How to Keep Rabbits Out of Garden With or Without Fences

With some trial-and-error, you should be able to remove rabbits inexpensively

The Spruce / Madelyn Goodnight

Cottontails and jackrabbits can be adorable but knowing how to keep rabbits out of your garden can eliminate the destruction they can cause. They eat up the landscape, food crops, and can cause damage to trees, shrubs, and potentially wires and furniture thanks to their gnawing habits. The best means of controlling rabbit damage in the garden is by kindly discouraging their presence and preventing access to plants.

What Do Rabbits Look Like?

The most common rabbit found in yards and gardens throughout the United States is the eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus). Its primary habitat is landscaped and planted areas rather than wilderness. It has large, tapered ears and mottled brown, black, and white fur. It grows 15 to 19 inches long and weighs 2 to 4 pounds. The eastern cottontail nests below hedgerows and other plantings, beneath undergrowth, and inside burrows abandoned by other animals. It does not dig warrens like some other rabbit species. Jackrabbits are brown and larger than cottontails, almost to the size of a cat.

garden fencing to keep rabbits out
The Spruce / Micah Issitt and Adrienne Legault
rabbit behind a fence
The Spruce / Micah Issitt and Adrienne Legault

Signs of Rabbit Infestation

Though you will see rabbits scurrying about in the morning, late afternoon, or evening, you will also find other signs that they are making a home in your yard, including:

  • Piles of small round brown droppings (tubular droppings mean other types of rodents)
  • Gnawed or stripped bottom tree trunks
  • Rabbit fur at the entrance of a hole leading to a burrow
  • Plants that have been grazed to the ground

6 Ways to Get Rid of Rabbits


Click Play to Learn How to Keep Rabbits Out of Your Garden

Experiment With Unpleasant Rabbit Odors

The easiest solution is to experiment with scattering scents around your yard that rabbits reportedly hate. Either dust some of these items on plants (rabbits are sensitive to dusty items) or sprinkle them around plants. Otherwise, dilute liquids with water and spray to deter rabbits. Consider trying the following:

  • Talcum powder
  • Vinegar
  • Ammonia
  • Mothballs
  • Chili pepper
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Citrus peels
  • Dried sulfur
  • Irish Spring soap shavings


Keep vinegar and ammonia away from plants. If you want to experiment with vinegar or ammonia, try the following:

  • Place small jars of white vinegar around the garden and poke holes in the lid to let out the smell.
  • Spray one part vinegar to three parts water and spray it around the property but away from plants.
  • Soap rags in undiluted ammonia and place them (not near plants) where rabbits may be hiding or on trails they use to access your yard.

Plant Rabbit-Deterrent Herbs

Just like deer, rabbits are not a fan of many of the same plants so by incorporating these herbs into your yard, you will deter both animals. There are many rabbit-deterrent plants and flowers but consider growing these herbs for starters:

  • Rosemary
  • Mint/catmint
  • Lavender
  • Bee balm
  • Thyme
  • Yarrow
  • Sage
  • Alliums/chives

Install Garden Fencing

As is true when you are trying to protect against any wildlife, the top recommendation for immediate results is to use fencing around the garden or any other area requiring protection. Chicken wire with 1/2- to 1-inch mesh is a good choice for guarding against rabbits. The fence must be at least 2 feet high to keep rabbits from jumping over it. To prevent rabbits from burrowing under it, the fencing should extend at least 6 inches below ground or be secured to the ground to keep the bottom edge tight. Electric net fencing also can be used for temporary control around seasonal gardens.

Protect Individual Plants

Use 1/4- to 1/2-inch mesh chicken wire or hardware cloth to form cylinders around new trees, shrubs, or vines. Bury the fencing 6 inches deep to prevent burrowing. Provide several inches of clearance around the plant and, if the fencing is flimsy, add bracing to prevent the rabbits from pushing the netting and reaching through to nibble.

Modify the Habitat

If you have found evidence of rabbit nesting, remove it, and modify or block off the area to keep them from coming back in. Proactively reduce nesting options by removing low shrubbery branches that provide harborage for rabbits. Eliminate tall, dense vegetation and wood and debris piles. Control vegetation along fence rows. Seal spaces beneath buildings.

Apply Repellents

Chemical repellents can be applied to some trees, vines, or other plants that are in danger from rabbits. But these can create an unpleasant odor, taste, or stickiness. Because of this, most repellents are not suited for use on vegetables or other food plants, as they can make the plant inedible for humans. In addition, repellents often work only for a short time and need to be reapplied frequently. If you choose to use a repellent, carefully read and follow all label directions before use.


