Walking in to greet your bunny in the morning brightens anyone’s day. However, finding that you have suddenly become the proud owner of an additional 13 baby bunnies can be quite a shock.
So how are rabbits born?
A doe (female rabbit) has a gestation (pregnancy) period of between 28 and 33 days. Contractions will start when she is ready to kindle (give birth). One doe can have up to 15 babies (kits) per litter. The kits are born with their ears and eyes sealed shut and completely hairless.
If you’d like to know more about rabbits giving birth, this guide has all the information you need.
Signs That Your Rabbit Is Pregnant
If your intact female rabbit is around 12 weeks old (or older) and has been with an intact male (between the age of 3 to 6 months, or older), then the chances are very high that your bun is pregnant.
Look out for these obvious signs if you suspect your bun is pregnant:
Start weighing your bunny (preferably before she eats) when you become the proud owner of a pet bun. Regularly record her weight. If she is pregnant, you should notice a difference in her weight.
Using a digital scale is the most accurate way to monitor weight gain during a rabbit pregnancy, as rabbits only pick up a few ounces of weight initially.
Sudden Mood Changes
One of the more obvious signs of pregnancy in rabbits is when your sweet bun suddenly becomes moody and aggressive. The increased pregnancy hormones can cause your bun’s mood to change drastically.
She might not want you to pick her up or cuddle her and may even growl or nip you to get the point across. Your doe will also take her frustrations out on the buck (male rabbit) if he is in the living environment with her.
It’s important to be gentle and patient with her at this time. Avoid picking her up, as this is probably quite uncomfortable with her growing belly.
Nodules in Her Stomach
If you stroke your bun’s stomach (if the doe will let you, that is), you’ll be able to feel pea-sized nodules (at around 10 days). These nodules are her kits, and they should be pretty noticeable. You mustn’t push too hard as you can hurt the growing baby bunnies.
Don’t press on her tummy after two weeks, as you can cause complications, and it’s best to allow the vet to examine your bun.
She Begins Nesting
About a week before your bun is ready to kindle (give birth), she will start digging and gathering hay to prepare a nest for her kits. She will also pull out her fur to make a soft “blanket” for the babies.
Provide your bun with extra hay so she can make a suitable nest. If you notice bald spots on your bun, this is entirely normal and indicates that she is close to giving birth to her litter.
How Long Is a Rabbit in Labor?
When your bun is in labor, the process is called kindling or parturition. Kindling typically lasts between 15 and 30 minutes. This depends on the size of the doe as well as the size of her litter.
Rabbits usually kindle their litter in the early morning hours when it’s quiet and they can’t be disturbed. Let’s take a look at some signs that your doe is in labor:
- She will stop eating
- You may notice blood on the bedding of the nest
- She will start pulling out more fur
- She appears restless
If your bun is in labor for more than 24 hours, you will need to get her to the vet immediately, as some of the kits will be stillborn (born dead).
How to Help Your Rabbit During Labor
Let’s take a look at a few ways that you can help your rabbit during labor:
- When you notice your bun starting to nest, provide her with a nest box to help keep her newborn rabbits safely together and warm.
- Separate the male from the enclosure so that she can kindle in peace.
- Let your doe hop around for some exercise to help bring on labor.
- Once she has kindled the litter, don’t remove the placenta as she needs to eat this for extra nutrients to create milk for the kits.
- Provide her with some water and food to regain her strength.
- Keep the nest box clean to avoid any growth of bacteria.
How Does a Rabbit Give Birth?
Around 12 hours before the kindling begins, your bun will start pacing around her living environment. She will begin to pull out more fur from her belly, sides, and dewlap (flap of skin under her chin).
She will rustle around in her nest box as the contractions begin. Most rabbits kindle their kits one after another with a minute or two between them. For some bunnies, it can take an hour before the next baby bunny is born.
If your rabbit is still stressed and it’s been more than 12 hours since the last newborn baby bunny was born, there’s a chance the kit is stuck. You’ll need to seek veterinary advice urgently. Once the kits are born, she will clean them and chew off the umbilical cord.
The doe will eat the placenta and ingest the afterbirth for up to 5 days after kindling her litter.
Here are some baby bunny facts:
- Baby bunnies will drink their mother’s milk for the first month to get strong.
- Domestic baby rabbits are born furless with their ears and eyes sealed shut. They are dependent on their mother for survival. Baby hares’ (leverets) are born with open eyes and are covered in fur.
My Last Bunny Thoughts
Rabbits are pretty good at keeping their pregnancy a secret until the last moment. If you have a sexually mature doe and an intact buck, the chances are high that you can expect some cute additions to the family.
Spending time with your rabbit will help you pick up when something has changed in her normal behavior and routine. If your bun is pregnant, you must provide her with a healthy and balanced diet and separate the male from the hutch to prevent a double pregnancy.
The House Rabbit Society is a non-profit organization that is an excellent source of information when your bun is pregnant and going through labor. They also adopt litters that need a home.