Why Is My Rabbit Eating Her Babies?

Why Is My Rabbit Eating Her Babies
Why Is My Rabbit Eating Her Babies

Rabbits sometimes eat their young. If your female rabbit just had babies, keep an eye on her. I recommend you also learn what causes mother rabbits(does) to do this. Regularly, I get asked by people why mother rabbits eat their young. So, Why do rabbits eat their babies?

Mother rabbits don’t normally eat their babies, but it does happen sometimes. A young female rabbit may eat her young because she’s afraid of the entire experience of birthing them and nursing them. Sometimes female rabbits don’t make good mothers, they don’t have a motherly instinct. It’s best not to breed them again if they’ve eaten a couple of litters.

Sometimes mother rabbits accidentally eat their young while they’re eating the placenta and afterbirth. This happens to first time mother more often than experienced mother rabbits. Fear of predators may cause a mother rabbit to eat her litter. If the area where she’s giving birth is noisy, and there’s lots of activity,  she may feel stressed and eat her young. Mother rabbits instinctively eat the injured, weak or runt of her litter.


What Is Rabbit Cannibalism?

Rabbit cannibalism is when the mother rabbit eats her babies. This condition can be caused by different circumstances. Eating young isn’t limited to rabbits. Here is a list of common animals that are known to eat their young.

  • Rats
  • Sloths
  • Prairie dogs
  • fish, reptiles
  • Birds
  • amphibians
  • Sand tiger shark
  • Polar bears
  • Spiders
  • Hamsters
  • Chickens
  • Pigs

Why Do Rabbits Eat Their Babies?

If a mother rabbits is stressed or afraid, she may eat her litter. Sometimes she’s afraid of predators and eats the babies to protect them. A mother bunny will eat an injured or sick baby. Sometimes she eats the runt of the litter, because he’s the weakest and least likely of survive. It’s rare that a doe will eat all her litter, or every litter she births. This could indicate that she’s got nutritional deficiencies. While your doe is giving birth, be sure to clear out pets and people so she’ll have a quiet and calm atmosphere. Mother rabbits can panic when it’s noisy, this can cause her to eat some of her litter. Sometimes, your female rabbit has weak mothering instincts, there’s no other reason except genetics.

Rabbits will eat their babies for a variety of reasons.

  • Does gets excited by a change to her cage, or her food or water.
  • Mother rabbits don’t like other animals around her when she’s given birth. Dogs, cats, or even a mouse running in your home can upset her if she’s given birth. Keep all animals and visitors away from the rabbit’s nest. Don’t allow your household pets to roam at night.
  • Water supply issues. Make sure your mother rabbit’s water is fresh, cool water. Add electrolytes or vitamin supplements to the water if it’s hot.
  • Before she gives birth, trim her nails so she won’t cut the babies during the birthing. This can cause her to eat them.
  • Check the nest box to see that it’s got everything the mother rabbit needs. She might get upset if it’s not lined with enough fur, etc.
  • If the mother is young, under six months, she might not handle birthing well and eat the babies because she’s scared and upset by the experience. You might need to take the babies away from her for their survival.
  • Nervous rabbits don’t make good mothers.
  • Nutritional deficiencies can be a reason why a mother rabbit eats her young.
  • If the mother detects there’s something wrong with a baby rabbit, she might kill it.  It’s an instinctive way of eliminating weak, sick rabbits.
  • Sometimes the father rabbit if left in the cage with the litter and mother, will kill the babies so he can breed again with the female rabbit. Always remove the male rabbit once babies are born.

How Do Mother Rabbits Kill Their Babies?

After she’s given birth, a doe licks her newborn babies clean and eats the placenta and afterbirth materials. This is common for small mammals since it gives the mother special nutrients after giving birth. An inexperienced mother sometimes eats her babies along with the placenta and other materials.

What Happens When A Rabbit Has Her First Litter Of Babies?

Nest-Usually when female rabbit, or doe as she’s called, is pregnant, she’ll make a nest for her young. She pulls fur from her underside just before she gives birth to create a soft, warm nest for her babies. If your doe is having her first litter, she might not make her nest before she has the babies. Rabbit owners suggest that you can make a nest for her by placing a towel in her litter box.

