Back at the end of December when I was doing some garden planning, I mentioned my Juneberries suckering and starting to crowd my honeyberries and what I might do about that. Well, now I will not need to worry about it because they are most likely all dead and it makes me want to cry, no it has made me cry.

Apparently the Rabbit Who Ate My Garden last spring and summer took up winter residence beneath my deck—rather, I suspect the residence is beneath my deck judging from the tracks through the piled up snow. I didn’t know the well fed rabbit was residing beneath my deck for quite some time. But when I noticed some of the smaller branches on the bush cherries were broken off I wondered what was going on.

bush cherry rabbit damage
Bush cherry death by rabbit

Okay, first I blamed James. The bush cherries are about thigh high and have thin, fragile twiggy branches. Some of them were sticking out into the main garden path, the only garden path we walk and keep clear of snow during winter because it leads to the chickens and our back gate and alley where our trash, organics, and recycling is picked up. James has complained more than once about having to avoid the bush cherry branches poking out a little way into the path. When I noticed they were broken, I blamed him first, naturally.

Of course, I didn’t come right out and accuse him. I casually mentioned I noticed the bush cherry branches were broken and waited to see if he would confess. He said that he had noticed that too. I expected a different answer, and in my surprise I blurted, so you didn’t do it? No, he said, without hesitation. Not even by accident on the way to the chickens? I asked. No, he said. 

What the heck? Now who could I blame? Especially since as the days went by more and more branches were disappearing. 

I looked closer at the animal tracks crisscrossing the garden snow. Among the squirrel network I spied rabbit tracks, and then rabbit poo, and then a day later, Fat Rabbit.

Before I could think that this was only the beginning of a very bad situation, all of the little twiggy branches with the buds for the coming spring on them, were gone. Ok, so we won’t get any bush cherries this year, they will be ok and in a year all will be well. 

Fat Rabbit did not stop with the bush cherries. Over the following couple of weeks I watched all the honeyberries shrinking. And then the Juneberries lost all their branches. 

At this point I was distressed. What can I do? The internet said to build wire cages around everything. Too late, and not practical anyway. There was nothing left for Fat Rabbit to eat anyway, because surely raspberry and gooseberry thorns are a deterrent? And as with the bush cherries, surely the honeyberries (six bushes about knee high), and the Juneberry (one knee high bush with about six little suckers), will spend the summer rejuvenating. It will all be fine.

And then Fat Rabbit started eating the shorter raspberry canes! After those were chewed down, the bark on the crabapple tree was next. 

I was so angry I asked a coworker how she felt about eating rabbit. She said it seemed like a fine idea to her. I suggested that if she wanted the challenge of snaring Fat Rabbit, she could have a fine stew and a nice pelt. Sadly, she backed down.

Ok, I will relocate Fat Rabbit. I posted an ask to borrow a Havahart live animal trap on my neighborhood Buy Nothing group, mentioning that it is to relocate Fat Rabbit before my garden is completely destroyed and baby rabbits are born under my deck. I got no trap offer, lots of sad emojis, presumably for the garden destruction, and one comment saying that rabbits have winter burrows and if I move the rabbit, I will effectively bring on the animal’s death. Since I had already solicited a coworker to catch, kill, and eat the rabbit, I only felt mildly guilty. But if Fat Rabbit was not going to be quickly and humanely dispatched, I did not want to be party to a drawn out, frozen death.

I spilled my woes to another coworker, and he offered his dogs who regularly catch and kill rabbits in their yard. While this appealed, I decided trading rabbit destruction for rampant-dogs-chasing-rabbit destruction was even worse, and declined the dogs.

honey berry rabbit damage
A once fine honeyberry

Today, as I hung laundry out to freeze dry, I saw Fat Rabbit has started in on the gooseberries and has also begun stripping the bark off the bush cherries. At a loss for what to do, James made a giant batch of hot pepper spray so strong it made him choke and gasp as he was blending it. We have sprayed the crabapple, the gooseberries, around the raspberries, what is left of the honeyberries and Juneberry hoping they are not dead, the Juneberry and aronia in the chicken garden, the black currants, and the plum sapling. These latter plants we sprayed in the hope that Fat Rabbit will be deterred from munching on them too.

