Digging is a habitual behaviour for rabbits. It is not an unusual behaviour for your bunny to suddenly start digging around the yard, lawn or garden. Although digging/burrowing is common with wild rabbits; as they can dig nests, burrows and warrens, domesticated rabbits can suddenly develop the need to dig as they get older.
While all wild rabbits dig holes regularly, the cottontail rabbit cannot be said to do the same. This breed of rabbit doesn’t dig often and when they dig, they can constantly return to their dug spot for reuse. They can even use the holes dug by other rabbits; they are not that particular about their space.
If you have a garden, it might cause you some worry just watching your bunny rabbit destroy it. This is nothing to worry about, as you can resolve it by providing an alternative digging spot for the rabbit. Very often, the digging patterns that rabbits adopt will depend on what their purpose for digging is.
Below are a couple of reasons your rabbit might dig holes;
For Fun And Leisure
Because digging is a natural activity for rabbits, most rabbits can dig just for the fun of it. While wild rabbits dig for more serious reasons, your pet bunny might use digging as a leisure activity. Whenever you let your bunny out for its regular outdoor time, your bunny might opt for digging instead of hopping around.
Digging can be done out of curiosity and because rabbits are curious animals, who like to explore their surrounding to discover interesting things, they’ll dig for fun. If you don’t want your bunny ruining your garden or lawn, you can provide alternative digging units to distract them.
To Prepare For Childbirth
When female rabbits are expecting, especially towards the end of their gestation/pregnancy, they can be seen digging holes to make a nest for their litter. They even pull out their furs, gather leaves and straws to create a home for their kits to prepare for childbirth.
This space will serve as a home for the kits until they are up to three weeks old, during which they stop depending on their mother, and venture out on their own.
To Hide From Predators
Rabbits build burrows, especially in the wild to provide safety against invasions from predators. These predators can be cats, weasels, owls, foxes, to name a few. Once there is an invasion, they quickly retreat to their hideout for protection.
Out in the wild, rabbits are constantly being attacked by one force or another. For this reason, most rabbits don’t leave their hideout except to look for food and even when they do, they don’t go far from their territory so they can easily run back for cover in an attack.
It Is Instinctive
Digging comes naturally to rabbits. Even when they are domesticated, they still need to dig occasionally. Digging is as natural as chewing and circling for them. They don’t always have an explanation for it, just a need to do it.
This behaviour is very active in young rabbits who are in their formative years.
To Relieve Stress
If your rabbit shows obsessive digging habits, not wanting to do anything other than digging, your rabbit may be stressed out and trying to blow off steam. When you observe this habit in your domesticated rabbit, it is probably because of stress.
You need to observe and find out what might be making your rabbit that stressed. Maybe your rabbit is uncomfortable in its environment and digging helps take its mind off it. Or maybe your rabbit is scared and digging gives it a sense of protection. Whatever the reason, find it and help resolve it.
To Provide Shelter
Rabbits dig holes to provide a hutch for security. They use it as a place of rest or a lounge. They sleep there at dawn and hideout there from terrible weathers; rainfalls and storms. This is common for wild rabbits. They have to dig homes to provide covering for themselves.
Rabbits usually burrow holes in proximity with others of their kind; they are called “warrens”. This helps them stay connected, especially in crisis situations.
To Get Their Owner’s Attention
Your domesticated rabbit might dig holes in the garden or lawn or even in the carpet to get your attention. Rabbits love attention and they can be manipulative at times to get the attention. If your bunny is flopping beside you for a petting or circling your feet for a quick ruffle and you keep ignoring these attempts, it might result in other less appealing ways to secure your attention, like digging or burrowing holes in the wrong places.
Digging can be a wonderful source of engagement for your rabbit. It not only improves them physically; it helps them exercise their mind as well. Regardless of whether your rabbit has never lived in the wild, it may still have the urge to dig; encourage it as much as you can. It is part of who they are. It is a form of self-expression for rabbits.