This post was most recently updated on March 4th, 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?
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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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Do you let your rabbits burrow? Do you have any tips for anyone just starting out?
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