The baby rabbits are nest stools, which means that they are born blind, naked and defenseless and spend the early days snuggled together in the warm nest. Rabbit owners often do not even notice the birth itself, as the mother usually gives birth to her young at night or in the early morning.
This baby rabbit is already a few weeks old; baby rabbits are born blind and naked as nest stools – Shutterstock / Sue McDonald
Pregnancy is also quite inconspicuous in rabbits, as they do not become spherical like guinea pigs, but remain relatively slim. However, the behavior of the mother-to-be can give you a few clues as to the upcoming birth of the baby rabbits.
Nest building: mother rabbit prepares birth
In general, if you keep an unneutered buck and an unneutered doe together, you must always expect the female to have baby rabbits. In total, the rabbits are pregnant for between 28 and 33 days. You may notice during this time that your female rabbit is more repellent and “bitchy” than usual. About ten days before the birth, the long-eared rabbits start building their nest, which means they look for a quiet corner in the stall and build one out of straw and hay cozy trough and pluck out fur to pad the nest warm and soft.
Important! Your expectant rabbit mother now needs your help so that she can calmly prepare for the arrival of the baby rabbits. Separate the sexually mature, unneutered bucks from the female – otherwise she may become pregnant again immediately after birth, which would be a huge burden and could even kill her. Ten days before the expected date of birth, it is best to clean the hutch thoroughly again and give the rabbit fresh straw and hay so that she has enough nesting material. It is best to have a stable that you can open from above so that you can check that everything is in order with as little stress as possible. Alternatively, you can set up a cozy whelping box for your rabbit to build its nest in.
Baby rabbits are born blind and without fur
A litter usually consists of four to ten young animals, but there can also be fewer. Baby rabbits have their eyes shut tight and not a single hair sprouts on their skin when they are born. It is therefore essential for their survival that they stay in the warm nest and that the siblings can keep each other warm. If they accidentally tumble out of the nest, they cool down quickly. Count the baby rabbits once they are born so they will know if one is missing. Carefully put baby rabbits that have fallen out back into the nest. You can recognize healthy young by the fact that they lie snuggled up against each other in their warm nursery and have well-filled tummies.
Don’t be surprised if you never or only rarely see the mother with her offspring, she usually nurses her baby rabbits only once or twice a day, and mostly at night. This is because wild rabbits will do everything they can to keep predators unnoticed in the burrow with their young. For example, the wild rabbit mother locks the entrance to the burrow so that no one can find it and returns at moments that are as unobserved as possible to nurse her little ones briefly. Also, she ignores where the nest is so as not to draw attention to it. Immediately after birth, the rabbit cuts the umbilical cord from her babies, eats the membrane and the afterbirth and licks the little ones dry. This process also stimulates the baby rabbits’ circulation and the mother-child bond develops.
This is how baby rabbits develop in the first few weeks
After about three days, the fur of the baby rabbits gradually grows and you can see the outlines of their markings. About a week later, at ten to twelve days, the baby’s fur has grown thick and the little ones open their eyes. As soon as the baby rabbits can see something, they slowly begin to explore their immediate surroundings with curiosity. However, they only dare to go on longer trips when they are three to four weeks old. At that age they are real whirlwinds, playing and happily romping around with their little siblings. So that the mother can meet her need for rest in between, you should offer her a raised place or a separate house. At this age, the mini-munchers are already beginning to taste solid food. Sometimes the fur sweethearts have already been weaned by then, but it can also be the case that they are still suckled up to the eighth or tenth week.
Although rabbit children are usually independent at the age of six to eight weeks, they should stay with their mother and their usual group of rabbits for four to six weeks longer in order to learn the social behavior of the cuddleheads. In the case of small bucks, early castration between the eighth and twelfth week of life is recommended in order to avoid unwanted offspring and inbreeding.
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