The Q&A Archives: Rabbits

Question: What can I do besides fencing every darn plant in my yard to keep the rabbits out? We have little rabbits and big Jacks too. Does coyote pee really work? It's expensive. Cayenne pepper doesn't do it. Is there a plant that they won't chew on besides cactus with lots of thorns? They eat my oleander, palms, mesquite tree limbs close to the ground, lantana, and every other plant I've heard they won't eat. Do they eat pyracantha?

Answer: Wow, you've got some hungry rabbits. My lantana and my neighbor's never gets touched by them, although they have eaten things right next to it that I thought they wouldn't like. The general guideline is they will avoid rough-textured and/or strongly aromatic foliage. However, lantana leaves are rough, so your rabbits don't read the guidelines! Here's an article I wrote about my experiences with what rabbits eat.

Since I wrote that, I've added a Mount Lemmon marigold (Tagetes palmeri), which has a very strong smell and they leave it alone, but they gnawed a new yarrow to the ground. Yarrow appeared on several "bunnies don't like" lists. The problem with the lists is that some animals in one region will eat what others in another area don't, and what else is available for them to eat is a huge factor. Some people have luck with the repellents and others don't. They do wear off and need to be reapplied, so it's not a one-time solution. You could put chicken wire around plants while they establish and then remove it after a year or two. Young plants get gnawed to the ground and without foliage to photosynthesize, they die, but after the plant gets big enough, a little gnawing around the edges won't hurt it, and of course, the rabbits can only reach so high. I know these aren't perfect solutions, but unfortunately for gardeners, when it comes to rabbits, there's alot of trial and error. The bottom line is, that if an animal is hungry and thirsty enough, it will eat anything, and the only surefire method is a fence. Good luck!

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