How to Stop Rabbits From Digging Holes on Your Property
Sure, rabbits and bunnies are downright adorable creatures. Even my grandmother loves to feed rabbits (and anything else that finds its way onto her lawn). However, when rabbits stay on your property, they can become a MASSIVE nuisance to your lawn sooner rather than later.
You can deter rabbits from your property by making your land undesirable to wildlife. Do this by eliminating tall grass, hiding spots, and stray food on your property. To keep rabbits away from your garden, deck, or any other opening, build a fence around the area.
In theory, the process for deterring rabbits for your yard is simple. Clean up your yard and put up a barrier. However, you must know exactly what to clean up and how to put up a fence. That’s what we’re here for.
How to Stop Rabbits from Digging Holes in Your Lawn
Let’s get down to business. There are two ways that you can get rid of rabbits from your lawn. You can either:
1. Make your lawn undesirable to rabbits
2. Build a fence around a critical area where rabbits cannot get through
There is a third option that involves catching the rabbit. However, this isn’t the best option as it’s much more complicated for both you and the animal alike. In New York, you need a license to catch rabbits if you’re over 12 years of age.
Of course, the laws on trapping vary by state, so you’ll want to check your states current laws regarding catching rabbits and other small game. If your end goal is just to relocate the animal, then it’s best not to get too much into trapping to keep the rabbit safe.
Instead of all that messy stuff, we’re going to focus on some easy peasy, natural methods of keeping rabbits out of your lawn.
Step 1: Make Your Lawn Undesirable to Rabbits
If your lawn is already in tip-top shape, then you can skip this section and read on below.
However, chances are there are things you’re missing.
What’s the one thing that wild rabbits love? It’s an unkempt, untamed, and unmaintained yard. Rabbits tend to love taking cover near large bushes where they can easily hide from prey. When out in the open, rabbits don’t really have a great defense mechanism to ward off prey, which makes hiding in places that have tall grass, large bushes, and thick brush ideal.
In this way, rabbits are interestingly similar to skunks in that they both rely on hiding from prey to survive. By keeping your property well maintained, you’re making it less desirable to many different kinds of wildlife, not just rabbits.
If you haven’t trimmed the grass or let the weeds grow out, then rabbits and other forms of wildlife are more likely to wander in your yard. Aside from more hiding spots, overgrown vegetation of any kind means that there may be more food for the rabbits as well – making for a rabbit buffet.
Aside from tall grasses and bushes, things such as stray branches, twigs, and debris also make for ideal shelters for rabbits.
Think of it like this:
You need to get rid of anything that a rabbit could potentially take shelter in. This truly does help to eliminate that amount of time the animal will want to stay on your property.
In a city, this could be different because animals can get pretty accustomed to the noise and other beings. As a result, the rabbits may become less fearful when living in the hustle and bustle of a concrete jungle (or suburb).
Out in a rural area, this strategy is excellent because rabbits behave more like wild animals and are genuinely trying to survive. They won’t want to go out into the open and will try to avoid it at all costs.
All in all, If you’re having rabbit troubles, do a quick walkthrough of your property to see just what you can clean up.
Step 2: Identify What Needs Protection Against Rabbits
The next thing you want to do is make sure these little guys don’t reach the good stuff. You have two ways of approaching this. Either you isolate the parts of your lawn that you want to be protected or you fence the whole area.
If you have crops in your yard, then isolated or targeted coverage might be for you. Rabbits absolutely LOVE veggies. These include clover, beans, lettuce, and of course, carrots. To play it safe – it may be helpful to try and protect whatever you’re growing as rabbits have a wide variety of foods that they like to eat.
2 Telltale Signs of Rabbits in Your Lawn
Though they may not go underground, rabbits are still a bit hard to spot because they tend to hide in all the little barks in your lawn. The worst part is that once they’ve settled, they are hard to get rid of. If you suspect that you may have a rabbit invasion, then look out of these signs.
1. Signs of Digging and Fur
Near shrubs or fences, check to see if there are signs of digging. It may be a rabbit trying to make its way to your plants. A bit of their fur might also get caught in the branches or fences as they’re trying to dig their way in.
The digging generally results in a dirt hole in the ground about the size of the rabbit, similar to the picture above.
2. Chewed Off Plants
The most obvious signs are, of course, vegetables with bite marks on them. This is especially noticeable for leafy greens. The bites are usually cleaner, like cuts because of the structure of their teeth. Take note of any bite marks on trees as well.
