(c) Gryph- if you repost this article, please post with a link back to my website.
3. Inspect the newborn litterCheck to see if any are DOA and remove them, and make sure that all kits are nursing. Check out here for how to recognize a kit that hasn’t nursed and how to help it. What they don’t tell you is that you CAN handle the kits. Mom will not abandon them because your scent is there. I don’t recommend handling them frequently, especially if it’s a first-time mother that’s high strung. But daily wellness checks should be in practice. Aside from increasing mom’s rations (I add black oil sunflower seeds and oats to increase milk production), there’s nothing else you need to do. Note: Mom will consume the afterbirth and any stillborns. This is reprehensible to us humans, but it is nature’s way of making sure the deceased doesn’t bring bacteria into the nest box or attract predators to the nest with its smell. Watch out for temperature extremes Rabbit kits are born naked, deaf and blind. They MUST be kept warm in their nest. What they don’t tell you is that rabbit kits also get too hot. Keep them out of direct sunlight and bring them inside from the barn if it gets to the 80s or 90s outside. Mom only nurses her kits once or twice a day – she won’t miss them. Just bring them out every 12 hours or so in extreme heat or cold. That said, we’ve had rabbit litters raised in our barn in positively frigid temps. A good nest will keep them warm enough, especially if it’s a larger litter where they can keep each other warm. Smaller litters (4 or less) would probably be better off inside.
5. Keep an eye on Mom Don’t forget the toll pregnancy and nursing takes on Mom! I’ve never seen this tidbit of information anywhere, yet it’s true. Mom will lose a lot of weight. This only makes sense, as she could be nursing up to 10 kits. I let Mom eat all she wants when nursing. Now is not the time to worry about show weight. Chances are that if she’s breeding her show days are over anyway.
6. Put in a second feeder and extra water bottles after 10 days, discontinue oats and black oil sunflower seeds This is when the kits are old enough to sample Mom’s feed. I put extra food dishes and water bottles on so I can just fill them once in the morning rather than running out to refill multiple times a day. Oats and black oil sunflower seeds aren’t good for the kits, so stop adding them.
7. Sex and separate the bucks at 6 weeks Unless you’re experienced you can’t accurately sex a rabbit before 6 weeks. At this time I put the buck kits in their own hutch and leave Mom with her daughters so that she can slowly wean the litter. We don’t want her to get mastitis. Daughters can stay with their mom indefinitely, but rabbits (especially angoras, as the static from their wool rubbing together will cause mats) should have their own hutch when full grown.
8. Decide who’s staying, who’s going and who’s dinner This can be a tough decision. I would start by saying any kit that displays an obvious disqualification or fault on the show table isn’t a keeper. Examples of this include nonshowable colors, bad teeth, poor wool etc. ARBA has a great showing guide for each individual rabbit breed. One benefit of raising Angora Rabbits (amongst the many) is that a rabbit that just doesn’t have the right color can go to a spinner’s home and doesn’t necessarily have to wind up in a pie.
This kit from one of our October litters had a white paw. This is a disqualification for a show rabbit. However, if you raise angoras you can easily find a spinner who doesn’t care.
Chocolate Agouti Color
Blue (bottom) and Opal (top) colors. Blue and opal are essentially the same colors, the only difference is that the opal will have a white belly. It’s a beautiful color when full grown. Be careful not to let color sway your decision! As much as I would love to keep the opal, I’m very aware that out of 10 kits the chance of it being the best is slim. As for deciding who’s staying… well, keep in mind that only the best of the best should be kept for breeding, showing and spinning. After all, a rabbit that produces only half the normal amount of wool eats the same amount as any other rabbit. This can be tough to assess, as wool quality doesn’t show up until the rabbit is near adulthood, yet rabbit kits can be bought and sold as young as 8 weeks. What I’ll be doing with the litter I currently have from Elinor is keeping back the best 2 bucks (I need a new French Angora buck.) You can get a general idea of who has the best wool density by 8 weeks, and who has ‘hairy’ wool rather than just wool, but length takes awhile to grow out. Also, shoulders and other aspects can take longer to develop. So, of the two bucks with the best wool density that I keep back, I’ll wait until they’re about 12-16 weeks old before making the final decision of who’s staying. I’ll probably also show them at 12 weeks at the state fair to get the judge’s opinion. Never let a judge’s opinion sway yours (as one judge may fail a rabbit on the show table while the next judge will give the same rabbit 1st prize), but at the same time if it confirms what you’ve already been thinking between the two, then it’s probably a good choice.
Kit Deaths At WeaningThe last period of time when I have lost a lot of kits in the past is sometime between five and eight weeks of age. I was getting a lot of weaning enteritis, sometimes losing 2/3 of a litter. At one point, I was losing a kit about every three days. While talking with a more experienced breeder, I began to realize that I had started feeding more and more oats to my herd and had even lost a few adults bunnies during that period. I stopped giving oats to kits at about four weeks old (and do not restart until they are about 3 1/2 months old). The deaths stopped instantly. It is possible that when the doe weans the kits, they no longer have the protection provided by her milk. The extra carbohydrates cause an imbalance or other problem for the kits and enteritis, quickly followed by death resulted. However it works, I found that eliminating oats for that group of kits made a huge difference for me. (By the way, I now limit the older rabbits to one teaspoon of oats, strictly measured, and have not had an enteritis death since.) This is the end of the “20-part section on breeding rabbits”! To dive into some more in-depth articles on breeding, just click the button… Baby rabbits: 0-2 monthsBaby rabbits are born small and helpless, with no fur and their eyes and ears closed. At this stage they depend solely on the protection and nurture of their mother. The average litter size for a rabbit is 6 little babies (also called kittens), but there can be as many as 14 kittens in a litter. Baby rabbits should not be separated from their mother or fully weaned until they are older than 8 weeks old. This helps to ensure the baby rabbit develops a proper immune system by digesting their mother’s milk and cecal droppings. There are many states in the U.S. that even ban the sale of rabbits under 2 months because of the danger it poses to the newborn rabbit. Baby rabbit behaviorOver the first two weeks, these little babies will start to grow a little fuzz. They will cuddle with their litter mates for warmth and start to gain weight and strength. When they reach around 10 to 12 days old, the kittens will begin to open their eyes and ears to experience the world around them. Once they open their eyes, the baby rabbits will start to explore on their own. They’ll crawl out of the nest and nose around to satisfy their curiosity. At first they’ll just wobble around, but the baby rabbits will quickly gain strength. Over the next few weeks they will start to turn into adorable baby fluffballs, and they’ll become more and more independent. As they gain strength the babies will become more playful and energetic. In order to socialize the baby rabbits and prepare them for human interaction, it’s ideal to start handling them frequently at around 4 to 5 weeks old. This will teach the rabbits to be friendly with humans and will likely help them to be less afraid of being held in the future. Baby rabbit dietDuring the first 2 months of their lives, rabbits should still have access to their mother’s milk. Rabbit milk is very rich in fat and protein, which is essential to helping baby rabbits grow big and strong. The kittens also do not have a proper immune system yet, and depend on the antibodies they receive in the mother rabbit’s milk to protect them from disease and infection.
When they are babies, rabbits need to have access to their mother’s milk. They should not be fully weaned until they are 8 weeks old.As the baby rabbits grow stronger and start exploring when they reach 3-4 weeks old, it’s okay to start introducing some solid foods to their diet. Some alfalfa hay and pellets are appropriate to give the babies as something to chew on. As the babies reach 7-8 weeks old, the amount of dry pellets and hay can be increased so they have an unlimited supply. They should still have access to their mother during this time so they can drink milk and eat her cecal droppings to improve their immunity and digestion. The baby rabbits will also start to produce their own cecotropes as their digestive systems begin working properly. Baby rabbit health concernsBaby rabbits do not have a fully functioning immune system, and therefore are at a high risk for many health conditions. This is especially true for any orphaned rabbits that do not have access to their mother’s milk. There are steps that you can take to feed an orphaned baby rabbit with kitten formula, but most babies will struggle to survive without the antibodies in an adult rabbit’s milk. These kittens frequently suffer from pneumonia due to accidentally inhaling the kitten formula, or diarrhea from an imbalance in gut bacteria. Sadly, baby rabbits rarely survive without their mother, or a surrogate mother, to take care of them. If your babies are being kept with a healthy mother rabbit, check them frequently to make sure they are being fed. Most female rabbits will instinctually take good care of their babies and be available for feeding, but some young mothers or mothers suffering from malnutrition may abandon their babies or not produce enough milk. To check the babies, look in on them early in the morning after feeding. They should be warm and have full, round bellies.
