How to Bunny Proof Your Backyard and Garden in 5 Steps

As cute as they are, rabbits can cause a lot of damage and grief. Simple measures will go a long way towards helping you bunny proof your backyard and garden.

The best approach to getting rid of rabbits is to use several methods simultaneously. You have a lot of options, so if one doesn’t work you can try something else. You must also be patient.

It’s wise to nip a bunny problem in the bud. Besides the damage, rabbits carry several diseases and parasites that people — including you or your family — can get.

Step 1: Getting a Positive ID

Unless you’ve seen them in action, it’s essential to make sure that you’re dealing with rabbits and not another pest. The actions you must take will differ, depending on the source.

Rabbits are crepuscular, which means they come out at dawn and dusk. Unless you happen to be outside then, you won’t see them, just the damage they leave in their wake.

Signs that you have a bunny issue include:

  • Holes from digging
  • Tracks
  • Droppings
  • Plant damage
  • Tufts of fur

Rabbit tracks are oval. Their track pattern is with two larger footprints in front and two smaller ones in back that are staggered. They differ from squirrels because they’re bigger. Also, the front and rear tracks are typically parallel to each other. Deer and rabbits will both eat similar foods. Deer browse looks ragged, whereas bunnies will leave a clean cut on the plant stems.

Step 2: Clean Up the Yard

Keeping your backyard and garden tidy will do two things to help you in your war against rabbits. First, it will get rid of some foodstuffs attracting them to your property. Second, a clean yard removes the rabbit’s edge against predators.

If you’ve ever happened upon a bunny and caught it unawares, you’ll notice that it will inevitably stop dead in its tracks. That’s its camouflage in action. The brown, mottled fur helps the rabbit blend in with its surroundings. Staying quiet and still is its best defense against predators such as coyotes, foxes, and hawks.

Rabbits usually avoid open space like your lawn to avoid attracting attention to themselves.

A side benefit of this step is that you’ll make your yard inhospitable to other pests like mice and squirrels.

Step 3: Fence Them Out of the Garden

While you may enjoy the open space of your backyard, you must take drastic measures if rabbits have discovered your garden. That means a fence. It is the single most direct method you can use that will work and keep other critters out of your space. 

You can use half-inch gauge chicken wire to get the job done. It must be at least 2-feet high and 6-12 inches below ground. Rabbits can hop over anything smaller or dig underneath it. Remember that a hungry bunny is a desperate one.

You can secure the fence at ground level with garden staples, placing one at least every foot or so. We also suggest bending the ends that will go underground out to provide an additional layer of protection.

We recommend checking it frequently to make sure it stays anchored in place and shore up any openings as soon as possible.

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Step 4: Make Your Backyard Uninviting

This step offers a set-it-and-forget-it solution for dealing with rabbits. The premise is to remove the things that bunnies are finding on your property to survive.

The fence will keep them from finding a reliable food source. However, rabbits don’t limit themselves to the plants growing in your garden.

They’ll gladly munch on hostas, petunias, lilies, and tulips. And that’s just scratching the surface of what rabbits will eat. They’ll also gnaw on twigs and shoots of woody plants like willow and apple trees, along with hydrangea and rose bushes.

That’s the primary reason that we suggest a multi-pronged approach to bunny proof your yard.

Deterrents

Here is where deterrents enter the picture. Again, you have several options, each with varying levels of effectiveness when used properly.

Things you can try include:

  • Decoys
  • Motion-sensing devices
  • Spray or granular repellents

We’ll discuss each one in detail.

Decoys

Rabbits are wary creatures in tune with their surroundings. They also have excellent vision, thanks to their eyes being on each side of their heads instead of forward-facing like people and some predators, like owls.

That fact makes them keenly aware of anything new. You can place a decoy of one of their enemies such as a coyote or hawk.

You’ll have the best luck with this approach if the object moves. Rabbits will figure out that it’s fake and not a threat if it stays stationary all the time. You can also try moving it around the yard.

Motion-Sensing Devices

If the bunnies don’t get the message with a decoy, a motion-sensing device will bring the point home in a big way. And it works.

One of the most effective types is a sprinkler that will turn on with a cold blast of water when the rabbit gets within the trigger range. The sudden action will startle them and send them running.

Many products have adjustable ranges and can double as a standard model when not on the job. The disadvantage, of course, is the unintended target like the family dog or welcome wildlife that wander too close.

On the positive side, it’s a humane way to handle the problem without resorting to more drastic measures. We’ll discuss the last resort later.

You can also try other similar products with lights and sirens. However, you must move them occasionally once the bunnies have figured out the ruse.

Rabbits are adaptable animals. If the garden is off-limits, they look for something else to eat like your ferns or daffodils. The trick is to keep them guessing. The bunnies will soon tire of all the commotion and spraying. Ultrasonic devices, by the way, won’t work.

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Spray or Granular Repellents

This solution relies on the rabbit’s keen sense of smell to get rid of them. They typically contain an ingredient that is foul-smelling to them but undetectable by humans.

You’ll see two types of products: liquid sprays and granular ones. Each one works on different tasks.

Sprays are an excellent choice for protecting plants directly. It’s a smart option if fencing isn’t practical. You can use it on your ornamental plantings and flowers, along with trees and shrubbery. You only have to apply it to the bottom of the plants where the bunnies can get to them. The maximum height they could reach is under 3 feet high.

Granular repellents are an effective barrier that you can sprinkle around the perimeter of your garden, along fence lines, and any other place where you’ve seen the signs of activity.

Unlike other pests, rabbits don’t hibernate in the winter. While you can’t use a liquid repellent on your plants, a granular one will work just fine. The downside of these products is that you have to reapply them frequently and after it rains. You have to stay consistent too, otherwise, the rabbits will start their destruction again.

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Step 5: The Last Resort

If everything you’ve tried hasn’t worked, there is one final step you can take, removal of the pests. There are several caveats that you must know before going this route.

First and foremost is the fact that most states classify rabbits as game animals. That means that there is a set hunting or trapping season. Taking an animal out of season is illegal and punishable by a fine.

Depending on where you live, your options are limited. If you live in an urban area, using a firearm or bow and arrow is not on the table.

There is also a risk of taking a non-targeted animal or pet if you use a trap or snare. That danger also exists if you use poison.

Some individuals use live traps and release the culprits someplace else. However, local and state laws will probably dictate where you have to take them. It’s illegal to dump them off at the county park.

Our advice is to call in a nuisance animal professional. They will have the necessary license and permits for capturing the rabbits and get them off-site.

However, bear in mind that animals from neighboring populations will probably move in to take their place once they’re gone. You may win the battle but not the war.

Tips for Keeping Rabbits Out of Your Yard

We understand how vexing it is to wake up and find your tomato plants are gone. Rabbits are tenacious, so you must not let your guard down and keep up the front.

Some other tips we suggest for winning the bunny war include:

  • Avoid using a platform-style bird feeder, which will probably lead to seeds scattered on the ground underneath for a free meal.
  • Use repellents and other deterrents in your entire yard and not just your garden.
  • Prevention is the best way to control a pest problem.
  • Plant aromatic varieties like geraniums to deter bunnies.

Final Thoughts

Fortunately, there are several ways to control ravenous rabbits without having to resort to drastic action. Using multiple methods will create several barriers that can offer an effective solution.

Combined with preventive measures, you’ll be a step ahead of the game when it comes to how to bunny proof your backyard and garden.