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If you are a landowner in an area inhabited by rabbits, these notorious predators will cause irreparable damage and cost you time, money and great deal of frustration!
The amount of damage it will inflict can be detrimental to your entire investment for the planting season and in this case, prevention is always better than the cure.
Rabbits can affect your property in a number of ways. The two most common problems are:
They will target almost any type of fresh vegetation and particularly enjoy eating your newly planted natives and specimen trees.
Past Control Efforts
Men at their campsite displaying their catch of rabbits and fish (1909). Image credit: National Library (via Wikimedia Commons).
Since the introduction of rabbits in the early 1800's there has been a number of major plagues in New Zealand with devastating results for landowners. Many landowners were bankrupted in the early years due to forced stock reductions and large areas of farmland were abandoned. The government tried many ways to control rabbits including trapping, poisoning, shooting, erecting rabbit fencing, introducing predators and viral diseases. A lot of these efforts had some success, but it is fair to say that rabbit elimination seems impossible to many frustrated farmers and landowners
Rabbits tend to follow pretty reliable meal schedules. For the most part, they eat first thing in the morning at daybreak and then again right in the beginning of the evening. In saying that, many of our customers who have been stuck home with Covid restrictions have noticed them enjoying the repast during the day as well!
Rabbits are quite choosy with their eating. They're usually much more enthusiastic about consuming foliage than stems, for example. They also prefer to eat new plants whenever possible. Dry plants are not a priority for them. Their menus differ slightly depending on the season. In the coldest times of the year, they eat lots of green vegetation, woody shoots, tree bark, conifer needles and buds. In the spring and summer, they turn to agricultural crops, flowers, grasses and clovers.
There are really only two things you can do with rabbits eating plants. You can either exterminate them (expensive and time consuming, although funding assistance is sometimes available) or just keep them at bay from your new plants while they get established (less expensive).
There are several methods of protecting your new plants from Rabbits.
One of the quickest methods of keeping rabbits away is the use of spray-on repellents. Animal repellents have been used as far back as 1993 by large forestry companies on millions of conifer and deciduous trees of various species. Repellent is applied as a liquid using a pressure sprayer so this is one of the easier methods of applying protection. Simply walk between each plant with a backpack sprayer.
Repellent also works on larger wild herbivorous animals such as hares, opossum, deer and works well when paired with a plant guard to protect the upper foliage.
Repellents work by either tasting bad, or by tasting and smelling bad. The key thing is to choose one that smells bad so the rabbits are repelled before they take their first bite!
The only downside with repellents is that they need to be reapplied again between 3 and 6 months depending on the growing stage.
We always recommend going the NATURAL way with the rabbit repellent to keep nearby animals and humans near safe.
1. Biodegradable Guard
As we move to a greener more sustainable world, biodegradable guards are becoming more and more popular.
These NZ Made guards effective and are available in 300mm, 450mm and 600mm height. They are a triangular shape with sloped design for easy placement on hillsides making it the perfect candidate for riparian planting. We always recommend this near a waterway or in coastal areas where there is a risk of the guard washing out to sea.
2. Solid Wall Plant Guards
Solid Wall guards are another effective way of keeping rabbits out and come with several advantages:
Solid wall guards come in various forms including square, triangular, and tubular. They are easy to erect and are secured to the ground by a stake. They are better suited to smaller plants as their internal diameter maxes out at about 150mm. They also have translucent walls allowing light to penetrate the walls. This means small plants can be used saving cost.
Various heights are available, but 300mm is ideal for rabbits and pukekos, while 450mm/600mm will keep out hares and opossums, and 1.2m will keep out sheep, goats, cattle & deer.
We recommend checking to see if your supplier can recycle the guards once you are finished with them.
3. Mesh Shields
Mesh is available in a range of different options. Galvanised mesh, with or without PVC coating, can be purchased in rolls and cut to whatever length is required. Plastic mesh is also available in rolls and is easier to handle. As any length can be cut from the roll, it is possible to make any diameter shield so protecting larger shrubby plants is no problem. There is also the availability of a 1.7m high Maxi shield for when you have cattle, deer or sheep grazing around your plants.
Installation involves cutting enough off the roll to circle the plant, wiring or cable-tying the ends together and then staking into the ground.
Plastic mesh is also available in tube form, in either rolls or pre-cut lengths. This speeds up installation somewhat with a diameter of about 250mm.
Although there are multiple options, we recommend going with what works with your budget and the time and resource you have available to install, see the quick guide below:
Want the most Cost-effective guard? CombiGuard
Want to go the Biodegradable way? FiberGuard