Do rabbits eat their baby bunnies

by Jeorgia Evangelista
(Philippines)

Is it possible that the mother rabbit will eat her babies?


***Moderator Comments***
The very short answer is yes.

The better answer is - the incidence of does eating their young is rare, and we don't know of any does that just up and eat their babies for no reason.

The explanation is:
Rabbits are prey animals that exist at the bottom of the hierarchy. In the rabbit's perspective, everything out there has a huge set of fangs or a very sharp beak, along with a very big appetite. But that doesn't mean it just gives itself up and lays down on the dinner plate. The doe does all she can to personally survive and keep having babies for the good of the species.

If she is in the process of kindling or if she has a young litter, and then gets frightened for her life, it is well documented that she might eat her babies, destroying any evidence that would attract predators or reduce her chance of survival.

If those kits were even a few days old (in the wild), this doe would likely already be pregnant with her next litter. She will flee to survive another day so she can have her next litter and hopefully raise many more babies.

We don't know, Jeorgia, if you're just curious, or traumatized by your doe's awful brutality! If so, please know that she was acting out of instinct, and if you can provide an environment where she feels safe, this same doe (unless she is overly nervous) will most likely do an excellent job of mothering the next litter.

We wish you and your rabbits the best.

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Jun 04, 2016
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Wild cottontail's nest
by: Anonymous

Hi there, I have a wild cottontail question -hopefully someone can help? My sister found a nest a few days ago at a playground under the play set. Kids were sitting on it, not realizing it was there. It's in an area she was able to tape off (it's next to the community center & they ok'd it) so that kids wouldn't play there until the kits are out of the nest.

We know does only come back once or twice a day, etc. there were about 7 of them. They were not very far down, so pretty visible w just looking. She's checked on them the past couple mornings to make sure they have been fed. And they were warm, not sluggish, etc. (by just touching one, not handled them all) and early in the morning before anyone is at the playground.

This morning I went to check and there is only 1 kit left in the nest & there was one dead outside it, w/bite marks & two back ends. The rest were no where to be seen. Do you think this was a predator? Or the doe getting nervous & eating the babies? Would she leave one in the nest? Should we take the last one to the wild life rescue here in town?

Thank you for any help you can offer!

***** Karen Sez *****
Sorry to hear it. How old were the kits? Does typically brutalize their kits only during the kindling process, if fearful, as far as I know.

I am inclined to think that a predator has visited the nest, especially since the doe had been caring well for the kits.

Try calling the rescue organization and follow their recommendations. If you do nothing, the predator will surely return. (Predators have to eat, too...) If you take the kit without being prepared, it may still die. Best of luck with everything.



Feb 22, 2016
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Second litter
by: Anonymous

We have been trying to raise rabbits since the summer. This is the second litter with the same result. One half eaten kit and the rest are left out of the nest to die. Any suggestions?

***** Karen Sez *****
Sorry to hear it.

Either of the resources below will help you brainstorm whether or not there are problems in your rabbit husbandry practices that might be contributing to the problem.

Lastly, sometimes there is just nothing you can do to fix 'stupid,' as they say. If the doe didn't inherit sufficient mothering instincts, then the only solution is to retire the doe either to freezer camp or to pethood, and continue your rabbit breeding efforts with a new doe or does. Usually a breeder will give the doe three chances to get it right. This means breed her once more, and if she fails, you now know to take a different direction with the breeding program.

One more idea - if you can closely monitor the doe around kindling time, you can perhaps rescue the situation. If you can catch the situation before the kits freeze to death, you might be able to put them back into the nest under her fur (even if you have to comb the fur out of her coat for her). Perhaps the doe's instincts can be awakened in this way and she'll enter her nest and feed the kits over the next 24 hours.

On the other hand, some does, once they have scattered the kits and not kindled them in the nest, have already abandoned them in their minds. These does will simply ignore the kits altogether. But, you'll never know in which category your doe falls if you don't give her a chance.

Good luck!

Rabbit Raising Problem Solver

Rabbit Reproduction


Jan 27, 2016
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Does eating their young
by: Anonymous

My daughter's rabbit had only 3 kits that we know of and it was the doe's first time. One kit we managed to get off her while she was eating it, the other she completely ate and we found one out in her outside cage. I have no idea why she did this but they were very big. She is fine now, but I wish I knew why this happened.

***** Karen Sez *****

Ugh, sorry you had to experience the more difficult parts of rabbits. The most common causes for does eating their young are stress surrounding the birth time, and weak mothering instructions in the genetic makeup. Sometimes one never really knows. Repeating the breeding frequently results in complete success.

You'll find much more info in either our book, Rabbit Raising Problem Solver, or our e-book, Rabbit Reproduction. Enjoy your rabbits!

Jan 11, 2016
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Help!
by: Hillarie

So my Rex rabbit had an unexpected litter of kits a few days ago. Yesterday I found one of the smaller babies dead. I understand that you can lose one or two especially if it's her first litter, but I've been checking in on her about every 4-5 hours. when I came in this morning she had pushed all of her babies around in separate spots and I cannot for the life of me find one of them. Did she eat it?

***** Karen Sez *****
I doubt she ate it. Does don't usually eat a kit just to be eating it. And when they do cannibalize one, you find pieces of it.

Clearly, if she DID eat the whole thing, you wouldn't find it. I doubt it, because I've seen litters that have been damaged, but the doe didn't consume the dead kits.

What is true is that something may have disturbed the doe, OR she is confused or frustrated about something.

I am not quite sure I have the full picture - separate spots within a nest box or in a wire cage, or in a hard-bottomed cage? Because it is not hard to lose a dead kit even in a nest box. Once dead, they dehydrate, get floppy, and shavings get stuck to their little bodies. The normal activities within the nest tends to churn the little body into a corner or to the very bottom of the nest.

There is also the chance that the lost kit was hungry and latched onto a teat at the time the doe hopped out of the nest box. In this case, the kit would have fallen onto the wire, and then crawled around looking for the nest, eventually reaching the edge of the cage and falling to the ground.

This is why the better wire cages are equipped with "baby-saver" wire on the sides - wire that is 1/2" x 1" apart for the first 4 inches from the bottom - keeps babies from falling out of the cage.

Hopefully the doe will settle down and do a good job raising the rest of her kits. You can help her by:
--Ensuring her feed is fresh
--Supplementing the feed with some organic parsley and black oil sunflower seeds, which will help her make plenty of milk
--Ensuring a quiet, non-stressful environment for the doe.

For more info:
Rabbit Raising Problem Solver

Rabbit Reproduction


Jun 15, 2011
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RE does eating babies
by: Anonymous

Sometimes a first-time rabbit mom might eat the first placenta, and then forget that she needs to stop eating once the placenta is gone. That might be the case if you find 1 partially eaten kit, and all the rest are fine and well cared for. The same doe usually doesn't make the same mistake on the second litter.

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