Dr. Bruce Gabrielson

          There have been a number of visitors in recent months ask what the strange looking mounds and tiles were doing in my starting pen. Previous articles have discussed how I design my brush piles and small dens, but I haven’t ever talked about the burrows many of my rabbits use to whelp their litters. This article will describe the larger burrows where rabbits can survive cold winter weather as well as raise their young.

          The two dens described below are easy to build and several can be created in a couple of hours. I’ve put in about a dozen plus have a couple of friends who have put them in their training areas. They last a long time and are usually well used by the local rabbit population.

Figure 1BOX DENS

I decided to build a box den a couple of years back because in my starting pen there are no other ground-burrowing animals that could provide natural dens for my rabbits. The den is well insulated and works well in flat areas with little other cover. I got the idea for this den from both my friend’s rabbit hutches and some traps that I use.

Basically, rabbits don’t need a lot of room to raise their young.  What they really want is a secure place out of the elements that has enough room for them to turn around in.  What I’ve designed is a box like a rabbit trap that is just large enough for a rabbit to get into without fear plus have both front and back entrances.  Figure 1 shows a simple box made from 3/8” waterproof plywood using screws to attach each edge together.  Notice that the end of the box has a V shaped opening. 

Figure 2          The next thing I do to the box is wrap a single layer of tin foil around the middle of the box with the reflective surfaces towards the inside.  I’m not really sure it’s needed, but if you ever take a look at environmental wallboard you will notice it has a layer of foil.  This reflects thermal heat keeping the inside closer to body heat and reflecting outside heat.  I figure it doesn’t cost anything extra so why not add it.

          Next, find a good location to put the box.  I look for a place not too far from water and a feeder, one that has overhead cover above both entrances, and also one with a small hill or log along one side.  Be sure the location isn’t in a low spot where water will settle after long rains.  If you think water might flood the box, build the ground up under it as dampness will nearly always kill young rabbits.

          Once you have a location in mind, put a small piece of heavy roofing felt on the ground, then the box, then a folded piece of roofing felt all around the outside of the box. Cover this with a small piece of plastic on top. Once covered, shovel dirt over the box until you have a layer of about 2-3 inches of dirt on top and the sides are well slopped rather then steep. The combination of the foil plus the felt prevents the wood from rotting out for a long time so your rabbits will be comfortable for years to come.

          I should mention one more thing.  While rabbits may go into the box on their own, I usually sprinkle some rabbit feed in front of the den for a couple of days plus scrap some of the dropping from the ground inside my feeder and sprinkle it around the front as well.  In a few days you will notice the box is being used.


          The tile den is a rather permanent larger den that takes very little work to create and is well protected from dogs digging out the rabbits inside.  For this den, start with a piece of heavy drain tile that comes pre-sized about 2’ long by 1’ wide by 8” high.  Cut a tight fitted piece of 3/8” waterproof plywood and tap into each end as shown in the figure.  If the wood is loosely fitter, it will not withstand a dog trying to pry it out. 

          As with the wood box, find a location with some cover above both ends of the box, preferably along a tree or hillside.  Put a piece of roofing foil above and under the tile.  Unlike the wood box, this den doesn’t need to be covered with dirt but can be if you wish.  I usually just put a short log on top of the felt and leave the rest uncovered.  Rabbits seem to really like this den even if it doesn’t look natural.

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