Petplan takes a look at the process of rabbit pregnancy, with tips and advice on how you can tell if your rabbit is pregnant.
When can rabbits mate?
Female rabbits (Does) can become pregnant when they are 12 weeks old and can continue to have babies up to the age of four years. Male rabbits (Bucks) can mate until they are seven years old.
Unlike most animals, rabbits can conceive at any time of year and for this reason, if you own unneutered bucks and does, you may want to keep them separate to avoid unwanted pregnancy or consider neutering your rabbits.
Rabbit pregnancy symptoms
There are a few ways you can tell if your rabbit is pregnant:
- Nest building - female rabbits instinctively build a nest using hay or straw when they are pregnant
- Fur pulling - soon-to-be mothers pull their own fur out to use as a blanket to keep the babies warm
- Aggressive behaviour - your rabbit may growl defensively, or refuse to be petted or stroked
If you think your rabbit might be pregnant, we recommend taking them to the vet who will be able to confirm or deny any suspicions.
Preparing for the new arrivals
During pregnancy, the mother rabbit will need lots of clean water and nutritious food, including dark leafy greens, alfalfa hay and rabbit pellets.
Rabbits sometimes dig a burrow in which to give birth – if you want to avoid this happening, make sure that your rabbit has a proper nest box and plenty of privacy to make sure she is as relaxed as possible.
A rabbit’s gestation period is typically between 31-33 days.
When a doe gives birth, it is called kindling. Kindling takes around 15 minutes and usually occurs in the early hours of the morning. The process of giving birth is instinctive, so they hardly ever need human help.
After checking that all the babies are alive and well, try to leave the nest alone for the first few days - disturbing a mother rabbit can cause her distress, and she may stop feeding her young.
If you have any concerns, contact your vet.
Baby rabbits are called kits, and there can be between 1-14 kits in a litter, with six being the average number. They are born hairless, blind, and deaf, however after 10 days, they will begin to properly develop.
The doe will nurse her kits twice a day at dawn and dusk, which only takes around five minutes due to the rich quality of the mother’s milk.
Kits are usually fully weaned when they are between 4-6 weeks old. You should continue to keep a female rabbit separate from males during this time, as female rabbits can be re-impregnated hours after they have given birth!
False rabbit pregnancies
Occasionally rabbits experience a false pregnancy. In cases like this, the doe may exhibit typical rabbit pregnancy behaviours, such as nest building.
The best way to know for sure whether your doe is pregnant is to take her to a vet. If you want to avoid rabbit pregnancy, we would recommend considering getting your rabbits neutered.