The most likely place for rabbits to visit is your garden, where they can get all of the food nutrients they need. However, if you keep your yard clean and place a fence around your garden, this becomes MUCH less of a problem (more on that below)
Remember, clean up your yard first and then see what needs protection.While you’re cleaning, you’ll most likely be able to spot where the rabbits have entered your property.
Step 3: Build a Wall to Deter Rabbits and Bunnies
Now, it’s time actually to set up your barriers. How you’re going to build walls in your lawn depends on whether you choose to protect your whole yard or just the part where vegetables and flowers are growing.
For your fence, you’re going to want to use galvanized metal cloth wire. This is essentially a bite-proof wire that rabbits won’t be able to chew through or squeeze through. You can find this online pretty easily.
Remember, you NEED metal wire. Something like plastic or cloth and small animals will be able to chew through it.
Once you get your wire, you’re going to want to grab some wooden garden stakes. Look for stakes that are at least 3ft high so the rabbits won’t be able to jump over them.
Next, you’ll want to take your wooden stakes and place those into the ground. The stakes should be about 6 – 8 inches in the ground in order to prevent the rabbits from being able to dig underneath it. Additionally, you’ll need to dig a path for the galvanized wire to sit as well. Remember, we don’t want those rabbits digging underneath!
Lastly, wrap the galvanized wire around the stakes and use a form of zip tie to hold it together.
Just to recap:
- Grab some galvanized mesh wire
- Obtain some wooden stakes of at least 3 feet in length
- Dig about 6 – 8 in. underneath the ground to place both the wooden stakes and mesh in
- Wrap the mesh wire around the wooden stakes
- Use some form of plastic binder (like a zip tie) to hold the wire and wooden stake together
It’s not super complicated, but you will need the right equipment to get the job done.
For trees and brushes, you need to wrap the base of their trunks to prevent rabbits from nibbling on them. Some mesh wire or a spiral tree guard wrapped loosely at the bottom is enough. If you purchase extra materials, you should be able to use your excess mesh from the garden fence (if you built it) to line the tree with!
To do this, take your excess mesh and dig about 2.5 – 3.5 inches in the ground underneath the tree (we don’t want to hit any roots). Next, place the mesh wire facing inwards towards the tree, wrapping all the way around the tree. Lastly, take a plastic binder like a zip tie and hold the fence to the tree.
Again, you really have to bury a bit deeper to keep them from digging. Around 2.5 or 3.5 inches underground. For the tree wrap, it’s crucial to have the wrap be at least 2.5 feet tall to protect the bark.This is so the rabbits won’t be able to jump over them.
This mesh wire method works for a variety of spots in your yard. If you’re a DIY enthusiast – get creative! Use this mesh method to block off the entrance to under your deck. Or maybe you have some plants out in the open that aren’t protected. Be creative, and it will pay off.
Be sure to check and maintain your fences regularly. Rabbits are still capable of getting in through holes and cracks in your barricade.
4 Odd Things That Will Prevent Rabbits from Going to Your Lawn
Remember, we want to prevent rabbits and other small animals from coming to your lawn in the first place. Of course, we sometimes like seeing wildlife, but if you’re here and reading this – chances are you’d like to see less of these critters on your property.
The best way to prevent rabbits from coming to your lawn is to make sure you have no tall brush and wild plants growing. Other methods include: Planting unique plants that rabbits dislike, getting a dog, and using natural repellents.
Use Plants That Have a Strong Smell to Repel Rabbits
Planting flowers and vegetables that have a strong smell can keep rabbits away, too. Onion, garlic, lavender, and marigolds are sure to keep them out. Adding a bit of powdered chilly or pepper around your lawn would also irritate their sensitive noses.
Get a Dog That Will Naturally Chase Rabbits
If you have a dog or have ever seen a dog, then you know that they love to chase things. My dog Vito will chase just about everything he lays his eyes on.
Vito’s favorite animals to chase are Geese. At our property back home, our family has an acre and a half bass pond where he bolts at the sight of them, landing near the edge of the water. Geese, for some reason, were a little difficult to get him to chase. But smaller animals (like rabbits) are ones that he loves to bolt on after.
Naturally, dogs love to chase many animals, but sometimes they just don’t chase after them. I had that situation with Vito and chasing Geese (more on that here). He now loves to chase them, thankfully. Smaller animals, though – he really has always love to chase after them.
