Care of Baby Rabbits:
First Two Weeks of Life

Care of baby rabbits while in the nest box. How to care for baby bunny rabbits age zero to two weeks old.

Baby rabbit care during the first two weeks of their lives is fairly simple.  The mother rabbit will do all the feeding and cleaning of the kits.

Your job will be to ensure that the rabbit nest box stays clean and dry, and that the doe and kits stay well-fed.

Here are a few tips about taking care of baby rabbits.... 

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1. Make sure that the mother rabbit gets all the food and water she need.

Don't let her feed run out, and don't let her water crock go empty.  Since the doe will be doing all the feeding of the baby rabbits, she will need plenty of feed and water for herself in order to make plenty of milk for the hungry kits. The more baby rabbits she has, the more crucial is this tip.

2. To take the best care of baby rabbits, you'll want to check on the bunnies every day.

9 day old rex rabbit kits9-day-old rex rabbit kits temporarily removed from the nest

You'll make sure they stay healthy, well-fed, and free of health problems, such as eye infections. 

You’re also checking to be sure no kits get isolated in a corner of the nest box. 

After one of our does gave birth, I found 2 of her kits down in the burrow where they belonged, and the rest of the litter in a separate little pile in a corner of the nest box.  That night, the doe fed the two kits in the burrow, and ignored, or forgot, the entire rest of the litter! 

Since I was checking the litter every day, it was clear that most kits had not been fed, but the two bunnies in the burrow had enormous round chubby tummies.  It was easy to put all the babies together into the burrow.  The next evening all the kits got fed, and all was well.

To take care of baby rabbits during very cold weather, you’ll also check to be sure the burrow stays warm and that no kit strays away from the nest accidentally and gets chilled or frozen.

3. To take care of baby rabbits, you want to keep the nest box from getting too fouled with either urine or round fecal pellets.

12 day old kits in nest box

It's not that the nest needs to be sterile, because the kits gain their gut bacteria from the mother's feces.  But you don't want the nest to get damp with urine or excessively dirty.

Usually the doe stays out of the nest except for the 5-10 minutes it might take her to feed her babies.  But some does like to lounge in the nest all day.  That's when she may just pee and poop in the nest box. 

If you’ve still got days to go before the nest box comes out of the cage, you can either clean out the dirty spots in the nest box or completely replace all the bedding:

  • Cleaning the nest box: A couple times over the last several years I had to empty the whole thing out and start from scratch.  (See our Rabbit Nest Box page for a refresher on how to fill the nest box with bedding materials.) 

    I save as much of the clean dry fur from the old nest as possible, and put it into the new nest, lining the new burrow so the kits will remain warm and comfortable.  A rabbit nest box can get dirty in a hurry if the doe is a ‘pig.’

  • Much more often, I notice the fecal marbles sitting in the front of the burrow (inside the nest box, but not down where the bunnies are sleeping).  Pull the nest box out of the cage and scoop most of these out. 

    At the same time, you can determine whether or not the nest is wet with urine.  Has the doe been also peeing in the nest?  If the shavings seem damp, scoop out the damp shavings as well.  Then you can smooth out the bedding material, and perhaps toss a bit more hay into the nest box before placing it back in the rabbit cage.  Add a handful of fresh shavings, if you need to.

    For this doe, you'll want to keep checking, and cleaning, the nest box every day as necessary until it comes out of the cage. (She's not going to reform, just because you cleaned it out.)

4. To take care of baby rabbits, don't be afraid to handle the baby bunnies a little each day.

Checking that their tummies are all full is a fine excuse.  It is our feeling that as we handle the kits regularly at this very early age, they become better accustomed to human contact.  Their transition to weaning is that much easier, and they seem to have less anxiety throughout their lives. 

5. Taking care of baby rabbits -- The rabbit nest box comes out of the cage between Days 12 to 18, and no later.

The best rule-of-thumb for removing the nest box:

The rabbit nest box comes out the moment a bunny hops out all by itself

This little bunny hopped out of the nest box at age 12 daysThis little doe-kit was 15 days old when she hopped out of the nest box. One of her little sisters had hopped out as well and was huddled on the far side of the cage.

Day 12 was the earliest any of my baby rabbits hopped out.  In the summer, when it’s warm, you don’t need to worry so much about keeping bunnies warm once the nest is gone, especially if you do as I have - put a low-sided cardboard box with a few shavings and straw or hay into the cage. 

A problem might arise if a youngster hops out too soon in the winter.  But usually, during the cold, the kits tend to remain burrowed.  It’s during the warm summer evenings that the smaller, hungry kit tries to get more of Mama.  It’s the little kit you’ll find huddled outside the nest in the morning when you check on the animals.  Or, it’s possible the little kit was latched onto a teat, and got pulled out when the doe jumped out of the box. 

If the little guy jumps out on Day 12, I’ve been known to pop him back into the nest box.  Almost invariably he’ll be out again the next morning.  That’s when I put in the cardboard box with shavings and straw and simply remove the nest box altogether.  

6. If the kits are still snuggled in the nest box by Day 18, evict the little buggers.

Any longer than about 18 days, and the chance of "nest box eyes" rises significantly.  Depending the situation, some litters can be at risk for eye infections sooner than 18 days.

"Nest box eye" is an eye infection.  Without a little attention, an eye infection can cause blindness, even death if severe.

Terramycin opthalmic ointment works wonders for nest box eye.

  • Good initial sanitation helps prevent eye infections.  Before giving the nest box to the doe, clean it thoroughly with a 1:10 bleach solution.  A pump sprayer works great.  Let it sit for an hour.  This will kill any pathogens (germs) and give the kits a good start at life.

  • Germs still get into the nest box, of course.  But if the nest box comes out after 2 weeks, the biggest source of germs goes away.  If a kit starts getting a bit of pus in the eye, sometimes just removing the nest box is enough to give the eye a chance to clear up.

7. To take care of baby rabbits, you should be aware that the two biggest health threats related to the nest box are eye infections, and enterotoxemia.

Diarrhea caused by enterotoxemia can be fatal in a very short time.  See Rabbit Diarrhea for more information.

(Benebac is an excellent remedy for 'mild' bunny diarrhea.)

Taking care of baby rabbits takes just a little forethought and a few minutes of extra attention
.  You will be rewarded with roly-poly, healthy little baby rabbits that leap and cavort around the cage...when they're not snacking on pellets or snoozing.

Enjoy your new bunnies!

Learn about raising baby rabbits to weaning age

Go from Care of Baby Rabbits to Rabbits Giving Birth


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