Care of Baby Rabbits: First Two Weeks of Life Care of baby rabbits while in the nest box. How to care for baby bunny rabbits age zero to two weeks old.
Baby rabbit care during the first two weeks of their lives is fairly simple. The mother rabbit will do all the feeding and cleaning of the kits.
Your job will be to ensure that the rabbit nest box stays clean and dry, and that the doe and kits stay well-fed. Here are a few tips about taking care of baby rabbits.... Sponsored Links 1. Make sure that the mother rabbit gets all the food and water she need.Don't let her feed run out, and don't let her water crock go empty. Since the doe will be doing all the feeding of the baby rabbits, she will need plenty of feed and water for herself in order to make plenty of milk for the hungry kits. The more baby rabbits she has, the more crucial is this tip.
2. To take the best care of baby rabbits, you'll want to check on the bunnies every day.9-day-old rex rabbit kits temporarily removed from the nest 3K+SaveYou'll make sure they stay healthy, well-fed, and free of health problems, such as eye infections. You’re also checking to be sure no kits get isolated in a corner of the nest box. After one of our does gave birth, I found 2 of her kits down in the burrow where they belonged, and the rest of the litter in a separate little pile in a corner of the nest box. That night, the doe fed the two kits in the burrow, and ignored, or forgot, the entire rest of the litter! Since I was checking the litter every day, it was clear that most kits had not been fed, but the two bunnies in the burrow had enormous round chubby tummies. It was easy to put all the babies together into the burrow. The next evening all the kits got fed, and all was well.
To take care of baby rabbits during very cold weather, you’ll also check to be sure the burrow stays warm and that no kit strays away from the nest accidentally and gets chilled or frozen.
3. To take care of baby rabbits, you want to keep the nest box from getting too fouled with either urine or round fecal pellets. 3K+SaveIt's not that the nest needs to be sterile, because the kits gain their gut bacteria from the mother's feces. But you don't want the nest to get damp with urine or excessively dirty. Usually the doe stays out of the nest except for the 5-10 minutes it might take her to feed her babies. But some does like to lounge in the nest all day. That's when she may just pee and poop in the nest box. If you’ve still got days to go before the nest box comes out of the cage, you can either clean out the dirty spots in the nest box or completely replace all the bedding:
Cleaning the nest box: A couple times over the last several years I had to empty the whole thing out and start from scratch. (See our Rabbit Nest Box page for a refresher on how to fill the nest box with bedding materials.)
I save as much of the clean dry fur from the old nest as possible, and put it into the new nest, lining the new burrow so the kits will remain warm and comfortable. A rabbit nest box can get dirty in a hurry if the doe is a ‘pig.’
Much more often, I notice the fecal marbles sitting in the front of the burrow (inside the nest box, but not down where the bunnies are sleeping). Pull the nest box out of the cage and scoop most of these out.
At the same time, you can determine whether or not the nest is wet with urine. Has the doe been also peeing in the nest? If the shavings seem damp, scoop out the damp shavings as well. Then you can smooth out the bedding material, and perhaps toss a bit more hay into the nest box before placing it back in the rabbit cage. Add a handful of fresh shavings, if you need to.
For this doe, you'll want to keep checking, and cleaning, the nest box every day as necessary until it comes out of the cage. (She's not going to reform, just because you cleaned it out.)
$16.95 Rated 4.6 out of 5 by 248 reviewers on Amazon.com Buy Now 4. To take care of baby rabbits, don't be afraid to handle the baby bunnies a little each day.Checking that their tummies are all full is a fine excuse. It is our feeling that as we handle the kits regularly at this very early age, they become better accustomed to human contact. Their transition to weaning is that much easier, and they seem to have less anxiety throughout their lives.
5. Taking care of baby rabbits -- The rabbit nest box comes out of the cage between Days 12 to 18, and no later.The best rule-of-thumb for removing the nest box: The rabbit nest box comes out the moment a bunny hops out all by itself. This little doe-kit was 15 days old when she hopped out of the nest box. One of her little sisters had hopped out as well and was huddled on the far side of the cage. 3K+SaveDay 12 was the earliest any of my baby rabbits hopped out. In the summer, when it’s warm, you don’t need to worry so much about keeping bunnies warm once the nest is gone, especially if you do as I have - put a low-sided cardboard box with a few shavings and straw or hay into the cage. A problem might arise if a youngster hops out too soon in the winter. But usually, during the cold, the kits tend to remain burrowed. It’s during the warm summer evenings that the smaller, hungry kit tries to get more of Mama. It’s the little kit you’ll find huddled outside the nest in the morning when you check on the animals. Or, it’s possible the little kit was latched onto a teat, and got pulled out when the doe jumped out of the box. If the little guy jumps out on Day 12, I’ve been known to pop him back into the nest box. Almost invariably he’ll be out again the next morning. That’s when I put in the cardboard box with shavings and straw and simply remove the nest box altogether.
6. If the kits are still snuggled in the nest box by Day 18, evict the little buggers.Any longer than about 18 days, and the chance of "nest box eyes" rises significantly. Depending the situation, some litters can be at risk for eye infections sooner than 18 days. "Nest box eye" is an eye infection. Without a little attention, an eye infection can cause blindness, even death if severe. Terramycin opthalmic ointment works wonders for nest box eye.
Good initial sanitation helps prevent eye infections. Before giving the nest box to the doe, clean it thoroughly with a 1:10 bleach solution. A pump sprayer works great. Let it sit for an hour. This will kill any pathogens (germs) and give the kits a good start at life.
Germs still get into the nest box, of course. But if the nest box comes out after 2 weeks, the biggest source of germs goes away. If a kit starts getting a bit of pus in the eye, sometimes just removing the nest box is enough to give the eye a chance to clear up.
If no Terramycin, this all-natural remedy may boost the rabbit's own immune response:
$32.97 Rated 4.6 out of 5 by 1074 reviewers on Amazon.com Buy Now 7. To take care of baby rabbits, you should be aware that the two biggest health threats related to the nest box are eye infections, and enterotoxemia.Diarrhea caused by enterotoxemia can be fatal in a very short time. See Rabbit Diarrhea for more information.
(Benebac is an excellent remedy for 'mild' bunny diarrhea.)
Taking care of baby rabbits takes just a little forethought and a few minutes of extra attention. You will be rewarded with roly-poly, healthy little baby rabbits that leap and cavort around the cage...when they're not snacking on pellets or snoozing.
At about 14 days of age, the nestbox should come out of the cage. By then the kits are hopping out on their own, and leaving the nest box in the cage for too much longer can contribute to health threats such as infections and conjunctivitis. Between 2 weeks of age and weaning - between 5 to 8 weeks - the kits sleep a lot, eat a lot, and grow like crazy. This is the fun stage - watching the kits become more active! They're oh so cute.
Tips for Raising Baby Rabbits to Weaning
The kits in this picture are about 4 weeks old, and are positively thriving. One kit has dropped a food pellet on top of the doe's head.
Ensure a constant supply of food and water.
Put clean hay in the cage every day (to help prevent enterotoxemia. Enterotoxemia is probably the greatest threat to your kits’ lives at this age.)
Remove the nest box by Day 18, if the kits haven’t yet jumped out. No one raising baby rabbits wants them to go blind due to a severe nest-box-contracted eye infection.
Monitor the kits’ health. Check their behinds, for example, to see that they are clean and free of diarrhea. Some kits during this age might go through a loose bowel stage. Their sensitive gastrointestinal tracts have to obtain and maintain a healthy balance of bacteria during this age.
Keep plenty of timothy hay or orchard grass in front of the kits, which helps to short-circuit gut problems.
In general: We try to maintain a high level of cleanliness without obsessing over sterility.
In general: If you don't need to, it is better to not push a doe to crank out babies, although the doe might disagree with you - she has an internal drive to multiply. Ensure that your commercial does receive enough food and nutrition to meet the demands of closely spaced litters.