One type of deer repellent may work well for repelling rabbits, too. Look for one with a mix of dried bovine blood, sulfured eggs, and garlic, which are all smells rabbits hate.

Deter With Predators

In areas where rabbits are plentiful, they will naturally attract some wild predators, such as foxes, hawks, owls, and snakes. Even in inner-city urban areas, wild predators may recognize the food source and take up residence to hunt rabbits. These small predators rarely pose any danger to family pets, and they pose no danger whatsoever to people. So rather than make efforts to chase away foxes or hawks, welcome their presence as a solution to your rabbit problem. Or, if you have a family dog with hunting instincts who can roam your fenced-in yard, it is very unlikely that rabbits will feed on any of your plants. House cats can also be an effective deterrent, though most experts discourage letting pet cats roam outside, where they can pose a danger to songbirds.

Trap as a Last Effort

Live trapping of rabbits is an option, but it is usually not recommended that you do this yourself because it can be challenging to deal with the trapped animal. Because rabbits are considered agricultural pests in many states, and because they can carry disease, there are often laws that regulate where and how you can release wild rabbits.

What Attracts Rabbits to Gardens?

Rabbits can, and will, eat just about any tender plant, so they are naturally drawn in by home gardens. In the spring, they will feed on newly sprouted grass and clover; in the fall and winter when food is less available, they will survive on whatever bark and seedlings they can find. But all too often, the rabbits' favorite food is the same food loved by the homeowners: the delicious produce found in vegetable gardens and on fruit bushes. Favorites include vegetables such as beans, beet, broccoli, carrot, lettuce, and peas; herbs such as cilantro and parsley; and nuts and fruits such as almonds, apples, berries, plums, etc. For good measure, many rabbits are also quite fond of ornamental flowers, shrubs, and trees.

There are of course other wild animals that also feed on tender plants and gnaw on trees and shrubs; deer, squirrels, chipmunks, woodchucks, and raccoons are all familiar villains in this drama. But when you see plants chomped off and bark gnawed, with the presence of rabbit fecal pellets in the area, it is almost certain that rabbits are to blame. And you may well get verification by spotting the unmistakable tracks of the rabbit's long back feet impressed in the soil.

How to Get Rid of Rabbits Permanently

Defense against rabbits is an ongoing battle. No matter how you choose to prevent, discourage, or get rid of rabbits—or how successful those methods are for the moment—you will need to be constantly vigilant. Rabbits reproduce like—well, rabbits—and there will always be more coming to investigate your garden and landscape, so it may not be possible to find a truly permanent solution. Ongoing rabbit defense requires:

  • Regularly inspecting fencing to ensure rabbits are not getting through, under, or around the barrier
  • Inspecting plants weekly for damage
  • Watching for rabbits signs: fecal pellets, chewed-off plants, gnawed bark, etc.
  • Acting as soon as you see the first sign of rabbits

When to Call a Professional to Treat a Rabbit Infestation

You may prefer to have a professional install fencing to keep out the rabbits. In addition, professional control is also available through pest management companies that provide nuisance wildlife management services.

  • What are some common signs of rabbits?

    One very reliable sign of marauding rabbits is an area scattered with coarse, round, fecal pellets—the scat (poop) of rabbits. Depending on the species, these may be 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch in size. You may also see rabbit hair or fur caught on or under tree branches, rabbit trails, or nesting areas under bushes or brush. 

  • Do noises deter rabbits?

    Devices intended to frighten or discourage rabbits, such as noisemakers, flashing lights, or ultrasonic sound waves do not really scare away or otherwise affect rabbits. Within a matter of hours, the rabbits will learn to ignore these measures and continue happily feeding on your plants.

  • Are rabbits afraid of scarecrows?

    Any number of faux owls, snakes, and hawk figurines are marketed as "scarecrows" intended to frighten away rabbits and other pest animals. They do not work.

  • Do rabbits carry diseases?

    The most common disease carried and spread by cottontail rabbits is tularemia, also known as rabbit fever. Tularemia can be passed from infected rabbits to humans via contaminated food or water; by eating infected rabbits; via blood-feeding insects such as ticks, mosquitos, fleas, and flies; or by inhalation of dust from infected animal feces, animal tissue, or urine.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Eastern Cottontail Rabbit. Wildlife Illinois.

  2. Rabbits Management Guidelines. UC IPM.

  3. Rabbits Management Guidelines. UC IPM.

  4. Tularemia Facts. American Veterinary Medical Association.