Are you suspecting that your rabbit is pregnant? Unexpected pregnancies are quite common in unsterilised rabbit households due to incorrect sexing. It is very difficult to tell male from female in young rabbits after all. This incorrect pairing can lead to unexpected pregnancies, especially if you planned on getting a same-sex pair.
Before you start worrying about how to care for a pregnant rabbit, let’s make sure that she is actually pregnant.
Rabbits can breed from a very young age. If you have a dwarf or small breed rabbit, you can expect your bunny to be sexually mature at around three and a half to five months old. In large or giant breeds it can take anywhere from five to eight months to reach sexual maturity.
If your bunny is already sexually mature and you expect that she’s pregnant, look for the following signs:
You might not be aware that your rabbit is pregnant until a few days before she gives birth unless you’ve seen the mating. Most bunnies hide their pregnancies very well and none of the signs may be present at first. If you notice any sudden behavioural changes like pulling fur and creating a nest, you might need to prepare for some rabbit babies on the way.
It is possible for female rabbits to have fake or pseudopregnancies. This means that she will display all the signs of being pregnant and even build a nest, but the babies will never arrive. You’re most likely dealing with a fake pregnancy if all your rabbits are definitely female or your male is sterilised.
If you suspect your rabbit is pregnant but you’re not sure how that could’ve happened, you can take your cotton-tailed friend to the vet for an examination. If she’s around 10 to 14 days pregnant, the vet should be able to identify the babies with an ultrasound or by palpating her abdomen. The vet should also be able to tell if it’s a pseudopregnancy. Pseudopregnancies will usually only last two to three weeks before she'll be back to normal behaviour.
Collecting Nest Material by Mark Philpott
Caring for a mother-to-be really isn’t that different from normal rabbit care. You will need to make sure she always has access to fresh, clean water and good quality hay. Once she reaches the end of her pregnancy, you will need to provide an appropriate nesting box with ample straw to build a nest with. Also, make sure to separate her from the male since he’ll try to mate with her immediately after she gave birth and may even kill his offspring.
Preparing for the birth of your new baby rabbits isn’t difficult. You will need to give the mother an appropriate nesting box about seven days before her due date to prepare a suitable nest. Also, give her plenty of hay or straw to build a nest with.
New mothers will usually build their own nests and pull fur from their sides, chests and dewlaps to line the nest with. This fur is very important for keeping the babies warm. If the mother doesn’t pull fur, you will have to hold her and pull her fur or substitute with an appropriate material like cotton wool.
The rest is really up to the new mom-to-be. On the day of the birth, make sure to leave her alone. You can check that all the babies are alive, but don’t touch them unless it's an emergency.
A rabbit pregnancy usually lasts for 28 to 32 days regardless of breed. After birth, the mom will rarely if ever be seen near her young. This is normal since rabbits only feed their kits once or twice a day.
You can expect around four or five kits (baby rabbits) from your small breed rabbit and 12 or more from your large breed rabbits. If you want to know more about caring for baby rabbits, click here.
If your rabbit is pregnant, you can expect quite a few babies to arrive. Make sure you’re prepared to care for these little cuties and their mom. It can be quite fun to build your own nesting box if you like doing DIY projects.
If you’re not a registered breeder, make sure to get both your rabbits fixed before any more breeding takes place. There are loads of rabbits in shelters and I’m sure you don’t want to contribute to that number.
Remember to enjoy this miracle with your bunnies. Seeing baby rabbits is quite a sight to behold.