Lactation and Condition Enhancers: BOSS, Whole Oats
Rated 5 out of 5 by 2 reviewers on Amazon.com Buy NowFeeding the doe one tablespoon of BOSS or whole oats on alternating days will result in a noticeable increase in milk production and enhance the doe's nutritional status.
Raising Baby Rabbits that are Not Quite WeanedKits grow at different rates, even in the same litter. Having 24/7 access to hay and pellets means that the little runt that was pushed away from the teat in the nestbox now has a chance to catch up with the rest of the litter. By 6 weeks old or a little older, you might not be able to tell him apart by size alone. Raising baby rabbits is the most fun at this age. Little 3-week-old kits are incredibly cute. Little fuzzballs, they zip around the cage, and then curl up with their littermates and knock out again for yet another nap in the hay. Dinnertime in the evening. These nursing kits are 4 weeks old. The 'meal' lasted 5 minutes, and the doe let me take her picture. 128Save But raising baby rabbits finally gets old for the doe, and she decides she’s done with the pesky kits. If she were on her own in the wild, she would already be bred one or two days after the birth of the litter. She would HAVE to abandon the kits at 3.5 or 4 weeks of age in order to go dig a fresh burrow, in order to kindle her next litter just a few days after weaning. More than once I've reached into a doe's cage and patted her after discovering her new litter. The doe immediately lifted her rump. This behavior signifies readiness to breed again, even though the litter is just hours old. This basic drive to breed and rebreed in succession still resides in her genetic makeup, though since we don't breed our does on day 1 after kindling, the primal drive may not push her to wean her kits as hard as if she had been bred. When the doe weans her kits, she doesn't permit them to nurse. She will continually move away from their searching faces. If she gets exasperated, she'll push them aside, or even nip them or chase them away from her.
Raising Baby Rabbits age Seven to Nine Weeks Old7-9 weeks is an excellent age to put a permanent identifying tattoo into the kits’ left ears. In the United States, it is always the left ear. The right ear is reserved for registration. Other nations may have other practices and guidelines. 8-12 weeks of age is market age for fryer rabbits. By 9-10 weeks old, your bunnies should be separated into their own cages so they can grow out a bit. The more they grow, the better you’ll be able to recognize the animals you wish to assign to your own breeding program.
Bunnies from rabbits with excellent mothering instincts and ability to produce plenty of milk
Promising youngsters that may win on the show table.
Junior animals having the particular traits and/or body type which will contribute to the goals of your rabbitry and needs of your family.
When is it Weaning Time for Baby Rabbits?The only absolute prerequisite for weaning is: the kits need to be able to reliably and completely feed themselves. The kits can feed themselves reliably by 4 weeks of age. But, weaning can be stressful to the kits. And if done without sufficient consideration, the stress can result in a potentially fatal enterotoxemia. This is why breeders do not typically wean as early as 4 weeks of age. An extra 1 to 2 weeks does wonders for their ability to withstand the stress of weaning without getting sick. On the other hand, it is also a temptation to leave the bunnies too long with the doe. Allowing more than 8 weeks before weaning is not necessary. So, when is it weaning time for baby rabbits?
If you see the doe nipping at the kits, it's time. She can draw blood. When the doe is done raising baby rabbits, it's time to wean the buns.
If you see the doe trying to back up to her little buckling sons as if begging for a breeding, it's time! She's obviously feeling a new set of hormones. We have seen this a few times, mainly in springtime during peak breeding season.
Wean between 5 to 8 weeks of age (at the latest). In our barn, we wean our bunnies between 5 1/2 weeks and 6 1/2 to 7 weeks. We feel any longer than about 7 weeks does not serve either the doe or the kits, as the doe will forcibly wean her litter by approximately 7 weeks anyway. Other reputable rabbit breeders may have various weaning schedules that suit their particular rabbits.
Early Baby Rabbit DevelopmentMothers MilkWe brought Ronnie home after 8 weeks and not any sooner. It turns out, that was for a very good reason. According to The Mystery of Rabbit Poop research paper, it’s important not to wean a baby rabbit away from their mother before 8 weeks because: Without mother’s antibodies, complex organic compounds and proper pH environment her milk provides to help protect the baby’s intestines, these babies are highly susceptible to over-proliferation of foreign bacteria. In that regard, one great piece of advise for anybody reading this thinking about buying a baby rabbit: don’t buy a baby rabbit from a pet shop or a breeder before the age of 8 weeks old. As mentioned above, the baby rabbit still requires their mothers milk to survive and without it simple things such as human contact could prove fatal to them. This is because their immune system hasn’t yet fully developed and so they’re susceptible to a common human intestinal bacterium called Escherichia coli. This bacteria is literally all over us, so any kind of handling of a little bunny can transmit it. Another reasons not to buy or sell any rabbit under the age of 8 weeks is that it’s actually illegal. Rabbit Milk DetailsAccording to the book Rabbits (The Animal Answer Guides: Q&A for the Curious Naturalist), a baby rabbits rapid growth before weaning can be directly attributed to their mothers milk because its high in fat and protein and low in sugar. GrowingLet’s take a look a typical baby rabbit growth schedule (be warned: this part may be far too cute for you to take).
Day 7: Fur begins to grow.
Day 10: Eyes open.
Day 12: Ears open.
Day 18: leave the nest and begin to eat solid food.
Day 60: fully weaned and independent.
The growth of baby rabbits is determined by two main contributing factors: Litter sizeThere’s only so much of their mother’s milk to go around. That means larger litters in which the milk must be spread thinly among the babies will mean they’re getting less of the essential nutrients they need to grow compared to a smaller litter. Birth weightBaby rabbits with larger birth weights tend to grow faster due to the fact they can better compete for their mother’s milk and thereby get more nutrients and everything else it needs to grow. TemperatureBaby rabbits grow faster at higher temperatures compared to those growing at lower ones. At lower temperatures, a baby rabbit needs to focus more of their energy on heat regulation, rather than growth. Stands to reason, right? Rabbits are warm-blooded mammals just like us. That’s why incubators are used to aid baby growth. However, interestingly, larger litters of baby rabbits require less energy devoted to temperature regulation due to the fact their increase numbers are able to generate better heat huddling together. But it get’s even more interesting. According to the book Rabbits (The Animal Answer Guides: Q&A for the Curious Naturalist), a recent study by Rodel has revealed that baby rabbits in a litter of three grew relatively faster at lower temperatures than litters of two at higher temperatures, despite the higher competition for their mothers milk. Caring for your Baby RabbitIf you suddenly find yourself with a baby rabbit you might be wondering “How do I care for them?” Or perhaps more likely “How do I care for them differently compared to older rabbits?” Another good question might be “How do I make sure they’re okay?” Or even “Why isn’t the mother looking after the baby rabbits?” Baby Rabbit ParentingInattentive mother?Wait…what? The mother isn’t looking after her babies? That’s right and according to The House Rabbit Society this is common behaviour. After the babies are born the mother will leave the nest and only return every 24 hours for just 2 to 4 minutes at a time to feed her babies. This comes from instinct, passed down genetically from when Rabbits were in the wild. A mother constantly nursing her babies would attract the attention from predators. While their mother is away, the baby rabbits will burrow to the bottom of the nest and hide, until their mother returns. The mothers milk will sustain a baby rabbit for 24 hours at time and optional feeding time is between midnight and 5am. What can you take away from that? If you have your mother separated from the baby rabbits as they prefer to be, you may need to get up in the middle of the night in order to allow the mother feed their babies. Only rarely will a mother abandon or ignore her babies, but if you’re unsure of the health of your baby rabbits then check them early each morning. They should be warm and their bellies round due to a recent feeding. However, the only way to know for definite is to weight the babies each day to ensure they are gaining weight. If they’re gaining weight, then they’re being fed. Immature MothersIn a rare occasion, this may occur when a mother is very immature. If this is the case, the mother will not build a nest and the production of milk may be very delayed. If this is the case, it’s important you spot this early and intervene. The babies can be hand-fed until the mother is able to take over. Again, weighing the babies is the best way to tell if they’re being adequately nourished. The Role of the FatherIn most cases, the father will remain tolerant of the baby rabbits and, if neutered, may be left with the litter. Only when the baby rabbits reach puberty, should the father be separated. This is because he will begin to nip and play rough with his sons and could potentially cause them harm. It is also worth pointing out that you should probably neuter the father before returning him to the mother as she can fall pregnant again immediately after giving birth. What if the mother isn’t feeding her babies?As mentioned above, if you have an immature mother they may not be producing milk yet and it’s up to you to keep the baby rabbits alive. So what can you do? Create a formula. According to Dr. Dana Krempels Phd.D, a good baby rabbit replacement formula can be made up of:
Mix ingredients together in a lidded container, and shake very well until colostrum is dissolved. It’s best to mix this a few hours in advance so that the colostrum has time to soften and suspend easily. Heat the formula to about 105 degrees Farenheit and keep it warm in a water bath while you feed the babies. They are generally more eager to accept warm formula. Key TakeawaysSo that was quite a lot to take in. Let’s take a look at some of the key things we can takeaway from all of this:
A baby rabbit is called a Kitten.
