Rabbits. To children, they are cute and fluffy and are wanted as pets. To gardeners, rabbits can be the beginning of the end. They are the biggest pests when it comes to trying to keep a garden. But most people reconcile rabbits in their yards because they are too cute to kill and too hard to deter. They just keep coming back.
Here are four reasons rabbits keep coming back to your yard:
- The weather drives rabbits to yards
- Breeding is a driving urge for rabbits
- Safety is a primary concern
- An uncovered, unprotected garden looks super appetizing
Why do Rabbits Invade Your Garden Again and Again?
Innocently, rabbits can be very destructive when it comes to gardens. They will eat whatever is in their path and will leave nothing left to be harvested. Their destruction doesn’t just stop with vegetation. They have been known to chew through underground wires in the backyard. Why do they like your backyard so much while ignoring your neighbor’s yard?
There are a few well-known reasons why rabbits tend to visit one yard more than the other. It is nothing that a particular gardener is doing wrong, but it is what they are allowing to happen in their garden by not being proactive enough. Proper precautions should be taken if you want to be a serious gardener and don’t want rabbits eating up all your hard work.
1. The Weather
During the summer, rabbits are more likely to be rummaging through the gardens that you have painstakingly created. The hotter weather means that food is scarcer in the wild. With food being harder to forage for outside of your garden, rabbits are going to go wherever they know food is going to be and that’s a garden.
- With wildfires, floods or any type of destruction of natural habitat, rabbits have no choice other than to brave gardens, where they will find not only food but a safe place for them to stay and raise a family.
- A garden also provides a place for respite during the summer. Then a garden is always being watered and cared for, so they can always find a never-ending water supply in a garden. Since water can be scarce because of the drought that hits many states, a rabbit is going to go wherever water is to be found.
- During the summer it can reach temperatures of triple digits. Rabbits have been known to die from becoming overheated and anxious. They will seek a place that they can stay cool during the summer. A garden is a place where they know they can use the vegetation to burrow beneath.
Rabbits are most likely to enter the garden during the summer, more than any other time of the year. During the winter, they are hibernating and won’t be making much of an appearance.
During the fall they are gathering food to store for the winter, and during the cooler spring, they are busy exploring after hibernation and don’t have the same need to seek shelter out of the summer heat.
As everyone is well aware, rabbits are known for their breeding habits. People always assume that rabbits can have hundreds of babies and can just keep breeding on and on, but even rabbits reach their limits at some point. Still, female rabbits can produce quite a lot of babies in a season.
Let’s cover rabbit breeding basics to illustrate why people see a lot of rabbits in their yards during spring and summer.
- Rabbits mating season begins in the middle of February and ends at the end of August. There are six months out of the year that rabbits are able to mate and breed, which seems like a small window.
- Since rabbits can have a litter (4 to 12 babies) once a month, depending on the rabbit, six months is plenty of time to fill a garden with rabbit babies.
- When rabbits can start breeding depends on the size of the rabbit, the smaller the rabbit, the sooner the female is ready to go.
- Small/Dwarf size rabbits are able to breed between 3.5-4 months old.
- Large-sized rabbits breed between 4-4.5 months of age.
- Then finally, giant rabbits can start breeding at 6 to 9 months.
- One-single rabbit can become pregnant, give birth, and wean a total amount of 60 young per year. This number is on the high side, but it’s fairly common.
- Female rabbits who have a shorter gestational period (between 31 – 33 days) usually end up with a smaller litter of about 4 or fewer babies.
- The longer the gestation period, than the more bunnies, are going to be in the litter. Gestational periods more than 34 days ends with a dead litter.
- Rabbits can breed until they are unhealthy. A rabbit that goes through this much birthing trauma may not be able to survive very much longer after giving birth to the last batch.
- Rabbits mature quickly. Oftentimes, by the time the last litter is born, the first litter is about ready to mate.
- Weather can also play a factor when it comes to breeding. If it is too hot for the rabbits, then they experience a phenomenon called temporary sterility.
Like human women, female rabbits can also deal with the issue of false pregnancies, when they may seem like their pregnant but actually aren’t. Unlike human women, female rabbits have a higher likelihood of showing signs of a false pregnancy. They also sometimes experience an absorbed or aborted fetus due to health issues like nutritional deficiencies and disease
Rabbits are and will always be prey to all predators, whether they are animals just like them or humans. They are small, furry, cute and defenseless.
The only thing rabbits can do is run and hide, and sometimes the best place for them to hide is in the safety of a garden. People have to understand that is not that rabbits want to be in their garden; it’s because they need to feel safe.
- A garden is an ideal place for a rabbit to hide because they are not as afraid of humans as they are coyotes, wolves, or even birds. They know that inside a garden they will not only find food but shelter so they can hide from whatever it is they are running from.
- A garden also provides a border that separates the rabbit from whatever it is that they are running from. When the garden has a fence that a rabbit can easily burrow underneath, and into safety, where a predator cannot follow them then it is the optimal choice for rabbits to run and hide.
- Rabbits, when taking care of their young, leave them for long periods of time, and they need a safe place to keep their babies during the time when they are most vulnerable. Bunnies are blind and unable to move when they are first born, so they need a safe place to stay until they are older.
- Depending on the breed, some young bunnies may be able to start gathering food for the family. So mama brings them into the garden.
- Rabbits are known for burrowing deep underground to hide from predators. These holes that they dig are called forms and are nest-like cavities that go under vegetation and have a dense cover over the top. This coverage blends into the grassy area around it — successfully hiding the form from prying eyes.
