The average amount of days bunnies are pregnant for is 31 days. The amount of days varies depending on the type of rabbit and the litter size, so could be as little as 28 days or as long as 33 days. Rabbit’s due date windows are relatively small, so it is critical you know the exact date the female rabbit conceived.
Occasionally, a rabbit will have an accidental pregnancy. Sometimes rabbits are impregnated before being adopted out or if your female rabbit has been exposed to your male rabbit.
Rabbits do not have regular heat cycles like other mammals so two healthy sexually mature rabbits can mate any time of the month. A female’s heat cycle is so frequent that she may appear always to be in heat unless spayed or pregnant.
If you have determined your rabbit might be pregnant but are unsure as to the date your rabbit was impregnated, you will want to consult a vet to help determine the time of conception.
What are the Gestation Periods for Different Breeds of Rabbits and Why?
Most rabbits regardless of breed do not deliver beyond the 32nd day. Rabbits who are pregnant beyond 32 days increase the risk of stillborn babies. After the 34th day, it is almost guaranteed the babies are dead.
- French Lop 28-31
- English Lop 28-31
- Lionhead rabbit 31
- Holland lop 31
- Checkered giant 31-32
- English Angora 28-32
- Flemish Giant rabbit 31
- Continental Giant 28-31
- American 31-32
- Dutch rabbit 28-32
- Mini rex 33
- Polish 31-32
- Beveren 31-32
- Californian 31-32
Certain breeds of rabbits carry their babies for more extended periods because they are prone to have smaller litters. Litters containing 4 babies or less will have a prolonged gestation period than rabbits with 5 or more babies. If a female is carrying a large litter, the gestation period will be closer to 28 days.
For example, dwarf rabbits average only 4 fertilized eggs per pregnancy whereas bigger breed rabbits average 7-8 fertilized eggs.
The breed of the rabbit isn’t the only factor in the litter size, the age and health of two rabbits also play a role in how many fertilized eggs there will be. In some cases, there can be as few as 1 or as many as 14+.
What Does a Normal Rabbit Pregnancy Period Look Like?
The often joked about procreation habits of rabbits is based upon the truth. A healthy female rabbit can safely have 4-5 litters per year. Genetically they can have more, but it is best to wait until the kits have been fully weaned before breeding the female again.
Most pregnancies are uneventful. But there is always a chance of issues, below are a list of possible problems that may arise.
aborting or reabsorbing the fetuses – some female rabbits will naturally abort or reabsorb their
fetuses. This will happen if the female lacks
proper nutrition or has a possible health issue.
- Reabsorption of the fetuses late in the pregnancy is still a possibility. The female rabbit is capable of absorbing soft tissue back into her body, leaving behind a mummified baby.
If this happens, you can have three choices.
- Veterinarian intervention
- Leave the babies where they are to be birthed at a later time with a different litter
- If not breeding the female again, leave the unborn bunnies to remain permanently inside the mother.
Though rare some rabbits can become sick from the unborn bunnies, so it is essential to monitor the female for changes in appetite and water intake or lethargy
- Mastitis – Is a bacterial infection starting in the milk duct then traveling to the mammary gland. Symptoms of mastitis are redness around the nipple, loss of appetite, change in water consumption, and irregular inflammation, if it is a severe infection, the mammary gland will be blue.
If an infection is not treated, it will pass to the babies through the milk, which is fatal to baby bunnies. Mastitis can be fatal to the mother rabbit if left untreated as the infection will spread to the lymph glands and blood.
Mastitis is caused by unclean living areas or a malformed gland.
- Pregnancy Toxemia – This is extremely rare, but still a possibility. Pregnancy toxemia occurs late in the pregnancy or shortly after the mother has given birth.
Toxemia symptoms come on quickly, and death follows shortly after. If you think that your rabbit is suffering from toxemia rush them to a vet. The symptoms of toxemia are depression, labored breathing, and breath with vinegar like smell.
Toxemia is caused by lack of proper nutrition during the pregnancy. Additional factors that can lead to a higher possibility of toxemia are breed, age, sex, obesity, and the number of previous litters.
- Killing or Cannibalism of the babies – Some mother rabbits may kill or even cannibalize their young. The exact reason why a mother rabbit does this is not fully known; it is suspected that it may occur if the mother is overly stressed or inexperienced.
Some mother rabbits will abandon her young, allowing them to starve, this again can be from stress or if a dead baby rabbit is allowed to stay with the litter.
