While rabbits are cute when you spot one hopping through the woods or in someone’s backyard, they’re much less adorable when in your garden, eating the plants, flowers, and shrubs you’ve painstakingly grown from scratch. So, what can be done to keep these cute little flower eaters at bay?
Rabbits have a strong sense of smell, which they use to find accessible food sources. You can take advantage of this trait by using scents they dislike, such as garlic, vinegar, chili powder, predator urine, sulfur, blood meal, chives, lavender, geraniums, and wax begonias.
Read on to learn more about what smells rabbits hate and how you can use them, as well as other tips and tricks to get those pesky furballs to stop eating your plants!
Why Do We Need To Repel Rabbits?
It may be cute to watch a little bunny hop and frolic through your garden. Still, it will be markedly less attractive when they’ve eaten a few of the plants you’ve been working hard at maintaining all season.
So, unless you’ve turned your yard into a wildlife sanctuary, there’s a good chance that you’ll want to keep rabbits far away from all the plants, flowers, and shrubs you’ve spent so much time and effort on.
The most common solution that gardeners use to fend off rabbits is to use unpleasant smells to make them want to stay away. This is not only an easy do-it-yourself solution, but it’s repeatable over and over again.
Simply put, we’re going to “smell them away”!
While it may depend on what kind of scent you are using, typically with the “smell them away” method, you are simply spraying or otherwise applying the scent to the area around your garden or flowerbeds. Make sure whatever scent you are applying is a strong odor, and if you are using a spray bottle, make sure you are spraying the soil around the plants, not the air!
Now that we know what to do, your next question may be: why is this method so effective?
Why Do Rabbits Hate Certain Smells?
Why does this work? Well, mainly because rabbits have an extremely sharp sense of smell, like many wild animals, and are easily deterred by seemingly unpleasant smells and tastes. Rabbits noses’ are extremely sensitive, mainly why you frequently see rabbits constantly twitching their little sniffers in the air.
Basically, this is how they scent out potential predators. While this skill helps keep them aware of their surroundings, it also makes the membranes inside their nostrils incredibly sensitive and easily irritated.
Because a rabbit’s nose is so sensitive, they won’t want to hang out or chow down in an area that’s full of unpleasant smells. While predator scents will scare them away (we’ll go over that in a moment), most other odors will “annoy” them away more than scare them.
Think of it this way. If you walked into a restaurant looking for a buffet meal, but the entire establishment smelled strongly of rotting eggs, you most likely wouldn’t want to eat there, correct? Well, the same applies to rabbits. If they pick up a scent that is unpleasant or irritating to them, they’ll hardly want to stay and sample the buffet you call your garden.
So, what smells do rabbits hate so much? Let’s take a look at that next.
A quick note on using scents to repel rabbits. Naturally, scents need to be reapplied periodically in order to repel our furry friends, especially after heavy rainfall. Use common sense on if a certain smell needs to be reapplied often (usually 1-2 times a week depending on how strong the scent naturally is or what product you have.)
Garlic Keeps Rabbits Away
Garlic’s sharp, pungent aroma may smell great to you when it’s being cooked in your favorite pasta sauce, but for rabbits, it’s a major turn-off.
You can use a simple pre-made garlic spray or easily make your own by mixing some with a few raw eggs and pouring the mixture around your plants and garden. It’s pretty common to add mint to this concoction to make it even less appealing for rabbits. Yuck!
If you don’t like the thought of having to mix this yourself, take a peek at the Safer Brand Critter Ridder: Deer and Rabbit Repellent. It’s formulated with a base mix of putrescent whole egg solids, capsaicin, and garlic, which are actually three of the individual scents we talk about on this list!
Generally, it’s best to go with pre-formulated products because you’re getting an already tested product that others have used as well, rather than seeing if you got your mix or concentrations right.
Rabbits Hate Vinegar
Like garlic, vinegar’s sharp smell is a powerful rabbit deterrent. If you are looking at using this home remedy, simply dilute some white rice vinegar in a spray bottle of water, and spray it liberally in the area surrounding your plants.
Many farmers also swear by soaking corncobs in vinegar and placing them near the targeted areas, as the corncobs will make the scent last a bit longer. While it may make your garden smell like a bag of salt and vinegar chips, it’ll keep the rabbits away!
Make sure that you don’t spray vinegar directly on your plants, as it can cause them to wilt. You’ll want to spray this around the perimeter of your plants, squarely away from their roots.
Sprinkle Chili Powder Around Plants
Ahh yes. Good ol’ fashioned chili powder. Makes you want a spicy bowl of chili right now, yes? OK maybe not.
Sorry, a bit hungry while writing this. Back to repelling rabbits from your garden!
