7 Surprising Health Benefits to Allowing Rabbits to Burrow in Dirt

This post was most recently updated on June 1st, 2020

If you truly think that letting rabbits express their natural behaviour is the best way to get happy bunnies, then surely letting them burrow is also important?

Please read: This information is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or prevent any disease. We encourage you to make your own health care decisions in partnership with a qualified health care professional.

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I am making an assumption, but I am going to put it out there: People who keep their rabbits in a colony are concerned for their welfare and choose a colony as they believe it is best for their rabbits.

rabbit colony

Why Letting Rabbits Burrow is  a Great Idea

1). Climate management

Weather can vary so much from one season to the next, but the temperature of the earth 3 feet down is fairly constant.

If you are experiencing scorching hot summers or 30-below winters, burrowing will keep your rabbits at the same temperature without expensive heating and or cooling equipment.

Rabbit have thrived in their burrows long before we had climate control!


Want to know all about raising rabbits in a colony?

Check out our very own book here:

Available on Kindle and in paperback

2). Protection from the elements

Along with the temperature, a burrow offer protection from wind and rain, without you having to build and clean out specialised nesting/bedding areas.

You do need to ensure that the burrow area is positioned so that it won’t flood in the rain. In light of this, a mound to burrow in is the best idea.

RELATED: Naturally feeding rabbits


3). Self-cleaning

Allowed to burrow their own warrens, rabbits will clean them out themselves.

This includes old bedding and kindling remains. They are very clean and tidy animals if allowed to be so.

4). Stops meddling

Humans want all the farm babies to live, all the time. Sadly that is not how nature intended it to be.

Survival of the fittest ensures a species is always the best it can be.

RELATED: Rabbit troubleshooting guide

The less we meddle in the affairs of the rabbits and let nature take its course, the stronger and more resilient our rabbits will become.

Left to their own devices, rabbits will take over entire continents and they can build natural immunity to most ailments. IF you let nature work itself out.

Now, this doesn’t mean you ignore suffering! If an animal is suffering it is our job to put it out of its misery.

Minor complaints can be treated, but if you are wise, you will not allow them to become breeding stock. This ensures your strongest stock pass on their best genes.

5). Predator protection

With large or overhead predators, having a burrow to run into is ideal protection.

I do recommend that you predator proof your area, but we know that sometimes things happen and they get in any way! Having a burrow is a great second level of protection.

6). Immunity

The ground is covered in a large range of bacteria/viruses/yeasts/parasites, some good, and some not so good. 

Baby rabbits raised in the dirt will pick up bacteria that will add to their natural gut and skin biome. This adds a protective factor and a stronger immune system, with a natural balance and helps reduce the chances of getting bad skin and gut infections.

Some areas are known carriers of coccidiosis and some breeders state this as a reason to keep them off of the dirt.

But actually, if you let them live in the dirt, cull those that are symptomatic and allow those that are without symptoms become your breeders, you will have a resistant group of rabbits.

A shared nest of 21 babies.

 7). Happiness

If your colony has a large mound or protected area that they can dig and burrow in, your rabbits will be happier. 

They are rigged to dig, and if you try and stop it by putting down netting or pavers, they will keep trying to find a spot to burrow in any way.

All the rabbit’s instincts are to dig and hide, so if there is any way you can allow for this, I recommend that you do.

They like to dig in a sheltered, secluded spot, so if you set up a pallet up on a cinder block right in the middle of your colony, you will probably find the rabbits will choose to burrow in there. This keeps them away from your perimeter.

For some suggestions on keeping your rabbits from escaping, have a look at our Top 5 Colony Questions Answered.

Want more information on raising rabbits in a colony? Check out our ultimate guide to raising rabbits.

How Deep to Rabbits Burrow?

How long in a piece of string? Rabbit burrows vary in depth significantly. It will depend on the following:

  • firmness of the soil
  • how many rocks are in it
  • the height of the water table
  • how long the rabbits are planning on staying there

and many other things. In captivity, it is generally considered that if you lay wire 2 foot under a fence, you will stop a rabbit burrowing out. 

For mothers wanting to raise babies in a burrow, a hill of firm soil is a better option as they don’t flood and you are less likely to stand on the holes and break your ankle.

Providing a 2-3 feet deep mound will suffice.

For further reading I recommend this book:

Available on Kindle and in paperback

Do you let your rabbits burrow? Do you have any tips for anyone just starting out?


