You may need to practice rabbit pest control year-round. Indeed, you should protect your landscaping trees and shrubs against wild rabbits even in winter, encasing chicken wire fencing around the bases of their trunks, lest hungry rabbits nibble at them. But while rabbit pest control cannot be relegated to any one time of the year, what better time to discuss it than at Easter, with so much talk of the Easter Rabbit in the air?
For children intent on hunting for the Easter eggs that he leaves behind, he may well be the "Easter Rabbit" (or "Easter Bunny"), but for landscapers, a far more fitting moniker would be "Eater Rabbit."
On Pages 2 and 3 we'll look at rabbit pest control measures that landscapers can take, so as to avoid having their plants eaten by marauding rabbits. But as an Easter tribute to these adorable garden pests, it is fitting that we should first explore the origin of the Easter Rabbit. After all, the connection between Christianity's Resurrection, colorful eggs and a rabbit is anything but clear at first glance.
Origin of the Easter Rabbit: A Tradition of Fertility
Some of the confusion is dispelled by looking at the origin of the very word, "Easter." For all the pagan traditions associated with it, "Christmas" is at least easily recognizable as a Christian holiday, from its name alone. But Easter is named after Eastre, a pagan Saxon goddess!
Eastre (earlier, Eostre, derived from the Saxons' Germanic heritage) was the Anglo-Saxon name of a Teutonic goddess of dawn, spring and fertility. Our word, "east" is related to this deity's name. Her male consort was the Sun god, and the sun does rise, after all, at dawn and in the east. Rites of spring were celebrated in her honor at the vernal equinox (first day of spring).
The first Sunday after the first full moon succeeding the vernal equinox was also sacred to her, and this pagan holiday was given her name -- Eastre. The full moon represented the "pregnant" phase of Eastre -- she was passing into the fertile season and giving birth to the Sun's offspring.
Eastre's symbols were the hare and the egg. Both represent fertility and, consequently, rebirth. Since rabbits are more common in most lands than hares, over time the rabbit has been substituted -- not without merit, since rabbits are notorious for their fertility. Thus was born the "Easter Rabbit" tradition.
Dyed eggs were already being used as part of pagan rituals at the dawn of history in the Near Eastern civilizations. These were the first "Easter eggs." As the traditions of the Easter Rabbit and Easter eggs evolved, they were lumped together -- somewhat incongruously. Thus in our modern Easter lore, although the Easter Rabbit is sometimes thought of as laying the Easter eggs so eagerly sought by children, the Easter Rabbit is nonetheless often regarded as male.
Since rabbits don't lay eggs anyhow, I suppose quibbling over gender wouldn't make much sense.
Later, the new Christian religion, with its emphasis on rebirth (through the Resurrection), found it expedient to continue celebrating Eastre's holiday. The focus simply switched to Christ -- and the spelling, eventually, to "Easter."
So much for Easter origins and the Easter Rabbit. But what about rabbit pest control? That is the subject of Page 2....
Employing rabbit-proof fences is a sensible approach to wild rabbit control. Chicken wire is a good material for making rabbit-proof fences with which to surround your garden. This wild rabbit control measure will help keep out those cute marauders poised to munch on your plants.
Simple Rabbit-Proof Fences for Wild Rabbit Control: Chicken Wire
Use chicken wire that is 36" wide. Don't be confused by that measurement: when you lay out the chicken wire rabbit-proof fences around the perimeter of your gardens, that 36" will be the height of the fencing.
Dig a trench about 6" deep and 8" wide (assuming your stakes will be about 2" wide), to form the perimeter for rabbit-proof fences. Pound the stakes in on the inside of the trench. Bend the bottom 6" of the chicken wire outward along the ground (forming a letter "L" shape). This 6" flange will prevent the pests from tunneling their way under the fencing and into your garden -- an integral part of wild rabbit control. Set the flange end of the chicken wire fencing down into the trench, with the flange pointing away from your garden.
Fill the trench back in with dirt, burying the flange (and also burying about the bottom 6" of the vertical part of the "L" shape). Staple or tie the chicken wire to stakes. Spacing between stakes is up to you; but, obviously, the closer the stakes are to each other, the more support you're providing your rabbit-proof fences.
Advanced Rabbit-Proof Fences for Wild Rabbit Control: Electric Fencing
Electric fencing also makes for effective rabbit-proof fences.
No trench is needed with electric fencing. Again, pound in your stakes first. But for electric rabbit-proof fences you'll need to attach insulators to the stakes. You'll be suspending 2 wires from these insulators. Run the bottom wire along the outside of the stakes, about 2" above the ground. Run the top wire along the inside, about 4" above the ground.
Electric rabbit-proof fences can be charged with an electric fencing charger for gardens.
On Page 3 we'll look at other options for wild rabbit control....
But fencing isn't your only option for pest control against wild rabbits. Nor do you necessarily have to turn to toxic substances. In addition to fencing, wild rabbit control is possible through organic methods.
Pro-Tecs has come out with a natural repellent against wild rabbits that exploits rabbits' dislike of the smell of garlic. A concentration of garlic that, according to Pro-Tecs, is "about 1000 times stronger than garlic juice," is contained in a Pro-Tecs repellent clip.
Simply attach these repellent clips to your landscaping trees, garden plants, etc. to repel rabbit pests. Each clip is said to last 6-8 months. Of course, a major selling point for a garlic-based repellent is that it's organic pest control.
One of the best "homemade" organic rabbit repellents is the soiled cat litter from a cat that has killed and eaten wild animals. Spread such cat litter, while still fresh, around your landscaping trees or garden once a week.
Another commercial rabbit repellent that can be used safely on food crops is Hinder. Hinder's active ingredients are ammonium soaps of higher fatty acids. Thiram repellent, however, is dangerous, and it can be used only on ornamental plants.
Remember, too, that some plants function as "natural pest repellents," at least in terms of saving their own hides. Many of the same plants that are relatively rabbit-proof are also relatively deer-proof.
In the case of some of these plants, it's easy to see why: although natural, they're poisonous (yes, to humans, too). For this reason, deer and rabbits will generally leave alone foxglove (Digitalis) and monkshood (Aconitum), for example.
In the case of other "natural pest repellents," rabbits avoid them not because they're poisonous, but because they don't smell good -- to rabbits, at least.
Aromatic herbs such as lavender (Lavendula) may send humans scurrying for their potpourri supplies, but they send rabbits just plain scurrying! And if you aren't keen on spreading your cat's litter around the yard as a repellent, at least install some catnip plants, or "catmint" (Nepeta) for puss. Rabbits don't like the smell of catnip. Nor will they like the smell of a garden frequented by a catnip-craving cat. It's also a lot of fun to see cats going crazy over their catnip!
A final consideration for rabbit pest control is the use of traps, including Havahart live-traps. Havahart's humane wire traps make for good family fun, and are especially nice to have around if you have children. Not only are they safe, but they'll afford you an opportunity to introduce your children to rabbits and other wildlife face-to-face. For more on pest control using Havahart traps, see my review of Havahart Traps.