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July 18, 2014 3 min read

In recent years, North America has seen a dramatic increase in rabbit population. According to wildlife population experts, rabbit numbers increase by the millions. With these critters inhabiting every state in the union it will result in crop and landscape damage estimated in the millions annually. Wild rabbits have an amazing ability to reproduce and to repopulate areas. A single female rabbit can have 1-14 babies per litter; the average litter size is about 6. Rabbit gestation lasts at around 28-31 days. This means that a mother could potentially have one litter per month. Using an integrated approach to repel and restrict rabbit populations and movements are the most effective way to reduce damage. The greatest amount of protection comes from using a variety of rabbit repellent products and or methods. The key to preventing rabbit damage is to stop it before it occurs.

Selecting rabbit proof plants that are less likely to be eaten is a common strategy used in protecting gardens, ornamentals and landscapes alike. Websites, magazines, and catalogs often advertise “rabbit proof” plants. Although the reality of it is that no plant is truly rabbit proof. Some plants are indeed less likely to be eaten than others because of their taste, texture, and or odor. But hungry rabbits will consume almost any plant to survive. Rabbits are extremely aggressive and will consume just about any green vegetation in the spring and summer, (especially as the new growth emerges). When selecting rabbit-resistant plants you may want to consider the fact that rabbits typically dislike plants with sticky/hairy leaves and stems, thorny/prickly leaves and stems (roses being an exception), poisonous or that secrete a thick sap, and also those with strong unpleasant smells, (pungent tastes and strong odors). Please take into consideration the fact that this does not mean homeowners are limited to only planting rabbit resistant plants. One of the many rabbit safe strategies is to stager vegetation by planting at least two rabbit resistant plants for each susceptible plant. Consider using rabbit resistant plants as a boarder around irresistible gardens and flowerbeds, helping to deter rabbits and other animals.

Choosing rabbit resistant plants can be a challenging task and may be too much for the average grower to incorporate. Another option is to install a physical barrier such as fencing or netting, to protect gardens and landscaping from foraging rabbits. Some growers will install plastic or woven wire fence as a rabbit deterrent. For shrubs, netting is sometimes spread over plants. This will also protect against other browsing animals such as deer and elk. However, wire fencing and expensive netting can sometimes be cost prohibited and less than appealing. The netting can also affect the growth of the plant in a negative way.

Commercial rabbit repellent products are effective when used properly. A variety of factors including weather, the availability of other food, and the rabbit’s appetite will more often play a major role in their effectiveness. Rabbit repellents often are required to be applied regularly and after significant rainfall. Some rabbit repellents claim to be effective for three months or longer regardless of the weather. The length of time a product is effective greatly depends on their sticking agent. One university study that included more than ten commercial rabbit repellents found that those with sulfurous odors were the most effective, thus out performing other repellents.

Homemade rabbit repellents can often be made by using materials found around the home that are disagreeable to the rabbits senses of taste and smell. Human hair, soap, and dirty socks are all odor repellents that have shown some limited success. The rotting or sulfurous odor of eggs is an effective method of repelling rabbits. An easy homemade rabbit repellent recipe is to mix 5 eggs in a gallon of water and spray the mixture on the plants. Other homemade sprays that have been shown to effectively deter rabbits because of their taste or odor include peppermint oil, hot peppers and tabasco. Home remedies have been shown to be an effective means of repelling rabbits, but typically do not contain the sticking agents required to give a product the longevity required to be an effective repellent.