How to properly care for a pregnant rabbit and her litter

Last Updated on June 12, 2024 by Admin

Rabbits are normally reproductive at around 3 to 6 months old. Their gestation period is around 31 days and their litter size ranges between 2 to 12 kits. In other words, proper care for a pregnant rabbit and her litter needs time and dedication. It entails providing them with a conducive living space as well as monitoring their health and behavior during and post-pregnancy.


 How to tell if your rabbit is pregnant

Detecting pregnancy in rabbits can be difficult for first-time owners. However, if you’re keen, you’ll likely pick up on some of the tell-tale signs listed below.

  • Nesting behaviors: Towards the end of a Does pregnancy, they’re likely to build a nest by pulling their fur out. This normally fur plucked from their chest and dewlaps, in addition to using hay or straw for keeping their expected kits warm.


  • Increased appetite and weight gain: A pregnant Doe is most likely to eat twice as much as well as increase her weight towards the end of gestation.


  • Aggressive and territorial behavior: A pregnant rabbit may suddenly start acting aggressively or marking their territory by being defensive. They may also get grumpy or growl at you whenever you try to pet or interact with them.


  • Digging: Sometimes pregnant Does end up digging instinctively around their enclosure. This behavior normally mimics the burrows they dig in the wild when they’re expectant.


  • Feel the rabbit’s belly: Lastly, you can also know whether a rabbit is pregnant by gently placing your hand underneath their stomach. Small lumps around your doe’s abdomen, are a clear indicator of fetuses and a confirmation that they’re about to conceive.


 What about false pregnancy?

Pseudo or false pregnancy is when a doe displays signs of pregnancy without the development of an embryo or fetus. False pregnancy lasts on average 16 to 18 days after ovulation. This may happen when one doe mounts another or a neutered male mounts a doe and sexually stimulates it. Stress is also another factor that may also lead to bunny ovulation out of fear. Although spaying doesn’t entirely prevent false pregnancy, it helps minimize a female rabbit’s hormones as a result reducing phantom pregnancy cases. If you’re uncertain whether your bunny is expectant or not, taking them to a vet is always the surest way of finding out.


Doe care during pregnancy


  • Provide a healthy diet

Feed your pregnant doe with a high fiber and low-calorie diet to help in the development of her litter. Your rabbit’s diet should primarily consist of hay, substituted with veggies and a small amount of pellets. It’s always advisable to maintain the same quantity of feed for your doe during pregnancy. This helps prevent your rabbits from being obese as well as minimize complications during birth, such as overgrown fetuses. Lastly, besides a balanced diet, does also need 24/7 access to clean water. This helps keep them hydrated during pregnancy where they need to drink more water, to support the developing fetuses.

  • Create a comfortable and safe environment

Considering that a doe can give birth to 12 kits, during delivery, it’s always advisable to make sure that they’re living space is conducive and accommodative. Their living area should be a large pen or spacious hutch to allow her kits to move around.

On of being spacious make sure that their living area is in a quiet and private location with dim lighting. The other thing you need to consider is setting up a nest box filled with hay inside your doe’s enclosure. A cardboard box or wooden crate filled with 4 inches of soft hay, placed at your rabbit’s favorite corner is always recommended. This will keep the kits warm and comfortable which is essential for their survival. Also, make sure that the wooden crate or cardboard box has an entry-level that’s low enough to allow your doe to easily go in and out.


Regularly cleaning your pregnant rabbit’s enclosure is also something that you need to consider. Before your doe gives birth always be prepared to keep their living area clean. Replace their nesting at least every 3 days. Make it more often especially if your doe has a tendency to poop a lot in her nesting box. When cleaning use vinegar and warm water. Avoid cleaning with chemical disinfectants or chemical cleaners as these are likely to cause digestive or respiratory issues for your kits.


Lastly, if you’re housing many bunnies together, it’s always advisable to separate any does you suspect might be pregnant. This is mainly to prevent other bunnies from showing aggression to newly born kits.


