Oh, honey, we got bunnies!
That’s it, both the dog and cat are fired. Little bunny prints can be seen coming out from under the front porch and from under the shed. There are several sets of prints so it is likely that at least two new families will be joining ours this spring.
Why the worried faced honey, they’re only bunnies?
Anyone who has had bunnies in their yard and has tried to grow a garden, of any sort, know that underneath those doeful eyes and pretty perky ears lies a bottomless pit of a stomach. Bunnies can eat and eat and eat and eat. And what they love to eat is exactly what you don’t want them to eat. Fresh grass? No. Weeds? Heck no. Precious little flowers trying to wake up from a long winter? Uh huh! Lovely heads of lettuce, rosy radishes or tender beans from the vegetable garden? Most definitely!
If you’ve ever woken up one morning to check on the status of your budding spring flowers or progress of your new vegetable plants peeking out of the soil only to discover that they are gone. Totally gone, eaten right down to the soil, you can likely blame these little darlings who will wipe out entire young crops with their voracious appetite. You can confirm that they are the culprits by looking for droppings or footprints in the soil and if the plants look like they have been cut clean, almost as if with clippers, you have a bunny problem.
Bunnies prefer to feed under the cloak of darkness when they feel safer from predators. Not much is safe from these critters. They love their beans, broccoli and lettuces sure, but even flowers aren’t safe. Marigolds, pansies, and petunias are some of their favourites, but a curious young bunny will try almost anything.
The question is what do we do with these adorable little monsters. Some people have suggested rabbit stew, and while rabbits are nutritious and tasty, it’s not legal or safe to eat the wild darlings inhabiting your yard, besides they are rather cute. You can still threaten them, not that it will bother them one bit.
Bunny, bunny go away
So how do we protect our gardens against these adorable pests? It is not easy.
Prevention regarding habitat removal is an easy way to stop the problem before it starts. However, it is easier said than done. You can start by boarding up areas that are enticing for them to nest in: block any openings under porches, low decks or sheds. Remove piles of wood or brush which provide shelter and protection
from predators. Of course having a dog or cat around will help, provided they show some interest in chasing the rabbits rather than raising an eyebrow as they much the flower baskets in front of them. Natural predators such as foxes, hawks, owls and snakes will also help so don’t shoo them away.
Fencing and netting are a good first line of defence. Ensure your fence is buried at least three to six inches underground to prevent them from burrowing under it, and at least two feet high to keep them from jumping over it. Chicken wire works well as a fence for individual plant protection.
Prey animals have to always be alert for predators so scare the little pants off them. Again having a dog or cat in the yard can help, as will home remedies like flashing lights, pie pans, or devices like fake owls or hawks and ultrasonic devices. But, bunnies are smart so you will have to alternate these every so often or they will become accustomed to them, and they will cease to be effective.
Repel them with repulsive odours and flavours
Repellents wouldn’t be a great defence for edibles as they may ruin the crop for both rabbits and humans. Also repellents need to be reapplied over time and after it rains adding up costs. Several homemade remedies have had moderate success: putting talcum powder on the leaves, mixing up a concoction of garlic, onions, and hot peppers in oil or water and spraying it on the leaves, and placing bags of Irish Spring soap shavings around the garden.
Using multisensory tactics can be most helpful by combining repellents with fencing and scare tactics.
Out plant them
There are two things you can do to outsmart rabbits with plants. One you can try planting things they dislike such as garlic, squash, tomatoes, basil, oregano, geraniums, wax begonias and the like. But again, if they are hungry don’t count on this to deter them either. The list of plants they dislike is much shorter than the list of plants that they enjoy.
The other option is to fence in your garden and plant a bunny garden for them a nice safe distance from your garden. It may seem silly, but a decoy garden may keep them at bay from the plants you want to save.
Most experts will advise not to trap animals. If you do decide to do this, use humane traps to relocate the rabbits elsewhere and BEFORE you do this check with your local conservation office on what the rules and guidelines are for your area. It is also important to check the traps several times per day so that if you do catch an animal, and it may not be a rabbit, that they do not harm themselves in the trap.
The problem and beauty of bunnies
Rabbits reproduce like, well, rabbits, having up to three litters of six per year and once they have established themselves, you quickly have a growing problem. In most cases, it is almost futile to keep rabbits out of your yard and garden, but hopefully, some of these methods will assist in reducing their damage.
The alternative is to accept these furry little darlings as part of our environment, just as Beatrix Potter did. Enjoy their antics, protect the plants we love and don’t worry about the rest. This will require a lot of patience from an avid gardener who adores their plants.
Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail, who were good little bunnies, went down the lane to gather blackberries. But Peter, who was very naughty, ran straight away to Mr. McGregor's garden, and squeezed under the gate! First, he ate some lettuces and some French beans. And then he ate some radishes. And then, feeling rather sick, he went to look for some parsley." -The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter
What can strike fear into the heart of a gardener more than a voracious horde of hungry bunnies suddenly stopping by for a bite — or a feast?
The best way to keep the bunnies away is to put a fence around the plants you really care about.
Bunnies prefer to be discreet, often feeding at night when it's quieter.