Why do male rabbits eat their young
Rabbits: pregnancy, parturition and pups care
A rabbit litter can contain anywhere from 2 to 12 cubs. Smaller breeds tend to have smaller litters and larger breeds correspondingly larger ones. As soon as the suckling period is over, the females can become pregnant again. Therefore, after a short time, you may have more animals than you would like! Read our article on the benefits of neutering your rabbit.
Female rabbits reach sexual maturity around 6 months of age. Some also develop faster and can become pregnant as early as 4 months of age. Larger and giant breeds, on the other hand, only reach sexual maturity later, at around 12 months.
Rabbits ready to mate are very active. The female lets the male know that she is interested in reproduction by lowering and flattening her back (lordosis), raising her pelvis, and showing her vulvar area. This is usually puffy and purple in color. In addition, female animals tense their bodies when touched in order to prepare for a possible climb. Since temperature and the daylight cycle affect the reproduction of rabbits, they become pregnant especially in spring. However, this is not always the case when it is kept indoors, as these influences are absent.
The average gestation period for a rabbit is usually 30-32 days. Sometimes a pregnant female can reabsorb the fetuses between days 11 and 21 of gestation.
Feeding during pregnancy and lactation
The female should be optimally fed before, during and after pregnancy. In addition to the usual hay, you can offer alfalfa hay and pellets. For more information, see our article on rabbit diets.
Changes before and during childbirth
Female rabbits build a nest on the day of birth or a few days earlier. They usually do this using hay, straw, and fur. The latter mostly comes from her belly, sides and dewlap. You will notice that their fur loosens or is easy to pull off up to 5 days before birth. Make sure there is a quiet area, ideally a covered box, available for nest building.
Most rabbits shed early in the morning. The actual birth takes about 30 minutes in total. The mother animal cleans her young, eats the placenta and usually cuts the umbilical cord independently. In addition, she will continue to pick up postnatal material up to 5 days later.
Female rabbits suckle once a day, mostly overnight. The suckling period lasts about 5 minutes in total. They have 4 mammary glands, but there can be more teats to feed all of the offspring. The youngsters consume up to 20% of their body weight in milk each time they are fed!
Baby rabbits bury themselves deep in the nest after feeding. So it's normal that you don't see the boys often at first. The young animals begin to nibble on their nest around 1 week old until after another week there is little left of it. At 2.5 to 3 weeks, the young increasingly go on a discovery tour and begin to eat hay.
From the 4th week of life you are completely on your own! Make sure that the young animals from the 3rd week of life always have access to fresh water. Water should always be available for the mother too. Make sure to attach the water bottle further down the enclosure so that the young animals can reach it.
At around 1.5 weeks of age, the young begin to ingest their mother's feces. This is necessary in order to build up the physiological germ flora of the gastrointestinal tract.
The ears of the young animals are functional about 7 days after birth. Their eyes don't open until they are 10 days old.
Why can't you see the young are being suckled?
Be aware that the pups typically only suckle once every 24 hours for 3 to 5 minutes, and this usually at night between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. Few people watch their rabbits at this time. The mother may be a little inexperienced with her first litter, so you should check the pups' weight every day if possible (again, this can be difficult if they are buried in the nest and only leave it to feed once a day). If necessary, you can place a camera near the nest to monitor activity and suckling. This gives the small family the privacy and peace they need.
There are several instructions for making rabbit milk substitutes. Often a base of cat or dog milk substitute is supplemented with various ingredients. Be sure to talk to us or your vet about the need for supplementary feeding and suitable recipes and instructions for tube or syringe feeding.
Baby rabbits found in the wild are rarely "abandoned". The mother is mostly just looking for food and keeps her nest hidden by not staying in the immediate vicinity. It's best to leave these baby rabbits alone. Mother animals are annoyed when their young smells of another "animal". You could attack or even kill your baby as a result.
Tips on keeping rabbits
Rabbit Guide: Which Plants Are Poisonous and Which Are Not?
Are rabbits suitable pets?
Do you have any other questions about your rabbit's health?
Schedule a video consultation to speak to one of our veterinarians.
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