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Baby Bunnies Ch. 1 - Pregnancy & Birth

Posted by Sophia on June 16, 2014 at 1:00 PM

THIS IS NOT AN ARTICLE TO TEACH YOU HOW TO BREED AND RAISE RABBITS. THIS IS JUST TO SHARE SOME KNOWLEDGE ABOUT RAISING RABBITS. PLEASE DO NOT ATTEMPT TO BREED USING THIS ARTICLE. 

Breeding:

Ever heard the saying 'breed like rabbits'? It doesn't just come from anywhere. A female wild rabbit can have 6-7 litters every year, averaging 8 babies per litter which adds up to 56 babies every year. That's only one rabbit - imagine all the wild rabbits there are. Now, imagine how many domestic rabbits there are. If you put them together, that's a lot of babies. Theres a harsh reality though - only about half the babies from each litter survive past 2 weeks, and even more will die during weaning. 

Because of this reality, rabbits are one of the only species that is willing to breed right after giving birth - making her pregnant yet again. A rabbit's gestation period is only 30 days long, so by the time her kits (a kit is a baby rabbit) are about 4 weeks old, she will be shooing them off to raise her next litter. This is why if you have a male and female rabbits living together, seperate them right away. Chances are she's pregnant and once she has them, she will be pregnant again, right away. 

That leads me to another point - will a male rabbit eat their own young? The answer is no. This might surprise you, but it is just a myth that they will eat the kits. A male animal will only eat his babies to get them out of the way to breed again with the mother. If a mother animal has no babies, she can breed again. In the rabbit world, the doe is willing to breed again so he doesn't need to harm the babies. A male rabbit will mostly ignore the kits as if they aren't there and do his business with the doe right after breeding - if he's even around when the babies are born. 

In captivity, all you need to do is put the doe in the bucks cage and they will most likely breed. Please do not breed your rabbits at home unless you know exactly what you are doing and are prepared with homes for each of the babies. Always spay and neuter your pet rabbits. 

Preperations:

Domestic and wild rabbits prepare for their young is the same ways. For most of their pregnancy they will act the same. Rabbits rarely show signs of pregnancy until they are close to giving birth. This isn't the same with all rabbits though and if some rabbits will show the following signs:

 

  • A rabbit that was once your best friend could be antisocial or aggressive. Don't worry, she will return to normal right after the babies are born. 
  • Your rabbit may be gaining a very small amount of weight each day (ex 1 ounce per day.)
  • You may feel babies inside her belly using a techniqe called palpation.
  • She may drink more. 
In my expirience, Sadie showed every sign she could. She was aggressive, gaining weight, and drinking more. I was unsucessful palpating her until the day before she gave birth as this is a very hard thing to do. 

A wild rabbit will often build her nest hiding in plain view - for example, the middle of your back yard. Predators would be too timid to go in these areas and rabbits don't count the family dog or cat as a predator - which often times turns tragic. A wild rabbits nest is similar to a domestic rabbit's nest. A wild rabbit will burrow a hole into the yard, brining in soft items like grass, leaves, and weeds. Then she will pull the fur off of her belly to line her nest with. A domestic rabbit will build her nest using what we, as humans, provide for her which is commonly hay, straw, or safe wood shavings. She will also line her nest with fur. A rabbit most commonly makes her nest on day 28 but will occasionaly wait right before birth or right after. Sadie began to make her nest pretty soon after getting pregnant (although she didn't have her nest box yet) and pulled fur an entire week before hand. She also pulled more fur right before birth and right after. A domestic rabbit will have their babies in a hole which they dig in the nest and the babies will build themselves a "tunnel" to the back of the nest box to immitate a wild rabbit's nest. 

Domestic rabbits will drink more water to help produce more milk, but may stop eating completely before birth. Feeding them dandelion can also help with milk production. 

Birth & Nursing

A rabbit will give birth during late night hours or very early morning. Birth only takes 10-15 minutes. Just like a cat or dog, rabbits do eat the placentas for extra nutrients. Once the kits are born, they will clean them off and jump out of the nest. Sometimes a doe won't nurse her young for a full 24 hours after birth. Many first time mothers will not know what to do during birth and will have her babies on the wire or wood flooring of her cage. This is fatal for baby bunnies as they will freeze. If you see this, move all of her young into the nest. Rabbits cannot and will not move their young so it is up to you to save them. If a mother rabbit feels threatened or stressed she will eat her young to protect them. To prevent this, keep all pets away from her cage and do not try to watch her kindle (give birth). She may also eat her babies if she feels she is not healthy enough to care for them. 

A baby bunny is born completely hairless with both their eyes and ears sealed shut. They have no way to fend for themselves and are very fragile at this age. They stay close to their siblings for heat and protection. 

A mother rabbit stays away from her nest during the day to avoid predators. A baby bunny does not have a scent but an adult does and predators will smell them, alerting them to the nest. She only nurses her young 1-2 times a day. You may never see your domestic rabbit nursing because they only do it late at night and early morning. She will nurse her babies for 5-10 minutes and then leave the nest box. Some young will hold on to her teat and get dragged out of the nest, causing a tragic end from the cold. This doesn't happen as often with wild rabbits because of the shape of their burrow. If a kit gets dragged out, it will often times roll back in to the nest.

        During the short time the mother rabbit is in the nest, the babies need to act fast to get their milk. The mother will stand over the babies while they quickly find a teat and then flip over on their backs. Being on their backs helps with digestion.

FOR PHOTOS PLEASE VISIT THE 'PHOTOS' PAGE! THANK YOU!

 



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