If you have any suggestions for what else I might do to deter Fat Rabbit, or if you would like to stop by and turn Fat Rabbit into a stew, please let me know. Once all the snow melts, we will be making sure all the garden fencing is rabbit-proof. My fear is that we will end up trapping Fat Rabbit in the garden. I am not so very worried about baby rabbits. I think once the chickens are out and about in the garden on the regular and hanging out under the deck, Fat Rabbit will not have babies there. Or, if there are babies, the chickens will eat them if they find them while they are tiny.

So now my garden planning has turned to replacing what will surely be all the dead fruit shrubs. I will have to wait for spring to find out for certain. But I am prepared to get more honeyberries and another Juneberry. I am also thinking of getting a quince. Since we have a sour cherry tree that is just getting big enough to start producing cherries, we are going to hold off on replacing the bush cherries.

I always thought the squirrels were my biggest garden nemeses, eating all my corn, digging up seeds, stealing strawberries, taking one bite out of a tomato and leaving the rest, chewing through my pumpkins. Turns out they were just the opening act for the relentless and unstoppable Fat Rabbit eating all my peas, beans, young cornstalks, and now fruit trees and shrubs. Where is the neighborhood coyote and fox when I really need them? Or maybe the big hawk that eyed the chickens over the summer? Or a hungry bald eagle? 

A bottle of hot pepper spray seems inadequate, but hopefully Fat Rabbit, being a midwestern rabbit, doesn’t like spicy food. I just have to remember to spray everything frequently. Fingers crossed that it works!

  • How to Transform the Way You Experience Winter. This article came along just when I was feeling that late winter exhaustion. I’m still tired, but at least I feel better about it.
  • One man’s quest to include bike commuting reports on MPR’s morning programming. This is really fantastic. Our local Morning Edition Public Radio host now includes bike commute information as part of her 7:30 a.m. traffic report. I’m already at work by then so it doesn’t help me, but I have tweeted biking conditions to her a few times since I found out about it.
  • Seek You by Kristen Radke. Graphic nonfiction about the loneliness epidemic in the United States.
  • The Wind’s Twelve Quarters by Ursula Le Guin. Inspired by Marcie at Buried in Print and a LitHub article by Susan DeFreitas about how she read all of Le Guin’s fiction during the pandemic, I am embarking on my own journey to read everything Le Guin wrote. This is an early collection of short stories published in 1975 that has the germs of Earthsea, Rocannon’s World, and The Left Hand of Darkness
  • The Gilded Age. I loved Downton Abbey, but this new one from Julian Fellowes is Downton Abbey-eque in late 1800s New York with old money snobs and new money upstarts. The houses are lavish, the costumes are stunning, and I am sick and tired of being asked to care about the lives of rich people. I didn’t even finish watching the first almost 90-minute episode.

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27 thoughts on “The Rabbit Who Ate My Garden

  1. Well, you likely already know what video I am going to suggest that you watch! 😀
    I’m half tempted to put on my snowshoes and bring the little rabbit a carrot casserole so they’ve more energy to run away from the hawks that Laila’s siccing on them!

  2. You are going to have to deal with that rabbit! Do you know anyone with ferrets? One of those would deal with Fat Rabbit in a minute. Actually I love wild rabbits, but like all animals I only love them from a distance, and my garden would definitely come first.

    1. I know Katrina! It can’t go on like this especially since a second rabbit has come courting. I don’t know anyone with ferrets unfortunately. I am hoping once the snow melts and the chickens are out and about rabbit will be deterred by them and neighborhood cats. I do like rabbits, but not when they are destroying my garden.

  3. If I was living closer I would indeed drop by to prepare a good rabbit stew with mustard, although I have no experience with snares or anything. I am so sorry for your berries and veggies !