Nurse-After the babies are born, your doe will nurse them only once or twice a day. This is normal, since the babies don’t need that much milk. In the wild, mother rabbits don’t stay in the nest too much, instead she lingers nearby to lure predators away from her nest. Domestic rabbits inherited this instinct and will seem to ignore her young except for nursing.

Food-Give your doe a good amount of leafy green vegetables, fresh water, and grass hay. She’ll need the extra calories and water while she nurses her litter.

Weaning- The baby rabbits will nibble their mother’s food around 2 weeks of age. They will still nurse, but as the weeks continue, they’ll eat the vegetables, herbs and hay along with their mother. Increase the amount of food so the mother and her litter have enough food. At 8 weeks of age, you can wean the babies from their mother. Remove the babies from the cage at this time. Rabbits are sexually mature around 10 weeks of age. If you leave the litter in the cage, they can mate and you’ll have another litter arriving in 30 to 32 days!

How to keep the mother rabbit from eating her babies?

Fortunately, not all rabbit mothers eat their babies. If your doe eats her first litter and her second litter of babies, there’s no use breeding her anymore. She doesn’t have a motherly instinct. It happens, and there’s no cure to help the doe change. They are just that way for some reason. Most mother rabbits do take good care of their babies, some learn to take care of their babies after a couple of litters.

How Does A Mother Rabbit Normally Care For Her Young?

Once her babies are born, the mother rabbit instinctively cares for their litter. She will feed them only once-twice a day, during the early evening and early morning hours. Wild mother rabbits purposely leave their litter alone in the nest, while she lingers nearby. Adult rabbits have a scent, but the babies don’t yet have one. Predators attention will be towards her rather than her nest. She’ll check on her nest a couple of times a day, watching from a distance.

How Do I Know If My Mother Rabbit Is Taking Care Of Her Babies?

You may not see your mother rabbit caring for her litter. This doesn’t mean she’s neglecting them. Here are some things to look for to be sure mother rabbit is taking care of her babies:

  • Babies will be active
  • Wiggling around the nest.
  • Baby rabbits will have nice, fat bellies
  • Plump bodies

If she’s not caring for the baby rabbits, you’ll notice the babies are:

  • Skinny
  • Weak
  • Not active

There’s not much you can do if the mother isn’t feeding her babies properly. You could try to feed them yourself, but it’s hard to do this with success.  Bad mothering instinct is doesn’t change. Also, If you mother rabbit had a large litter, over 10 babies, it’s common to lose one of two because she can’t take care of them all.

Note: Don’t feed your mother rabbit any herbs in the mint family while she’s nursing. Mint will dry up her milk.

Will A Mother Rabbit Kill Her Babies If Human Touch Them?

Rabbits don’t kill their babies if humans touch them. It’s not a reason why mother rabbits kill their babies. Rabbit breeders handle newborn baby rabbits all the time, mother rabbits don’t mind this. If the mother has been socialized she will be fine with humans touching her babies. Domestic rabbits are used to humans.

How Do I Know If My Female Is Ready To Breed?

Domestic rabbits usually make good mothers. If you’re considering breeding your female rabbit, be sure she’s in good health. Here are some things to consider before breeding your female rabbit:

Underweight or overweight- If she’s overweight, birthing can be difficult. Underweight rabbits might not handle babies well and eat them because of nutritional deficiencies.

Infections-Infections especially in her genitals or mammary glands. She might not be able to nurse. She might pass on an infection to the male rabbit.

Teary eyes-These symptoms could mean she’s got a respiratory infection or another illness.

Runny nose-This could indicate she’s ill with snuffles or another common rabbit infection.

Sore hocks-This is caused by wire cages. The rabbits feet get sores on them. This would make breeding painful.

Always take care of your female rabbit’s health before you breed her. A healthy rabbit will be a good mother.

What Should I Do To Prepare For Baby Rabbits?

