Rabbits, similar to larger pets like cats and dogs, are extremely loving and caring animals, creating unique bonds with their owners. However, you might want to stay away from female rabbits during their 28-35 days of pregnancy, as per our recent post suggests, to avoid dealing with sensitive and overprotective mothers.
Rabbits are wonderful pets, suitable for both children and adults. Depending on the breed and the environment they grow up in, they can live between 7 and 9 years, and, sometimes, even longer. These small, furry, and adorable creatures will certainly fill your house with joy, laughter, and lots of babies throughout their lives. If you own a pair of bunnies and you suspect the female might be pregnant, here is what to expect.
General rabbit gestation information
Female rabbits or does are ready to mate 12-16 weeks after they are born and they can continue to have babies up until the age of four years. Male rabbits will show signs of sexual development a bit faster than females and are expected to mate until the age of seven years old.
Unlike most other animals, rabbits don’t have a designated mating season, meaning the female can get pregnant throughout the year. Therefore, you might want to keep the pair separated if you don’t want hundreds of baby rabbits to look after in just a few years. If you’re not looking to start a business with your bunnies, you should also consider neutering them.
Generally speaking, the gestation period for female rabbits is around 31 days but you should expect a litter of bunnies anywhere between 28 and 33 days. A litter can have anywhere between 3 and 12 bunnies but not all will survive.
What are the most common signs of pregnancy?
Not all female rabbits will show signs of pregnancy in the first two weeks, so you need to pay attention to any symptoms and monitor the weight of your bunny every other day. However, like most other mammals, the rabbit’s belly will increase in size as the babies grow inside, so weight gain is the most obvious sign of pregnancy.
Female rabbits may also show a bigger appetite, while some others may feel cranky, moody, and even a bit aggressive. Mood swings are common in all mammals, including humans, so you should take a closer look at your pet’s personality.
If she is unusually tired and sleepy, she might just need to rest more to remain healthy during the pregnancy. Some bunnies are naturally unfriendly and won’t allow you to pet them too often, so you won’t be able to tell if they are pregnant in the first week.
10-12 days after breeding, you will be able to feel various marble-sized bumps inside your rabbit’s belly, sign that she is pregnant. As we previously mentioned, the general gestation period is 31 days, so if your bunny didn’t deliver 33-35 days after breeding, you should take her to a vet to monitor the pregnancy and make sure everything is alright.
About one week before giving birth, the future rabbit mom will exhibit strong signs of nesting behavior. In other words, you will see her piling up bedding or digging into a corner of the cage or the hut. You will also see her taking hay or any other materials she can carry in her mouth, including bedding or plush blankets, to create a comfortable and safe space to deliver.
Another sign of a nesting rabbit is that the mother will pull out her fur, so you shouldn’t be worried if this happens.
According to specialists, if a rabbit is nesting, you should expect a new litter within a week and, if the future mom is pulling her fur out, you should be ready for babies in 1-2 days. Keep in mind that rabbits are mainly nocturnal animals, so it should come as no surprise that the new mom will deliver the babies during the night.
Looking after a pregnant rabbit
As with all new mothers, you should expect your rabbit to be moody and even show signs of aggression. Therefore, it would be best to leave her be and avoid taking her out of the cage or pet her if she doesn’t want it.
Some animals will find comfort in the hands of their owners, while others will prefer being alone, so keep an eye on your pet’s personality and avoid any sudden moves around her, especially during the nesting period.
Make sure the animal has plenty of food and freshwater, as well as some nutritious and delicious snacks, including fresh fruits and veggies. Apart from that, you will also want to make the nest as comfortable as possible.
Keep in mind that one litter can count for up to 14 baby rabbits, meaning that the nest should be spacious enough for the mother and the babies. If you don’t plan on giving them for adoption anytime soon, the rabbits will also need their own huts once they are weaned.
Another thing to take into account is the safety of the mother, and this starts with keeping proper hygiene. Make sure the nest and the cage are always clean to avoid any bacteria that can cause health problems to the mother rabbit or the babies.
For that, we recommend using a cat litter pan as a nest box which you can fill with hay or any type of rabbit bedding.
The great advantage of litter pans is that they can be easily cleaned, washed, and sanitized while they also provide enough space for the adult rabbit and newborns to sleep, eat, and stretch their paws. You can also opt for wooden or plastic boxes with easy-access doors but they aren’t as easy to clean as cat litter boxes.
What to feed your pregnant rabbit?
Keep in mind that the mother is also eating to provide the babies with necessary nutrients and vitamins for proper development, meaning you should pay close attention to your pet’s diet during her pregnancy and nursing time.
Expect the pregnant rabbit to consume more food, including both dry and wet food. Alfalfa hay and fresh veggies should be offered at all times to help with the digestive system and prevent soft stools. If your pet is not used to alfalfa, you should try to gradually switch from grass hay to it before or during the rabbit’s gestation time.
As we previously mentioned, rabbits should also be provided with delicious and organic snacks, and plenty of chewing and edible toys. There are various safe fruits that can be offered to your pet to add more vitamins and minerals and support a healthy pregnancy.
Berries are rich in vitamin C and natural antioxidants, while pineapple, watermelon, bananas, and seedless apples can be offered as occasional treats. You can also opt for dry fruits, including figs, raisins, and dates, as long as they don’t contain any added sugars.
Looking after the newborns
There is a common misconception amongst rabbit lovers that once you touch a newborn, the mother won’t recognize it by the scent anymore and will, most likely, abandon the baby. However, this is not true, especially when we’re talking about domestic breeds that are used to people, their presence, and their smell.
Nonetheless, rabbits won’t require your assistance after giving birth so, unless you notice something out of the ordinary, you should just give the new mother and the babies some space in the first week. Babies will nurse from their mother once a day, usually during the night, for 3-4 weeks before being weaned.
Giving birth to too many babies can be exhausting for the mother and the newborns, so you should keep an eye on them and make sure they are all nursing. If one of the babies isn’t gaining enough weight or seems to have a late development, you might want to talk to a veterinarian and see if you should feed it special formula.
Apart from that, keep in mind that babies are fragile and should be handled carefully. They shouldn’t be fed solid food until about one month after their birth and should be kept in warm places, preferably huts or houses that are sheltered from direct sunlight exposure, wind, rain, and cold temperatures.