If you are a current rabbit owner or possibly even a rabbit breeder, I’m assuming you are in a spot where you have plenty of questions. It happens to all of us. I know I have questions all the time. It’s good to have this attitude when attempting to be an ethical rabbit owner or breeder. One of the questions I see pop up frequently is concerning breeding your female rabbits and what to expect during and after the pregnancy.
How do you know if your rabbit is pregnant? After some research on the topic and finding additional ways you can check to see if your rabbit is pregnant, here’s what I can tell you about the subject.
So, how do you tell if your rabbit is pregnant? First, understanding your rabbit’s non-pregnant behavior will help you recognize potential changes in your rabbit’s behavior or demeanor. In addition, other items such as appetite, nesting, and energy levels may go through changes during pregnancy.
That’s a fast and easy answer. However, I wanted to have a little more fun with this answer for you and give you a full break down on rabbit pregnancy. In addition, I want to give you 6 signs that can help you recognize if your rabbit is pregnant and help you to understand what to expect following the pregnancy.
Let’s jump into. Here are the 6 best ways to recognize if your rabbit is pregnant.
6 Best Ways and Signs to Recognize Rabbit Pregnancy. The Full Break Down
#1 Your Calm Sweet Rabbit Turns to Grumpy Rabbit
This is a top way rabbit owners report understanding if their rabbit is pregnant or not. Sometimes you have a rabbit that’s very calm and loves attention. These rabbits often enjoy being handled or naturally behave in a calm manner.
These are the rabbits that pre-pregnancy, that we probably often let sleep in our beds with us!
When she is pregnant, she may become the opposite. She may seem more irritable, not as cuddly and hesitant to allow you to pet her or handle her.
The opposite may also hold true. You may have had a rabbit that was already wild and didn’t enjoy being handled and did not prefer to be pet or loved on. Now that she is pregnant, she may be switched to the opposite and be a calm and collected rabbit that seems more loving than usual.
This is normal and nothing to worry about. Your rabbit changing her behavior to the opposite of what you are used to is an easy way to pick up on the fact that she is likely pregnant especially if you are a breeder and planned the pregnancy.
The sudden shift in behavior should be one of your most significant indicators that you have had a successful breeding period.
#2- A Possible Slight Increase in Appetite
Depending on where you house your rabbits, this may be harder to notice. However, a change in appetite can also be a reliable indicator that your rabbit is pregnant, but most frequently this is going to be subtle and take some effort to pick up on right away.
Rabbits are often fed pellets and hay. For more information about what to feed rabbits, see our post regarding best feeding practices for your rabbits here. With pellets and hay, you must already be aware of your rabbits’ preferences on a routine basis.
Usually, a rabbit will favor one or the other. What I mean by this is that even though you offer both, your rabbit typically eats either all the hay and seldom pellets or all the hay and occasionally eats the pellets.
A switch in this behavior to where your rabbit is consuming all or both the hay and the pellets can be a reliable indicator that your rabbit is pregnant. This is just due to increase appetite but it’s also possible you have a flip flop on preferences as opposed to just an overall increase in appetite.
The Flip Flop. A Typical Pregnancy Trait with Rabbits and Yes, Even Human Pregnancy!
Additionally, it’s possible that your rabbit suddenly flip flops her preferences which can also be a strong sign that your rabbit is pregnant.
If your rabbit typically eats one or the other and is now doing the complete the opposite, you can usually place your money on the fact that you have had successful breeding or that you have some unexpected rabbit babies arriving in the next 31-33 days.
Either way, you should be able to determine it’s coming which is always a positive.
#3 Your Rabbit Keeps Straw in Their Mouth to Help Build a Nest
Some see this as the best indicator on this list. Even more so than the feeding habits or the change in behaviors. The reason being is simple. Rabbits prefer to nest when they are pregnant but primarily exhibit these behavior’s very close to the end of the pregnancy.