Rabbits want a place where they can raise their bunnies and be safe from the group of animals that are constantly having to run from. When you are prey to many, there is no real safe place that you can be.
The best that bunnies can do is to find a garden with a fence high enough that whatever is after them can’t come chasing them in the garden.
4. Unprotected and Uncovered Garden
At the end of the day, one of the main reasons a rabbit will wander into any garden, risking their lives, is for food. A garden is that open buffet that allows them to eat what they want when they want, and they do not have to go hunting for it.
It’s within the confines of your yard that they are safer from most everything that is hunting them outside. And if you have food growing there, all the better!
- The thing that attracts a rabbit to a garden is easy access to the vegetables that are growing there.
- If a garden just has elevated beds or fruit on trees, then the rabbit is not going to bother, because rabbits are unable to get up there. Unable to reach the fruit or vegetable there, the bunny wouldn’t bother with that garden.
- Most gardens have plants that grow on the ground, through the roots and rabbits are able to just waltz up to whatever plant they are in the mood for eating at that moment and start chowing down.
- The types of vegetables that are being grown in the garden can be attractive to rabbits. Obviously, a rabbit will eat carrots and tomatoes, because they are regularly listed in the rabbit’s wheelhouse of a regular diet.
- Rabbits will also eat different shrubs, bushes, and flowers if they can reach them easily. They are not particularly picky.
Rabbits are going to place their new habitat wherever the best food is. If they find something they like in the yard, then they are going to set up camp and stay as long as they can before they are discovered.
Planting things that you believe rabbits won’t like doesn’t work either because rabbits will usually find something in the garden that they like to eat.
Best Forms Of Rabbit Management
Now, that there are explanations as to why rabbits may be wandering into your yard, then the next thing to think about is how to keep them out of the yard.
Just because someone may love all animals, doesn’t mean they want those animals in their yards destroying months and years of hard work. Gardening is not just a hobby, but some peoples’ livelihood.
- The best and safest way to prevent rabbits from wreaking havoc on the yard is to keep them out of it to begin with. With the proper placement of some strong chicken wire, you can keep them out of those prized azaleas or blossoming watermelon.
- Any fence is going to need regular maintenance and checking up. Rabbits can be tricky when they want to be. Putting up a fence requires some checking to make sure that nothing has created a hole in the area that needs to be fixed and if so, then it needs to be fixed as soon as possible.
- Sometimes it is impossible to protect your whole yard from rabbits but doesn’t mean that you should not use the fencing method if that is one that you are interested in. The other way to utilize it is to not fence the whole yard but to throw a fence around individual plants that need protection.
- Rabbits have been known to hide in sheds and barns, so if you have one of those in the yard, then it is important to throw a fence around that as well. Since sheds and barns are cool areas, then it is considered a good place for rabbits to leave their young while they gather food.
- This may sound like a nasty way to treat a rabbit, but just because a rabbit is trapped doesn’t mean that it has to get injured in the process. It is perfectly okay to safely trap a rabbit in a cage using bait and then put it back in the wild, where it belongs.
- This method can be good for the rabbit because it is safely being removed from the garden. Instead of just tossing it back where it may have entered the fence, you can drive someplace that is relatively safe for it and release it there. Don’t put it back into the path of a predator.
- The way to successfully trap a rabbit is to make sure the trap is sturdy enough to hold it. Then you put the trap over the burrow that it had created after it has left its hole. Then when it is running back to its home it will run straight into the trap, easily capturing it.
- For those who may just want rabbits gone and have tried every other method but nothing seems to work. Then it may be necessary to put your foot down and put out some chemical repellents. This will make the area a no-rabbit zone in a hurry.
- The downside of repellents is that they can only be used on certain plants. If they are used on the wrong one, they can kill the plant or make it inedible. In this case, you may as well have just let the rabbit have its way with it. So, best be careful when using this method.
- Plant Removal
- This may sound counterproductive if you are getting rid of the rabbits to keep your plants thriving, but this step may be necessary. The purpose of plant removal is to remove things like hedges, shrugs, bushes, etc. Basically, anything that rabbits can use as a hiding place.
- An easy method that would require little to no effort on the gardeners’ part is to find a way to frighten rabbits when they enter your yard. An example would be putting up motion sensor security lights that flash with movement, which would scare rabbits away.
- Another method of frightening is to create loud noises. This can occur by tying a string around the perimeter of the yard and tie cans to his string. When the string is tripped, then the cans will jangle, making loud noises and frightening the rabbits away.
There are many ways for an individual to handle the situation, and the choice depends on personal preference. If it’s just one rabbit issue, trapping it and releasing it back into the wild is probably the most humane way it can be handled. If it’s an infestation of rabbits, then plant removal or rabbit repellent may be the only thing that can get rid of the problem.
Rabbits don’t infest yards because they want to destroy, but out of necessity. They want to go somewhere that they can relax from the summer heat and that just happens to be a nice, cozy garden. Especially if the gardener has an abundance of bushes and shrubberies that rabbits can hide under and stay cool.
Rabbits run to gardens because they can escape from predators. A coyote or wolf is going to think twice before stepping foot into a garden because people are not going to look the other way when something big comes wandering near their house.
Rabbits are known for their breeding ability, and the last thing a gardener wants is for rabbits to set up their nest in their yard. The best thing to do for the yard is to prevent rabbits from stumbling into the area in the first place, rather than trying to get rid of them later. There are many avenues you can take to make this happen.