Prior to breeding your rabbit, get things ready for the birth of baby rabbits. Gestation period is only 3- to 32 days. Don’t wait until after your rabbit is pregnant, this can be stressful for her. She might not handle the changes or the pregnancy well. Here are some things you should do to prepare for baby rabbits:

  • Cage-Make sure the cage big enough and there’s room for a nesting box. If you wait until the babies are born this can throw the mother into a stressful situation.
  • Nesting box-A few days before she gives birth, around day  27, put the clean nest box into a corner of the cage. It’s shouldn’t be near the litter box. Don’t put the box in too early or she might use it as a litter box. The nesting box will be in the cage until the babies are two weeks old.
  • Bedding-Put extra straw in the cage for her. Make sure it’s dry and clean for her to give birth.

How Does The Mother Rabbit Prepare For Birth Of Babies?

Mother rabbits get ready to “kindle” or give birth by pulling out their fur from their stomach. The mother uses this fur to line their nesting box that you’ve placed inside her cage. Her fur will keep the naked, hairless babies warm and hidden. This is instinctive.  When she starts lining the nest with her fur, don’t change it.  She needs to make the nest the way she likes it. If you interfere, it can be stressful for the female rabbit. Some mothers don’t create a nest until a few days before giving birth, some wait until the day of birthing. One way to decide if your female will be a good mother is to watch her nesting habits. Is she’s not pulling her fur out to line the nest, that could be a sign she’s immature. You might need to remove the babies and allow another mother rabbit to nurse them.

Why Is My Mother Rabbit Stepping On Her Babies?

Sometimes inexperienced mother rabbits step on their babies. It doesn’t hurt them as long as her nails are trimmed. Usually, the babies do fine with their mother walking on them, but you might want to keep an eye on them. Be sure they don’t get covered up by the straw when she steps on them. Also, check to see they’re getting well-fed and not being overlooked by the mother rabbit.

Why Would A Mother Rabbit Might Bite Baby Rabbits?

Some rabbit owners report that during the birthing of a baby rabbit, the mother accidentally bit off some of the baby’s ear. Others said that their mother rabbit bit the babies while nursing. This is a symptom of mastitis or swollen or infected mammary glands. She’s biting the babies because it hurts when they nurse. Call your veterinarian to see what she can prescribe for the mother to help with the pain and infection. Sometimes, if there’s a lot of babies in the cage at once, it’s not the mother biting the babies ears, but the babies are biting one another, especially older baby rabbits. If this happens, it’s probably time to wean them from their mother. Baby rabbits can be weaned between 6 to 8 weeks. Many people suggest waiting until 8 weeks is best for the baby’s health.

How Can I Help My Doe Have A Calm Birth and Mothering Experience?

There are some simple, practical ways to help your doe have a calm birth and mothering experience. Check out these suggestions:

Baby saver-Many better made wire cages have a baby saver wire on the sides with a ½ inch by 1 inch holes apart. These baby saver is 4 inches from the bottom and keeps the babies from falling out of the cage is they stray from the nest.

Fresh food-Give your doe extra fresh foods to keep her nursing well and healthy. Lots of fresh vegetables such as:

  • Celery
  • Basil
  • Bok Choy
  • Carrots tops
  • Basil
  • Dandelion greens
  • Dill
  • Lettuce-romaine
  • Parsley
  • Spinach
  • Mustard greens
  • Radish tops
  • Sprouts

Fresh water-Mother rabbits need lots of fresh water because they’re nursing.

Hay-Hay is essential for a rabbit’s diet. Your rabbits should eat his weight in hay every day. Mother rabbits need hay to keep their digestive system working well.

Supplemental foods-Supplement your mother rabbit’s food with organic parsley and black oil sunflower seeds. This will increase her milk.

Quiet zone-Keep the area around your rabbit’s cage and nest quiet and calm. This will help her nurse and care for her babies.

Most rabbits take good care of their babies, but once in awhile a mother eats her babies. She might feel stressed by the birthing experience. If the atmosphere where your rabbit gives birth is threatening, she might eat her babies. Mother rabbits also can sense if one of the babies is sick or injured or weak. She will eat this baby instinctively.