami McBride
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I don't believe a 'plant' will detur a 'rabbit', and there are many other 'solutions' out there I don't believe will work either.  So in the interest of cutting to the chase I will post the usual suggestions and add my comments.

#1 Build a two foot high fence around your vegetable garden to keep the rabbits out. Poultry wire works best. Bury your fence about eight to ten inches below the ground to keep rabbits from borrowing beneath it. Make sure you keep any gates closed since rabbits will find this a great way into your vegetable garden.

2' high probably won't be high enough for wild rabbits, my well fed domestic rabbits can go over a 2' fence when motivated. 
Poultry wire rusts out in a couple of seasons with regular exposure to moisture (not a surprise) but what might surprise you are the little sharp pieces of metal it leaves behind (not a good addition to soil you are working in).  If you are going to fence go 3' above ground and 1' below with welded wire like that used for rabbit hutches.  This is much more expensive than poultry wire and may not be an option for your budget.  Also, it won't stop rabbits from digging under so you will want to watch your fence line - no hedges or such to hide what the little buggars might be up to.

# Step 2  Raise your beds about eighteen inches off the ground.

Again, not high enough - though this would work for keeping ducks out

# Step 3  Buy some garden netting or anti-animal netting and place it over your vegetables. You should be able to find netting at a local garden supply store.

Are they kidding?  All small mammals will chew through netting, the worst being rabbits and opossums.  Netting is good for larger animals such as cats, dogs, deer.... etc.  (non-chewers)

# Step 4  Install motion detector sprinklers. These will turn on whenever a rabbit approaches your garden, sprinkling them with water and scaring them away.

Okay I don't see this working.  Blasting low near garden plants the strategy?  Your plants will be a casualty of this war!  Rabbits are good at finding a way around obstacles.  I can foresee a lot of loopholes in this plan for them to exploit.

# Step 5  Sow clover around your vegetable garden. Rabbits will eat clover over vegetables and may fill up on the clover rather than your garden.

I like this idea coupled along with having a predator deterrent such as a dog that sleeps out near your garden.  When the rabbits gain access around the dog they will then have 'other' food to keep 'em busy.  Even so, this is still not a perfect solution as rabbits are known to skip this food and go for that food.

# Step 6  Plant a double-row of onions around your garden. Rabbits don't like onions and will find another area to forage.

Hum....really (I have my doubts).  Now if you combined this with Step #5 and plant the clover outside the onion fence and have a back up for when the onions are small and/or harvested such as a dog you may have a perfect solution  

A Combination of deterrents is The Solution, it's all about making your garden veggies just not worth it in so many ways.  Remember rabbit populations and available forage will very from year to year, and you will find this greatly affects how well your defenses work for any given year.  So setting up your defenses and then watching for where and when you may need to deef 'em up must be your strategy.  As long as some other food is easier and safer they will leave your garden alone.


I have not found any of the following to work, but since we are covering the 'list' I thought I should post them too....

Chemical Solutions to Keep the Rabbits Away: 

# Step 1  Dilute hot pepper sauce into water and sprinkle onto your plants. You will have to reapply after heavy watering or rain.

# Step 2  Sprinkle fox or coyote urine around your garden. Large animal urines are available at many gardening or farm supply stores.

# Step 3  Get some human hair from your barber or hair dresser and sprinkle it around your garden. In addition, human hair is a great fertilizer for your vegetables.

I hope this helps you ~

 
                              
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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Currently don't think a dog is a viable option for us.  -I'm not sure how hard it would be to train a dog to protect chickens yet attack rodents.-

I don't really want to mess with fencing or raised garden beds as my gardens tend to move about the yard and as already pointed out, wire rusts away especially in a humid sub tropical climate.

I've noticed the rabbit damage seems to be mostly in one corner of the yard.
 
Jami McBride
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I understand the lack of love for the dog solution, animals are 'work' no two ways around it.
However, training to be nice to farm chickens, cats, etc. but violent to intruding animals is easy.  Dogs are gifted in this area of making distinctions as you train them in this regard.

The welded wire is galvanized and so it would last a very long time - however your back to the work to implement issue, as well as the money issue.

I am sorry, in all my years I have never heard of an easy (little to no work) and cheap (little to no cost) solution for pest problems.  Maybe someone else has, and will post ...

