Even if it seems like they’re only playing with dirt by digging…
Rabbits actually have a variety of reasons why they dig burrows.
Being quiet animals, it can make you curious what rabbits do underground.
So let’s go down the rabbit hole and find out:
- If all rabbits are burrowers.
- 9 reasons why rabbits burrow.
- 9 ways to stop a rabbit from burrowing.
- Why rabbits fill up the holes they burrow.
- And much much more…
Why do rabbits burrow?
Rabbits burrow underground to hide from danger. A rabbit burrow is also the safest place for them to rest or sleep in. Mother rabbits use their burrows as a birthing den. Rabbits also dig for fun when they’re bored.
9 reasons why rabbits burrow (underground)
#1: To give birth in a safe place
Many rabbit species burrow underground for birthing purposes.
If a domesticated bunny is pregnant, they will dig for a nest when given the chance.
Momma rabbits will dig and burrow as early as possible to build their den.
An average rabbit hole can be around 30 inches deep (76.2 centimeters deep).
Rabbits cover the nest with grass to hide it from their predators.
While the mother is raising the babies, the male rabbit defends the burrow.
Baby rabbits don’t leave the safety of their burrows until they are old enough to explore on their own.
Check out also: Why do rabbits move their bedding?
#2: To build their colony
Bunnies are social animals that live in groups.
According to research, wild rabbits often live together in big colonies.
In the wild, a bunny’s tunnel usually connects to other tunnels, a.k.a rabbit warrens.
A typical rabbit warren can be about 3.9 to 5.9 inches deep (10 cm to 15 cm).
If the colony has been around for a long time, you can expect the tunnels to be deeper.
Bunnies can build “shortcut” tunnels through rabbit warrens. It makes it easier for them to access certain places.
Traveling underground keeps them safe and away from predator eyes.
Interesting fact: Bunny warrens is they also dig “bolt holes” in the tunnels. Bolt holes serve as secret emergency exits for rabbits. It’s less visible than other exits.
#3: To keep their nails short
Rabbits also dig to trim their nails. As herbivores, they don’t need sharp nails.
Instead, they often use their teeth to chew on food since they only eat plants.
Wild rabbits keep their nails short through digging and hopping over rocks.
But domestic bunnies can also try to dig to trim their own nails.
If you own a domestic rabbit, digging can be a sign that you need to clip their nails.
You can tell it’s time to trim your rabbit’s nails if it’s showing out of their fur.
Warning: Overgrown nails can be painful for them or make it difficult to hop around. That’s why it’s advised to trim the bunny nails as soon as possible before the blood supply grows with the nail length.
Trim your bunny’s nails every 3 to 4 weeks to keep them at a healthy length.
You might also like: 17 Weird Reasons Why Rabbits Dig In Their Cage + 13 Tips
#4: To stay active and healthy
Rabbits also dig for the sake of staying active and healthy.
Like other living creatures, bunnies need to move around to stay in shape.
They can’t laze around in their nests all day after eating some food.
Digging is a part of their natural instincts so bunnies always dig whenever given the chance.
An interesting fact to add is that… rabbits are neither diurnal nor nocturnal, they are crepuscular animals.
This means that rabbits are most active during dusk or dawn.
You may sometimes wake up to the sound of their digging early in the morning.
Rabbits may do this because it’s part of their natural routine.
You can watch this video to see how bunnies dig:
#5: To play and avoid boredom
Bunnies also like to play and have fun.
For example… bunnies would run in circles and start digging when they’re bored.
You can tell a bunny is being playful with these signs:
- They start digging anywhere they can.
- They try to reach high areas to explore.
- They’re sniffing everything to look for fun.
- They pick up toys on the ground and throw them away.
- They look for something to chew on to entertain themselves.
They are curious animals and love adventures.
Burrowing is an entertaining activity for rabbits, wild or domesticated.
In the wild, digging is one of their primary sources of entertainment. It keeps them busy and occupied for long periods.
So if your bunny is burrowing, it could be a sign of boredom.
Read next: Why does my rabbit dig on me?
#6: To keep dry during rainy season
Bunnies are sensitive to water.
In fact, water can shock a bunny to the point of giving them a heart attack.
They can handle the cold but bunnies don’t like getting soaked wet.
After all, bunnies can clean themselves without needing to bathe in water.
Getting wet from the rain can also make bunnies sick, especially baby bunnies.
In worst-case scenarios, they can also die when exposed to heavy rains.
So during the rainy season, bunnies keep themselves dry by digging burrows to hide in.
#7: To stay warm during winter
Rabbits don’t hibernate like other animals do in the winter.
To keep warm, they use their tunnels as a haven.
You can find bunnies bundled together inside their burrows during the winter.
Since they don’t hibernate, bunnies still go out to search for food.
Even if their thick fur helps them tolerate the cold, rabbits like to stay warm.
This is why their burrows and tunnels are necessary for bunnies to survive in winter.
“Do rabbits store food in their tunnels?”
Some people might be wondering if the purpose of a rabbit tunnel is for storing food.
Rabbits don’t store food in their tunnels like their relative animals such as hamsters.
During winter, rabbits are always searching for food resources.
There is no known reason why rabbits don’t store food like other animals do for winter.
What’s clear is that rabbits burrow for the sake of their safety and comfort.
#8: To sleep and rest in
According to a study, rabbits dig tunnels to feel safe whenever they sleep.
Like people, bunnies enjoy security.
