Just after moonrise, Hazel, Fiver, and their friend Pipkin, a small and timid rabbit, quietly leave their burrow and take cover in a ditch. Another rabbit, Hawkbit, approaches them and says he heard from Dandelion that a group was leaving—he says he wants to come. Dandelion appears to join the group, and suggests they hurry, as he believes the Owsla is onto their plan.
The rabbits are sure in their hearts about their desire to leave Sandleford—but they know that their departure will not be well-received. This shows that the rabbits have, all along, known how fragile things are at the warren, and how any imbalance of power threatens the entire burrow.
Hazel wants to wait a little longer for some others to join. Soon, Blackberry and Buckthorn, along with two other rabbits, Speedwell and Acorn, emerge from a nearby burrow and join the others in the ditch. Bigwig and a quiet, older rabbit called Silver come too. Hazel looks around their small group and worries that they aren’t enough in numbers to defend themselves in the wild. At that moment, three rabbits approach, and Hazel believes more have joined their cause—but as the rabbits get closer, he and the others see that they are members of the Owsla.
As Hazel and Fiver’s plan becomes a reality, they are forced to contend with the fact that they are going to be alone in the world without leaders or social structures for the first time in their lives. The fear of the dangers they might encounter, and how they will deal with them, begins to set in.
Holly, the captain of the Owsla, tells the rabbits they’re under arrest for “spreading dissension and inciting to mutiny.” Bigwig leaps upon Holly, scratching and kicking him, and though Holly fights back, he and his guards are outnumbered. The fight breaks up and Hazel tells Holly to take his guard back to the burrow, or “be killed.” Holly warns Hazel that it is he and his band of rabbits who will be killed before turning and returning to the burrow. Dandelion warns Hazel that the officers will soon return with backup, and, together, the rabbits head out of the ditch and into the night.
Though the Owsla at Sandleford is powerful and attempts to exert control over the rabbits it “protects,” Hazel, in this passage, reveals that they are not as strong as they purport to be. This further establishes the solidarity and power Hazel and his friends have, despite their individual weaknesses.