One other consideration, I've had no experience with, is electric wire fencing.  Set this about 6" off the ground and then again at about a 1.5' (you will have to get exact height from someone with experience) and watch your fence line for diggers.  Fill in holes and try planting some clover

This maybe a combination of work and cost you feel more comfortable with.

Good luck
 
Leah Sattler
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electric might work. but from experience I would expect it to be a constant maintenance issue when put so close to the ground. This is my first year with bunny problems. I have quite a few wire tomato cages that are homemade with welded 1x2" openings. I have placed these around vulnerable plants this fall and it seems to be adequate. no diggers yet but they have plenty of other options to eat and I suspect that simply making it difficult was enough to send them elsewhere.....like to the kohlrabi that wasn't protected. 

If I can't get my chicken moat up around the garden by spring I plant to make long domed wire row covers to protect things such as green beans which were totally devastated this summer. i am envisioning something like a long tiny hoop house. I'm hoping it might also be able to double as a a frame for holding some greenhouse sheeting in place to get an early start on some things and also to be a frame for shade cloth for some heat sensitive fall plantings.
 
                              
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Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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I'll have to watch and see if the stuff in the tunnel by the driveway stays intact here over winter any better than the stuff outside (though it won't be a very balanced observation since the cold weather crops would rather be outside the tunnel.)

For a long time I had thought most of the damage in that corner of the yard was from squirrels but now I think the rabbits might have been eating the sweet potato vines too as I doubt the squirrels are eating broccoli and kohlrabi leaves.

A chicken moat around the gardens would be fun, however, I don't dare run chickens in that corner of my yard as I fear that would cause the tattle tale squad to call code enforcement and make me get rid of all the chickens so I better keep them sort of out of site from the park.

Hum, maybe I just need to reserve that section of garden for non bunny favorite foods but that does crop rotation a challenge.

Any crops that people haven't seen a rabbit touch?  So far I think turnips are pretty safe from them or maybe I just have too many turnips. 
 
Jami McBride
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Just so I'm understanding you, you feel the rabbits will limit themselves to that one area of your garden even if you plant foods they don't like there and move the foods they do like to another area? 

I'm with Leah, no fence, then wire-cover everything they eat

As for plants wild rabbits don't like to eat.... I've only heard of onions and garlic. 

 
paul wheaton
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I would think that the thing to do is to trap them and eat them.
 
                              
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Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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I don't know that they will limit themselves, however, I am willing to try growing the things rabbits dislike in the sections of garden where the rabbits feel safe going and if I am lucky enough that they don't stray beyond into other sections of the yard then I can avoid more drastic measures.  See, some large sections of "my" garden are actually kinda sorta gorilla plantings that are technically on the right of way along the dirt road so I avoid installing anything that might look like permanent fencing.  (There are some sections of post and rail fencing out there that pre-date my purchase of the property so I've planted between that and my property line.  Figure no issues unless the county decides to pave the road or something which would be highly unlikely.)

Anyway, last winter the broccoli and other related plants did fine in the back yard where I guess the bunnies don't feel that safe navigating all the way back there.  So unless there was a population explosion and sudden bunnie famine, there may still be other sections of my yard where I can get away with planting bunnie favorites again without spending lots of money/time digging fending in when I will only have to move it or have it rust away in a season.  (The chicken wire around the coop near the ground rusted away in less than a year and a half.)
 
                          
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Location: Marrakai Northern Territory Australia
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try a hedge or the herb rue- a bit stinky but dont think bunnies will want to pass through it
the site at coopext.colostate.edu has a list of rabbit, squirrel,deer deterant plants, may be worth a look
 
Jami McBride
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Sounds like there are reasons then that the rabbits are not eating around your entire yard.

I agree, start small and only increase your efforts as absolutely necessary.

I have heard of sprinkling human hair used to repel them.  This would be easy to try and might save you from planting until you've found just what you want to use.
 
Ken Peavey
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If you can't beat them, join them.

You say the bunnies are eating the kohlrabi and broccoli.  You've already found your decoy plants.  Seems to me if you give them what they want, they will hang out where the food is.  Put in MORE kohlrabi and broccoli in the same area.  Keeping them out of the rest of the garden is the objective.  Go with what works.
If you can then segregate the bunny farm from the rest of the garden with wire fence or buried lumber, you'll have achieved your objective.

