When Do Baby Rabbits Leave the Nest?

When Do Baby Rabbits Leave the Nest
When Do Baby Rabbits Leave the Nest

How Old Is A Baby Rabbit When It Leaves the Nest?

Baby rabbits typically leave the nest when they’re 3-5 weeks old. It is around this age they leave and are fed once or twice per day by their mother for a few minutes each time. If you spot a rabbit alone, don’t move it, because it is not always an orphan!

How Do We Know If A Baby Rabbit Is Ready to Leave the Nest?

Although these rabbits look small and helpless, they are ready to be on their own at 3-5 weeks of age. Their mothers only come back and feed them at dawn, dusk, or both to avoid attracting predators, however, besides this they are ready to be on their own. There are certain factors to look out for in a baby rabbit to tell if they are ready to leave the nest:

Is it chipmunk sized?If so, it should be ready to leave the nest.
Is the rabbit
fully-furred?
If all fur is present, the rabbit is mature enough
to leave the nest.
Are eyes open or
closed?
If eyes are open this means the rabbit is most
likely old enough to be out of the nest, but if
their eyes are closed, they may be an orphan.  
If you suspect the rabbit may be an orphan,
do not try to handle it yourself. Contact
your local licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
Are ears erect?If ears are erect, they are ready to leave the nest and should be left alone.
Does the rabbit have an ability to hop?If the rabbit can hop, then it is capable of
leaving the nest and should be left where it is.

What Else Should I Know About Baby Rabbits Leaving the Nest?

  • Although people mean well when trying to help an orphaned rabbit, interfering with a baby rabbit without assistance from a licensed wildlife rehabilitator can be illegal, unnecessary, and potentially harmful.
  • Fewer than 10% of orphaned rabbits survive a week or less without proper care from professionals.
  • Baby cottontails are born without fur but develop a full coat within a week.
  • Baby rabbits’ eyes typically open in about 6-10 days.
  • It is a myth that the mother will not return and will reject their young if a foreign scent is on them. However, it is still not recommended that humans interact with baby rabbits, as they should not get involved unless absolutely necessary.

Does That Baby Rabbit Need Help?

So, you found a baby rabbit, and feel it may be orphaned. The first step is to keep all potential hazards away from the rabbit. Kids, pets, or potentially harmful objects like lawn equipment should be kept away from the rabbit. Outdoor pets are a factor that are extremely harmful to wild rabbits. If your pet gets a hold of a rabbit and it is still alive, you will need to get a wildlife rehabilitator, or a veterinarian involved immediately. Also, bring the pet indoors right away as they will remember where they found the nest.

Next, make sure you do not touch the rabbit. If it is not truly orphaned, it needs to learn to survive on its own. Human contact should be kept to a minimum. Without touching the rabbit, gently place yarn or a similar material in a tic-tac-toe pattern on the nest. Doing this provides a way for you to tell if the mother came back to the nest without touching it yourself. If the yarn or string has been moved aside but the nest is still covered with fur, grass, or leaves, this means the mother has returned to feed the babies. If the spot remains undisturbed for 24 hours, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

Not only does human contact with a baby rabbit interfere with their ability to thrive on their own, but you may be putting your own health at risk. Rabbits may be infected with a disease called “tularemia,” which can be transmitted to humans from eating undercooked, infected meat, or handling a sick animal. If you must handle a wild rabbit for some reason, make sure you wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.

Very young rabbits rarely survive in captivity. Signs of these rabbits include having closed eyes and ears that are back still. Even with the most expert human care these rabbits are usually unable to be helped. A wildlife rehabilitator should be called immediately if a rabbit in this condition is found, and you should not attempt to help them yourself. This is most likely an orphaned rabbit.

What Does a Rabbit Nest Look Like?

Eastern cottontails, which are the most common rabbit species in the United States typically build shallow nests. These are made from grass or fur. The location of these nests is in grassy areas usually near bushes or trees, and often out in the open.

People may be surprised when they find out rabbits build their nests right out in the open. It is not uncommon for a rabbit nest to be built in the middle of a yard. This is actually intentional as a way to avoid predators. Most predators will not venture out into the middle of a yard in search of prey. While this keeps the rabbits safe from predators, it may not be the safest area for human activities.

Even when keeping an eye out for rabbit nests, people may not know they have stepped on a rabbit nest until they are already on it. Nests often look like small, messy piles of grass already laying among your grass or other vegetation.

What Should I Do If I Find a Baby Rabbit or Nest to Help?

  • Always check your lawn before you mow. It is very common for people to discover baby rabbits or nests while they’re doing yardwork, and they usually discover them after they have mowed over them.
  • If you find a baby rabbit or nest, try to find a way to mark the area so you remember where it is without interfering. Some type of marker flag or small sign would work very well.
  • If you have pets that frequently go outdoors or curious children, it may be a good idea to put up a temporary plastic fence. These can be easily found at any home improvement store. If choosing to put up a fence, make sure there are holes large enough for the mother to fit through so she can still feed the baby.
  • If you have outdoor cats, it may be a good idea to manage their outdoor habits. As opposed to feral cats, house cats maul and torment their prey, sometimes even skinning baby rabbits alive. They kill almost every other time they go out too. Investing in a pen or window-box is one way to prevent this.
  • Lawn chemicals are also deadly to baby rabbits. They are known to provide a convulsing death in rabbits. The Animal Poison Control Center states that lawn applications containing herbicides are not toxic to small animals directly, however, they may make toxic plants more harmful, which may make a rabbit sicker for longer if they eat it. Insecticides used to control fleas or grubs are toxic.

Baby rabbits leave the nest when they are 3-5 weeks old and this can be determined by certain identifying factors. It is very important to look out for identifying factors such as fur-fullness, whether or not eyes are open, ear positioning, size, and motor abilities. Making yourself aware of these factors can help you make the most educated decisions when it comes to reacting to finding a baby rabbit or nest.

Not only is it important to be aware of what a mature rabbit looks like physically, it is crucial to understand what the properties of an orphaned rabbit’s environment look like as well. This is important so humans can keep from interfering in a baby rabbit’s life in a way that may harm them. It is imperative to know their mothers visit 1-2 times per day, either in the morning, at night, or both to feed the baby. Assuming a baby rabbit is an orphan and interfering by touching the environment can be illegal or harmful.

Lastly, if you have a baby rabbit or nest in your yard it is important to understand the ways in which you can help protect it. Being aware of what it looks like, as well as how to keep children and pets away from it. Knowing who to call if a bad situation does arise from these factors is vital information to know as well.

When rabbits leave the nest, it is not the same situation as every other animal. They leave; however, they are occasionally visited by their mother, it can be confusing for most people. Their nests are also located in an area which may be an inconvenience to humans. Providing compassion and careful consideration before acting is what will help these baby rabbits thrive and live the best lives possible.