If you have a pet rabbit and you constantly keep it outdoors, then you may have witnessed one of the most displeasing rabbit behaviors: digging. Rabbits are mini digging machines. These animals dig if they can and given the opportunity because this is what they naturally do in the wild.
Wild rabbits may become a menace in a garden as they can dig out vegetables and chew on different plants. In some countries, rabbits are exterminated and called pests because these don’t just dig, but they also make burrows and destroy property.
Why dig burrows?
Burrows are holes or a tunnel that has been excavated in the ground by an animal. A burrow is a place where an animal like a rabbit can live, seek temporary refuge, or as a means to move about in the ground. Burrows can be found in almost all biomes and different biological interactions.
Aside from rabbits, there are many more animal species that form burrows. And the appropriate term for a rabbit burrow is a “warren.”
Why do rabbits make warrens?
Rabbits are like humans; they need their privacy when they are resting. Rabbits dig holes for sleeping and exit only when they are looking for food. Rabbit holes are also used as a haven. These furry creatures hide inside their warrens from potential predators. They may also retreat to their burrows to keep away from humans, especially during hunting season. Aside from humans, other prominent predators of rabbits are cats, foxes, weasels and birds of prey. Burrows are also safe areas where mother rabbits give birth to their babies. Bunnies usually remain inside the burrow for a few days or weeks with their mother taking care of them.
A rabbit’s turf
When rabbits make holes, these wise creatures check the land that surrounds them. They think that the land is their designated area or territory, and thus they need to explore and protect. The turf is not as big as the territory of other animals because rabbits prefer to live closer to each other. If an individual stray too far, they only risk the possibility of not fleeing back inside their burrows to hide. Rabbits usually make their burrows in the form of clusters with other rabbits. The males are in charge of protecting warrens.
About domestic rabbits
Warren and burrow-making are common activities of wild rabbits, but this is also seen in domestic rabbits. Some owners prepare for this situation by allowing their pets to dig in a supervised area. This is a rabbit’s natural need, and thus, you must give your pet a chance to dig.
You can use a small planter in your garden where your pet can dig to its heart’s content. Use safe plant containers with soil, wooden shavings, or you may use sand. But if you have a backyard that you don’t use, you may allow your pet to dig and move soil around. If you have more than one rabbit pet, erect deep fences to prevent them from digging and escaping. But if you have a landscaped garden, then this is not a good option. You may use a sandbox or a child’s playpen to hold soil or sand together. Always focus on your pet’s natural behavior; offering them digging areas gives them an impression of living outside despite being safe and secure inside your home or property.
All about rabbit species
The digging behavior in rabbits may depend on the species of rabbits. Cottontail rabbits don’t dig or don’t make holes because these tend to use the empty burrows that were made by other animals.
Pygmy rabbits are complete opposites of cottontail rabbits as these tend to dig too much. If you let a pygmy rabbit dig one hole in your garden or yard, it will soon make several connected holes in just a day!
Hares are lagomorphs and may look like rabbits, but these are different when it comes to creating structures in the ground. Hares don’t dig holes but instead create “forms” on the grass. Forms are outlines of the hare’s body that it makes on the grass.
Burrows big and small
Different rabbit species have different ways to make burrows. Some wild rabbits make very large burrows with different chambers. Some species live together with a single female, and this is where she breeds, eats, and rests. This burrow is majestic with a section where the female rabbit rests, areas where the drones live and eat, and some sections where other females may be housed.
In some species, there is a dominant female who is free to mate with other males that she wishes to. However, some non-dominant females prefer to mate with only one male. The pair construct their burrow near their friends and family. Here, they will raise their children, sleep, and stay when the climate is not too ideal. Most of the time, this kind of burrow is small, with only one or two chambers.
When female rabbits are about to give birth, she also makes sure that there is a burrow ready for her to settle. Usually, she prepares before she gives birth by collecting some items outside the hole like grasses, hay, and twigs, and she may also use her fur to line the nest. Rabbit fur offers excellent insulation and can protect babies from extreme cold. Also, fur can mask the smell of newborn babies, which also protect them from potential predators nearby.
Baby rabbits are born naked, blind, and deaf, totally vulnerable to predators. And because of these, mother rabbits create a fully-protected nest inside a deep burrow.
But mother rabbits are not as good as an actual mother because they often abandon their nests as soon as they give birth. Usually, these return only during the night to nurse her babies for a few minutes. She relies on her well-constructed nest to protect her babies during the day until she can come back during the evenings.