  4. Of course I am reminded of the story of Peter Rabbit, so in the back of my head I’m thinking, “Can’t Stefanie just make friends with Fat Rabbit?” Can you tell I have not yet had my coffee?? 😀

      1. Yesterday I saw a video of a huge brown rabbit on the edge of some water, and then it got in and started SWIMMING. My first thought was, “So THAT’S how Fat Rabbit makes his escape!”

        1. Yes, rabbits can swim! Since the creek and lake are both five blocks from my house, Fat Rabbit doesn’t need to swim. Ki just needs to look scared and pathetic to make me feel bad about yelling and chasing ki and then I just swear and stomp into the house.

  5. I have no suggestions on Fat Rabbit. I’ve always kept dogs around and that deters the rabbits, at least from taking up residence. But once they do… I’m not sure anything will stop the vermin. They’ve been eating off of human gardens for at least thousands of years. They’re quite adapted to anything we might throw at them.

    I’m with you on the Gilded Age. I think the difference is that there were tensions, consequences and so on in the Downtown Abbey narrative. And even that got annoying after a while. The Gilded Age felt to me like just a bunch of idiots trying to flaunt grotesque wealth in the most socially “respectable” way. I slept through much of it. It was a good nap, I guess…

    1. Heh, we had a cocker spaniel for years and he was only interested in chasing cats and squirrels. One year before we had a big garden, he even tolerated a rabbit raising a litter underneath a red twig dogwood. He was a sweet dog but not very bright. I do admire the rabbit’s perseverance and adaptability, but gosh darn, I wish the critter would take it somewhere else!

      LOL, glad you got a good nap while watching Gilded Age! 😀

  6. Oh no. Bad rabbit! We have pesky deer that make me feel the same way… they are beautiful, but they eat my garden down to the roots. Last year my bean teepee was stripped bare until about 6′ high, then it had leaves and beans growing in profusion to make up for it! I have found that the minty “Deer Out” product keeps them from eating my roses; I might try it on my beans this year, at least while they’re growing up tall. I wonder if it would work for Fat Bad Rabbits? Unrelated, have you read Wintering, by Katherine May? I really enjoyed that.

    1. It’s amazing the damage one animal can do to a garden. I’m not sure the pepper spray is working, I will investigate mint, maybe rabbits and deer have similar dislikes.

      Oh, yes, I have read Wintering. It’s very good!

  7. I have a rabbit that comes occasionally but I just let him be cause I don’t have any garden. He eats the grass and I think that’s alright. Your story makes me think of Peter Rabbit. I can see clearly now how frustrated Mr. McGregor had been. :-

    1. And… sorry to hear about the disappointing Gilded Age. I don’t have HBO so haven’t seen it but hope it would be a success still. I was even thinking of getting HBO just to watch it but now don’t need to. BTW, the trailer for the new DA movie coming out later this year looks fantastic.

    2. I might buy my rabbit a bus ticket and send them you way 😉 Heh, I felt sorry for Peter Rabbit when I was a kid. Now I completely understand!

      If you ever get a chance to see an episode of Gilded Age I will be very interested in your take on it. I saw the DA movie trailer. I hope it’s as good as it looks!

      1. I don’t have HBO. I’d like to take a look at it as u said even just one episode. I’m sure JF wanted to reprise the success of Gosford Park which he won an Oscar for writing the screenplay.

  8. Noooooo I am sorry to hear that the rabbit is messing up your lovely garden! I hope it will hop away to some other home and/or get eaten by a predator animal (sorry rabbit).

    I affirm your discernment about The Gilded Age — I’ve been told it does not get the least bit better as it goes on, so you were wise to quit early.

  9. Oh Stefanie. I’m so sorry about your bushed and trees!! I saw two hawks circling on Friday and I thought, they’re after those rabbits I’ve been seeing lately. I hope a hungry hawk finds your Fat Rabbit! I’m going to read that winter article. Fingers crossed the spray works!

    1. Thanks Laila! Oh, send those hawks my way if they get filled up on your local rabbits! We got a dusting of snow last night so I think I have to go out and spray again today. This might get old very fast, so hopefully it works, which will give me incentive to not give up on it.

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