A baby rabbit shouldn’t be weaned away from their mothers until they’re 8 weeks old.
It’s illegal to buy or sell a baby rabbit under the age of 8 weeks old.
A baby rabbits growth can be dependent on litter size, birth weight and temperature.
Momma rabbits will leave the nest and only return once every 24 hours.
An immature mother may not build a nest and her milk can be delayed. In this case, there’s a formula you can make to ensure the baby rabbits are being nourished correctly.
The best way to check if a baby rabbit is being nourished correctly is to weigh them every day to ensure they’re gaining weight.
It’s okay to leave dad with the babies (if neutered) until they reach puberty.
Please leave a comment below if you have found this article useful or if you have anything to add to it! :-) Are They Getting Fed? A well-fed baby will have a very distended tummy, looking like the "Pillsbury Dough Boy." If the babies' tummies are full, the mother is feeding them and the caretaker can rest assured. The babies can be examined every day if that will make the caretaker feel more assured.
If the babies have not been fed, they will have sunken tummies, their skin will be wrinkled from dehydration and they will be weak (their response to being handled will be weak or non-existent, although they will hopefully be breathing.) Scattered babies are more likely not to have been fed, so make sure that they are warm first.
If the babies are weak or dehydrated, veterinary intervention is advised. Placing a drop of honey or fruit jam into their mouths sometimes helps elevate their blood sugar level until veterinary help and/or mother's milk is available.
At this point, examine the mother for signs of lactation. By gently holding the mother upright, or gently turning her upside down in a lap, the nipples can be examined. They should feel slightly swollen and it is likely that the mother pulled a great deal of fur from her chest and stomach to not only make her nest, but also to better expose the teats for the babies.
Slight pressure in a milking motion should release either small amount of milk or clear fluid. If the mother is lactating, return her to the babies and allow her to calm down and become familiar with her new nest. Examine the babies the next day to make sure that they are being fed.
If the mother is definitely not lactating or has not attempted to pull fur or make a nest, etc., take the mother to a qualified rabbit-experienced veterinarian immediately. The veterinarian will probably give the mother a small dose of oxytocin, a drug that will stimulate the milk glands. She should nurse within the next 24 hours.
If you feel it is necessary to examine the babies every day to verify that they have been fed, pet the mother rabbit first, to help cover human scents, and avoid wearing heavy perfumes when handling the babies. It is best to handle the babies as little as possible until they are old enough to leave the nest box on their own.
If your concerns begin on the day of the birth, wait a day before attempting to do anything. Some mother rabbits do not feed their babies until the evening of the first day or early on the second day.
If it has been close to two days and you are positive that the babies have not been fed, a veterinarian must be seen immediately. Oxytocin will not produce results if you wait more than forty-eight hours after the birth.
While waiting for a veterinary appointment, try allowing the babies to nurse, as suckling sometimes stimulates the milk glands. If that happens, monitoring the babies' growth is the only thing that needs to be done. Mother rabbits stand upright while nursing and the babies lie upside down beneath her. Hold the rabbits in this natural position. Young Rabbits
A “young rabbit” is typically classified as any rabbit under the age of 12 months, though some giant breeds may be considered an adult around 9 months of age. During this first year of life, rabbits will go through three distinct stages:
Baby (newborn – 3 months)
Adolescence (3 months – 6 months)
Teenager (6 months – 12 months)
We strongly encourage feeding a uniform young rabbit formula until a rabbit reaches 12 months of age. All of Oxbow’s complete and balanced young rabbit pellets are formulated to meet the specific nutritional needs of young, growing rabbits. These alfalfa-based pellets contain a diversity of ingredients nutritionally-focused on supporting the specific needs of growing animals. Alfalfa provides optimal protein and calcium to support healthy muscle and bone formation, as well as good amounts of fiber which all rabbits need for proper digestion and overall health. While your youngster is still on the young formula, we recommend feeding an unlimited quantity of pellets. The goal is to provide enough pellets that there are always some available, without giving your little ones the option to “gorge” themselves. This helps ensure your little one will get plenty of the micronutrients and protein they need during this phase of quick maturation. In addition to a uniform, fortified, alfalfa-based pelleted diet, loose alfalfa hay provides added vital nutrients and fiber for tooth wear in the daily diet of young rabbits. Though alfalfa is a good base, it is equally important for them to have access to a variety of grass hays (Western Timothy, Oat Hay, Orchard Grass, Botanical, etc). Eating a variety of hays adds nutritional enrichment for young herbivores and will make for a much smoother transition to a grass hay-exclusive diet when your rabbit reaches adulthood and their growth demands begin to slow. Offering a variety of grass-hays will also increase exposure to different tastes and textures which will help limit picky eating down the road. It is important to ensure your young friend has a large, safe area in which to live and play. Young rabbits are especially curious and active, and they need plenty of time outside of an enclosure to stretch their legs and help build strong, healthy muscles and bones. Since rabbits are often quite simple to potty train, many rabbit parents allow their furry friends free roam of their home for at least a few hours each day. If you opt to allow your bunny to roam freely, it is essential to make sure your house is completely “bunny proofed” before allowing them to do so.
Newborn Baby Rabbits Growth Phases
Being there to watch your new litter of baby rabbits growth is some of the most fun time in any rabbit breeder’s hobby. Keep reading for a list of the key ages in your litter’s life and watch them grow into healthy and strong adult bunnies. Outline of baby rabbits growth phases:AGE: 10-12 DAYS OLD –The Cute Phase Your kits (baby rabbits) will start to open their eyes and will be turning into little balls of fur. AGE: 12-18 DAYS OLD – Start Exploring This is when your new bunnies start exploring the world outside their nest box and will be running around the cage. If anyone wanders out before this time always put them back into the nest box, they may have accidentally fallen out. AGE: 19 DAYS OLD – Living Free of the Nest Box Time for everyone to get kicked out of the nest! At this baby rabbit growth stage you’ll start to see more independence from the kits and you’ll need to remove the nest box from the cage to keep the kits free from infection (those nest boxes can harbor some nasty things!). Add a small piece of plastic cage liner or carpet if you have wire floors and want the babies to have something to stand on. AGE: SIX-SEVEN WEEKS – Leaving The House As early as five weeks but no later than eight weeks old you should wean (remove) the kits from their mother. I like to take everyone (except mom) and move them all into their own cage to ease the stress then, one week later, everyone gets separated into their own cages. If you have any more questions about baby rabbits growth or want to learn more about breeding we recommend that you take a look at our book “How to Breed a Rabbit” on Amazon. Don’t forget to be feeding those little guys the right kind of food! Check out our post on feeding your rabbits in the Rabbit Basics section to learn more!
Losing Kits – Fader Babies, Enteritis, and the WanderersLosing Kitsby Laurie Stroupe
I lost a kit yesterday. But don’t worry, I found it again. It was time to take out nest boxes yesterday for three of my litters. One litter had made a very cute tunnel in their nest material. They were adorable. So, I scooped them out and put them on the wire, placing their nest box on top of the cage. That’s when I noticed that there were only three kits. I thought, “Andrew has forgotten to tell me some bad news.” You see, he has agreed not to give me bad news like that while I’m on the road. If a rabbit is dead, I can’t do anything about it anyway, so our plan is not to spoil my trips.