Well, to nest you need the hay or straw. If your rabbit decides that instead of eating them or playing with them that she prefers to walk around in circles endlessly carrying the hay as if she is waiting for the perfect spot to begin placing her nest, you can bet she is pregnant.
Most rabbit owners report this method as being a sure-fire way to test your theory. Simply give your rabbit some straw and give her a minute or two and see what begins to transpire and you should have your answer.
Don’t Be Fooled or Get Throw for A Doozy
Beware, however, I did state that rabbits do this near the end of the pregnancy most frequently so if it’s too early, she may throw you for a loop. She may not do this during the early days which can leave you unprepared and thrown off guard.
Make sure that if you are attempting to breed rabbits or have a strong feeling that she may be pregnant that you test this a few times throughout a few weeks before totally writing her off as “not pregnant.”
It’s a common mistake that rabbit owners make and one you can avoid!
#4- Check by Physically Feeling for Rabbit Babies, Tough but Possible
This process is known as palpating your rabbit to check if she is pregnant or not.
If you are not currently a rabbit breeder, this may not be the best method for you to find out if your rabbit is pregnant or not. It can be tough to figure out this technique if you have never performed it before and it’s also possible that you complete this task but still fail to feel the babies inside of the Doe.
Doing so seems simple in nature, but anyone will tell you it’s more complicated than you would think.
The process is simply taking your rabbit and placing her on a table or flat surface.
Following placing her on the table, your goal is to spread her back legs and really begin to try to get a feel for the inside of the abdomen. You then use your pointer finger and middle finger to roll around the abdomen trying to feel for small circle like balls within the belly.
These are the rabbit embryos. At this point, you don’t want to apply any more pressure or press too hard to avoid harming the embryos.
You also need to be careful not to push too far up because you may ultimately feel fecal matter instead of embryos and once again be confused or un-prepared by misdiagnosing the pregnancy.
Many first-time rabbit owners experiencing a pregnancy admit that this process isn’t exactly easy to figure out the first time around but after enough practice especially for rabbit breeders, you will get a good feeling for how to complete this process.
If you would like to watch a video about how to do this correctly, you can see this video below.
This individual does a pretty good job explaining and showing the process to you to help give you a better feel for the process.
#5- Let A Vet Handle the Job for You
Perhaps the easiest item on this list but potentially costlier is letting a professional tell you the information. Take your rabbit to the vet. A vet is trained to recognize if a rabbit is pregnant quickly.
If it’s causing you anxiety and you need to know for sure whether your rabbit is pregnant, you can use this method to give you some peace of mind, especially if you are a first-time bunny grandparent and aren’t sure how to understand any other techniques for successfully recognizing rabbit pregnancy.
#6- Weigh Your Rabbit to Double Check
You can either complete this task on your own if you have your own scale that’s ready for use or it’s a method your vet will perform depending if they have your rabbits’ previous weight is on record or not.
You can expect your rabbit to pack on a few pounds during the pregnancy especially towards the end of the pregnancy term so if you need a last resort method that you can use to figure out the answer. This would be the answer.
The only downfall to this method is that if you have don’t have the original pre-pregnancy weight on file or written down anywhere, then you can count this method out.
You won’t have any way of knowing but at least now you have this method in your mind for the next time around.
Now that you know what methods you can use to determine if your rabbit is pregnant or not, we need to be prepared for when the new rabbit babies arrive. Being prepared will have you one step ahead of the game. Let’s dive into those details now.
Understanding and Know What to Expect with Rabbit Pregnancies
Preparing for The Litter to Arrive
First and most importantly, if you are 100% sure your rabbit is pregnant, you need to prepare for the litter to arrive. The first step in doing this is to separate the female from the male rabbit.
The reason for this is the dangers of the male rabbit re-impregnating the female rabbit very shortly after the first birth. This is dangerous for the female rabbit and can cause a lot of stress for her. She needs time to finish caring for the first litter before a second litter should even come into question.
