Chewing is a very natural and needed behavior for rabbits. But in captivity, a restless rabbit's need to chew can quickly become destructive. And, a wandering, chewing rabbits may ingest things that are bad for it f left to its own devices.
To prevent it from chewing on everything in sight — and potentially getting sick in the process — the key is to teach your rabbit what is appropriate for chewing and what is off-limits.
Why Do Rabbits Chew?
In captivity, the main reason rabbits chew on things that aren't appropriate is boredom. If a rabbit spends a lot of time alone or doesn't have much stimulation, it will find ways to entertain itself and/or get attention from its owner. Chewing on things is an easy way to accomplish both.
Rabbits have a biological urge to chew, and in the wild will both chew on all manner of plants and grasses and burrow in their natural habitat. In captivity, rabbits still feel the desire to chew, how destructive they are comes down to what they can get their paws on, and how they've been trained.
Provide Good Chewing Options
Since your rabbit needs to chew, provide a good variety of safe, chewable items. Branches from apple or willow trees, safe rabbit toys, untreated willow baskets and toys, untreated grass mats, and cardboard all make good chew toys for rabbits.
Providing multiple items gives your rabbit more choice, which also can help stave off boredom. If you have different sizes and types of chew toys around, chances are one of them will satisfy your rabbit's craving to chew. Of course, you should also provide your rabbit with a couple of safe chew toys in its cage as well.
Rabbit-Proof Your Home
Good rabbit-proofing takes away much of the temptation and opportunity to get into trouble. Don't give your rabbit free run of your home, at least not at first: pick a limited space and thoroughly rabbit-proof that space to make training easier.
Things like electrical wires are very dangerous for your rabbit so you must make sure there is no way your rabbit can get to them in the first place. Furniture and other belongings should also be protected. The less your rabbit can demolish, the less frustrated you will be, and training will be smoother.
Supervise and Redirect
Your rabbit doesn't instinctively know that he is not allowed to chew on your furniture and other belongings, so you must teach it. This means when you are starting out with a new rabbit, you must watch it carefully at playtime.
Make sure you start this training as soon as you bring your rabbit home, so no bad habits get started. Whenever your rabbit tries to chew something it should not, say "no" firmly (no need to yell) and clap your hands, and then give your rabbit an appropriate chew toy.
Get a Second Rabbit
Destructive rabbits are often soothed by the presence of another rabbit. It's not a good idea to pair two unaltered (not spayed or neutered) rabbits; if you pair a male and a female, you're likely to get more rabbits; if you pair two males they may fight.
Two unaltered females may get along fine, but the best option is to pair either two neutered rabbits with each other, or, an unaltered rabbit with a neutered rabbit of the opposite sex.
Spay or Neuter Your Rabbit
Having your rabbit "fixed" is likely to take away the majority of its destructive behavior. You'll still need to provide toys to soothe its urge to chew, but the rabbit will be much more chill about it.
Try Rabbit Repellent Sprays
You can try applying a bitter apple spray (available at most pet stores) on items your rabbit likes to chew. Many rabbits don't mind the taste, though (and some even seem to like it), so while this may be worth a try, is often not effective.
Avoid using any harmful chemicals in areas where your rabbit is likely to chew; even though it may repel them, if your rabbit ingests something like ammonia or bleach, it could be harmful to them.
Your rabbit will take the time to learn, and will probably test you along the way, so be patient but consistent. Never hit your rabbit. If your rabbit keeps going back to your things instead of chewing on her toys, put your bunny in a "time-out" in the cage for a few minutes.
Another alternative is to use an exercise pen (a collapsible, portable cage for dogs) for at least part of playtime outside of the cage, so you can relax on supervision and training a bit.
As your rabbit gets older and settles down, chewing will become less of an issue, but consistency and patience right from the beginning are your biggest training advantages.