Keeping rabbits out: installing a garden fence

garden fence

Rabbits are a scourge for the backyard garden.  While cute, they can wreck absolute havoc to both seedlings and mature plants.  Rabbits have a voracious appetite and can turn a flourishing garden into a stunted wasteland rather quickly.

garden rabbit droppings
Rabbit droppings are a sure sign of garden invaders!

There are multiple methods with varying degrees of effectiveness for keeping rabbits out of the garden.  While we will cover these alternative methods, fencing your garden is the single best solution for keeping these pests away from your fruits and vegetables.

Other rabbit prevention options: repellent or elimination

Repellent can be effective for keeping rabbits away from your garden.  Rabbits are sensitive to strong smells, and the right sprays or homemade mixtures can work well.  However, most repellents require frequent reapplication.  Miss a spray period, and the rabbits can easily decimate your plants and destroy your hard work.

If you aren’t worried about a humane solution, your next step might be to consider trapping or shooting rabbits.

The problem here is twofold.  One, there isn’t really an effective bait or poison for rabbits.  While you might try and place bait near your plants or within a trap, there’s no guarantee the rabbits will target those versus your active garden plants.

Second, like spraying repellent, the amount of work required can be daunting.  Rabbits breed like, well, rabbits.  Keeping up with trapping, baiting, or even shooting the odd few rabbits here and there likely won’t outpace the production of new rabbits.  Additionally, these critters love to eat during dawn and twilight – not exactly work friendly times to be out in the garden every day if you have a busy schedule.

Realistically, fencing off your garden is the best long-term solution.  While there is an upfront cost, the time and disappointment it will save you are priceless.

Tools required to build a garden fence

Putting up a small rabbit fence is surprisingly easy.  All you will need is some basic fencing, fence posts, and some ties to secure the fencing to the posts.  For small pests like rabbits, zip ties or staples should be strong enough to secure your fencing, can be sourced cheaply, and should last a long time.

poultry netting for garden fence
Poultry netting (chicken wire) can be found at nearly any garden supply and is easy to work with

Tool wise, while you could invest in a post driver, a hammer or mallet should work fine for most yards.  Wire cutters can be used to clip off excess fencing as needed.  Finally, a tape measure and marking flags can be helpful for lining up your fence correctly.

Rabbit fence height considerations

We don’t need to install a tall fence here.  While rabbits CAN jump very high when threatened by a predator, those cruising through your garden aren’t looking to be Olympic vaulters.  They are more likely to burrow or look for easier food sources than jumping over your fence.

You want to aim for a fence around 2-3’ in height that allows for an additional 6” or so to be folded along the ground or extended below the fence line.  This will be plenty high to prevent rabbits from casually hopping over it or burrowing underneath.  You want the final product to look sort of like an uppercase L, with the vertical line being the fence, and the horizontal line extending on the ground facing outwards from your garden.

The real problem people run into are the gaps in the fencing.  You want to keep your mesh spacing tight – preferably less than 1”.  Rabbits are like liquid, and if they can get their head through, the body will follow.  Don’t believe me?  Check this out:

Chicken wire is probably the most economical solution for most people.  It can be easily sourced, is relatively cheap, easy to work with, and best of all should completely prevent rabbits from sneaking through.  If you are dealing with larger animals like deer, you may want to go with a stronger and taller fencing solution.

Garden fence assembly

Step 1: Plan your layout and mark fence posts

First, you need to figure how you want to layout your garden fence.  You want to ensure you leave plenty of room on the interior of your fence to work your garden in.  Leaning over your fence and trying to reach the inside areas of your boxes completely defeats the ease of use we originally designed for!

The easiest way to plan your garden fence layout is to walk your garden.  Lean over and around areas you work and see what mobility you have.  Then, design your fence layout accordingly.

Finally, you want to consider the ease of construction and cost.  The longer the fence, the larger the cost and work.  Try and use as many straight lines and 90 degree turns as possible.  You don’t want a zig zagging fence that is a mess to construct.  Aim for a square layout to keep things easier.

garden marking flags
Marking flags are an easy and reusable way to identify fence post locations

Once you have your layout mapped out, be sure to measure out the total area so you can figure out how much fencing and fence posts you need.  You want to place a fence post roughly every 6-8’ if you are using chicken wire.

Step 2: Purchase and assemble materials

It’s time to purchase materials!  Most hardware stores should have poultry fencing (chicken wire) readily available.  Similarly, T-posts and general fencing supplies should be easy to find.

Your shopping list for the fence components should look something like this:

  • Fence posts (1 per 6-8’, wood or metal T-posts)
  • Fencing (likely poultry fencing)
  • Fasteners (most likely staples for wood, zip-ties for T-posts)
  • Ground securing or cover (yard fabric staples to secure ends of fence to ground or mulch to cover)

Step 3: Drive your fence posts in

This video has a great explanation of how to orient your posts and drive them in if you are using T-posts:

Depending on the hardness of the ground you are working with, this process can be challenging.  A post driver will work well for pretty much any ground type, but most people can likely get away with using a mallet or hammer.

Other than orienting your posts correctly, make sure that your lines are straight.  Double check the distances to make sure you placed enough fence posts.

Step 4: Attach fencing to fence posts

The final step is to secure the fencing to the fence posts.  Having a friend on hand can make this process much easier, but it isn’t impossible to do with one person.

garden tposts
T-posts are super easy to work with!

For poultry fencing, find the outside wire holding the roll together after unwrapping the outer plastic.  You are going to cut this wire to allow the spool to unravel.

Take the end of the fencing and secure it to your first fence post.  Again, you should allow around 6” at the bottom of the fence to spread outward along the ground.  This will prevent rabbits from burrowing under your fence.

There are notches on the T-posts what you should be able to clip the fencing on.  For extra security long term, you should secure the wire with some sort of fastener.  For our purposes, zip-ties are incredibly cheap and should do the job well.

Chicken wire is difficult to get perfectly taut in this type of setup, so don’t worry if the fence has a little looseness to it.  However, you should pull the wire tightly between each post, as there will be a bit of give when it is newly unrolled.

Final result

The end result should make your garden much more secure against rabbits!  If you notice a bit of looseness around the ground section of your fence, you can use some landscape staples to secure the edges down.  Here is the outcome from my fence build.

finished garden rabbit fence
Haven’t seen a single sign of rabbits since the fence went up!

Relatively easy to do, even with only one person.

Cost wise, here is a list of the total costs:

Item  Cost Quantity  Total
3′ Steel U-Post (Medium Duty)  $      2.98 8  $  23.84
Poultry Netting (3’x50′)  $    30.98 2  $  61.96
Landscape staples  $           – 30  $         –
Zip ties  $           – 24  $         –

Total garden fence cost: $85.80

Note: Zip ties and landscape staples were already on hand and not included in the cost total.  A huge pack of zip ties costs around $6 and a big box of landscape staples costs around $15.

If setup correctly, this fencing should keep rabbits out of your garden and away from your growing plants!

Curious about the other running costs for my garden?  Check out my cost tracking page here!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *