As magical as having wild rabbits visiting your garden can be, it’s not quite so enchanting if they’re digging up areas of turf and grazing on your lush lawn.
If you’ve found rabbit holes in your garden, or are fed up with rabbit lawn damage, there are several ways to deter these cute but sometimes destructive creatures from your garden.
From clearing your garden and removing rabbit hiding spots, to using repellents and installing barriers, keep reading to discover the best ways to rabbit-proof your patch.
Do rabbits dig up lawns?
Rabbits are natural-born diggers. The most populous species, the European rabbit, lives in a complex underground system of tunnels known as a warren. The warren includes several entrances, allowing the rabbits to quickly reach safety when needed.
Digging is an instinctive behaviour for rabbits, they don’t just dig to create tunnels, they’ll also dig to mark their territory, to reach food or to uncover a cool piece of earth to rest on.
It isn’t just rabbits that make holes in the lawn, check out our list of other possible culprits.
Signs of rabbits in your garden
If you suspect that bunnies are bingeing on your lawn and surrounding plants but haven’t actually spotted any, these are the telltale signs of rabbit visitors:
- Look for signs of chewed foliage, it’ll be nibbled down to ground level. Rabbits will also stand on their hind legs to reach young shoots on woody plants.
- Look out for damage to bark around the base of trees.
- Rabbit holes in the lawn are one of the best signs of rabbit activity. Look for holes in the grass and flowerbeds, rabbit holes are around 10-15cm in diameter. Rabbits may also leave shallow scrapes in the lawn.
- If you’re searching for evidence of rabbits in the garden, look out for their droppings. Rabbits are prolific poo-ers and leave small round droppings where they graze.
Why do rabbits dig up my lawn?
Digging is a natural rabbit activity and they’ll dig and scrape to seek food, mark their territory and create tunnels. They may also tunnel under a fence to reach other areas like a vegetable garden.
There are a few reasons why rabbits dig up the lawn; they may be making a new tunnel, sometimes they create ‘false’ warrens to trick predators, and female rabbits may dig shallow holes in which to hide their young while they feed.
Rabbit activity is more likely in gardens that back onto fields, farms, woodland or open grassland.
What do rabbits eat? Will feeding them save my lawn?
Rabbits love to eat grass, weeds like clover and dandelions, soft shoots, some flowers and even twigs – especially apple, birch and poplar. Anyone with a vegetable garden will know how partial rabbits are to soft lettuce and of course, carrots too.
If you’ve ever owned domestic rabbits, you’ll know that they need a constant supply of either grass or hay. Rabbits need to eat regularly as it’s essential for their digestive system and it also helps to keep their teeth (which grow continuously) in check.
Rabbits will graze for around 8 hours a day and a lush lawn provides a perfect bunny banquet. It can be tricky to stop rabbits eating your lawn – providing alternative tasty food may deter them for a little while – but they’ll soon go back to it.
How to stop rabbits from digging holes in lawn
Fed up with a holey patch? The good news is that it’s possible to keep rabbits out of your garden, you’ll need to make the lawn unappealing to them or use a barrier to keep them out.
Here’s how to stop rabbits digging up the lawn:
1. Tidy up your lawn
An overgrown, untidy lawn is irresistible to rabbits. Keeping your lawn in top shape will help to deter rabbits. Rabbits have many predators and aren’t drawn to large, clear areas with nowhere to hide.
2. Remove hiding spots
Wild rabbits are skittish and will bolt at the slightest noise or movement. A lawn surrounded by bushy grasses and large shrubs provides ample hiding places. Although it’s not practical to remove all the prized plants from your garden, you can help to deter rabbits by keeping shrubs tidy, trimming back any low branches and cleaning up wherever you can.
3. Try natural rabbit repellents
Like most animals, rabbits dislike the smell of garlic, vinegar, chilli, bloodmeal and onions. You can concoct mixtures from these items and spray them liberally around the edges of the lawn to keep rabbits out. You can also soak cotton wool balls in vinegar and place them in hole-punched, lidded jars to deter rabbits.
You can buy animal deterrent sprays and granular repellents which can be applied to plants or scattered around the edges of lawns. Repellents will need to be applied every few days and after heavy rainfall.
4. Apply a rabbit predator urine deterrent
If you’re looking for a chemical solution for stopping rabbits from digging up the lawn, fox urine can be effective against rabbits, squirrels and even cats. A natural solution, it won’t harm any animals and many gardeners find it an effective solution for keeping rabbits away. Fox urine spray works by emitting pheromones that are offensive to rabbits.
5. Grow rabbit-repelling plants around your lawn
Rabbits are partial to many ornamental garden plants, but there are many that they will leave alone. A well-kept lawn bordered with peonies, foxgloves, daffodils, alliums, rosemary and (sometimes) lavender won’t be too appealing to rabbits.
My pet rabbits will happily nibble on our lavender plants, especially tender new shoots (and also our alliums..) so you may need to experiment a little.
6. Use an ultrasonic rabbit deterrent
Ultrasonic deterrents work by emitting a high-frequency noise that’s inaudible to humans, but irritating to rabbits and other small furries. Many are solar or battery powered and some even include flashing lights.
Ultrasonic deterrents aren’t suitable for use if you have outdoor pet rabbits or guinea pigs as they’ll be affected by the noise.
7. Create a rabbit-proof barrier
The most effective way to stop rabbits from digging up the lawn is by creating a physical barrier. Rabbits are incredible diggers so you’ll need to ensure that any rabbit-proof fencing is deep enough to stop them from burrowing underneath and wide enough to stop them from going around it.
You’ll need to use a wire mesh for the fence as rabbits will quickly gnaw through plastic. The fence needs to be at least 60cm high, with 30cm buried beneath the ground to stop the rabbits from digging their way underneath.
How to repair rabbit lawn damage
Why do wild rabbits dig holes in the lawn?
All rabbits dig, it’s a natural, instinctive behaviour. Rabbits may dig to create tunnels, find food, mark territory and dig shallow trenches to protect their young.
Can rabbits eat lawn clippings?
No, rabbits shouldn’t eat lawn clippings as they quickly begin to ferment when cut due to the heat of the mower blades.
Will lawn pesticides kill rabbits?
Many garden chemicals are toxic to rabbits and if your lawn has been sprayed, unless it’s all-natural, it won’t be safe for wild rabbits.
Does red fox urine repel rabbits from lawns?
Yes, fox urine can be an effective rabbit deterrent. You’ll need to apply it regularly for the best effect and reapply after heavy rain.