Other Considerations When Separating the Male and Female Rabbits
Many expert rabbit breeders recommend that you find a clever way to allow the male and female rabbits to still interact during this separation period. This is purely because you don’t want to go through the introduction phase again and it’s difficult to break them back into each other.
You can do this by merely keeping to cages right next to each other so that can easily interact through the cage bars from a very close distance but also eliminating the chance of the male rabbit getting the female rabbit pregnant again.
The Rabbit Gestation Period and What to Expect
It’s also essential that you know how long to expect the pregnancy to last. A female rabbit will have a gestation period of roughly 31-33 days. If your female’s pregnancy extends past this timeline, it’s likely to be a false pregnancy, and sadly, the baby rabbits may have died inside of the female rabbit.
This can cause some serious health problems for your female rabbit, so most vets recommend that inducing the labor after 32 days to be safe that no harm is caused to the mother rabbit.
Keep Momma Rabbit Fed and Fed Well During and After the Pregnancy
Just like us as humans need nourishment when pregnant, your rabbit needs the same courtesy extended to her to ensure the baby rabbits and the mother rabbit are getting the essential minerals and nutrients needed to remain healthy.
Water is equally important. You need to be providing the rabbit with plenty of water, alfalfa hay, and pellets during and after the pregnancy. Let your rabbit decide which food she prefers but ensure that’s it’s always offered and kept fully stocked up for the mother rabbit.
Post Birth Items to Keep in Mind for Mother Rabbit and the Baby Rabbits
After the birth is equally as important as the pre-birth methods and precautions. You need to ensure the correct processes are taking place. After the mother has given birth to the baby rabbits, it’s time to allow her to nurse them and provide them with nurturing and milk.
You should also be able to distinguish which of the rabbits in the litter are the weak links and not getting enough of mother’s milk.
Another method you can use to double check this is merely checking the baby’s belly. If they are getting enough of the mother’s milk, their stomach should be distended or have a full-look to it. Rabbits don’t nurse their young often. Once a day for a few minutes. Rarely this never takes place more than once in a day.
You can also help the mother along with the nesting process if need be. If she hasn’t begun the process or pulled any fur, you may need to step in aid her along and make the nest from straw and help her place the babies in the nest.
Nesting and Checking for Any Orphaned Bunnies from The Litter
Typically, you want to use a nice nest box with a flat bottom and know loose strings to ensure that the babies don’t get strangled during these initial days/weeks.
If the babies seem to be acting normal, warm and showing movement, you should leave the mother and baby rabbits be. Interfering usually will only cause further problems with the process.
If, however, you notice a baby from the litter more blue than pink or not moving, you may have to intervene and use other feeding methods to care for the orphaned litter.
Sometimes, one or a few of the babies gets neglected by the mother or is the weaker of the litter and may need this intervention so survive. This doesn’t always happen however so if it doesn’t, let nature run its course and keep a close on eye on everything taking place.
Once a day supplies the rabbit with a full day’s supply of milk. If this process continues to run smoothly, you won’t have much left to do in the process.
This is typically the final stages of the pregnancy from beginning to post pregnancy directions to follow.
Putting It All Together, Although New and Somewhat Scary, You Can Enjoy New Baby Bunnies
I know this may have seemed liked a complicated post or even have placed some anxiety and fear into you about the pregnancy process, post-pregnancy or even how to tell if your rabbit is pregnant at all.
I get it. It may be a rough go the first time around since you are brand new to the scenario, but overall, you will do just fine following these directions and providing the same loving care you provided before the pregnancy became a concern.
As always, if you have other fear or doubts, be sure to consult your vet. They will not only be able to inform you if your rabbit is pregnant but also will be able to guide you through what to expect and how to provide proper care to your rabbits during and after the process.
What’s your experience with rabbit pregnancy? Have we left anything out or do you have any suggestions? Be sure to drop a comment below.