Rabbits are prolific diggers, and nowhere is that more apparent than in a rabbit warren. We give a lot of credit to beavers as builders, forever chewing wood and carrying it along while using it to build their dams, but rabbits are no slouches, either. Rabbits in the wild can build big, complex warrens with plenty of tunnels and space beneath the surface.
So why on Earth would these industrious rabbits seem to undo their own creations by filling in their own holes and tunnels? Even domestic rabbits are prone to do this. If you let a rabbit dig away in your backyard, you might be perplexed by its practice of digging holes and then filling them up again.
Why Rabbits Dig
First thing’s first – why do these rabbits dig in the first place? It is obviously a natural impulse of rabbits, but why?
There are a few answers to this, not the least of which being that rabbits in the wild need to find a way to hide out from would-be predators. For as fast as rabbits are, they have to rest sometime, and when they do they can become big bunny buffets for hungry predators if they aren’t careful. To protect them from that unfortunate fate, crafty rabbits build warrens for themselves. These warrens can range from simple to elaborate, with everything from a simple hole leading into a small chamber to massive interlocking tunnels fit for a whole family of rabbits.
Another reason rabbits dig these holes is to give themselves shelter from cold temperatures. Just as you’d probably prefer to be indoors rather than outside during a rainstorm or blizzard, the same holds true for rabbits.
In addition, rabbits can dig holes out of boredom. This can be especially true of domestic rabbits. If you leave your rabbit sitting alone all day, it can get bored and fall back on its instincts for digging. If you spy your rabbit trying to dig through its cage, this may be one potential reason why. In addition, if your rabbit is digging up a storm in your home, it may be a sign that you aren’t giving it enough attention.
Just as “idle hands are the devil’s playthings,” idle rabbit paws are devilishly inclined toward digging up your home, so make sure you keep your rabbit occupied and give it plenty of attention.
This can likewise alleviate another key reason why rabbits dig and fill holes – stress. If you have fidgety fingers, you can guess how this might work. If a rabbit is feeling stressed, it will feel the need to alleviate that somehow, and that can take any number of forms, from urination to grinding its teeth to digging.
Down the Rabbit Hole
So, just how deep are these holes anyway? Rabbit holes tend to be somewhere between eight to 10 inches, though there are outliers that can be shallower or deeper than that. Rabbits can be quite territorial about their holes, especially females, who tend to dig more than males.
Not all hole digging is benign. On the contrary, while it is a natural part of a rabbit’s character to dig, sometimes rabbits flip a mental switch from normal to more destructive digging.
For example, if there has been a major change in your rabbit’s environment, it may feel the need to dig and fill in holes in places where it has never done that before. If you have recently moved or have introduced new people or pets into your home, your rabbit may pick up on the change and start digging holes as a means of hiding from these strangers or simply to alleviate this new stress.
Rabbit Holes and Babies
If your rabbit has a mate, one possible reason why they may be digging holes is that they are about ready to have babies. As you might be able to guess, rabbits hardly want to leave their newborn babies out in the open, where they can freeze or be easy prey for predators. As such, rabbits will dig holes and cover them again so as to provide plenty of shelter for their newborns.
This is the first reason why rabbits may dig and cover their holes. They don’t want to leave the holes open, since predators can get in that way, so they close up the holes and simply remember where they are so they can come back to tend to their babies later on. Rabbits tend to cover the hole with leaves, grass, or even some of their fur.
Rabbits tend to start digging these holes when they are pregnant. That said, rabbits also dig all the time, so digging alone does not necessitate a pregnant rabbit. Rabbit mating season varies from breed to breed, with sometime between March and September being the most common window. Many rabbits tend to be pregnant for between 31 to 40 days.
Other Reasons for Rabbits Filling in Their Holes
In addition to pregnancy and giving birth, rabbits can also fill holes for several other reasons, not the least of which being to create false dens that can confuse predators. The predator-prey situation in any ecosystem is an ever-evolving arms race. Predators know that rabbits can sometimes dig holes for their babies, and rabbits know that they know, and so they dig false holes so as to put predators off the scent, both literally and figuratively.
On the other hand, a rabbit may have planned to use one or more of those holes in earnest, but has been driven out of the area by a predator or even another rabbit. Due to their territoriality and social nature, rabbits establish social hierarchies of their own, and the manner in which they do so isn’t always pretty. They know that they need well-dug warrens to survive, and if a dominant rabbit finds another hole and warren that they like, they may try to drive the current occupant out. Alternatively, a predator may have successfully compromised the integrity of a rabbit’s warren.
Rabbits will always dig, but if you want to allow them to do this without tearing up your yard, you might do well to offer them a digging box. This is just what it sounds like, a box that is set aside in which rabbits can safely dig and fill in holes without compromising the rest of your yard or home.
- Choose a location that’s convenient for you and fits your rabbit’s size
- Fill the box with hay, shredded paper, towels, soil, and so on
- Avoid using sand or sawdust, as this can get into your rabbit’s nose and eyes
- Avoid using anything they may associate with litter and thus dig up around your house
There are several reasons why a rabbit may choose to start digging a hole, and plenty why it may decide to fill it up again. That said, you do not want your rabbit digging all over your home. It is therefore essential that you make sure it has a safe place in which to dig. Creating a digging box for your rabbit and making sure you give it plenty of attention can help ensure it gets to dig and fill in holes without making a mess of your home.