Baby rabbit care is a skill some rabbit owners need to learn quite unexpectedly. These little critters may surprise you by appearing in your rabbit hutch seemingly overnight. This is especially true if you're an owner of an unsterilized female or two.
Baby rabbits are called kits. They can come along if you have an unsterilised male and female pair or a misidentified male or female bunny that turns out to be of the other sex.
No matter how it happened, the babies are on the way or already here and you urgently need some baby rabbit care tips! Caring for these little balls of cuteness is now your main concern after all.
To bring your stress levels down a notch, let’s take a look at what you need to know to care for baby rabbits.
The first thing you’ll have to do is make sure mommy rabbit has a comfortable, safe place to have her babies. If you know the date she was mated, you can work out when she’ll need the nest. It is always a good idea to let her prepare the nest around 7 days before she is due. If you’re unsure, provide a nest as soon as she becomes restless.
Rabbits have a gestation period of 28 to 32 days regardless of breed size. This means that your rabbit will be pregnant for only a month before the babies arrive! Just before she's due she'll gather grass in her mouth to nest with. She'll also pull out the fur on her chest so don't panic when you see her plucking her own fur.
The nesting box size will depend on the size of the breed of rabbit you own. You can either build a nesting box yourself by searching for DIY rabbit nesting boxes, buy one on Amazon, or you can use something simple like a carton box with an entrance cut out just big enough for mommy to get in and out. (Keep in mind that you’ll probably have to disturb the babies every day to replace the carton box as it gets soggy.)
The nesting box should have a slight step to prevent the babies from getting out before they’re ready but still allow mom into the nest for feeding.
Once the nesting box is ready, provide lots of hay for your doe (female rabbit) to nest with and don’t panic if she starts pulling out her fur. Mother’s to be will arrange the hay to their liking and then line the nest with fur to keep the babies warm. This fur will usually come from her chest area and flanks.
If you notice that your bunny has built a nest but hasn’t lined it with fur after the babies are born, you can help her out by either holding her and pulling more fur for her to line the nest with or providing cotton wool to keep the babies warm. Make sure that the cotton wool or other material you provide as an alternative, isn’t stringy since such materials may be dangerous.
So you’ve given mom everything she needs to prepare for her babies, but what about your buck (male rabbit)? If you have an unsterilised buck, make sure you remove your male from the picture. Consider getting him fixed while your female raises the babies unless you’re a registered breeder.
It is very important to separate the male and female unless you want more babies in a month. Does can breed again even on the day they give birth! Doing so is unethical though, she at least deserves a little break before you plan to breed her again. Experts suggest that you wait 35 days to breed again.
In my opinion, there are enough rabbits in the world, so unless you have a specific reason to breed, just get your pets fixed.
If you’ve given mommy a nesting box and made sure she pulled enough fur to keep the babies warm, then the rest is up to her. All you can do on the day the babies are born is watch from a distance. If you interfere the mom might reject the babies or even eat them.
Make sure to avoid touching the babies until they are about 3 weeks old unless it’s an emergency. You can check on them to make sure they stay in the nesting box and that they’ve been fed. Their bellies will appear extended if they are full of milk.
If you find a baby outside of the nesting box, gently warm it in your hands if it is cold and then place it back into the nesting box with the others. Keep an eye to make sure the baby stays in the box.
If your doe gave birth in mid-winter, you can use a reptile heating pad to keep the nest toasty. The babies need to be able to move away from the heat if they want to.
Owners of new mother rabbits usually worry if the babies are being fed because they rarely if ever see mom near the kits. This is normal since rabbits kept some of the behaviours of their wild European ancestors. They will usually stay a good distance from the nest to keep the babies safe from predators, but they’ll still be watching.
The doe will usually only feed her young under the cover of darkness when she feels safe. The babies also only get fed once or twice a day, unlike puppies and kittens that need to be fed every two hours. Rabbit moms are very rarely seen with their kits.
Sparrow and babies by bonny_jean13
There's usually no need to worry, but you can check if the babies have full bellies. They will appear round and plump if they were fed and skinny when not fed. You can also keep an eye on the mom to see if she gets into the nesting box at least once a day. If the babies scatter around the cage or nesting area often, there is some cause for concern since they might be missing feedings.