Meanwhile, father rabbits tend to stay near the nest and don’t abandon their children during the day. He knows that a burrow can protect his children but makes it an effort to check on them once in a while. At the first sign of danger, the babies will give out a soft cry, which will be instantly heard by their father. The rabbit will rush inside the burrow to check and defend his children at all costs.
After a few weeks of being born, the baby rabbits begin to open their eyes and wonder about the burrow. This hole is not enough to contain them now, and they start to come out and explore. Rabbits also tend to mature early, and thus, in a few more weeks, these rabbits are big enough to make their burrows and even find their mate and procreate. They will eventually construct their burrows near their siblings and parents or their other relatives. This is because rabbits find it comforting to have a company nearby.
Problem with rabbit burrows
Digging is a normal behavior in rabbits and the wild, rabbits will dig burrows to escape from predators, to give birth to their young and to have a safe and comfortable space to sleep. Rabbits also use their burrows to escape from the heat, especially when they live in an area where it’s too hot to remain outdoors during the day.
This behavior is still present in captive or domesticated rabbits, and this is one of the reasons why some pet owners surrender their pets to the shelter. They are unable to control their pet’s digging and burrowing, and the rabbit or rabbits become very destructive.
When rabbits are left to their own devices, these can take over a home, multiply fast, and can destroy anything, even wooden furniture, molding, carpets, couches, beds, and wooden walls. Rabbits are equipped with very sharp teeth and claws that they use to move through just about anything.
Rabbits can easily chew and claw their way through the wood, cardboard, plastic, paper, and even through walls. These creatures have a natural drive to chew and to explore. If you don’t do something, your home can be overrun by rabbits.
Controlling the situation
When a rabbit begins to chew furniture, a carpet, or anything in your home, start training it right that instant. Just like you would a dog or cat, say “no” and make a loud noise by clapping your hands. Although this may work for some rabbits, eventually, this is just a momentarily distraction for some. Eventually, a rabbit will just freeze when it hears your voice and the loud sound you made and then continue doing other activities.
Sometimes, a rabbit can be very naughty and won’t mind your reprimand. It will continue chewing or digging as if it did not hear you at all. Also, a reprimand won’t work if the behavior has already happened. For instance, you come home and find your sofa chewed up, and your rabbit is resting on it. Your pet won’t understand your anger or frustration, and basically, the same thing goes for dogs and other pets. You need to catch them in the act and reprimand them right away.
But what happens when this doesn’t work? Here are some tips to stop these unpleasant behaviors:
- Reward your pet for good behavior
To stop bad behavior, reward good ones instead. Just like other pets, rabbits can learn good behavior through a reward system. First, identify the things that your pet loves the most, like pats, praises, food, or other healthy treats. When you see it chewing on acceptable stuff like its chew toys, give some treats or reward it for this good behavior. If you see it starting to chew on other stuff like your furniture or molding, remove it from the area quickly. Don’t reward or make any other appreciative or unwanted tone. It will soon realize that it’s better to do nice things and to get rewards than to dig or chew.
- Provide items that he can chew or dig
You must provide things inside your pet’s enclosure, which he can chew on. You can use blocks of wood, old clothing, stacks of old phonebooks, or anything made of cardboard.
You may also use a grass mat or prepare a special area in your yard where it can dig and dig all day.
Never remove the claws of the rabbit because not only is this inhuman, but it is very painful for a rabbit. Also, these animals don’t have footpads and use their claws to grip on things instead.
- Protect your furniture and other belongings
Aside from praises and giving your pet good chewing and digging toys, you must also protect your furniture as well. Despite being well-behaved, rabbits can still mess up furniture, dig through carpets, and scratch stuff. There are a few DIY things that you can use to stop your rabbit from turning to your furniture.
You may use tabasco sauce or Ivory soap because these have very strong smells that rabbit hate. You may use lime, but these may stain some furniture and flooring. You may also move furniture; those that are special and must be protected should be placed in another room in your house.
You can also place your rabbit inside a pen, similar to a dog pen. This way, you can move the pen anywhere you want to place your pet in. Also, it’s foldable, and you can keep this when not in use. Rabbits are not as strong as dogs and would not leap out of a pen; therefore, you can use this indoors or outdoors. Play with your pet to ease boredom. Usually, these naughty behaviors show up when your pet is bored or lonely. Playing with it and tiring it out may help. You can also get your rabbit a companion so he can play and have fun instead of chewing and burrowing. But no matter how many rabbits you have, take time to discipline your pets to avoid these unwanted behaviors.