A female rabbit that will be conceiving is known as a “doe,” while the male who is impregnating the doe it called the “buck.” The baby rabbit is known as a “kit.” The doe can produce several litters (multiple kits) per year. Depending on the breed of rabbit, there may be one or many babies produced. The “gestation period” is the amount of time the doe carries the babies before delivering.
A doe has an average gestation period of around 31 days. Once the doe is ready to give birth the process takes around 10 minutes to deliver all of her young. To ensure the babies don’t die, make sure to check on them every 1-3 days to see how they are doing.
I will be diving into the topic of labor for a doe some more. I will also be discussing signs that you need to intervene so a baby rabbit does not die, and what you should do to help.
How Long Does It Take for a Rabbit to Give Birth? While the Gestational Period for a Rabbit is Approximately One Month, or 31 Days, the Labor Process is Much Shorter. It is Not Uncommon for a Rabbit to Deliver a Full Litter of Kits in Around Ten Minutes.
A nest box should be provided for the doe around the 28th day of her gestational period. This box is necessary for the birthing process and for the babies to stay in. It is important to have a safe location for the babies.
You may begin to notice the doe gathering hay to prepare the nest box; however, this is not always the case. Sometimes the doe will begin preparing the area next to the box with hay which means she is intending on delivering her young on the ground, which could be dangerous.
If this happens, move the box to the area she was preparing.
In preparation for delivery, the doe will also pull fur from her upper abdomen and shoulders just before giving birth. This technique is a precautionary measure to make sure the kits do not freeze, especially in lower temperatures.
Occasionally the babies will be born prematurely. They will most likely die if born more than two days early, in which case the matter is out of your hands.
The doe will give birth at any time of the day; however, most births occur at night.
What Are Signs that You Need to Intervene So the Babies Don’t Die? While There are Some Situations Throughout the Birthing Process that Are Just Unpredictable and Out of Your Control, There Are Times When You Can Save The Babies. By Following the Correct Signs, You Can Act and Help Them. Signs to Watch for Include; Location of Babies, Infection, and Nutritional Inadequacy.
As mentioned earlier, the doe will make a nest for babies to live in and stay warm. This nest is essential to the kit’s survival, so it is very important they live in the nesting box to feel each other’s warmth. This will prevent them from dying from exposure.
If you noticed the doe making a nest on the ground and moved the nesting box, that is a great way to intervene. However, there is still a chance that she may birth them on the ground. If you notice she has done this, place them back into the nesting box as soon as possible. They may still be able to survive.
The mother will not move the babies, so if she births them on the floor, this is where they will remain until you intervene and move them.
Along with checking the position of the babies, make sure they are healthy. Check for issues like eye infection once eyes have opened. Neosporin drops can help.
While it is normal for a mother to go the first two days without feeding her young after birth, there are also cases of rejection in which the mother refuses to feed young. Make sure this has not happened and check the young every day or two to ensure their bellies are round and they are getting proper nutrition.
Rejection can be confused with normal behavior in which the mother watches safely from a further distance and feeds when others are not around. This is out of an instinct that comes from a fear of predators.
What Should You Do to Make Sure the Babies Don’t Die? As We Discussed Before, Sometimes Deaths of Baby Rabbits are Inevitable, but Often Times You Can Step in and Help. First and Foremost, it is Important to be Aware of What is Going On. Make Sure You Are Checking on Your Doe and Her Babies. You Want to Keep A Healthy Watch While Also Not Stressing Her Out. Should You Need to Intervene, Do So Without Frustrating or Upsetting the Doe.
You can be extremely helpful by guiding the doe in the right direction without scaring her. We already covered how placing the nesting box where it should go and placing the babies in it after birth are necessary should she be confused; however, the location is a huge way you can help.
If the babies are not in the right spot the doe will not move the babies. Even if one baby somehow gets out of the nesting box, a doe does not have the instinct a cat or dog may to retrieve that baby. The doe does not move the entire litter if they are birthed in an unsafe spot, so why would she do that for one baby?
Since rabbits are prey animals, the doe typically does not take many risks in order to protect their young. They will save themselves before they save their babies, which is why they typically stay stationary once delivering their litter. This does not make them bad caregivers; however, they are just more cautious than some other animals.
This is why your assistance is crucial, you can be vigilant in making sure the kits are where they should be and returning them to where they should be if not.
If you fear the mother is rejecting their babies, make sure you are checking the signs to be positive. If the babies have a proper nest and full round bellies, they have not been rejected. The mother is just feeding when you are not present.
If the babies are scattered, the nest is messy, and they do not seem adequately nourished (sunken tummies), the mother is not caring for them. This could be due to fear if many people are watching the babies throughout the day, however, action should be taken to ensure the health of the babies.
If you fear the babies have been rejected…
- Build a nest for the mother and babies
- Check mother for lactation (slight pressure or milking motion)
- Take babies into veterinarian
- Place fruit jam or honey into kit’s mouth until able to get milk or veterinary assistance
The Birthing Process for a Rabbit as Well as Making Sure the Babies Don’t Die Can Be a Fairly Complicated Process, but With the Right Dedication It Can be Handled.
There are many complications that can happen throughout the birthing and gestational process of a rabbit. It can be confusing and complicated, but it is important to remember to treat the situation with care and diligence in order to keep the doe and the babies safe.