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A peace accord broken with a cute but dastardly foe

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I regret to inform you that the enemy has broken the terms of the 2019 Rabbit Peace Accord. All rabbits are hereby put on notice that no further temporary treaties will be entered into no matter how cute baby bunnies are.

For many years I enjoyed a gardening existence that was delightfully free of rabbits. It took me awhile to realize that the healthy local fox population had kept them in check. When people would ask me for recommendations for rabbit-resistant plants I had no answer: mine had never been tested.

Two years ago that changed. One night I looked out the window to find the complete collection of rabbits—five ranging in size from extra small to downright rotund—munching on the clover in the grass. If they had limited their browsing to the diverse group of plants that grows in the lawn peaceful coexistence might have been achieved, but predictably they strayed into the garden.

rabbits on lawn

Rabbits are particularly frustrating garden foes because they rarely eat what they destroy. Rather, they seem to revel in taste testing a variety of plants, chomping them at the base only to spit them out and move along to the next plant, even if it is the same variety they just refused. There might be some solace in thinking that they enjoyed a fabulous meal at the garden buffet if they actually ate what they destroyed.

Rabbits are difficult to manage. Repeated attempts at trapping them yielded a long string of very angry and innocent opossums. The spray-on repellent I use religiously to ward off hungry deer—who at least have the courtesy to eat what they destroy—has no effect on rabbits. The only thing I’ve found that works is pellet-form of repellent made by PlantSkyyd that requires frequent applications, a job made more difficult by the fact that you never know what rabbits are going to target next.

Last year I came home from a week away in July to find that a rabbit had taken up residence in the raised bed where I was growing onions. She was clever, having created a tunnel of thick onion leaves over the top of the nursery where five of the cutest, fluffiest, most adorable little critters known to man were huddled up.

baby bunnies

I didn’t have the heart to evict this cute crowd so an agreement was made: I would allow this brood to grow up and move along so long as they—and their relatives—agreed to stay out of my yard. I checked on them regularly, although they were well protected from predators on inside the 6-foot fence around the vegetable garden. And a few weeks later I was there as all five leapt out of the 21-inch high raised bed, through the holes in the fence and scattered to what I imagined might be the mouth of a waiting fox.

I had fulfilled my end of the bargain and I thought, until last week, that they had as well. Channeling my inner Mr. Magregor, I chased a rabbit out of the lawn, and was pleased when my histrionics had the desired effect and the rabbit hopped away at lightning speed. 

And then I watched as ran to safety straight under the fence to my vegetable garden. 

baby bunny rabbit in garden

 

This article originally ran in Ozaukee Press.

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17 Responses

  1. I feel your pain! I am dealing with a family of 4 groundhogs this year. They are courteous, unlike rabbits and do eat everything they decide to taste!!! They used to run deep into the woods when I would chase them but now have decided to make a hole leading to their tunnel right in the middle of my garden. I can almost hear them saying, “Wanna go to the salad bar?”

  2. Yep, I found a rabbit in the compost pile the other day. It had tunneled in thinking it was a favored place to nest. I obviously need to turn that pile more often. Geez. Rabbits are the bane of the gardener no matter how cute they seem. Young rabbits taste test everything, including non edible things. In your fenced garden…ARGH….

  3. How on earth did the rabbit get into the raised bed in the first place? They can jump that high?! *Looking in my raised beds for sleeping bunnies.*

    1. Oh Erin, I’m sorry. The bunny situation would be maddening. I too am waging my own war—against chipmunks. However, I’m not as nice as you are. This spring my husband and I put in a 20 x 30 fenced in garden. The fence is 4ft tall, made of poultry wire ( 1 x 2” openings). We thought groundhogs would be the biggest threat to our garden. WRONG—it’s chipmunks! They’ve eaten everything. I can’t tell you how many things I started from seed—all gone—-including my sweet peas! They wait for the cherry tomatoes to ripen, and they’re digging in my potatoes. Now My 40 dahlia tubers are coming up, and I’m guarding them with my life. I’ve completely lost it, and am now killing them. I put my heart and soul into this project, and it’s purpose was not to feed the wildlife. So, I currently have 5 gallon buckets set-up with sunflower seeds and the plank of death. Five walked the plank in the first 12 hours. My son has also been shooting them with a BB Gun, at close enough range to kill them – 5 in less than an hour. I know this must sound evil. I never thought I’d get to the point where I’d turn into a chipmunk killing machine. And for those of you wondering if I tried anything more humane— I’ve surrounded the perimeter of the garden with smelly Milorganite, Bonide repellant granular, and human hair. I have a dog that pees everywhere. I now have bird netting draped over the newly emerging leaves of my dahlias, but that’s only temporary. If anyone has any more ideas, please post! I’m desperate! Sorry for the rant! Losing my sweet peas was the last straw!