It used to be that there was at least one disaster every time I went out of town for more than overnight. I felt like it was a matter of which, and not whether. But for quite a long time now, Andrew’s had a perfect record of keeping the herd alive while I’m out of town. I figured the streak had snapped. I got busy with feeding and working on websites. It was late afternoon when I finally asked Andrew about the kit. He had no deaths to report. For some reason, I let it slip my mind again. I figured that I must have left the kit in the nest box on top of the cages. Then I fell asleep. I didn’t remember the kit when I woke up. Andrew went with me to the barn at about 7:00 p.m. to fill my feed can. When he stepped through the door, he froze and put his finger to his mouth, indicating that I should be quiet. He quietly said, “Do you see him over there?” Now, with all that has happened during the day – discovering that the kit was missing, asking Andrew if one had died, figuring that I had left the kit in the box – what do you think I thought he was pointing at? I thought it was a snake. Boy, am I out of it. Finally, I saw the kit on the ground. Now Andrew obviously remembered a day when we spent 45 minutes chasing a kit around the barn. But this time, I walked up to him, he came right to me and I easily scooped him up and put him back with his litter. He was apparently quite happy about that. The Sad Way to Lose Kits – Fader BabiesUnfortunately, most times when we lose a kit, we’re not talking about misplacing one. There’s no finding it again. I’m afraid that in that same litter, I will actually be losing one. It’s a fader. At nearly three weeks, it’s half the size of the others and has a very frail look to it.
What will I do for this kit? Nothing. I will let nature take its course. In the past, I’ve fed these type kits by hand. I’ve babied them and worried over them. Sometimes, I got them to survive. But then they’d just die suddenly at 8 weeks. Or, if they made it longer, they ended up being about 2 lbs. as adults. Once babies get that far behind, they just don’t seem to catch up.
And it may be that some genetic weakness or birth defect is operating. It’s not just a matter of getting squeezed out at meal time. Perhaps something didn’t fully form. I think that in many cases, the digestive system fails to make all of the changes it needs to for the kit to go from an all-milk diet to hay and pellets. Whatever the cause, I have never found it worthwhile to coax along a kit that doesn’t seem to be making it. The good news is that, while I seemed to have many of those in the beginning, they are quite rare in my barn now. A breeder I know said that she had the same experience. She didn’t feel that she did things much differently now than she did in the beginning, but her survival rate is higher and her instance of problems is lower. I think part of it is that we do get better at husbandry in many subtle ways. Our observations are keener and we have broader knowledge to apply to situations. Some of my practices are indeed different now than they used to be. These differences aren’t necessarily huge changes, either. But I think that the biggest difference is that we cull according to which rabbits thrive on our practices. I’m building a herd that does well on a 17% extruded feed, no oats, in the humidity of my barn with the particular minerals that occur naturally in my water supply, and much more.
Sometimes, you will correct a huge problem and increase your survival rate all at once. I did that when I stopped giving oats to my rabbits. You may remember from previous BLOG posts that I was losing an older kit about once every few days. I stopped the oats and the deaths stopped immediately. But probably the little things have added up, too. For example, I always give a crock of water (away from the nest box) to nursing does. I’ve fine-tuned my feeding schedule for pregnant does, nursing does, litters beginning to eat, and weanlings. So, if you are losing kits, I hope you find them. If you are just getting started and you feel that too many kits are dying, go over your program with a more experienced breeder. And remember that chances are your survival rate will get better over time as you improve your husbandry skills and your herd is developed according to your practices.
Three Week Old Baby Rabbit CareWandering Babiesby Laurie Stroupe
Newborn baby rabbits are amazingly mobile. I found one newborn had crawled about 16 feet from the cage when we had our very first litters. I didn’t realize that having a ridge around the nest box to keep babies in was important. Boy, is it! When there is an adequate nest and functional nest box, most newborns are happy to curl up and sleep – if they are warm and if they are fed.
If you have newborns wandering around, check to make sure the nest is adequate. If so, then check the dam. Chances are, she’s dry. It can take 72 hours for milk to come in. And kits can last that long, believe it or not. No, not every kit will last, but most can. It’s not optimal, but I’ve had it happen. I have fostered kits for a day or so when I’ve had the spare doe to do so. That works best. Making sure the dam is hydrated helps. Some breeders recommend various herbs and teas. I’m not really up on all of that. I think massaging the teats could help because of the feedback loop involved in milk production. A massage may simulate nursing which triggers milk production. After the newborn stage, the next time I see kits wandering around is when I change the nest box material at nine or ten days. The new nest is not nearly as comfortable as the old one. That’s a time when I often lose a kit when it gets out of the box and gets chilled. I try to watch the kits for awhile after I’ve changed the nest box material to be sure they settle back down into their refurbished home. I’ve caught several who landed on the wire and returned them safely to their nests. I recently missed one, though, and wouldn’t you know it was black, my favorite. Babies raised on the shelf are also prone to wandering from the box. You may have your kits on either a 12- or 24-hour schedule. If they were with their dam, she might feed them as soon as they start squirming and indicating that they are hungry. On the shelf, they may become hungry and start wandering around in search of a meal. I like to keep a piece of hardware cloth over the top of nest boxes when I raise babies on the shelf. That way, if my schedule is 30 minutes late according to their tummies, I won’t find a baby on the floor.
By two or three weeks, the kits pop out of the nest box and onto the wire, sometimes for good. It amazes me how several litters all over the barn will pick the exact same day to emerge. When the weather is mild, this generally just signals the time to remove the nest box. But when the days are mild and the nights are cold, I want to make sure those kits are able to get back into the nest box as easily as they got out. I like them in the nest box, at least at night, until they are three weeks old, during the winter (two weeks for summer). I pile hay in front of the nest box as a sort of ladder to make sure they are able to climb back in when the temperature starts to drop. All of this baby rabbit talk makes me want to go breed bunnies. See you later – I’m off to the barn!
How To Care For Baby BunniesThere are few things as cool as BABY BUNNIES!!!! Our very first litter was eight little babies all healthy and warm. I noticed a week earlier one rabbit was pulling fur in the litter box so I added a nest box. A week went by and they started using it as a potty so I pulled it out. Then the next day my husband noticed fur again in the litter box. When I went out to put the box back I found BABIES! Their mama, Shota, was just finishing cleaning herself up when I got there. She looked pretty tired and was grateful for a frozen water bottle (it’s a little warm today) and a handful of kale. Daddy rabbit Zeddicus was unimpressed with the babies and wanted to know if I brought treats. If you are expecting baby bunnies on your homestead, make sure you are prepared! You don’t need to do much, but it’s nice to be able to jump in if there’s a problem and to know when it’s okay to step back and let the rabbits handle it all. Skip in 2How To Care For Baby BunniesOnce you’ve bred your rabbits it’s time to wait and see if your female is pregnant. There are a few clues that may help you know, but usually about 30 days after breeding she will kindle (have babies). If you have a rabbit colony you may want to remove your buck before her due date, but this is dependent on your rabbits and particular set up. Supply a Nest BoxBy day 28 make sure you give your rabbit a nest box full of hay. You can use a new plastic cat litter box or make your own wooden nest box. The mother should pull fur to line the box. She may not do this until the babies arrive, so don’t worry if you don’t see her pulling fur ahead of time. It’s a good idea to have some rabbit fur in a bag just in case you have a new doe that doesn’t pull enough fur. Sometimes rabbits will pull too much, or if you have a rabbit with a false pregnancy, use the fur that she pulls. Check for Cold BunniesThe baby bunnies should arrive by day 32. Between day 28 and their arrival you should check her frequently. Sometimes the babies become scattered, or she may have a stray one or two out of the box. If they get too cold they may die. You can warm up baby rabbits, even if you think they are already dead. If they’re not stiff, there still may be chance! Remove any dead babies from the nest, and give your mother rabbit a treat. She’s worked hard! My rabbits like parsley or red raspberry leafs. Keep an Eye on the NestOnce the babies arrive the mother rabbit should take care of everything. Your job will mostly be to check the nest a few times a day. Remove any that have died, and check to see if their tummies are full. If they aren’t getting enough to eat, try putting some babies in the nest of another doe with a similar aged litter. It’s a good idea to breed two does around the same time so you can foster them if needed, or split up a larger litter. If you aren’t able to foster the baby bunnies onto another doe you may be able to care for them yourself, although chances are slim that they will survive. If it is too hot or too cold you can also bring the entire nest box inside. Rabbits feed their young twice a day at dusk and dawn, so if you bring the box out to the doe she should hop in and feed the babies. Wean and RebreedIf the nest is soiled you can replace it with fresh hay. Some people remove the babies from their mother at four weeks old, but others worry about weaning enteritis and leave them until 8 weeks. Don’t wait until much longer than this, or you could have some surprise breedings. Some breeders recommend removing a few babies each day so that your doe doesn’t get mastitis. Others mimic nature by removing the mother rabbit to a new pen, which causes her milk supply to dry off quickly, This is especially useful if she has already been rebred. If the babies are younger than eight weeks you can leave the males and females for a few more days to reduce stress and the risk of deadly diarrhea.
