Can a mommy bunny feed two litters at once?

by Cheryl
(Locust, NJ)

We also thought we had two females, but after 10 months we found 8 babies in the hutch! They are all perfect and beautiful! Mommy is taking such good care of them, however, now they are 4 weeks old and we were shocked this morning when we saw mommy making another nest! We separated mommy and daddy the first day the litter was born, but we read that it's possible for mom to get pregnant on the first day of birth.


It is day 31, but how can she feed both the four week old bunnies and a new litter? The babies have started eating pellets and hay, but is that enough for them?

***** Karen sez *****
In the wild, the doe would have already abandoned the first litter. Hard to imagine, isn't it, but yes, the kits come equipped with all the instinct they need to survive. And if not, they become dinner for a predator, thus ensuring the survival of strong instincts in rabbits.

So yes, if your 4-week-old kits are eating solid feed and drinking water, you can wean (remove) them, and leave mom to raise another litter.

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Sep 07, 2017
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Question
by: Anonymous

My mommy doe has 5-week-olds and she just gave birth to another litter 2 days ago. When I saw the litter two were dead and three were fine. Then the next day one seemed to be breathing heavy and it died that night and the other two were very active and fine. Today I went to check on them and the last two were dead as well.

What could be the cause of this? Did she not feed them? She didn't even make a nest for this litter like she did the first one.

***** Karen Sez *****
Sorry to hear it Anon. It's hard to say for sure what happened, but I can point you in a couple directions:

1) Did the kits of this new litter have fat little milk-filled bellies? If so, the doe was feeding them and the reason for death was something else.

If she did not make a nest, it could be that she did not prepare to care for this litter and so just let them die. In this case, you probably did not see fat bellies, but thin wrinkled ones.

I'm not sure why she would not make a nest, but it could be because of the season. In autumn, rabbits tend to go into a quiet period and she may have decided to rebuild her body rather than care for the litter. (This is conjecture because I don't know exactly what happened. But this might be a possibility.)

Without a nest, I suspect the babies simply chilled to death.

2) Were the 5-week-olds still in with the mother doe? If so, this could have contributed to the lack of care (supposing that lack of care was the problem, which includes no nest or attention).

For your future information, baby rabbits in the wild are typically weaned by 4 weeks of age. So, if you know your doe is pregnant, you can remove the litter from the doe (wean) at 28-30 days, and thereby give the doe a chance to gear up for a brand new litter. (Provide fresh nest-building materials at that time.) The kits are well able to take care of themselves by 4 weeks of age. See Weaning Rabbits for tips on low-stress weaning (important when you have to wean at 4 weeks).

Lastly, I have to ask: where is the dad rabbit? Giving him his own cage works the best for both the doe and her litters.

More resources:
Rabbit Raising Problem Solver

Rabbit Reproduction E-Book

May 10, 2012
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Coping with two litters
by: Sylvia

Our doe escaped her cage for an afternoon meeting with our buck, when her first litter was 4 weeks old. I was hoping to breed her when she recovered properly but the inevitable happened and again she had a litter of six. I was planning to wean the first litter at 8 weeks, but realised her milk dried up when they were 6 weeks old. By that time they were eating her food and hay and drinking, and I was planning to give them access to her after she kindled for a few days. Lila obviously thought they were ready to fend for themselves as she started chasing them away before she kindled, and didn't want them around her after she kindled. I had always given her plenty of complete muesli but found that after her second litter she was very skinny. I immediately started feeding Lila alfalfa hay and this improved her condition within a few days.

Mar 09, 2012
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Another litter of 8!
by: Cheryl

Thanks for your response, we were so worried! Our doe did indeed have 8 more healthy beautiful kits again-32 days after the first litter! She cleaned them all up and made a great nest for them. At night we separate her from the first litter so she could rest and tend to the new litter, but during the day we let her hang with the first litter still. We are so proud of her! Watching her and the babies grow has been an amazing experience for all of us!

***** Karen Sez *****
So, does your doe FEED both litters? Or just hang out with the first one? Would you have any pics to send...??? :-)

You're doing a great job with a surprising situation.

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