Chili powder works similar to how hot sauce would by irritating and inflaming the membranes in a rabbit’s sensitive nose. Sprinkling chili flakes around the base of your peonies and other garden flowers are quick, easy, and effective.
Basically, chili powder has an active ingredient called capsaicin that does all the irritating we mentioned. If you’ve ever taken a big whiff of raw quality grade chili powder, you’ll know what I’m talking about here.
Try looking out for a bulk bag of chili powder at your local wholesale store and spread the mix around your garden 1-2 times a week to keep the scent at it’s peak.
Predator Scents: Scare Rabbits Away
Like we mentioned before, rabbits have such sensitive noses so they can sniff out potential predators. A rabbit’s natural predators are mainly coyotes, bobcats, lynxes, and wolves in the wild. So, another common repellent for rabbits would be to purchase one of these animals’ urine and spread it amongst your flowers and other plants (not directly on the plants, of course.)
While it may not smell appealing to you either, these scents will undoubtedly make rabbits do a triple take before even thinking about venturing into your yard.
When picking a scent, make sure you choose one that will be a natural predator to the rabbits in your area. While the urine of any predator will increase your chances of repelling rabbits, if they aren’t familiar with the scent in your area, it may not do you any good.
Let’s take a closer look at some predator scents and where they live:
Coyotes, like bobcats, are found all over the continent. However, they mainly appear in the Southern part of the United States.
So if you live in the Southeast or Southwest, coyote urine may be an excellent go-to for scaring rabbits away.
Since they’re found all over, its a good bet to use coyote urine instead of one of the other predator scents, as there’s a very good chance that an intruding rabbit will know what the presence of a coyote seems like.
One of the more reputable coyote urines on the market is PredatorPee Original Coyote Urine. It comes with scent tags, so you can spray the tag itself and place it nearby your plants, where the smell itself will last a bit longer being infused with the tag.
Bobcats are native to North America and can appear anywhere from Northern Canada down to Florida. In essence: if you live in the United States, bobcat urine an excellent way to keep rabbits away!
Lynxes are also native to North America but are typically found in the northern parts of the continent. So, it would be best to use this scent if you live above the Mason-Dixon line, in the mountains, or in a place that routinely gets cold.
Wolves are typically found in similar places as lynxes: cold, mountainous, or in a more northern area, particularly the Northwest parts of the United States or Canada. Wolf urine is also the hardest to find, so most people opt for using lynx or bobcat urine instead.
Rabbits Dislike Sulfur
You can find dried sulfur at most garden supply stores, and it is easy to sprinkle around the base of your plants. Again, the strong scent of sulfer here is the key.
Sulfur mimicks the scent of rotten eggs (mentioned in the garlic section) which rabbits despise due to their sensitive noses.
If you go the sulfur route, just make sure that if you have a dog, you are keeping them away from where you spread the sulfur- they will want to sniff and potentially dig in those areas!
Blood Meal to Deter Rabbits
Blood meal or rather, dried blood. is an excellent option because it also acts as a natural fertilizer for your plants, adding healthy nitrogen to the soil. In
Like sulfur, be sure to keep dogs away from the area you’ve spread blood meal around. While rabbits may not enjoy the smell or taste, dogs love it!
In an article published on Michigan State University Extension, its stated that while dried blood can infact be used to repel rabbits (along with deer), the blood will lose its effectiveness after a rainfall and will need to be reapplied.
If you’re interested in taking a look at a quality blood meal product for your plants, take a look at Burpee Organic Blood Meal Fertilizer, which Is ideal for leafy garden vegetables!
The Scent of Chives Repels Rabbits
Since chives are such a strong-smelling plant, using this herb to repel rabbits is always a brilliant idea. The scent irritates the sensitive sinus of rabbits quite quickly.
Rabbits from yards away can quickly scent the sharp odor emanating from chives, similar to the pungent smell of garlic. Better yet, once the gardening season is over, you can harvest the chives and use them in your cooking, so once again, it’s a win-win for you.
Rabbits Hate Lavender
While we mentioned before how rabbits are connoisseurs of almost every plant and flower, there are a few flowers that rabbits turn their noses up at, for whatever reason.
Lavender, happens to be one of them.
A more flower-friendly option to spraying an artificial scent would be to plant a large crop of lavender next to your peonies. While humans may enjoy the calming scent of lavender, rabbits despise lavender due to the strong scent and bitter irritation it provides to them.
Positioning lavender near your affected plants is a win-win. You get to enjoy the look and aroma of the fresh lavender, and it will keep those pesky fur balls out!
Geranium Keeps Rabbits Away
Geranium is another scent and taste that rabbits don’t like. Considering one of the most popular candles and perfume scents is geranium, it’s clear humans do not feel the same way. Most people love the smell and look of a batch of fresh geraniums in their garden, so planting some to ward off rabbits is definitely a win-win!
