As first-time breeders, there may be a lot of questions in your mind that you would want the answers to. The most common question asked is ‘do rabbits eat their babies?’ Join us as we tell you everything you need to know related to rabbits and their babies.
The Rabbit’s First Litter
One thing that makes rabbit owners nervous is their rabbits’ first litter. This is the first time that the rabbits give birth to their offspring. The experience may vary depending on the breed and behavior of your rabbit. However, some things stay the same for all rabbits, and here are some things you should know beforehand.
When a rabbit is pregnant, gestation usually lasts for one month. This means a single female rabbit can give birth 12 times a year with a litter count of 1 to 14. After giving birth, a female rabbit can be impregnated again after 24 hours.
One of the things your rabbit will do while pregnant is to create a nest. Generally, they use their underside fur to make it, but some first-timers don’t usually do this. You can help them by creating a nest for them. It’s ideal for feeding them a large amount of hay and greens to ensure that their pregnancy continues well.
Once the rabbit gives birth, she will nurse the babies once or twice a day, depending on the litter count. Baby rabbits will start nibbling on food by their second week but will continue to be nursed until they are eight weeks old. If you want to know more about what to expect during these times, you may watch the video provided below.
Do Female Rabbits Eat their Offspring?
There are times when rabbits eat their babies, and most of the time, it has something to do with their environment and state during the whole pregnancy journey. If you’d like to find out more about it, you may check the items below.
- Placenta: One of the main reasons a female rabbit may eat her offspring is that they have accidentally mistaken it for the placenta. Rabbits eat the afterbirth and the placenta; that’s why they may mistakenly eat their babies. The placenta is delivered after all babies, making it an easy mistake to mix the two.
- Dietary Issues: If your rabbit is not given enough protein in their diet, there is a big chance that they will eat their babies. Giving birth will take a lot of energy, so make sure that your rabbit is well fed throughout the entire pregnancy journey.
- Stillborn: Another reason why female rabbits eat their offspring is that they are not born alive. Stillborn babies are automatically devoured by the parent as soon as possible. It’s better to check the baby rabbits yourself so that you can protect each one of them.
- Weak offsprings: Right after birth, the doe automatically checks each of the offspring to determine if some of them may have some sort of illness. Once they spot a baby rabbit with little to no chance of surviving, they will immediately gobble them up.
- Fear of predators: Rabbits have a natural instinct to be wary of predators lurking around them. They are at the bottom of the food chain because they are too small and easy to catch. Predators hover around them, and that increases the fear of pregnant rabbits. They will nervously eat up all their offspring, so there’s no trace left.
What You Should Do
If there are signs that your rabbit may be experiencing some distress and would want to eat her babies, it’s time for you to do something. The first thing to remember is that you cannot remove the babies from their mothers because they are still dependent on her for up to 8 weeks.
Once they reach 8 weeks old, rabbits can now leave their mother’s crib since they can eat solid foods and move independently.
With that said, you may be worried about your baby rabbits. That is pretty common and understandable since there are many risks. However, you just need to keep a close eye on them to make sure that all is well and there is no missing rabbit from time to time. The mother’s urge to eat her babies will go away on its own after 24 hours, so all you need to do is watch them for the first day.
Be aware that there may be some circumstances wherein you will have to raise the rabbits independently. This goes for events where the mother divides her offspring into two groups and only feeds one.
They do this because they believe that the other group is too weak to continue. In this case, since rabbits are dependent on their mother’s milk, you can mix your own rabbit baby formula with the help of local wildlife experts like this one.
Another thing you should be wary of is your rabbit’s behavior before breeding. If they are skittish or aggressive in any form, try not to breed them at the moment. Breeding them may result in them eating their offspring, which we’re trying to avoid here.
After finding out what you need to do in a situation like this, we’re here to provide you with some preventive tips to ensure that your female rabbits won’t eat their babies. These tips will help you depending on your rabbit’s type of care.
- Add more protein to their meals: The first thing you could do is add more protein to your pregnant rabbit’s diet. Make sure to be consistent throughout the entire journey and ensure that they are getting all the nutrients they need. The best hay for pregnant rabbits is alfalfa hay since it’s high in protein.
- Breed them at the right age: If you’re planning to breed your rabbits, make sure that none of them are younger than six months. This is the age where their maturity is developed, and they can fully take on some responsibilities. Younger rabbits will tend to just gobble up their babies instead of caring for them.
- Be affectionate with your rabbit: To avoid having a territorial rabbit who feels like they will be set aside once the litter comes, you have to be affectionate with them. From the start till the end of pregnancy, make sure that you give your rabbit enough pet and cuddles so that they can feel assured.
- Keep your rabbits relaxed: Make sure that your rabbit is relaxed throughout the pregnancy period so that she will still be settled after giving birth. Suppose a rabbit is stressed or anxious throughout her pregnancy journey. In that case, they have a higher chance of being stressed when they give birth, leading to them eating their baby.
- Keep an eye on them after giving birth: Monitor your rabbit closely once they give birth since they like to eat their afterbirth. Track their behavior changes and if they attempt to eat their babies, move the young ones to a different nest and have rabbit formula prepared beforehand. Care for the babies for the next 24 hours and then you can return them to their mother since the urge to eat their young ones goes away 24 hours after birth.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now that we’re done with discussing all female rabbits and their offspring, it’s time to answer some questions related to the topic. These questions may be running through your mind right now, while some can be beneficial facts that you should know about rabbits, breeding, and their offspring.
● Do male rabbits eat their offspring?
There are some instances where male rabbits eat their babies, but that is very rare. However, you should never leave your baby rabbits with their fathers since male rabbits don’t have parental instincts as females do. Your baby rabbits will get hurt one way or another with their father. It’s best to let the young ones stay with their mother so she can nurture and care for them.
● Are there other animals that eat their babies?
Sadly, there are a lot of other types of animals that do eat their offspring because of various reasons. Some of these animals are spiders, rats, fishes, hamsters, prairie dogs, birds, pigs, sloths, amphibians, and chickens.
● Why do baby rabbits disappear?
After the birth of the baby rabbits, you may notice that some of them are missing even though the mother has already nursed and cared for them. Don’t worry; your female rabbit did not eat them. It possibly has something to do with their enclosure so continue reading below.
There are two reasonable explanations for why your baby rabbits may be missing. The first one is that some predator may have found their way to the rabbit’s hutch and taken the baby rabbits.
If this is the case, consider adding better security for your rabbits. Another reason is that the baby rabbit has fallen from the hutch. Search all possible locations, under hays, and all that stuff, and return the baby rabbits inside.
By the end of this article, you should already know the answer to the question ‘do rabbits eat their babies. This information can be very beneficial for pet owners, especially those who have just started taking care of rabbits or planning to breed rabbits for meat. Don’t forget to share!