Yards, for rabbits, can be year-round buffets. Warm months offer rabbits flowers and vegetables to eat; in cold months, woody plants may be available. To be sure plants are being destroyed by rabbits, and not by some other critters, look for a "clean, 45-degree angle cut that clips off flower heads, buds or small stems," according to the University of Illinois Extension. Also, during winter, rabbits may gnaw on tree bark or stems of woody plants. Like many other outdoor pests, rabbits prefer certain plants, but when desperate enough may eat anything they can find.
Skill level:Moderately Challenging
Things you need
Sunflower seeds or cracked cornHot pepper sprayWire meshLive trap(s)
1 Clear out places in which rabbits might burrow or otherwise hide. These areas, according to the University of Illinois Extension, are brush piles, weed patches, stone piles and other areas of debris. Keep grass cut short. In an "if you can't beat them, join them" mode, you may be able to prevent rabbits from damaging your plants by feeding them other food they like. Place sunflower seeds or cracked corn in an open place where rabbits can easily get at them.
2 Spray a hot pepper formula on flowers and vegetables. This deters rabbits, but doesn't hurt them---it just causes a warm sensation in rabbits' throats. For the preparation, according to Ron Smith, horticulturalist with the North Dakota State University Extension Service, you can use red cayenne, jalape�o or habanera fresh peppers. (Be particularly careful with the last, as its capsaicin can burn your skin.) Mr. Smith's recipe is as follows: "Put three fresh peppers and water enough to to make a liquid in a food processor. When the peppers are liquefied, pour through a cheesecloth mesh into a glass quart jar. Add about 2 tbsp of olive or other vegetable oil, a squirt of Elmer's glue and a drop or two of liquid dish detergent. Mix the pepper liquid one part to 10 parts water." Shake well before spraying on plants. Reapply to new growth and after heavy rains. If this recipe doesn't work, Smith suggests making the concentration stronger. Commercial capsaicin preparations are also available at garden centres.
3 Install a mesh wire fence if you have a small area. Although no method guarantees that rabbits won't eat in your yard, an exclusion fence is one of the best ways to protect plants. Instructions from the University of Illinois Extension say to use a four-foot high roll of wire mesh, with the mesh small enough to prevent both small and adult rabbits from entering. That means 1 inch or smaller. To install the fence bend the bottom 6 inches of the fencing outward and then bury the fence an additional 6 inches deep. This prevents determined rabbits animals from burrowing under the fence, but will leave 3 feet of fence above ground. Trees and shrubs can also be protected with wire-mesh fencing.
4 Trap rabbits in live traps if they are particularly plentiful or destructive. Check with your local or state wildlife office for details on permits and other legal requirements. You can buy good traps at garden centres and hardware stores, or rent them from animal control offices. To attract rabbits, bait traps with dried apples or other foods they're currently eating. Place traps where rabbits feed or rest. Release rabbits at least 3 miles away.
Tips and warnings
Make a wire trap more enticing to rabbits by covering it with canvas or another dark material. That will make it appear more like a safe place to a rabbit.