Rabbits Dislike Wax Begonias
Wax begonias tend to be a little more uncommon in gardens than geraniums or lavender. Still, they are another beautiful plant that rabbits simply turn their noses up at! Mainly, it’s due to the texture and again, the strong scent of the plant itself.
Plant a crop of these near your rabbit-friendly plants, and it will help keep them at bay. However, do note that the scent of begonias is more likely to be pungent on sunny days, so you may not get as strong of rabbit repelling scent on those cloudy, overcast days.
Incase you aren’t sold on begonias, geranium or lavender plants, here are a few other plants that rabbits don’t enjoy the smell or taste of:
- Black-Eyed Susan
All of the above are plants that rabbits typically choose not to eat in the wild. However, since some of these plants do not carry strong odors themselves, we don’t recommend using these alone to keep rabbits away from your lawn. While they may not eat these particular plants, they may simply eat around them.
That being said, you really only need to plant these flowers if you enjoy the look of them, or as an extra buffer against rabbits, after utilizing another solution.
No Scent is The Best Rabbit Deterrent
Here’s a little bonus that you can and SHOULD try out – not using a scent at all.
OK, just let me clarify. You should definitely use scents to deter rabbits, but there are other things that you can do to your property that will help deter rabbits and other pesky critters in the long run.
Used in conjunction with some of the scents we mentioned above, you can essentially rabbit proof your yard for the long haul with ease.
Since rabbits are known not only for their noses but also their wild hopping skills, installing a fence may seem like a futile effort.
According to the University of California Integrated Pest Management Program, cottontail rabbits and bush rabbits won’t be able to jump a two-foot-tall fence (a jackrabbit may be able to, but most likely will only do so if being chased by a dog.)
Basically, as long as you install a fence that is taller than two feet, you should be good! While this is a very effective solution, it is also time-consuming. It may affect the esthetic look of your garden.
Make sure that when you get fencing, you get a quality, galvanized mesh fence and install it at least 2 feet to keep rabbits out.
Get A Dog!
If you’ve been looking for an excuse to get a dog, here’s one! As we previously mentioned, rabbits have a powerful sense of smell and are wary of other animal’s urine.
So if your dog pees anywhere in your yard, rabbits will smell it!
Since dogs are not natural predators of rabbits, the urine alone will not have the same effect as the lynx or coyote urine we discussed earlier. However, they will be able to smell that another animal is living in the yard, and that alone may help scare them away.
The noise a dog makes will be the other significant indicator to a rabbit that another animal now lives in your yard. Aside from barking, dogs will sniff, grumble, and make noise as they tromp through your yard. Often those noises will help scare any potential rabbit invaders away.
Get Rid of Low Hanging Brush
If your yard is filled with low-to-the-ground shrubs, sprawling moss or clover, or other low-hanging, creeping plants, this makes it prime rabbit territory.
Since rabbits do most of their foraging during dawn and dusk, they prefer to head towards places they can easily stay hidden from coyotes, lynxes, foxes, and other animals that may see them as a tasty snack.
Naturally, one of the solutions to getting rid of rabbits is to get rid of the places they like to hide and making them not want to venture into your yard in the first place.
If your yard doesn’t have a proper spot for a rabbit to snack in peace, it’s less likely that they will choose your garden to be their new favorite lunch spot. While this may mean getting rid of some plants you like, the payoff for your garden may be worthwhile.
Wrapping it Up!
Hopefully, your flowers and plants will be rabbit proof after utilizing one or a few of the above suggestions.
There is a reason why “smelling them away” remains the most popular solution amongst gardeners, it can be a quick an effecitve strategy to keeping rabbits away from your plants and making your harvest (or just your flowers) all the more fruitful.
However, if you find that using scents to repel rabbits isn’t for you, for whatever reason, be sure to utilize one of our other options! No matter what, you deserve a rabbit-free, thriving garden.
So, your next step is to figure out what solution works best for you, and then get to work! Whether it smells, a fence, or even adding a new furry friend to your family, you are well on your way to having a wonderful, rabbit-free garden.
Johnson, W. V. (1964, March). Rabbit control. In Proceedings of the 2nd Vertebrate Pest Control Conference (1964) (p. 15).
Henke, S. E. (1995, April). Effects of coyote control on their prey: a review. In Symposium Proceedings–Coyotes in the Southwest: A Compendium of Our Knowledge (1995) (p. 27).
Sullivan, T. P., Nordstrom, L. O., & Sullivan, D. S. (1985). Use of predator odors as repellents to reduce feeding damage by herbivores. Journal of Chemical Ecology, 11(7), 903-919.
Williams, S. C., & Short, M. R. (2014). Evaluation of eight repellents in deterring eastern cottontail herbivory in Connecticut. Human–Wildlife Interactions, 8(1), 12.
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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