Sign up for the free breeding trackerYou have a lot on your mind. Remembering which rabbit has been bred to who does NOT have to be one more thing to remember! Write down notes in one easy to reference spot to keep your rabbitry running smoothly!
What if something goes wrong?The best resource I have come across for troubleshooting problems with rabbits is the Meat Rabbit Yahoo Group. There are some many awesome people there with decades of experience willing to share what they know. Even reading through posts is a great way to learn more details about and how to solve problems. Thankfully, good rabbits mothers do an excellent job of taking care of their babies. They usually only need minimal intervention from us humans!
Caring for the KitsKits are born hairless and helpless. They start growing hair after 2-3 days and their ears and eyes are open at day 10. For the first 3-4 weeks the kits will live solely inside the nest. The mother rabbit only feeds the babies 1-2 times per day, so don’t panic if you don’t see her in there. Sometimes in a colony a doe will make her nest in a bed with another doe and they have a shared nest. They will often take turns at motherly duties.
A shared nest of 21 babies.Check on the babies everyday but minimise handling them too much so you don’t stress the mama out. Count the kits after the birth and remove any dead ones or soiled bedding. Once they are counted and clean just cover them up and leave them alone. 24 hours later have a look at them again and check that they all have nice round full bellies. A kit that isn’t being fed with be thin, weak and wrinkly. Mama rabbits only have 8-10 nipples, so if she has more than 8-10 babies she may struggle to feed them all.
Well fed babies have big round bellies.
Hungry babies are skinny and wrinkled.You can foster some babies on to another mother, you can wipe a little strong smelling food essence (vanilla or almond) on her nose so she doesn’t smell the difference between her babies and the new ones. Most does will happily foster extra babies, sometimes even if there is a week or so in age difference.
KindlingAt kindling, the doe should make a nest in the box out of her own fur and whatever bedding you choose. Straw is cheap and usually readily available, but can harbor mites and retain dampness. Pine shavings are a good choice, but sawdust can irritate kits’ eyes and cause respiratory problems. If the doe fails to pull hair to line her nest, as some first-time mothers do, you can pull some yourself from the dewlap under her chin. This will not hurt her, as this hair will loosen closer to kindling, and often can trigger her to do the rest of the job. Rabbit milk is very rich, and does will only feed their kits once or twice a day. Don’t be alarmed if the doe doesn’t seem to be attentive; if the kits are warm and plump, she’s doing her job. Enjoying the bountyAfter successfully raising a litter, the question becomes what to do with the offspring. Hopefully you have planned for this situation before making your first mating. Not every rabbit produced is breeding or show-stock quality, and those markets are finite, even though heritage breeds are widely sought. It is tempting with a rare breed to send any kits on as breeding stock; after all, if they are rare, every rabbit is worth breeding, right? Not exactly. Only about 10 percent of the kits produced will be as good as, or better than, their parents, which should be the goal of any good breeding stock program, no matter how rare the breed. If you have bred these rabbits with the idea of having meat, now it’s time to process. This can be done quickly, compassionately and humanely. You will be rewarded with quality meat for the table.
Rabbits sexually mature between the age of 3-6 months. An unspayed female bunny can start as early as 120 days old. On the other hand, a buck’s (or male rabbit) testicles typically drop at 10-14 weeks of age, allowing him to impregnate a doe at such a young age. Female bunnies are prolific producers and can give birth to a litter monthly because of their short gestation period of only 28-31 days. This is why it is vital to separate your does from the bucks before the female gives birth to prevent another pregnancy.
Most does kindle late at night or in the early morning hours. Some baby rabbits will be stillborn, so be swift to remove and dispose of the dead kits and the placenta soon enough. Don’t be surprised to see the mother eat the dead kits and the placenta. It’s not due to cannibalism but the doe’s safety-first approach.
She may eat the stillborn rabbits and her placenta to prevent predators from tracking their scent. Lack of a body means no scent, so no predation! Besides stillborn births, some kits can be born weaker than others and may not survive. Female rabbits are not instinctively maternal and may ignore the vulnerably weak and young rabbits. They often prioritize those that are more likely to survive and focus on feeding and nurturing the stronger babies. These animals have innate drives to preserve their species, and stronger kits have higher survival chances to breed themselves eventually. For this reason, does may separate their kits into two groups where they neglect the weak ones and concentrate on the stronger offsprings. It would be best to help identify the weak ones, hidden at the farthest end of the nest, where they can’t access milk and warmth. Mother rabbits do not mourn the loss of their newborn kits because they know they can replace them just days later. However, they are overprotective of their surviving offsprings and may react aggressively towards human caregivers who try to handle the babies.
The 5 Factors That Affect the Size of a Rabbit Litter1. Female Rabbit’s AgeA young doe who’s just reached sexual maturity tends to birth a smaller litter size than older rabbits. The litter size increases as it ages during subsequent births. However, an aging rabbit may also start birthing a smaller litter size, which continues getting smaller until it reaches the end of its birthing years.
2. Female Rabbit’s SizeRabbit breeds vary in terms of body size. Larger rabbit breeds produce larger litter sizes than dwarf bunny breeds. Large rabbits tend to have a litter size of up to 14 kits, while dwarf breeds only kindle an average of just two kits. On the other side, medium-sized bunnies averagely birth up to 6 babies.
Large-sized breeds that give birth to large litter sizes include:
New Zealand Whites
Flemish Giant Rabbits
Image Credit: Byron Van Gool, Shutterstock 3.Kindling orderThe number of kits you get per litter also depends on the litter number. A first-time mother rabbit’s litter size tends to be smaller and grows from the second birth onwards. The more birth numbers, the more mature a doe gets, the more kits it produces. However, the litter size starts decreasing when the doe ages, and it continues to get smaller until the doe reaches its rabbit-bearing years.
4.Female Rabbit’s HealthA healthy doe has fewer risks of potential problems during pregnancy and birth, enhancing the litter’s overall health. In addition, a healthy doe is less likely to kindle stillborns, weak, or underweight kits that can die right after birth.
5.Rabbit EnvironmentThe litter size boils down to the parent rabbit mating process. The mating environment, such as the enclosure (the doe is taken to the buck’s cage), affects the number of times the pair mate. The more they do, the more the number of eggs the doe releases, the larger the litter size. Also, where the doe lives when pregnant, stress levels, nutrition, hygiene, and predators play a huge difference in the fetus development, reflecting litter size.
SummaryA rabbit’s litter size varies from bunny to bunny, and overall kit health after they are birthed. Generally, it may take weeks before you get the accurate litter count because some may die in the process. It’s best not to handle the kits for at least three weeks, and if you must, do it gently as the doe is most likely used to your scent. If it knows your scent, it may not attack you
After the KindlingKindling is the birth of a litter of rabbits. The entire process could last as little as ten minutes, and once they are born, the doe distances herself from them. This is an instinct used in the wild to protect them from predators. Keep the buck away from the litter in order to give them a better chance at survival. Keep him away from the mother as well, or he might try to mate with her again. She will feed her litter when she feels comfortable and enjoys having alone time with them. The doe usually feeds her litter twice a day; once in the morning and once at night. The young become fully weaned after 4 to 6 weeks. Continue to keep the female separate from males during this time so that she doesn’t get pregnant again immediately after the birth. False PregnanciesSometimes, female rabbits have false pregnancies. They show signs of the typical behavior of pregnant rabbits, like nest building, but the only way to confirm that she’s pregnant is to take her to the vet. If you want to avoid a pregnancy, consider getting your rabbits neutered. ConclusionThe entire process of pregnancy is quick in rabbits. From the mating to the kindling, it only takes just over a month for this to occur. It doesn’t give you a lot of time to prepare, but work as quickly as you can and give your doe everything she needs to feel comfortable through the process.
