wild rabbit in backyard garden pest repel rabbits

10 Natural Ways to Repel Rascally Rabbits to Protect Your Yard and Garden

As adorable as these creatures are, rabbits can wreak havoc on lawns and gardens. Garden centers, home improvement stores, and online resources offer commercial products to help gardeners protect their plants from rabbits. But here’s the problem: commercial repellents are expensive, stink, and some contain chemicals that can pose health hazards to pets.

wild rabbit in backyard garden pest repel rabbits

The solution is to find cheaper options that are effective in getting rid of rabbits that are ruining your lawn and garden.

Rabbit repellents work in two ways to keep rabbits out of your flower and vegetable garden and off the lawn: They produce 1) a smell or 2) a taste that is repulsive for rabbits but without harm. Even better, perhaps, homemade repellents are not only less expensive but offer safe alternatives to commercial repellents.

A small animal in a field

How to Identify Rabbits in Your Garden

Of the nine species of North American cottontail rabbits, the eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) is our most abundant and annoying. Found all the way from Boston to Boulder and south into Mexico, this bunny-about-town is rarely found in forests, preferring instead brushy fence rows, field edges, brush piles, and—how do I know this?—landscaped backyards! Its fondness for flowers, vegetables, bark, and bulbs often results in pruned and clipped gardens and lawns

Even though its nicknames are adorable ( bunny, bunny rabbit, cottontail), the eastern cottontail can be a bothersome pest. It is gray or brownish, with a short tail and big ears. It can weigh 2 to 4 pounds and be 15 to 19 inches in length with a lifespan of 12 to 15 months.

For an eastern cottontail, security is a pile of brush and leaves under my concrete porch floor or another animal’s abandoned burrow. Unlike their European cousins, these rabbits do not dig intricate burrows or “warrens” but make do with what they find.

Rabbits rarely leave their shelters in broad daylight, preferring instead early morning or evening. Like most animals, they are sensitive to the change in day length as spring approaches. For rabbits, the longer days signal the start of two things: spring dining and breeding season.

Speaking of breeding, rabbits naturally have a high reproductive potential. Depending on their region of origin, they can produce about three litters of six kittens. The gestation period for rabbits is just 29 days!

1. Original Irish Spring bar soap

I was surprised to learn that the original Irish Spring bar soap is an inexpensive way to get rid of rabbits. Apparently, to rabbits and other critters (even deer, so I have heard), it has a terrible stench that drives them away.

To turn Irish Spring into an effective repellent, you’ll need these supplies that are readily available in local stores or online:

Using a sharp knife, carefully slice the Irish Spring soap bar(s) into 1/2-inch cubes. These do not have to be exact, but you’ll want many small chunks to treat your entire garden.

Drop two pieces of soap into each drawstring pouch, pull the strings tightly to close, and tie the strings tightly to secure the soap inside. Alternatively, wrap two pieces of soap in cheesecloth, gathering it into a pouch and securing it with string.

Staple or securely tape one pouch to the end of each wooden stake. Drive the opposite end of each stake 6 inches into the ground around your lawn and garden, spacing them from 5 to 10 feet apart. Place stakes closer together in areas with thick vegetation or in spots you’ve noticed often are damaged by rabbits or other animals.

Alternatively, lay the drawstring pouches under and around the vegetation for a more discrete solution.

Monitor the garden or lawn over the course of the next week for signs of damaged or eaten plants. The amount of Irish Spring soap you need to ward off pests depends on the size of your garden and the population of local deer, rabbits, and other animals. Be prepared to add more stakes to target heavily trafficked areas.

Irish Spring soap repels mammal pests, such as mice, rabbits, and deer. It does not repel insect pests, and it does not always eliminate pests completely. However, many have reported excellent results—and I am one. If you’re looking for an effective way to send rabbits away, it’s certainly worth a shot.

2. Household ammonia

Rabbits are dinner for predator animals, so they must be aware of what and who is around them for their survival.

Ammonia is a naturally occurring gas that is a building block for a range of cleaning supplies. The scent of ammonia is similar to the smell of urine that rabbits perceive their predators have used to mark their territory. When rabbits smell the ammonia, they are compelled to move on to another area to avoid whatever animal left its mark behind.

