Wild rabbits can be found all over the world in pretty much every kind of habitat.
They are versatile and adaptable animals that thrive in population despite their numerous predators.
Though you’ve likely seen rabbits hopping about in the wild, the odds are much slimmer than you have ever seen a rabbit’s home.
This article will explain where rabbits sleep in the wild and answer other related questions.
Wild Rabbits Sleep In a Warren
Rabbits are burrowing mammals that live, sleep, and reproduce underground, coming out to look for food.
The burrows that wild rabbits sleep in are interconnected tunnels called warrens.
How Do Wild Rabbits Sleep?
Wild rabbits are primarily nocturnal mammals. They tend to sleep through most of the day and are usually only active at night.
Rabbits sometimes come out of their warrens during the day on warm, sunny days. You may see them resting in quiet, shaded areas in the afternoon.
However, most of the time, rabbits only come out of their warrens at dawn or dusk to feed.
They tend to stay close to their warrens even then, always ready to burrow for safety.
What Is a Warren?
A warren is a complex system of interconnected tunnels called burrows. Rabbit warrens can be shallow or very deep.
Female rabbits typically dig the warrens as deep as the soil will allow.
The term “warren” once referred only to man-made burrows designed for keeping domesticated rabbits. Over time, however, it came to include wild rabbit burrows as well.
Warrens are often made up of many branching and connecting tunnels.
They will typically have multiple entrances and exits so that rabbits can get in and out quickly in an emergency.
Wild rabbits have a lot of predators, but they use their massive field of vision to detect when any are approaching.
They thump their powerful feet to warn others nearby if they sense danger.
More extensive warrens often have different rooms for different purposes.
Rabbits prefer to build their warrens as close as possible to their food supply. They generally don’t wander far from their warrens to feed.
If a predator shows up, they can run back inside.
As long as the food is close by, rabbits will build their warrens pretty much anywhere that they can burrow. Rabbit warrens can even be found in urban areas and sand dunes.
Do Hares Sleep In Warrens Too?
Wild rabbits and hares have different sleeping habits. While most wild rabbits sleep in warrens, most hares do not.
Wild hares sleep above ground in shallow depressions or grassy areas. The places where hares sleep is called “forms.”
Wild hares also tend to be solitary animals, unlike rabbits which are more social.
Wild hares usually sleep alone in their forms, pressed flat to the ground to avoid detection by predators.
Do All Wild Rabbits Sleep In Warrens?
As long as the soil is soft and moist enough for burrowing, wild rabbits prefer to sleep underground in their warrens.
However, rabbits do live in places where the ground isn’t so soft.
Rabbits that live in habitats where the soil is too dry, hard, or dense to burrow in will improvise. If they can’t build a warren, wild rabbits will nest in shrubs, bushes, or wherever they can hide.
It can be challenging for rabbits in inhospitable places like the desert to burrow to build their warrens. Desert dwellers like the desert cottontail sleep in forms like wild hares.
They may also take advantage of other animals’ burrows, if available. Abandoned woodchucks and prairie dog burrows make a great opportunistic shelter.
Rabbits live in a wide range of habitats and are highly adaptable animals. They’ll make homes in brush piles, cliffs, and even urban areas.
Do Rabbits Hibernate In Warrens?
Rabbits are not animals that hibernate. They are active year-round, foraging for different foods in different seasons, depending on what is available.
Rabbits forage mainly on soft grasses, plants, and farm crops in the warmer months.
When greens are less available in the winter, their diet shifts to bark, twigs, and young trees.
Because their diet can change to fit the food source available, rabbits do not need to hibernate in winter like some other mammals.
How Do Rabbits Make Warrens?
Female rabbits, sometimes called “does,” often dig their warrens around a central burrow to raise their young.
Male rabbits, called “bucks”, guard the area while the female rabbits dig.
In rabbit colonies with more complex social structures, higher-ranking males often have the first nesting locations. Rabbits prefer to build their warrens close to food.
The warren’s entrance is usually concealed under a bush or tall grasses.
The female rabbits dig tunnels that are roughly four to six inches in diameter to construct the network of tunnels.
As they dig, female rabbits spread the discarded dirt rather than mounding it up like other burrowing animals. This makes the entrance less noticeable from the outside.
Rabbit warrens vary in depth, length, and complexity.
Large rabbit colonies can have warrens many feet deep and wide. Smaller colonies and breeding pairs may only have a single burrow.
What Do Rabbits Do In Warrens?
A rabbit colony’s warren is their home. Rabbits sleep, hide, and reproduce inside their warrens. Large rabbit colonies build different rooms inside their warrens for different activities.
Rabbits line the nest with fur, grass, and moss. These soft materials help keep the rabbits warm and cozy while sleeping and resting.
During the day, inside their warrens, rabbits sleep and pass fecal matter in the form of soft pellets. While they rest, they eat these pellets to digest them again for extra nutrition.
Later, when they leave their warrens, rabbits poops pellets a second time. These pellets are firmer and devoid of nutritional content.
Rabbits do not eat the pellets they pass outside.
Rabbits also reproduce and raise their young inside their warrens.
Many rabbit colonies have special chambers inside their warrens to protect their babies when they are young.
Finally, warrens are a place of safety and shelter for rabbits. Because they graze for food close to their warrens, they’re always able to run inside quickly to hide from predators.
How Many Rabbits Live In A Warren?
Rabbit colonies can range from solitary rabbits and breeding pairs to large groups of 30 or more.
The size of a particular rabbit colony is generally dependent on the surrounding habitat.
For example, in a habitat where food is scarce or far away, rabbit colonies tend to be smaller.
In areas where food is more plentiful and accessible, larger colonies can sustain themselves.
Even among larger rabbit colonies, however, the size and structure of their warrens can vary.
Many rabbit colonies have complex social structures that can impact the layout of their warrens.
The dominant males will often nest and reproduce inside the central warren in such colonies.
Lesser-ranking males and breeding pairs may be forced to nest in a separate burrow.
These separate nesting sites are smaller and often isolated from the central warren. Without the support of the rest of the colony, lower-ranking rabbits often struggle to defend their young.
Where Do Rabbits Raise Their Young?
The breeding season for most rabbits lasts roughly nine months. It typically runs until October in the northern hemisphere and until January in the southern hemisphere.
Female rabbits in large colonies will construct their own special nest inside the warren. The nest where rabbits raise their young is called a “stop.”
Depending on the size of the colony and the warren, a stop may be inside the central warren or in a separate burrow.
Occasionally the separate burrow may become the center of a new colony.
Only about half of the kits conceived are ever born. Of those that are born alive, most will die within a year. Rabbits reproduce rapidly to counteract their high mortality rate.
A female rabbit can produce litter every month, though this is rare.
The gestation period from conception to birth is between 28 and 31 days.
Each litter can contain anywhere from 3 to 12 baby rabbits, called “kits,” which are blind, hairless, and deaf at birth. They grow quickly, reaching independence within 30 days.
At first, however, kits are entirely helpless. Without fur, they are unable to regulate their own body heat.
The mother’s fur lining the stop keeps them warm while she forages for food.
When she leaves the stop, she fills in the entrance with soil to hide her litter and contain as much warmth as possible. She returns several times each night, but only for a few minutes.
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