If you are the owner of a pet rabbit, then you probably understand how important it is to keep hay, or straw, available to them at all times. You have stocked their cage up with plenty of fresh hay, however, you notice they are not eating it. Instead, they are just carrying it around in their mouth.
So, why would your rabbit be carrying straw in their mouth?
There are various reasons why a rabbit may be carrying their straw in their mouth. They may be building a nest, being territorial, or just hiding food for later.
I will be discussing a rabbit’s nesting habit and why they may be building a nest. I will also explore the territorial behavior rabbits display, as well as their reasoning for hiding straw.
Why Do Rabbit’s Build Nests by Carrying Straw in Their Mouth? A Rabbit May Begin to Build a Nest with Their Hay Because Nesting is a Common Behavior of Rabbits. Rabbits May Build a Nest if they Are Pregnant, or Just for the Comfort of a Nest.
Nesting is when a rabbit carries hay, grass, twigs, or other materials to build a warm, cozy area for sleeping.
If a rabbit is pregnant, she will normally begin to build a nest in preparation for the delivery. A rabbit must deliver her babies inside of a nest, otherwise the babies will not survive. Without a nest, baby rabbits get too cold and are unable to make it more than a couple of days.
Pregnancy is the most common reason for nesting.
Along with hay and other materials a rabbit may use to build a nest, a female rabbit pulls out her own fur to create a nest when getting ready to give birth. If your female rabbit is unspayed, and you begin to notice her pulling her fur out, it would be wise to provide a nesting box to ease her anxiety.
You can tell your rabbit is pregnant from these signs…
- Change in character- Pregnant rabbits are more irritable. She may avoid interacting with her owner and growl if she is handled. This change in mood will last for the entire pregnancy
- Physical appearance- If your rabbit is pregnant, she should begin showing around 10-14 days. If you feel her abdomen with your hand, you should be able to feel various soft lumps.
- Digging- If your rabbit is pregnant then she may have the instinct to dig aggressively at the corner of her cage. Wild rabbits dig deep burrows, as this enables them to have space for giving birth.
If your rabbit has not encountered any males who are unneutered, she may experience what is known as a “false pregnancy.” A false pregnancy is when a rabbit believes she will give birth, even though she is not pregnant. A falsely pregnant rabbit will behave the same as a pregnant rabbit.
Once the false pregnancy has reached around 18 days, the rabbit will prepare their final nest and the hormones will go back to normal.
A male rabbit may begin nesting, simply because they want a warmer bed. If it is a colder season and the temperature has dropped, it is not uncommon for rabbits who are not pregnant to build themselves a nest for warmth.
A rabbit may also build a nest out of boredom if they are in their cage often.
Why Would Your Rabbit Carry Straw in Their Mouth as a Way of Being Territorial?
If Your Rabbit Feels Threatened, or that Their Materials, Shelter, or Self Are Not Being Respected, They May Feel a Need to Begin Protecting Resources. This is Done as a Power Play and May Take Some Evaluation on Your Part to Determine if There is an Issue.
If your rabbit feels they are not at the top of the hierarchy in the house, this may drive them to protect their resources. Rabbits are a dominant and very defensive animal unless they feel completely safe. This comes with being a prey animal.
The more you spend time with your rabbit by grooming, petting, and playing with them, the less need they will feel to guard their resources. They will become more relaxed, and they will not feel that they need to protect their environment or the items in it.
If you have more than one rabbit in the house, carrying the straw in their mouth could be a power play on your rabbit’s part. There is usually one alpha in a pair of rabbits, and this is a mutual understanding between the two.
The alpha in a pair of rabbits will enjoy certain privileges over the other. The alpha will be groomed more, have dibs on food, toys, and other materials in the environment, and also have priority with the owner.
If the alpha has not been established yet, then the two rabbits may butt heads over who is going to be in charge. This may create a territorial dispute until it is decided.
Why Do Rabbits Store Their Food for Later?
Even If You Are Feeding Your Rabbit Every Day, They May Still Feel Insecure When It Comes to Their Food. If You Feed Your Rabbit Every Day, You May be Puzzled About Why They Are Choosing to Hide Their Food. Well, When it Comes to Food Security There is More to it Than Just Feeding the Rabbit Every Day. A Routine Must be Followed as Well.
Rabbits like to know when they will be fed at each time every day. If you begin to switch up the routine and begin feeding at sporadic times, they will catch onto this, and they will not like it.
As a response, your pet may grab food, or straw, and hide it. This ensures that they can follow a routine and have access to their food whenever they choose. Having a stash of food hidden makes a rabbit feel secure in the idea that they can eat whenever they are ready.
If you begin to stick to a strict routine, you will notice your pet doing this less. They will begin to understand what time they are eating every day and feel less insecure about their feeding schedule.
If you are consistently providing enough hay, your pet should not be worried about hiding it either. If you have been sticking to a strict schedule and still find your rabbit is hiding straw, check the amount they are being given. Increase the amount if need be.
Make sure they are actually eating what they are being given, and discard hay if it is moldy, as moldy hay can be fatal for a rabbit.
Respecting your rabbit’s needs will create a closer bond and a feeling of trust within your rabbit.
There Are a Number of Reasons Why a Rabbit May Be Carrying Their Straw in Their Mouth. If Their Goal is to Create a Nest, Then They Will Need to Carry the Materials to the Area They Are Creating the Nest In. If Your Rabbit is Territorial or in Fear of Running Out of Hay, They May Carry Their Hay for Their Own Feeling of Safety or Assurance.
If you have a pregnant rabbit it would be wise to provide a nesting box. If food insecurity bothers your pet, stick to a strict schedule and consider providing more straw.
While carrying straw in the mouth is certainly an odd behavior, it is not usually something to be concerned about.