So if you have a dog, try to utilize him or her to frighten a friendly rabbit in your yard. Most of the time, dogs just chase the animals and don’t actually catch them. This makes it a fun game and exercise for your pet as well.
Natural Repellents Like Black Pepper Deter Rabbits
Natural repellents, like black pepper, automatically deter smaller animals away. Black pepper and cayenne pepper are two peppers that, when placed on a plant or object, cause the critter to instantly dislike the taste of whatever they are trying to eat.
This is mainly because the pepper is exceptionally spicy and bitter, which tends to ruin the taste for the rabbit trying to eat your plants.
Make A Lot of Noise to Keep Rabbits Away
Think wind chimes, bells, an electric guitar with a 20 Watt amp (kidding about the last one). All of these items will help to keep rabbits away.
Rabbits scare easily with sound, so you can add some wind chimes or bells around areas you want them to keep out. Note that this may not work forever as they can learn to get used to and expect the sounds. This is called habituation and is a well-known Psychology phenomenon.
In essence, the rabbits will most certainly be deterred by the noise at first. However, once the animals realize that the sound will not bring them any harm, they get used to it and, over time, will be hardly affected by the noise at all.
All in all, the noise WILL help at first but it is NOT a long term solution like building a fence and maintaining your yard is.
Use Mock Animals to Scare Rabbits
If you’re going to use a mock animal to deter rabbits, use a fake coyote because they are a rabbit’s natural enemy and will easily be noticed at the eye level of a rabbit visiting your property. Likewise, an owl is optional as well.
There is a long-standing tradition that putting up inanimate objects, such as scarecrow or fake snakes, coyotes, etc. will deter certain target animals. Personally, I am not the biggest fan of relying on this method because animals are not, well, dumb.
Sure, they aren’t capable of complex thought, but if an animal sees a predator standing still in ready to pounce pose, it may hesitate to move forward. Still, chances are, the animal will eventually figure out that the creature poses no threat.
Now, this method could work for deterring an animal one or two times. The idea is that if you can prevent an animal once or twice, then the animal will hopefully not come back to your property, thinking the superior animal is still nearby.
So again, for rabbits, you’ll want to use a mock animal such as a coyote and place it at ground level so the rabbit will easily be able to see it.
How to Fill Hole in Your Lawn Caused by Rabbits
If you’ve already cleaned your yard and have done all you can to prevent rabbits from coming on to your lawn – that’s fantastic.
However, before you had a chance to do that, rabbits still may have done some digging in your lawn.
They may not be as bad as gophers and moles, but rabbits are also notorious diggers. There are a variety of reasons why they would be digging. One could be to get to your plants, but if you don’t have that many appealing plants, then they could be making a little home.
When the weather is too cold or warm, wild rabbits will dig to get away from the weather. However, they sometimes dig when they’re bored and stressed out, too. This goes for both wild and domestic rabbits. Both wild and domestic animals are often found digging holes. Thankfully, these holes will be shallow and easy to cover up.
To fill up holes from wild rabbits, you must first make sure all its inhabitants are out. If the dirt is fresh and looks damp, then chances are its an active rabbit hole. In that situation, the best thing to do is to get ahold of a local professional for the next steps.
If the dirt is dried up and hard, then chances are that there is no longer anything living inside it. Make sure you check thoroughly. Once you’re certain that nothing is in the hole, go ahead and start to fill it with dirt. Next, plan to plant some grass seed over the area ASAP depending on the time of year it is.
Carvalho, J. C., & Gomes, P. (2004). Influence of herbaceous cover, shelter and land cover structure on wild rabbit abundance in NW Portugal. Acta Theriologica, 49(1), 63-74.
Jordão Jr, A. A., & élio Vannucchi, H. (2003). Improvement in vitamin A status with consumption of dark-green vegetables–a bioavailability study in rabbits. Nutrition research, 23(3), 271-278.
.Moseby, K. E., & Read, J. L. (2006). The efficacy of feral cat, fox and rabbit exclusion fence designs for threatened species protection. Biological Conservation, 127(4), 429-437.
Althoff, D. P., Storm, G. L., & Dewalle, D. R. (1997). Daytime habitat selection by cottontails in central Pennsylvania. The Journal of wildlife management, 450-459.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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