Some young mothers that cannibalize their young during birth are mistaking her young for the afterbirth, which is natural for her to consume.
It is not recommended to continue to breed a female rabbit that continues to kill or cannibalize her young.
What Should a Pregnant Rabbit Eat?
You will want to increase your rabbit’s food intake since she will need the extra energy to ensure a successful pregnancy. However, you also do not want a fat rabbit as that too could endanger the mother and unborn kits.
You should increase the amount of hay you provide and switch to alfalfa hay if you are not already feeding that. Also, be sure to include a balance of pellets and fresh vegetables. This is not a time to add new foods to her diet, changes to her diet can cause her to become ill and possibly lose the babies.
In addition to her food intake it is important you provide fresh clean water throughout the day.
What is a nesting box?
A nesting box is where your rabbit will give birth. It needs to be just big enough for her to get in and out comfortably. If the box is too large the babies will be too cold. Baby rabbits rely on the body heat of their litter mates and nesting material to stay warm. The mother rabbit does not stay in the box with them, this is a natural instinct that carried over from her wild ancestors.
You can purchase or build a nesting box. Regardless of how you obtain one it is critical that it is not made of particle board or other material containing toxic chemicals. It’s a good idea to put the nesting box in the cage a week before the due date to give the mother time to create a nest.
Nesting material should be provided in the form of hay and paper, the mother will add her own fur to this as it gets closer to her kindling period.
How long is the birthing process, what does a normal birthing process look like and what are the signs there are problems?
The most common sign your rabbit is close to giving birth is she will stop eating about a day or two before. The actual kindling (birthing) process is quite short and only about takes 5-30 minutes if everything goes the way it should.
It is best to leave the mother alone during the process as any stress during this time can cause the mother to kill or eat her babies. You can quietly check on her during the kindling if you have reason to believe there will be an issue.
Rarely is there a need to assist your rabbit during the process, but sometimes babies get stuck while being birthed and need assistance to clear the passage. If you have this situation, it is best to consult a trained professional for assistance. Unfortunately, if this occurs, it is not uncommon for the kits to be stillborn.
After the birthing process, be sure to remove any stillborn kits immediately. Also, continue to check on the kits daily as some will naturally be culled from the litter or the mother may accidentally or intentionally harm her kits. Monitoring of the young can be done once a day to ensure the nest is clean and the babies are healthy.
Try to keep stress low for the rabbits as it can cause significant harm to the babies if the mother is stressed.
How Big are Baby Bunnies when They are Born and What is the Average size Litter?
The number of babies in a litter can range from 1-14 bunnies. But the average litter size for smaller rabbits is 4, and the average litter size for large breed rabbits is 7-8. The number of babies depends on the breed, age, and pregnancy history of the mother.
The average bunny size when born varies depending on the breed, but the average Flemish Giant newborn weighs 3-4 oz. Baby bunnies are born deaf, blind, and hairless; they use their sense of smell to nurse.
How Long Do Bunnies Stay With Their Mom?
Baby bunnies stay with their mom until they are 8 weeks old. The babies will start to open their eyes around day 10 and start eating their mother’s night droppings (cecotropes). Cecotropes, are important to their gut health, like their mothers’ milk cecotropes contains important vitamins and fiber.
At 8 weeks old you can remove the mother rabbit and allow the kits to be on their own until adoption. Kits should also be separated by gender as males can reach sexual maturity as young as 10 weeks old and separation will avoid unwanted pregnancies.
Rabbits are sensitive beings and need to be treated with care during pregnancy and after kindling. If a mother rabbit becomes too agitated after giving birth, she may stop feeding her young. Hand feeding baby bunnies is rarely successful as there is not a good substitute for a rabbit mother’s milk. So, be vigilant in keeping the mother rabbit relaxed.
Can you breed siblings? No, but you can breed parents with their young
Can I keep pregnant female rabbits together? No, you should keep pregnant female rabbits in a cage alone. Female rabbits can be territorial even when not pregnant and pregnant females can often become aggressive with other rabbits when pregnant.
I heard that a rabbit can be impregnated at two different times, is that true? It is rare but it is true. Female rabbits can carry two different litters at the same time, but it is unlikely either litter will be healthy and it can be dangerous to the health of the mother.
Why does the Mother Rabbit Feed her Babies Only Twice a day? Mother rabbits only feed twice a day because of her natural instinct to not attract attention to her nest. If you are worried the babies are not being properly fed check to see if their abdomens are full or sunken in.