Because of its strong smell, similar to urine, ordinary household ammonia straight out of the bottle makes a great rabbit repellent. You don’t need to figure out complicated formulas or mix a bunch of different ingredients to keep rabbits away.

Household ammonia, located in the cleaning or laundry section of stores or online, will do the trick when used at full strength to get rid of rabbits. That makes it a good choice for gardeners who want a simple, natural solution for their rabbit problem.

Soak strips of old rags in undiluted ammonia, and place them on the trails the rabbits are using to get into your garden. The rags will hold the scent and make life unpleasant for the bunnies.

If you have outdoor pets, you may want to consider options other than ammonia, as some professionals suggest it may be harmful if ingested by curious pets with a weak sense of smell.

3. Garlic hot pepper repellant

Homemade rabbit repellent is a cheap way to keep critters out of your garden. It requires a bit more effort than commercial products, but the ingredients are easy to find and generally inexpensive.

  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes OR cayenne powder
  • 1 tablespoon dish soap
  • 5  garlic cloves, crushed
  • Water
  • Empty gallon-size container with lid

Peel garlic cloves, smash them, and drop them into a gallon jug. Add dish soap and crushed red pepper flakes or powder. Fill the jug with water and apply the lid. Shake the container to mix the ingredients.

Place the jug in the sun for two days to steep, making sure the water becomes entirely concentrated with the ingredients. Strain through a fine sieve or coffee filter. Dispense using a spray bottle or garden sprayer and apply to plants and areas targeted by rabbits. Reapply every five days.

It will take several weeks to begin seeing results. In case of heavy rain, reapply as soon as the weather clears to ensure that your repellant efforts remain effective.

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4. Blood meal, bone meal

Placing blood meal or bone meal (find both in garden centers or online) around plants and along paths has shown some efficacy in controlling rascally rabbits. They find the smell of these products to be repulsive.

As a bonus, both are excellent fertilizers, so your garden will also benefit from this “repellant.”

 

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5. Red pepper powder

Sprinkling dry red pepper powder at the base of plants can protect them from hungry rabbits. You’ll want to find a source that sells it in bulk, such as 1 pound or 3 pounds.

6. Strategic planting

There are ways to repel rabbits from gardens altogether. In fact, certain plants can do the trick. Plants like nasturtiums, garlic, onion, rhubarb, oregano, basil, and geranium are effective at keeping rabbits out of garden beds.

Lavender, snapdragons, and lilac bushes discourage rabbits, and it might be better to look at them and provide fragrance than the other options.

7. Vinegar and corn cobs

Another effective method is soaking corn cobs in plain distilled white vinegar and strategically placing them around your garden to deter rabbits.

Remember to re-soak the corn cobs in vinegar every two weeks for continual efficacy.

8. Motion sprinklers

Thanks to advancing technology, we now have motion-activated water sprinklers designed to deter rabbits and protect gardens from their intrusion.

These automated sprinklers have sensors so that when a rabbit comes into the sensor range, it is activated to harmlessly spray the little critter.

Additionally, sound-emitting sprinklers that function similarly to traditional water sprinklers and can be conveniently installed are available. These motion-activated sprinklers are eco-friendly and readily available for purchase at hardware stores or online retailers.

9. Put up a fence

The best way to stop rabbits from entering your yard is to use physical prevention methods like fencing. Install a strong barrier, such as a chicken wire fence, to stop rabbits and their babies from getting into your yard. It needs to be at least 4 feet high, as rabbits can climb, and they will. Rabbits can also dig, so the mesh or wire grid you select needs to go down into the ground by at least a few inches.

While fencing may be the most labor-intensive option, it will also be the most effective and long-lasting!

10. Get a cat

The presence of dogs and cats will do a good job of pest control. If you have them, let them spend at least part of the day in the garden area. And if your yard is big enough, you might get a cat just to take care of any mice and to keep rabbits away.

In closing

Remember, when embarking on a campaign to get rid of rabbits, give all methods and or products time to work before giving up on them!