You will need to make sure the babies are warm and then place them back into their nest. It might be necessary to upgrade the nest to prevent the babies from getting out.
Another way to check is to see if the mom is lactating. You will need to place your doe with her belly facing up on your lap. Find and then gently squeeze her nipple to see if any milk comes out. If you see a drop of milk, she’s definitely feeding her babies. If you can't seem to figure it out, take her and her babies to the vet for a checkup.
The vet will usually give the mom an estrogen shot to encourage motherly behaviour and lactation. In some cases, you will need to force the mom to feed her babies by holding her in a standing position over them. If that doesn’t work, you can either foster them with another rabbit mom (if you have one) or try to raise them yourself (not recommended).
Hand-rearing is not recommended when it comes to taking care of newborn baby rabbits. It is always better to attempt placing them with another lactating mother if you have two does that gave birth around the same time. If you don’t have another doe, you can attempt hand-rearing if it’s an absolute emergency.
Baby bunnies can be raised by feeding them goats milk or kitten formula. Before you attempt this, however, contact a veterinarian that has some knowledge of rabbits for advice. If it’s a wild rabbit you’re trying to save, first make absolutely sure that the mom isn’t close by feeding the baby at night.
Rabbit’s milk contains a lot of calories because the babies only get to feed once or twice a day. For this reason, it is a good idea to add 100% heavy whipping cream (make sure there’s no sugar added) to the kitten formula or goats milk.
It is very important to let the baby drink by itself. Force-feeding comes with the risk of aspiration (inhaling the milk). Use a syringe with a special nipple to allow the baby to drink. This way you can also track the amount.
Once the eyes are open and the babies are starting to explore adult food, you will need to feed them some of your adult rabbit’s cecotropes.
Cecotropes are the first soft, gell-like poos that a rabbit eats before making its usual round, dry poos. The cecotropes are very important since they contain healthy bacteria and nutrients that the babies will need to help them to develop the correct flora in their digestive systems.
Cecotropes are also excellent for treating weanlings with diarrhea. If the baby refuses to eat, mix two or three cecotrope pellets into the formula to feed the baby.
Baby rabbits will begin to eat solid foods when their eyes open at around 10 days old. Never try to feed them solid food before their eyes aren’t properly open. The babies will usually start to become curious and nibble on the hay in their nest when they are around 2 to 3 weeks old.
Just because the babies are eating doesn't mean you can wean them. Mommy rabbit will wean her young when they are around 6 weeks old or even older. She will gradually decrease feedings until they lose interest. Make sure you give her ample space to escape her babies during this stage.
For this reason, you should never force a baby rabbit to leave mom before it’s 8 weeks old. This is especially important in giant breeds. Rabbits under the age of three months should also never be fed any fruit or vegetables. It is best to give the babies access to unlimited hay. I would also suggest healthy, balanced rabbit food like rabbits pellets for vitamins and other nutrients.
It is best to avoid muesli, even in adult rabbits since it can cause digestive problems. Rather keep to rabbit pellets. These pellets are usually either made from timothy hay or lucerne. If you’re wondering about feeding your adult rabbits, you can check out our article on ‘How To Feed Your Rabbit’.
It is best to leave the nest alone and keep an eye from a distance. You should see mommy rabbit returning sometime during the night to feed her babies.
Baby rabbits should never be separated from their mother before they are at least 8 weeks old. This is very important in giant breeds since they mature much slower than dwarf breeds.
Baby rabbits are very fragile. It is best to leave them to their mom until they are around 3 weeks old. Rabbit babies of 3 weeks and older can be petted and gently handled.
Now that you know a bit more about baby rabbit care, you can finally relax a bit. Mommy rabbit should take care of most of the duties involved. All you have to do is provide a nesting area, nesting material, lots of food, fresh water and peace and quiet.
Keep an eye from a distance. If you notice any problems you can jump in to help. For more advice or if you have more questions, don't hesitate to comment below. I'll get back to you as soon as possible.