Think of the rabbits as a resource.  Consider trapping the bunnies as Paul Wheaton says.  If eating them is out of the question, keep them as pets.  They make a fine fertilizer.  Keep trapping them, give them away with an ad on Craigslist or Freecycle.  You might even find people willing to pay 5 bucks for a bunny.  Keep in contact with these people, pick up their bunny poop now and then.  They do the feeding, you get the love.  You might even be able to sell them some broccoli and kohlrabi for their new pet.

The beasts have burrows somewhere close.  With a regular food supply, they will be breeding.  These things breed...well..like rabbits .  Their population will grow to exceed the available food supply in the area unless their population is controlled.  Predation, trapping, starvation and poison are options to explore.  Decon Mouse Pruf is effective on rodents.  The toxins build up in their system until lethal levels are reached.  Being larger than mice, it may take several packages.  You would also need to keep the stuff dry while it is available.  If you go with this method, you'll want to seal up any entrances under the house and sheds.  When the bunnies decompose, they will put out an awful odor.

Should the population of the bunnies explode, your best option maybe to stop gardening for a while.  Eliminate their food source, they will die off by starvation or move on to greener pastures.
 
Robert Ray
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I have rabbits and my reason was to provide rabbit manure for my garden.  Unfortunately a relatively close neighbor who thought that he would be able to raise and harvest the rabbits for food found that he could not bring himself to harvest the cute little guys. Since spillage from my rabbits feeders falls out on the ground they were essentially being fed or attracted by me at that point.
Rather than find someone to take his animals he released them in the area. So I have been overrun with the the litters that followed. Keeping them out of the garden has been an extreme challenge. Over the summer I was able to live trap over 35 animals and gave them to others who could or would take care of them or harvest them. As cruel as it sounds I finally began snaring them and harvested the animals myself.
Raised beds helped but even my raised beds I find that I have to provide some type of coverage to protect the plants from the deer and elk that enter my property. Elk are not deterred by fences no matter how stout. I have to protect most of my plants with some type of fencing. Choke cherries and apple trees once they have a substantial trunk are unfenced yet I still have deer problems. Bird netting over those trees do help but I am always afraid that at sometime one will get it entwined in their antlers.
 
                              
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Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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Well I must say that my rabbit problem is pretty darn minimal at this point in time.  Just enough that I noticed several chewed up plants in one section of the yard.  I suspect the home of these critters is out by the corner of the roads under a big Australian pine that is a shrubby area that is technically not my property.

I don't think that snaring them is so terribly cruel if you are going to use them for something.  Better than poison in my book.
 
Luke Burkholder
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Not sure if anyone is still watching this thread, but it's definitely something that I am thinking about. I really started gardening this year in the suburbs, and rabbits were a major issue. My joke was to tell people that I wasn't gardening, I was just making a list of plants that rabbits did and did not like. I also have squirrels and probably racoons (and an occasional neighborhood dog...) so im looking for "broad spectrum" nibbling critter solutions.

I did find that they tend to leave solanaceae (nightshade) plants alone. My tomaoes and potatoes were mostly undisturbed. I had an eggplant that was knocked over at a very young stage and did not recover, and I did not plant any peppers. Perhaps the alkaloids in these plants make them un-tasty to critters?

They also did not bother my butternut squash, or the zucchini (once it was established.) I believe that they did not like the tiny, sharp, "guard hairs" on these types of plants. Too prickly for their delicate noses.

They left my hop plants alone, and did not touch the sage or basil. Again, too much flavor for their delicate palates.

I had several collards, and those did well, but I think they grew tall enough to be resistant to some mild chewing, as long as the central "new leaf" section remained undisturbed.

Lettuce: I thought I could plant so much it would overwhelm them or satiate them, or give them diabetes. No. They ate it all. Tiny leaves would poke out only to disappear when you turn your back.
Cucumbers: gone
Carrots: What's up, doc? I'll tell you what's up, the rabbits ate all my carrots, that's what's up.
Peas: worse than lettuce, if that's possible.
Asparagus: I think the squirrels like to just dig things up

I'm going to try again this year, with a combination of raised beds, cages, fence, location, guard plants, etc. We'll see what works.
 
Heather Staas
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Location: Western MA, zone 5b
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I don't know about the human hair thing, I was just reading a rabbit breeding page that says you can use ANY hair for them to make a nest in if they don't pull enough of their own, and they don't care what species it is so dog/ cat/ human is fine. Not experienced enough to know how true it is, but thought I'd pass it on.
 
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