      1. I agree! About 10 years ago NOTHING WORKED until I just got the shotgun and took care of problem! We are in country and can shoot a gun freely. If we didn’t take care of chipmunks, rabbits, groundhogs, moles and voles we would have nothing but holes around foundation with no shrubs or flowers left. People who think this is terrible should consider the financial and emotional side of this. If their hobby was wiped out repeatedly they would take charge. Animal rights people need to ask themselves where they draw the line, do they swat flies or mosquitoes. It is same difference only people in past hunted squirrels and rabbits. Doesn’t happen much anymore to balance populations.

      2. Ratboxes you get at the hardware store with poison blocks you put inside will take care of the chipmunks. They love them as they taste of peanut butter. Now the rabbits are another matter! Grrr!
        I feel your pain! Chipmunks are horrid and rabbits a close second.
        Groundhogs we caught in traps and haven’t seen any more….so far. Lol

  4. I have a lab/hound mix so let me tell you, every morning he is running the yard, baying at the top of his lungs while chasing rabbits stupid enough to come into my yard. I used to get upset when he would catch a rabbit and bring it to the door in victory; now that I am at war with the rabbits in saving my garden, I’m joyous in his victory as well.

  5. Seriously…at least EAT the plants. Squirrels chomped on five of my tomatoes yesterday and cast them aside. The tomatoes are now netted, and I am hoping no birds will get caught. I hate it when that happens.

  6. Aww, they are the cutest. Have you tried Milorganite? It’s a slow release fertilizer that just so happens to deter deer and rabbits. You can sprinkle some in your perennial garden and use a Scott’s spreader to apply it to the lawn. It feeds the garden and lawn for 3 months with no risk of burning them and deters deer and rabbits very well. I used it this year and it’s the first time my daylilies weren’t eaten to shreds – I’m actually going to see the first blooms on daylilies I’ve had for years but never bloomed due to deer and rabbit browsing. It really works. It’s a little smelly when you first put it down but the smell dissipates in a day or two. And it makes the lawn very green.
    If you add it to your perennial garden try not to get it on the leaves of plants and sprinkle in just a little (wear disposable gloves). If you use it on the lawn the settings for the Scott’s spreader are right on the bag.

  7. I agree with the others. You have to try to control what’s destroying your stuff or they keep multiplying and inviting their friends. I’ve had my round with rabbits in past years, then chipmunks . So far this summer all is good except for starlings. They dont ruin my plants but raid the bird feeders, make a horrible mess in the bird bath, and squawk and cluck to no end. Theres no one here to shoot at them so they get by with their nastiness. If I dont have seed out the good birds quit visiting. I try to plant things rabbits won’t eat and things they do I fence in until the rabbits have moved on or got hit on the road going to the neighbors. I keep a live trap set all the time for chipmunks. Thankfully no bothered by deer!

  8. I also feel your pain! I battle every type of critter imaginable, and the rabbits are definitely the worst. They will chew on just about everything…even allium!!! I couldn’t believe my eyes when I watched a rabbit down an entire allium stem like it was spaghetti. Lately, they’ve been targeting my Montauk daisies, which had gone untouched for the last few years. They chew the coneflower leaves and then bite the stem of the flowers, leaving them to die. They’re so destructive and there aren’t any predators here, except for my sighthounds that I wish I could let off leash. I sprinkle an animal repellent from Bonide, but they don’t care. Stay strong and good luck!

  9. Rabbit attacks have turned me into a rabbit killer. After finding I don’t know how many nests I finally found one nest too many and murdered all the baby bunnies. My rabbits have a different MO – what they eat, they chew down to the ground.

  10. The only animals that come into our yard are raccoons at night and cats. We keep our cats and dog inside at night and chuckle when we once in a great while see a ground hog that likes the compost pile that has a pumpkin plant growing which I really do not care for. I refuse to kill any animal and will place protection around my lilies early in the season when they bloom. I have more problems with Japanese beetles and grass hoppers than I have ever had with wildlife. So sad to hear how some can only resort to killing innocent animals who are only trying to survive as we all are but we have easier options.

  11. Squirrels have chewed my plastic patio chairs as well as the nylon stoppers in my good patio furniture, my Weber grill and it’s metal stand, the metal frames of our patio doors, have dug up the flowers in my patio pots (along with their buddies, the ground squirrels) and then chewed on the pots. Our sidewalks were ruined by the tunnels dug under them by ground squirrels. Rabbits destroy my most beautiful flowers while we are away for an afternoon. They are all so cute – but oh, so destructive! We get rid of them anyway we can whenever we can just to hold things a little bit in check.

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