  • Monitor the pregnancy

During your bunny’s pregnancy, it’s important to ensure that both the doe and her litter are healthy. One way of effectively monitoring your doe’s pregnancy is through regular veterinarian visits. Alternatively, you can also look out for anomalies in your rabbit’s behavior or physical state.  Some of the signs to look out for include changes in your rabbit’s activity level, appetite, or signs of distress.  If there are any abnormalities during your rabbit’s pregnancy, consult your vet as soon as possible.


Doe care after giving birth


  • Separate the doe from the bucks after kindling

Since female rabbits can get pregnant within a few days after giving birth, separating them from males is always recommended. This will allow the mother to properly take care of her young ones. In other words, if you want them to reproduce, wait until the kits are four weeks old. At least by the time the second pregnancy is due, her current kits will be around 8 weeks old and can entirely survive on solid food.

It’s worth pointing out however that, when separating the males, place them in adjoined enclosures with chicken wire barriers. This prevents them from mating as well as keeps them safely bonded.


  • Increase your rabbit’s water intake


You’ll need to make sure that your doe’s water bottle dish or bottle is always filled with fresh drinking water. This is mainly because lactating rabbits tend to drink a lot in order to produce enough milk for their nursing kits.


  • Let your rabbit exercise

It’s always advisable to let your doe exercise or stretch her legs for 30 minutes a couple of times per day. Allowing your bunny to free roam in a secure and secluded environment helps to provide her with mental and physical enrichment.


  • Be gentle when handling your doe

Avoid handling your bunny after giving birth unless it’s necessary like when it’s time to clean her enclosure or perhaps during a trip to the vet. When lifting her, gently hold the lower chest area slightly above her chest area. Use your other arm to support her hindquarters as you firmly but gently elevate your bunny, while supporting its entire body. Lastly, avoid applying too much pressure on your doe’s midsection while lifting or holding her.


How to properly care for newborn rabbits

Caring for kits requires gentle care considering how delicate they are. To minimize stress on the mother and her newborns, proper care is essential. Below are some of the various steps to take when it comes to taking care of kits.

  • Providing warmth and safety

Kits need to be kept warm and safe even when their mother is away from her nest. To attain this, you can use a special lamp or heating pad on the lowest setting, to provide your newborn rabbits with warmth. You can place the pad on one side of their nesting so that if it gets too warm, they can go to the cooler section of their enclosure. Additionally, make sure that their enclosure is secure and predator-proof.


  • Feeding the newborns

Kits are normally unable to eat solid food and will basically rely on their mother’s milk for nutrition. Feeding your doe, a balanced diet that consists of hay, preferably timothy substituted with fresh veggies and a small number of pellets is always recommended. Additionally, also monitor your newborn’s weight and health to make sure that they’re getting in milk.

Newborns that are properly suckling normally have a slightly plump belly as opposed to a sunken one when they’re malnourished or hungry. In the event that your kits are orphaned or abandoned, feed them around 4 to 5 ml of warm formula per serving, twice per day using a sterile syringe.  It’s worth pointing out that female rabbits normally leave their kits alone over long periods. This should therefore not be mistaken for abandonment, considering that does nurse their newborns once or twice, usually overnight.


  • Cleaning the nest box regularly

Keeping your newborn rabbit’s nest box clean is vital for their general health. Always ensure that it’s free from soiled bedding to prevent the buildup of bacteria that might affect the overall health of your bunny.


  • Handling kittens

Considering that newborn bunnies are very delicate, only handle them when necessary. This could be when cleaning their nesting and being gentle while doing so to minimize stressing or hurting the newborns. Lastly, in the unfortunate event that you find any of the newborns lifeless upon close inspection, take it out immediately and dispose of it away from your rabbit’s enclosure.


  • Separating kittens from their mother

Your doe normally weans her kits when they’re around 5 to 6 weeks old. However, to be safe, the best time to separate your kits is after 8 weeks. Place the kits in a separate enclosure away from their mother, not forgetting to also separate males from females within the litter. This will essentially prevent them from mating.

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