Rabbit tunnels are difficult to invade for predators in the wild.
Their burrow is the only safe place for them to rest in.
It’s too dangerous for a bunny to sleep somewhere else in the wild.
This is why rabbits in the wild need to go back to their burrows no matter what.
#9: To hide from predators
Bunnies are prey animals and they have many predators that hunt them.
Here’s a list of common rabbit predators in the wild:
- Wild cats.
- Ground squirrels.
Despite that, there are only a few predators that can chase a bunny down to their burrows.
Rabbits design their tunnels in a way that only rabbits can be comfortable moving in.
Large-sized predators will have a difficult time getting inside rabbit tunnels.
Bunnies also make sure that predators will have a hard time finding the tunnel entrance.
An example of a predator that can chase a rabbit down to their burrows is a ferret.
Ferrets are natural predators of bunnies and can fit inside a rabbit burrow.
Aside from ferrets, small breeds of cats and dogs can also chase rabbits down to their holes.
Snakes are a big threat to rabbits because it can be easy for them to move inside the rabbit tunnel.
Do rabbits need to burrow?
Rabbits need to burrow because it’s their way of surviving in the wild.
Burrows also protect rabbits from harsh weather conditions and predators.
It’s also a safe place for bunnies to sleep in.
Domesticated bunnies may not need to burrow, but it can help keep them entertained.
How do I stop my rabbit from burrowing? 9 tips
#1: Train your bunny
It’s never too late to train a bunny if their burrowing has become an issue.
Bunnies can learn easy tricks and correcting their behavior can be simple.
For example, try to walk away whenever your bunny starts to burrow.
It’s possible that your rabbit is doing it to get your attention.
If your rabbit stops and follows you, give them a treat.
This will make your bunny remember that it pleases you when they’re not burrowing.
Another idea is to tell them “No” in a sharp tone of voice.
Rabbits can be sensitive to sound and they can recognize your different pitches.
If your bunny notices that you’re unhappy with their behavior, it can be enough to stop them.
When your rabbit stops burrowing, give them a treat to reward them for listening to you.
Make sure to give them treats along with praises and compliments in a soft tone of voice.
#2: Give them enough attention
As mentioned in #1, your bunny might do things for attention.
Rabbits can learn that they get attention from you whenever they burrow.
So if they miss you, they might start burrowing on purpose.
You can spend time with your bunny by hand feeding them or playing with them.
Sitting or cuddling with your bunny can please them too.
#3: Build a sandbox for your rabbit
Digging is important for your rabbit. It’s a natural instinct that they can’t quit.
This is why you should provide alternative solutions for your bunny so they can keep digging.
A sandbox is a good option so your rabbit can dig in it.
Bunnies will dig anywhere possible, but soil and sand are safer choices.
You can create a digging box for your bunny by yourself too!
Get a box large enough for your bunny to move in and fill it with soil.
Make sure the soil is deep enough for your bunny to enjoy the digging.
#4: Take them outside to dig for playtime
If possible, you can bring your bunny outside so they can burrow outdoors.
They will enjoy burrowing in your yard but you have to keep an eye on them.
Note: If bunnies dig for too long, they can escape or get lost. So search for safe areas that your bunny can burrow in.
Guide your bunny when they burrow. If they start digging in the wrong spot, pick them up or move them away from it.
Place them in the area that is safe for them to burrow in.
#5: Keep your bunny entertained
Burrowing can be a sign of boredom for bunnies…
You can stop them by keeping them entertained and there are many ways to do so.
Here’s a list of simple ideas that can entertain your rabbit.
- Buy them toys to play with.
- Give them treats to chew on.
- Place hidden treats all over the house.
- Build them a tunnel with cardboard boxes.
- Make sure they have enough space to explore.
You can find a lot of toys made for rabbits nowadays. Treats will also help keep their teeth healthy.
Placing snacks for rabbits to find will also help stimulate their nose. They love to explore and find things with their sense of smell.
If you want to get creative, you can build your rabbit a fortress tunnel made of cardboard boxes.
Add some treats inside their kingdom to make it more fun for your bunny.
It’s also important to make sure that there’s enough space for them to move in and explore.
#6: Trim their nails
Your bunny might burrow because of their nails.
Burrowing helps rabbits keep their nails short because they don’t need long ones.
Check if your bunny’s nails are long.
You can tell if that’s the case, when the nails are sticking out of your rabbit’s paw fur.
#7: Get your bunny a companion
Rabbits might burrow due to stress or loneliness.
If your rabbit is alone, they might be longing for a companion.
Finding a pair for your bunny will make them happy.
When they have a partner to play with, it also keeps them away from boredom.
#8: Spaying and neutering
Rabbits might burrow to mark their “territory” as a sign of dominant behavior.
For safety, male wild rabbits only mate with females underground.
This can be a reason why they dig.
Female rabbits also burrow when they are pregnant to make a nest.
Take your bunny to the vet and they might suggest spaying or neutering your rabbit.
It helps correct dominant behavior especially in male rabbits.
#9: Using scents that rabbits hate
If your rabbit is burrowing outdoors, you can cover the ground with scents they dislike.
For example, rabbits are not fond of vinegar.
Spraying vinegar on soil that they burrow in can stop them from doing it.
There are plenty of scents that rabbits dislike that will not harm them.
A few examples would be:
- Lemon balm.
- Chili powder.
- Crushed red peppers.
Rabbits have a strong sense of smell. If they catch a whiff of these scents, they will stay away from it.