 


 

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  1. Sheri B. says:

    I have possums that poop in pots and eat my plants. I live in an apt so, I put mothballs out on my fence. And that keeps them away so far.

    Reply
  2. KjHeart says:

    PLEASE use CAUTION with the red pepper deterrent – Rabbits and Bunnies CANNOT CRY so they have NO WAY to get the pepper powder out of their eyes – this could blind or kill the bunnies! The Irish Spring sounds like a kinder method – we intend to try that one Blood Meal works – we just have to keep reapplying it after heavy rains.

    Reply
  3. Renee says:

    A considerable number individuals presently perusing and composing would be better utilized keeping bunnies.

    Reply
  4. Cally Ross says:

    I have pieces of Irish Spring soap in an old knee-high stocking tied under the hood of my car. The chipmunks used to hide there to eat acorns, and they didn’t clean up after themselves! now they leave my car alone.

    Reply
  5. DD says:

    Use a cheese grater for the Irish Spring – much easier and quicker. Many have told me that just Irish Spring alone (grated) spread around does the trick, don’t need to mess with stakes and other stuff. And Cayenne Pepper sprinkled around will also be sufficient, but reapply every couple of days and right after a rain. (This has also repelled very pesky woodchucks from my yard and digging under my house crawl space). The Cayenne Pepper I use is “That’s Smart” brand from Hy-Vee – .99 cents for 3 oz and much cheaper than in bulk I think. Oh, and look into peppermint (oil or plant) and Epsom salt as repellants as well. In fact you can buy peppermint scented Epsom salts.

    Reply
    • Maggie says:

      Unless you want it to take over the entire flowerbed, don’t plant a mint of any kind (unless in a container … mint spreads like wildfire!)

      Reply
  6. Cathy Smith says:

    I need help with squirrels in my bird feeder! They have destroyed two already! Will it work on these pesky little creatures?

    Reply
  7. Roseann says:

    I feel like Snow White. There are so many bunnies and birds on my property. I liked it when I moved in. I didn’t think about the germs they carry. My dog keeps getting sick and I have bunny holes and poop all over my yard. I don’t want to hurt them bit should I put something down the holes?

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      I would! Chunks of Irish Spring soap. Not harmful but sends them away because they are repulsed by the odor (so am I!)

      Reply
  8. Kathy says:

    I’m going to try vinegar next! Also from Dollar Tree I plan to get ammonia and generic Vick’s.

    I tried Irish Spring a while back as critters, probably rabbits, ate my veggies last year. I set out 25 packets and the next day I found some scattered and chewed on! The same happened a couple of more times but has ceased in the last few weeks. There are no veggies to eat yet but I don’t want to risk attracting the wrong crowd by leaving the soap out.

    Last year I found that one method would work for a couple of weeks then they’d become acclimated to it so I needed to switch. Commercial repellant works but is costly. A five pound jar of cayenne has served me well.

    Supposedly rabbits don’t like reflective objects so I covered flower pots and such with foil. I put out some solar lights and the garden is quite a sight at night.

    I’m definitely on a mission!

    Reply
  9. Courtney says:

    We have a rabbits nest in our garden (under our lettuce) and we also had one in one of my flower pots in my front yard. The rabbits have left the front yard flower pot but it looks like they have left and are still returning and just sitting underneath my lettuce. If I put some of the Irish spring chunks around the garden, do you think they will leave?

    Reply
  10. Peggy Bendell says:

    For the past few years now I’ve been planting crocuses all over in my front lawn as I find them very cheerful after the long winter (I am in NE Ontario in Canada). In 2020 the bloomed so beautifully and I was looking forward to 2021’s batch. Unfortunately the snow melted earlier than ever before (a whole month) so everything came up earlier. And a rabbit* appeared and ate all the flowers, every one of them. So for this would just putting a few sticks with the Irish Spring soap around the border of the lawn be sufficient to keep the monster off the lawn? Cannot apply it until after some of the frost has left the ground so it would be added in stages as the snow melted further and further away from the house.

    Thank you
    Peggy from Porcupine

    *(Yes, I started looking for recipes for rabbit stew lol)

    Reply
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