How Many Babies Do Rabbits Have in Their First Litter?Written by Lou Carter Last Updated: February 19, 2021Rabbits reach sexual maturity as young as 3 months of age. When this happens, they will seek to breed. This could even be with a parent or sibling, so the kits should be separated to prevent unwanted pregnancies. According to the University of Miami, a rabbit will give birth to 1-14 kits in her first litter, with the average being 6. It’s unlikely that all of these baby rabbits will survive. A first-time mother may fail to care for her young, so you must ensure that kits are kept warm and well-fed. The kits will need to live with their mother for approximately 8 weeks. You will then need to separate them from their mother. Contents show How Many Baby Rabbits Survive Out of a Litter?Some of the kits will be stillborn. If there are stillborns, do not be surprised if your rabbit eats the remains. This is not an act of cannibalism. Your rabbit is taking a safety-first approach. Predators may be attracted by the scent of a stillborn rabbit. If there isn’t a body, there isn’t a scent. Some babies will be weaker than others. The runt of the litter may not survive. Rabbits are not naturally maternal, so the mother may ignore her weakest young, focusing on feeding and rearing the stronger kits. Rabbits are instinctively driven to continue their species. If a rabbit feels that she can only keep so many babies alive, she’ll prioritize those that are most likely to survive. Stronger young have a better chance of surviving and eventually breeding themselves. She may separate her babies into two groups. The strong kits will bed fed and the weak neglected. So, you should check the hutch regularly as a nest of hay and fur will likely hide the babies. The weaker young may be buried deeper in this nest, unable to access milk and warmth. Do Mother Rabbits Mourn the Loss of Their Babies?Mother rabbits will not mourn stillborn babies, or those that die shortly after birth. She knows that she can be impregnated again just days later. Rabbits see their kits as essential for the continuation of the species. If pregnancy doesn’t have a successful outcome, she will try again. However, the mother may be somewhat protective of her surviving kits. Don’t be surprised if she reacts aggressively when you attempt to handle her young, which can make cleaning the hutch more difficult. My Rabbit is Ignoring Her BabiesThe mother won’t cuddle up to her babies. She knows that a predator would consider a nest of helpless baby rabbits easy pickings, so will keep her distance. She will aim to keep any threats away from the nest. A hutch on your property should be free from such dangers. Instinct overpowers logical thought in animals, so your rabbit will build a nest for her babies and attend to their needs once a day. A baby rabbit just needs nourishment. Rabbit milk is rich in calories, so her kits only need to be fed once a day. Don’t feed a baby rabbit cows milk. Also, the mother will stimulate her young into eliminating. Don’t be too concerned if you don’t see this happen as a rabbit will feed her young under the cover of darkness. Just ensure that they are looking healthy. Here’s some advice on how to care for baby rabbits. What To Do if Baby Rabbits Are NeglectedIf you are concerned about the health of your baby rabbits, here are some things that you can do:
Count the babies: Ensure that all kits are all accounted for. If a baby burrows deeper than the others, it may be forgotten.
Time in the nest: If the mother leaves her young unattended in the middle of the hutch, you should move them to the nest yourself. Your rabbit may not think to care for babies that wander off.
Health check: Ensure the babies are warm and have round, plump stomachs. This is a sign that they are being nurtured. If a baby is too cold, she will be unable to feed and will not survive for long.
Warm-up any kits by placing a hot water bottle below the nest. Also, you can also hand-feed baby rabbits using a rabbit milk replacement formula. Here are some of the types of foods that can be fed to baby rabbits. Can Baby Rabbits Live with Their Father?Even if you feel that the mother is not caring for her young, you should never house the kits with their father. Males cannot produce any milk, and they have even fewer natural caring instincts. A male will also see his offspring as territorial rivals or even mating partners. Remove the father from the cage as soon as the mother has given birth. The female will be ready to breed just 24 hours later, and an unneutered male is extremely likely to take this opportunity. You don’t want another litter. Why is My Rabbit Eating Her Babies?Aa rabbit may eat her stillborn babies. Sometimes, a rabbit will also eat her living babies. This is especially likely after her first litter. There are several explanations for this behavior:
Confusion: She did not realize that these were her young, mistaking the babies for the afterbirth.
Physical weakness: Your rabbit was left weak due to the birth and sought an energy source. Offer plenty of alfalfa hay to a pregnant rabbit to minimize the risk of this happening.
Stress and anxiety: The birth deeply stressed your rabbit.
A rabbit eating her young is most likely to happen after her first litter. It’s a new experience for her. If a rabbit continues to eat her young after a second or third pregnancy, you should cease breeding her. My Rabbit Still Hasn’t Had Her LitterIn this instance, it means your rabbit was not pregnant after all. Phantom pregnancies are common in unspayed rabbits. Your rabbit thinks she’s pregnant, and behaves as though she is. A rabbit pregnancy lasts for about 30 days. If there is no sign of baby rabbits at this point, she has had a pseudopregnancy. Usually, you’ll be able to recognize this at around day 21 of the supposed gestation. If the pregnancy was false, a rabbit will eventually stop behaving maternally. She will cease nesting, and become much calmer. A pregnant rabbit will continue with her hormonal actions until she gives birth. There is no absolute rule about how many kittens a rabbit will birth in her first litter. What’s more important is how she reacts after giving birth, so this must be monitored closely. Care for any of her neglected kits.
How To Stop a Rabbit from Eating Her BabiesWritten by Lou Carter Last Updated: February 24, 2021Rabbits can sometimes eat their own young. This is most likely to happen if your pet is feeling particularly anxious, lacks dietary protein, or has become excessively territorial. Feed your rabbit a diet of Alfalfa hay in the days before the birth of her kits. This will prevent her from eating her young because she lacks nutrition. After giving birth, she’s likely to eat the placenta, but could eat a baby in error. Remove the kits if there are early warning signs. Unlike hares, rabbits don’t eat meat. They’re not carnivorous animals, so they’ll very rarely eat their young by choice. It’s most likely to happen with young rabbits after giving birth to their first litter. The rabbit is frightened and confused by the experience, and just does what comes naturally to her. Contents show Why Do Rabbits Eat Their Babies?There are several why a rabbit eats her kits:
Stillborn. Where a baby was stillborn, your rabbit will proceed to eat the body.
Placenta. The rabbit was eating the afterbirth and placenta, and became confused. She ate the baby thinking it was part of the afterbirth.
Dietary protein. She was left drained and devoid of energy following the birth of her kits.
Territorial behavior. She has no intention of sharing her hutch and removed the competition.
Weakest less likely to survive. Rabbits can be Darwinian in their approach to motherhood.
The majority of the time, a rabbit will not consciously decide to eat her young. Once she has birthed multiples litters, she’ll have a better understanding of her role and what is required of her. 0 seconds of 15 secondsVolume 0% Should I Remove My Rabbit’s Babies?Baby rabbits need their mother as they’re unlikely to survive on their own. Baby rabbits must live with their mother for around eight weeks. By this point, they’ll be more independent. The young rabbits will be eating solid food, moving of their own volition, and will no longer need milk. Once 24 hours have elapsed, your rabbit will have moved past any desire to eat her babies. The nest should be safe and the babies will quickly grow up. Why Does My Rabbit Keep Killing Her Babies?If this happens more than once, then you should spay your rabbit and not breed her again. Clearly, your rabbit rejects maternity. The more you force her to breed, the more it will distress her. You may find that a female rabbit kills some of her young, but not others. This could be through active deed or neglect. She may divide her young into two groups and only feed one group. This is because one group has been declared overly weak and vulnerable. Rabbits are governed by survival instinct. A big part of this is reproducing strong babies that will continue to expand the species. She has decided to focus her attention on the young that are most likely to survive. If this is the case, you can attempt to raise the babies yourself. You can make your own rabbit formula to feed them. Contact the nearest wildlife center for help and advice, if required. How Can I Prevent My Rabbit from Eating Her Babies?To minimize the risk of your rabbit eating her young, take these precautionary steps:
Avoid breeding rabbits younger than six months of age. Until this point, your rabbit will still be immature. She won’t be ready for the responsibility of having a litter.
