Phoebe’s Burrow

Bunnies love to dig tunnels. In the wild, rabbits dig underground burrows – which can be quite an extensive system of dens and paths.  Because Phoebe lives outside with the hens, she can indulge in this behavior that is so important for a rabbit to be a rabbit. In the summer, Phoebe attempts to tunnel underground; because the dirt in the pen is packed hard, it is a challenge. This is good, since I don’t want her to make an escape and get taken by a predator. Despite the hard ground, she is still able to dig, and has made wallows so deep that not even her ears show. There’s always a chance that she could make a real tunnel, and so the fence extends eight inches below ground, and I also check the perimeter daily – if she’s been particularly ambitious, I fill in the hole with dirt or rocks.

Winter is Phoebe’s season. She loves the cold weather, she’s far more active when the temperature is well below freezing than in the summer when she’s hot and would rather sprawl out in the wallows that she’s dug than gallop about. This winter, all of her energy has had a focus – snow tunneling.

The chickens have an outside roost right above the entrance to her burrow.



Do you see that opening against the fence? Phoebe did that. She’s been working on this ever since the snow began to accumulate in January. There were times when all that I could see of Phoebe was her bottom and her big rabbit feet kicking snow out behind her.

rabbit unneling


It took weeks of work, and now her tunnel extends straight under the snow, with an exit on the other side.



The chickens don’t walk over the snow to congregate there, so it’s like a secret passage, just for the rabbit.

tunnel exit


The hens don’t go into the tunnel at the main entrance either. A cold snow cave is not the sort of place that chickens like to explore. In any event, they’re not welcome.

blocking the way


I suspect that there are side-tunnels and dens under that snow mound as well. Or at least Phoebe is working on constructing them.

Rabbits are crepuscular, which means that their favorite times of day are dawn and dusk. As night falls, the chickens put themselves to bed in the coop on the roosts. Phoebe has to go inside as well, as she needs to stay safe from hunters that come out in the dark. Usually, when she sees me walking towards the coop she hops right up the ramp. She knows that a carrot or banana chip will be offered to her. Lately, though, those treats can’t compare to a nighttime hop-around her construction site.

rabbit on snowmound

So, don’t worry if I haven’t closed the animals up right at sunset. We’re keeping an eye on things, and letting Phoebe play during what she considers the best winter, ever.


  1. Thanks…that answers questions I have about our wild rabbits here. Thing is, we live on the edge of Bear Swamp and our yard and the woods have a very high water table. Where could the rabbits be tunneling that wouldn’t fill with water?

  2. I always like hearing about the hens, but I LOVE hearing about Phoebe.

  3. Love watching Phoebe’s antics, great pic’s, she won’t be happy when the thaw has fully set in !

    Also sorry off blog, had to let you know “Wellyboot” has started laying over weekend, so relieved first time since May last year, really thought she had internal problem since her big scare when she lost her sister. :)

  4. My Rabbit, Indy lives in a 10×10 dog kennel with a hutch for security. Normally this time.of year or when ever we have lots of snow I let him play in the full yard, however this year he didnt have that luxury, because of a rather large redtailed hawk who was stalking my yard and killed 3 hens so I didnt want to take a chance with him

  5. When we transition to and from lunch and while we are waiting for friends to go to the bathroom, my 4 and 5 year olds are always saying, “let’s check out the chickens!” So, thanks for making our little waiting times enjoyable. The kids have enjoyed it all, but they are mostly concerned for Phoebe! I’m glad I will have the chance to show these pictures to them this morning. It never snows here in south Louisiana, so they’ve been getting an eyeful of what snow is and how it affects the animals.
    Debby Matassa

  6. Did Phoebe position he tunnel so she could have an occasional conversation with Pip and Caper? Personally, I am with Phoebe: I’d much rather shovel snow than mow the lawn, but then, we don’t get the kind of snow here that you do in Carlisle, and I am retired and like to walk so getting the car out of the garage is not an issue, and the only livestock I’ve got around here is a very elderly, very indoor cat :)

    • I think that the tunnel entrance was chosen because it abuts the fence – making it structurally sound. We shoveled the goat pen and the chicken run so that Phoebe and the goats could chat all winter. You haven’t been able to see that because the snow blocked your view.

  7. Go great to see Phoebe enjoying her favorite season. I wonder if she lays awake at night thinking of the next twist and turn she might create when the sun rises.

  8. I just happen to bring up your website one day as Phoebe came running out into the yard and them scamper off in some direction. She is quite a character and really loves to do her own thing.


  9. I can see why winter is her favourite season: nice temperatures if you’re sporting a thick fur coat, and lots of digging opportunity. She looks like she’s been having the time of her life.
    Just wondering about two things:
    1. Is there any chance that Phoebe’s tunnel could cave in on her while she’s in there?
    2. I noticed that you have spread something on the ground in front of the pop door in the little barn run. Is that coop bedding?

    • I’ve been putting day-old bedding from the goat stall into the chicken run. It’s absorbing some of the melt water. It’ll all be shoveled out and composted once the snow disappears.

      • That’s a good idea – seems like it’s working quite well! I see the girls out in the run most of the time now since you put it down, whereas before they seemed to prefer to stay in the coop any time I checked in.

  10. Sweet Phoebe! When I was a child, we probably had the only rabbit that didn’t dig. My dad didn’t want a rabbit in the house. “They have to be able to run and dig and I don’t want it tearing up the carpet!” So the bunny got the run of the backyard. The yard was fenced, but not deeply and my dad inspected regularly. Shaking his head. He finally dug a burrow and put plywood over top and covered that to see if it would spark bunny digging. Nope. Wouldn’t even go inside. The place of choice? In the garage under my dad’s work bench. :D Bunnies definitely decide for themselves how they want to live!

  11. Are you worried that as the temperatures rise the tunnel might collapse? Would she be able to dig out and not sufficate?

    • I’ve thought about that. The walls are very dense frozen snow. I think that she knows what she’s doing, and if there is a problem, that some structure would remain and she’d be able to dig out.

  12. Terry its been raining here all day so been looking at your old blogs, but also came across your friend Lauren’s blog ‘ Lily Love’ from March last year, Lily is one love sick lady when she’s with Marky. The pictures of them together are wonderful and hilarious especially when Marky gives in at the end, and Phoebe’s is on top of snow as usual. Lauren must be a dedicated lady with a big heart, the story of Lucy her special needs hen gave me some tears.

  13. Out here on the short grass prairie of the Ne panhandle, we have lots of wild bunnies. And what surprised me the most was discovering they “bury” their young. We had one stubborn bunny that insisted on being in the fenced veggie garden. we evicted her several times. But then one day she made a new tunnel, came in, dug out her young, nursed them, covered them up again. Hopped over to munch on the lettuce, all while I was about ten feet from her. It was clearly her garden!

  14. Love this post. In your first photo it looks like Twigyy is eyeing the tunnel from the roost lol

  15. Phoebe is so cute. Looks like she has almost finished up her pumpkin ice cream.

  16. After reading about and watching Phoebe and her antics I am strongly considering adopting a bunny of my own to keep company with my Gurls. I have six 2 month old pullets. Any suggestions about introducing a bunny to the little ladies

  17. Eu esperava isso de Phoebe. Lembrei de Candy no seu trono de neve.

  18. Good Morning, just seen you and Steve sorting out animals. Have a good day :)

  19. The photo where she’s looking out of the tunnel she looks like she’s say No trespassers allowed/no photos either!! ROFLMAO!!