Rabbits love to chew, whether they’re snacking on their hutch or making a meal of your favourite data cords. But why do they do it? More importantly, how can you get them to stop before they gnaw themselves out of house and home?
Why Do Rabbits Chew?
There are a variety of reasons that your bunnies may be chewing on everything in sight. Ultimately, though, reasons fall into two categories: physical and psychological.
First, it’s important to remember that rabbits need to chew. Their teeth are constantly growing. If they don’t keep those teeth ground down, it can cause serious problems for your rabbit.
The best way to keep your rabbit’s teeth in check is with a high fibre diet consisting of 70 to 80 per cent hay.
But if their teeth are in good shape, there are other physical reasons for bunny chewing.
Burrowing is closely related to chewing, and females burrow more than males. This means that your girl bunny may be more prone to chewing than your boy bunny.
In both genders, hormones can increase a number of destructive urges, from chewing to aggression. Spaying and neutering your rabbits can decrease these urges, including the urge to chew their enclosure into splinters.
Are your rabbits getting enough exercise? Too little exercise is stressful for all of us, and it can lead a bunny to engage in any number of destructive urges, including chewing.
Everybunny needs daily exercise, and for a rabbit, that means regular access to a spacious run. Attach a run to your hutch to provide your rabbits with a place to run, jump and play in safety and freedom twenty-four hours a day.
Stress causes a lot of people to grind their teeth. Rabbits, too! Only your rabbit may choose to chew its hutch and toys to bits, instead. Stress is bad for your rabbits’ health in other ways, too. If your rabbit is chewing, look for stressors in the environment, including:
- Not enough living space
- The presence of predators
- Pain or injury
- A noisy environment
- Inadequate access to food or water
You might not think that rabbits have a complex psyche, but they do! They’re very intelligent and need interaction and stimulation. Being prey animals, they’re also fairly high strung by nature.
So don’t ask what your rabbit is eating — think about what might be eating your rabbit instead.
Boredom is the number one psychological reason your rabbits may be chewing up their stuff (or yours). If your bunny is making toothpicks of its hutch or other things, ask yourself:
- Do I visit my rabbits and play with them every day?
- Is their home located where people spend time, or is it “out of sight, out of mind”?
- Do my rabbits have plenty of toys and boredom busters?
Loneliness is another factor that can contribute to a variety of undesirable behaviours. Rabbits are social animals. Most need a rabbit friend to be happy. And if you can’t have more than one rabbit, then you need to be your rabbit’s social life.
Personality can also be a factor, according to the House Rabbit Society. Rabbits may chew to get attention, and more outgoing bunnies may chew more than shier, more retiring types.
Take it as a compliment: your bunny wants to interact with you.
Also, some rabbits just think it’s fun!
How Do You Stop a Rabbit From Chewing Its Hutch?
So, how do you make it stop? You might not be able to stop your bunny from chewing altogether, but these ten tricks can help you to manage it.
1: De-Stress Your Rabbits’ Environment
Take a long, close look at your rabbit’s living environment. Is there anything that might stress a bunny out?
The things that your rabbit worries about may be different from the things you worry about. So think like a rabbit. Look for:
Evidence of Predators
Even if your rabbit never sees a fox, cat, dog, or bird of prey, the sound or smell of predators can be frightening. And with good reason.
At the very least, rabbits need enough space to stand up without their ears touching the ceiling, room to hop three times end to end, and floor space adequate to stretch out. That’s a minimum of three metres long by one metre high by two metres deep, per rabbit.
Predator noises aren’t the only source of stress. Your rabbit may also be disturbed by traffic or construction noises, fireworks, thunder, or other loud sounds.
If part of your garden is more sheltered from outside noises, consider placing or moving your hutch there. You can also use moving blankets or other soundproofing measures on the outside of your rabbit hutch to muffle outside sounds.
Just make sure your rabbit can’t chew those!
2: Do a Health Check
Rabbits may also chew if they are injured or in pain. Give your rabbits a once-over during your daily visits. Once a week, do a more complete Rabbit M.O.T. Look for any sign of pain or injury, including:
- Plugged scent glands
- Nails that need trimming
- Dirty bottom
- Overgrown teeth
- Ear mites
- Ear wax
- Matted hair, especially between the toes
- Dirt, redness or discharge of the eyes
If your rabbit is feeling its best, it will be less likely to chew things that it shouldn’t.
3: Spay and Neuter
Spaying and neutering your rabbits will eliminate hormonal causes of destructive behaviours, including chewing. It will also prevent unwanted “surprises”.
4: Give Your Rabbit a Friend
You can’t be with your bunny at all times. A pair of rabbits can keep each other company, entertain one another, and cut down on loneliness-related destructive behaviours like chewing.
5: Interact With Your Rabbit Every Day
No matter how many rabbits you have, rabbits are social. They want to interact with you. Visiting with them daily is good for them, and it’s good for you.
Take your rabbits out of their enclosure daily. Get down on the floor or ground with them. Simply letting them hop on you and around you while you enjoy a book can be a lot of fun for both of you.
Alternatively, let your rabbits hop around your living room, or in a puppy pen, while your family watches TV.
You can also play games with your rabbits. Here are a few ideas.
In addition to playing with your rabbits, activate their minds by teaching them tricks. You can train your rabbit with a clicker, much like you can train a dog. You can teach your rabbit similar tricks, too.
Check these out.
6: Provide Enrichment Activities
Nobunny likes sitting in a hutch all day, staring at the same four walls. Make sure your rabbits have plenty of toys, activities, and boredom busters. Switch them around for maximum variety.
7: Make Sure They Have Exercise Opportunities
Exercise isn’t just good for physical health. We’re all a little better balanced with proper exercise, including rabbits. Exercise relieves stress and boredom, which can help to curb a chewing habit.
Give your rabbits plenty of access to a run or other space where they can stretch their legs.
8: Give Them Things to Chew
Chewing has a constructive purpose. Chewing keeps teeth healthy. So give them something that’s safe to chew on and can keep their teeth ground down.
If you give them cardboard to chew, however, be sure to remove all tape, staples, labels, and glue beforehand.
9: Chew-Proof Their Environment
Whether your rabbits live inside or out, there will be things that you’ll want to protect from those choppers.
10: Use a Pet-Safe Chew Deterrent
There are products on the market that can deter your rabbits from chewing. Many of these products are made with bitter apple. It’s pet safe, but tastes terrible!
In fact, it’s the same ingredient in products that help people to stop chewing their nails.
Chewing can help keep your pet’s teeth healthy. But if your bunnies chew on the wood of their hutch, or on something else that you don’t want them to, there are ways to encourage them not to.
First, make sure your pet’s food includes plenty of hay. Hay is a bunny’s natural food, and it will give them something to sink their teeth into.
Next, give your pet toys and activities, especially wood toys that they can snack on.
But toys aren’t enough. Your pet also needs plenty of exercise and interaction with you. And if you can find them a friend, even better.
Finally, chew-proofing your pet’s environment can deter future chewing.
How do you handle bunny chewing in your rabbitry? We’d love to hear about it!