Keep your rabbit calm before, during, and after the pregnancy. If your rabbit is stressed or anxious, she is more likely to eat her young. Ensure that your rabbit feels safe and secure.
Increase the protein content in your pregnant rabbit’s food. Add alfalfa hay to her hutch in the last few weeks of pregnancy. This way, she will not feel that she lacks adequate nutrition.
Watch your rabbit after she’s given birth as she’s likely to eat the afterbirth. She may confuse a baby rabbit for the placenta.
Shower your rabbit with affection. Help her understand that she is not being replaced or superseded by her babies. This should reduce her jealousy and territorial instincts.
Will a Male Rabbit Eat His Babies?Male rabbits rarely eat their babies, but kits should not live with their fathers. Male rabbits lack paternal instincts. Also, baby rabbits could end up hurt in other ways. A male rabbit is incapable of feeding the babies. This means the young rabbits will go hungry and not have any of their additional needs met. The male rabbit may also see these new rabbits as territorial rivals. He’ll likely have a submissive role. If he gets the chance to assert dominance, he’ll almost certainly take that opportunity. As soon as a female rabbit is impregnated, it’s advisable to separate her from the male. The male will continue to be frisky, but the female will be in no mood for mating. Pregnant rabbits are volatile and are far more likely to attack a mate if approached. While a female is pregnant, it’s the ideal time to get a male neutered. Do not put him back in the hutch immediately after the birth as males are fertile for six weeks after neutering. Females, meanwhile, can be impregnated 24 hours after giving birth. Do Rabbits Eat Their Babies if You Touch Them?A popular myth dictates that you must never touch baby rabbits. Legend claims that a mother will eat her babies as they are ‘tainted’ by human scent. This is completely untrue. Your rabbit will be indifferent to your scent on her young. If you have a good bond, she may even find the smell comforting. Why Do My Baby Rabbits Keep Disappearing?If your rabbit is going to eat her young, she’ll do so almost immediately. If she is nursing and feeding her babies, she won’t change her mind and eat them later. If you return to your rabbit’s hutch and find babies missing, one of two things has happened:
The baby rabbit has fallen out of the nesting box/wondered off. Search the hutch, checking under piles of hay. Look for holes in the hutch that the rabbit could have escaped through.
A predator has gained access to the hutch and is eating the young. This could be a small animal, such as a rat. Your rabbit will not sleep with her babies, so she may not realize.
If you find the baby rabbit, return her to the nesting box at once. Baby rabbits will not last long without the warmth and milk of their mother. In some circumstances, it may already be too late. If the babies are being eaten, you’ll need to improve hutch security. Check the wire door for any signs of gnawed holes. A large rodent may have nibbled its way in and eaten a baby rabbit. A Perspex cover to the hutch is advisable in these circumstances. This will protect your rabbits and they can still see out. Just leave enough space for fresh air to circulate. Not all rabbits will eat their young, and those who do will typically only do so once.
A word of warning – as soon as they give birth, females can mate again and become pregnant immediately. If you are confident your female is about to give birth, remove her male partner from her home and keep him separate from her but still within sight and smell so that their bond isn’t broken. Get the male rabbit neutered asap so this cannot happen again, but be aware that he will remain fertile for some time after the op. Once your female has been spayed, they can get back together. First litters are generally smaller in number, sometimes only two or three kits, but there can be 6 or more, and this is more likely to be the number in later litters. Remember, these babies will be ready to breed themselves in only a few weeks’ time, so they too will need to be neutered as soon as possible. There is good reason for the phrase “breed like rabbits”! In the wild, females do not stay with their young, unlike cats or dogs – or humans! They have very rich milk and only need to feed the kits once or twice a day. The rest of the time they stay well away from the kits. This is so that they won’t lead predators to them. They enter the nest, the kits latch on and feed for only a few minutes, the mother cleans them and leaves. The instinct to act in the same way is just as strong in our pets and so you must make it possible for your female to have somewhere to go that is away from her kits. Otherwise there is every chance that she might attack and kill them. Try not to touch them for a few days, especially if their mother is nervous of humans or you haven’t had her for very long. Your scent on the kits might make her attack them. Do have a look in the nest though to check they are all safely in there and have fat bellies. The best advice is: Leave it to mum! She’ll do what comes naturally to her. Her kits will be born blind, deaf and bald but it will only take a few days for some fur to grow and by 10 days, their ears and eyes will be open and they’ll be moving around, recognisable as rabbits.
Sometimes rabbits will reject a litter or will be unable to feed them. You might find them crawling out of the nest looking for food, cold and with empty bellies. In case this happens, if your female does give birth, get some Cimicat kitten milk in. Sadly, it’s extremely difficult to raise orphaned or rejected kits and you need to be realistic. With the best will in the world, their chances of surviving are very low. The very best advice for hand rearing we have seen has already been published and we don’t believe we can better it. We have a downloadable guide for hand rearing from Dr Nadene Stapleton of the RVC Rabbit handrearing guide 2021. Enjoy your kits. They are funny, entrancing, fascinating and plain wonderful, but please don’t be tempted to breed again.
It’s vital to get baby rabbits used to human interaction so they are not fearful of their owners in later life. This is called socialisation. There’s a time when the animal’s fear response is suppressed and this is called the critical socialisation period. During this time they can experience and learn about situations that they would otherwise find scary. The critical socialisation period for young rabbits is between ten and twenty days. Socialisation timetable:
Birth to ten days: Check the nests from birth to make sure the young rabbits are healthy.
Ten days (when the babies are starting to leave the nest): with your hands covered in nest material so you smell familiar, gently start to pick them up and handle them. Monitor their mother for signs of stress – with a relaxed female, you can proceed more quickly. The positive effect is even greater if you do this between 15 minutes before nursing and 30 minutes afterwards.
Ten to twenty days: Gradually increase the time handling the kits. Gently stroke them over their bodies, examine their ears, nose, and feel around their jaws and teeth. Pick up their paws and spread their toes as you would if you were clipping the claws. Gently brush them. You want to expose them to all of the sensations that they may experience as adults. If they take food from your hand, give them bits of fresh greens or leaves while they are being held.
Kits are born naked with their eyes and ears closed.
Weaning is a tough process on a kit, both physically and psychologically. Physiological weaning takes place long before physical weaning does most of the time. At about 10-12 days kits' eyes open. At about 2 weeks of age, kits are confidently going in and out of the nest box. They start to really eat mom's food at around 3 weeks of age, and by 4 weeks are doing a pretty good job of running up your feed bill. Some breeders wean at this age. I do not recommend it, personally. Even though many breeders swear that kits are no longer nursing at 4 weeks of age, I do not find this to be the case. Most of my does will nurse their kits at least sporadically until I wean my kits between 9 and 10 weeks of age. Remember- just because you don't see your doe nursing her kits, doesn't mean she isn't. Does typically only nurse twice a day for minutes at a time- in the wild, does are very vulnerable while they are nursing, and so this is a defensive tactic they have developed. Rabbit milk is ridiculously high in fat so that kits get all the nutrition they need in very short bouts of nursing. The usual times for does to nurse their kits are dawn and dusk.
While kits are developing, their gastrointestinal tracts are going through all sorts of changes. They are learning first to eat mom's milk, then her cecal pellets, then her food (pellets, hay, forage, etc), and then finally learning to eat on their own without mom's help. Their guts are developing appropriate bacteria for each of these stages, and any little thing can throw that development out of whack and cause all sorts of gastrointestinal distress. A rabbits' digestive system doesn't finish developing until about 12 weeks. I would have to say that gastrointestinal (GI) issues are the number one cause of death in kits. Bloat, GI stasis, diarrhea, and/or a combination thereof can all kill a young kit within hours. Unfortunately, kits are prone to ‘weaning enteritis’ which is caused by stress and can kill young rabbits in a matter of hours. The only way to minimize the risk is to minimize the stress that the kit will go through.