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Colony rabbits do best living in dirt, meat rabbits enjoy being able to live the natural way. Find out the surprising benefits to allowing your rabbits to burrow in the dirt.
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Rabbits thrive when allowed to burrow, find out why!


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20 thoughts on “7 Surprising Health Benefits to Allowing Rabbits to Burrow in Dirt”

  1. Do rabbits want to dig or do they want to burrow? I mean, if I created burrows out of corrugated drain pipe would that fulfill their urge to go underground or will they still want to dig? How far do you think they’d follow a corrugated pipe before it would have to resurface? I want to create an underground tunnel system of cute rabbit hutches (a bunny subdivision, if you will).

  2. I have pet bunnies, one doe and one neutered male. They live in our attached 20×8 greenhouse (walk out basement) and have access to a large fenced in yard (1/4 acre). They share this area with my cats. The greenhouse also has a pet door to the inside of the house. My bunnies have a warren and several other houses to hide. I planted a bunny plot this fall also. I would like to add other does but my girl is pretty dominant. Any advice?

    • Generally with colony life, if they have plenty of space and places to hide they will work it out. If you are going to add more than one more rabbit, do them all at once.

  3. I’m not liking cages too much either, so I came up with these. They are 8 feet by 8 feet and I buried wire fencing 18 inches down. They can dig, but they can’t get out. One is for males and the other for the girls. They seem a lot happier. Trying to add a picture…..

  4. My bunny is beginning to tunnel and I’m just worried she’ll exit to an unsafe place. Do they normally surface on the other side of the yard or something?

    • Rona, generally they do not burrow too far. Often they will just make a warren to live in. If you are worried about them digging too far you can bury wire a few feet deep, or simply fold some wire along the edge as they tend to dig at the edges if they are trying to escape.

  5. If you let the buck in there all the time, wouldn’t that mean that he would eventually breed with his daughters and that his sons would breed with their sisters?

    • Hi, Terri – Usually you would remove the young ones to either sell or send to freezer camp. If you are planning on keeping a young doe as a breeder, many will also get a new buck. However, there is a lot of ‘line breeding’ that goes on with meat rabbits (and lots of other animals). Line breeding to improve a specific trait is very effective, but you have to be careful that you are only breeding strong, healthy stock for this to work.

  6. Hi there!
    We are thinking of raising meat rabbits in a natural way too. I think it’s best for them. I am confused as to how you manage the breeding if you leave the buck in there all the time. Doesn’t that mean that he would eventually breed with his daughters and that his sons would breed with their sisters?

    • I agree, raising them naturally is best for them. See my other reply regards the breeding thing. If the rabbits are for consumption, they won’t get to breeding age before you process them 🙂

  7. Wonderful post! Hubby and I are planning on getting started with rabbits later this year and we are looking at different ways to house them. I’m huge on natural habitats to the point it makes sense. Thanks for sharing that FB Group, I find that these groups are a fount of knowledge you can’t always get from books and you’re able to ask questions.

    • Hi Dawn, thank you for your encouragement. I think you will enjoy seeing rabbits running around in colony. Let me know how you get on!

  8. I really like this idea. This might be a dumb question, but how do you keep them from getting out? We used to have the bottom of our rabbit tractors open and they loved to borrow…. but they kept digging tunnels right out into our yard, which led to several humorous rabbit chasing adventures… let me know what you think. I’ve got a lot to learn with rabbits. 🙂

    • Hi Abigail,
      That is such a good question, they are expert escape artists! If you have a look at this post here it lists a few different options that you can choose from depending on your situation. If they are in mobile tractors it does limit your options somewhat. Most who let them burrow will dig-proof the floor then supply a large dirt mound in the colony for them to build their warrens. If you are looking for an amazing support group I recommend “meat rabbits in colonies” on facebook. Let me know if you have any other questions!
      Thanks for stopping by,

      • Thanks so much!! I missed the link before! I’ll look into that. Rabbits have been less fulfilling to me than I had hoped, mostly because I feel that the way we have them set up is unpleasant for them. In cages where they can’t dig, waiting for grain and water after they eat down their tiny patch… I’m going to have to read more on your methods. Maybe if we can change the way we are doing things I’d be more keen on keeping on with them!

        • I agree, letting animals do what they love is more fulfilling somehow. Like free range chickens 🙂 good luck and let me know how you get on!

      • Hi Mrs Valley,

        I want to do colony, hate cages. Do you have any proven designs (I have seen plastic boxes in the dirt, but I prefer them to build their home. How can I protect them from ants?
        I want to be able to take the top off the warren to be able to check out the babies. What you recommend. Thanks.


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