Finding your bun’s new litter of kits (baby rabbits) “buried” in their nest box can be disturbing. This is a mother rabbit’s way of protecting and hiding their young. Clearing the sand and nesting material off them, you might come across a dead kit.
So will a momma rabbit remove a dead baby from the nest, or should you intervene?
In general, a female rabbit will remove a dead kit from the nest by eating them. This ensures the litter and her survival, and it’s based on her survival instincts. Leaving the dead baby rabbit to decay will attract predators. Rabbits don’t move their young around and she may also ignore the dead baby.
This detailed guide will give you all the information you’ll need to handle a dead bunny in the nest.
What Do Rabbits Do If a Baby Dies?
Let’s take a closer look at what rabbits do if a baby rabbit dies:
Eat the Dead Kit
If a mother rabbit finds a dead baby in the nest, she’ll likely eat the baby so that predators aren’t drawn to the nest box by the smell.
It may shock most bunny owners when they notice the mother doesn’t seem troubled or sad about the kit’s passing.
This is a normal occurrence for rabbits. Your bun is a prey animal, and it must ensure its survival at any cost.
Ignore the Dead Kit
Sometimes, a mother rabbit will simply ignore the dead kit. This often happens to inexperienced and young (under 6 months) mother rabbits. This isn’t good for the remaining kits or the doe (female rabbit).
If the dead kit is left for days to rot, it will cause the spread of disease to the mother and the remaining kits in the litter.
The decaying kit will attract flies that lay eggs and cause fly strikes and the growth of other bacteria, which is deadly for rabbits.
Bury the Dead Kit
Inexperienced mother rabbits will “bury” their dead kit by kicking hay, grass, or bedding material over them.
They may also cover them in the sand if they have a digging box. This is very rare, as it will attract predators (which goes against their survival instinct).
Should You Remove a Dead Bunny From the Nest?
If you find dead baby rabbits in the nest, you must remove them immediately for the following reasons:
- The dead kit will decay and cause bacteria to grow in the nest. Flies will also be attracted to the decaying body and lay eggs in the dead and remaining kits.
- The mother rabbit may become confused and distressed because the kit isn’t moving or responding.
- Removing the dead kit will also help her concentrate on feeding the remaining kits in the nest.
- The smell of the decaying kit can attract predators and even rodents, such as rats, that will not hesitate to eat the dead kit. Rats are also known to attack and eat kits and smaller bunnies.
How to Remove a Dead Baby Rabbit From the Nest
Remember, even though the mother rabbit doesn’t show much emotion when her kit dies, she is still very protective over her litter. They may growl at you or even try to nip you if you come too close.
If you find a dead bunny in the nest, follow these steps to remove the corpse safely:
1. If the mother is stressed or jittery, wait for her to leave the nest. Offer her a treat as a distraction to coax her away from the nest.
2. Make sure the kit is dead by:
- Placing a finger in front of the kit’s nose and mouth to check if they’re breathing.
- Generally, rabbits empty their bowel when they pass on. Check if there is any sign of sudden defecation.
- Check for a pulse, which is done by placing a finger on the inner thigh (above the femoral artery). This can be difficult due to the small size of the kit.
3. To avoid contamination (as you may not know the cause of the kit’s death), it’s best to wear gloves when removing the kit’s body from the nest.
Depending on the laws in your area, you have a few options for disposal of the corpse such as:
- Composting: Dig a 2 to 3 ft hole in your garden, fill it with mulch, and place the kit’s body in the hole. Cover the hole with 4 ft of mulch to form a cone shape.
- Garbage disposal: You’ll need to check with your local refuse collector if you can dispose of a rabbit’s body this way.
- Cremation: You can talk to a local provider if you want the kit to be cremated. However, this will be costly.
Do Rabbits Mourn Their Dead Babies?
Your bun doesn’t usually mourn for its offspring when they die. Rabbits do experience different emotions, such as happiness, sadness, and grief.
A rabbit is more likely to mourn the loss of a bonded partner than their kits.
Here are a few reasons why rabbits don’t mourn their dead babies:
- A mother rabbit sometimes eats her offspring for different reasons, which shows they don’t mourn their dead babies.
- Baby bunnies have an extremely low survival rate as their prey animals. Therefore, they don’t get attached.
- Mother rabbits only spend around 5 minutes with their kits a day. They feed them in the morning and evening. This means there is no bonding time.
My Last Bunny Thoughts
Rabbits love to groom one another and are very affectionate animals. So it does come as quite a surprise when your floppy-eared friend shows no emotion toward her dead offspring. Keep in mind that rabbits breed for their survival as they’re prey animals.
Mother rabbits don’t bond with their young, as the chances are very high that some of the kits won’t survive.
If you notice a dead baby bunny in the nest, ensure they’re dead. Some rabbits lie very still in freezing weather.
One of the best ways to dispose of a kit’s body is to compost them. Composting dead rabbits are the most eco-friendly option and enrich the soil.