Rabbits Giving Birth

Day 31 -- Rabbits giving birth!

You find a pile of fur in the rabbit nest box.  And as you watch, the fur wiggles. 

Glorious day--your doe has kindled (given birth).  Count yourself very fortunate if you got to actually watch your rabbit giving birth. They have the capability of waiting until you're gone and all is quiet before giving birth.

Me?  At this point I’m dying of curiosity. 


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Are all the kits alive and healthy?

How many new kits in the nest box?

Is the doe taking care of them?

Can I safely check, or handle, the kits?

Rabbits giving birth is an amazing event.  Let’s answer these questions, because after your rabbit kindles, you'd like to know that the doe and the kits are all fine.



New rabbit mama - she has kindled just hours prior to this pictureXena has just given birth to a large litter of 9. The nest holds a mound of fur under which her kits are snug and warm despite December temperatures barely into the 40s F.


Are the baby rabbits all alive and healthy?

You need to know, because if there’s a dead kit in the nest, and there might be, you'll need to remove them before they start rotting, smelling and attracting flies. After checking this nest, I found one stillborn kit, which I removed.

There could also be a few stray placentas laying around.  The doe usually eats them.  This apparently increases the correct hormones that she will need for making milk.  But if you find any in the nest, and you might if the litter is large, then just pull them out and throw them away. The doe will have nothing to do with it, once she's finished with giving birth and nursing the babies.

Rabbit kits are born with their eyes and ears sealed shut, and completely furless.  Don’t be alarmed at how they look - it'll take them a couple weeks for the fur to grow in enough to keep them warm outside the nest box.   

Here’s a picture of Xena's kits. They are only hours old; their tummies are nice and round. 

Rabbits giving birth - hours old kits

How many newborn rabbits are there?

A rabbit litter can number anywhere from 1, all the way to 15.  Yes, a couple of our does have kindled 15 kits.  No, not all the kits survived. 

It's just as difficult, rabbits giving birth to just 1 kit. Chances rise that it freezes to death, even in the nest, since it has no littermates to snuggle with and body warmth to share.  But one of my does, who had just one kit, sat in her nest and helped keep the little one warm.  Smart doe, I thought.

There are ways to help rabbits giving birth to more kits than she can handle.  Your outcomes will improve if you remove a few of the babies from the nest, perhaps fostering them to those rabbits giving birth to just a few kits.  This gives the stronger kits a better chance at a good start in life, and the weaker ones a better chance at survival.

Here’s how I do it: I let nature take its course for a couple days.  At the end of, say, 2 days, it becomes evident which of the kits are not strong.  The weaker kits will not be getting their fair share of the doe’s milk, and after a couple days, these kits will have thin abdomens.

Rabbits Giving Birth - one kit is quite thin

I will remove the scrawny kits from the nest.  In this picture of 4-day-old rabbits, the gray bunny has no tummy.  You don't want to see such a waist-line!  But I'm happy to report that she still managed to get enough milk to do okay.  Despite being the runt of the litter, she did very well, and grew up to be a competitive show rabbit.  

I like to have 2 or more rabbits giving birth on the same day.  It increases the odds I can foster a few kits to another doe, if necessary. 

Sometimes even after reducing the litter size or fostering a few kits to another dam, a few more kits become scrawny. In this case, the litter might end up numbering around 8.  Most does are just fine with 8 kits.

If some of your kits are thin, try supplementing your doe's rations with a source of additional oil, for example, whole oats or black oil sunflower seeds (bird seed). The extra oil is essential for helping the doe to increase her milk production. It doesn't take much - just a tablespoon for the lactating doe.

Is the doe taking care of the baby rabbits?

Rabbits giving birth - Nice full tummy on one baby rabbit

After rabbits giving birth comes the feeding of the kits, and the doe will likely take excellent care of her babies. But just to be sure, you can check the bellies of the kits.  If they have nursed, their little bellies will be round, even distended, just like Xena's opal rex kit pictured here.

But even if they don’t look full, they might safely go 1 - 2 days before getting a full ‘meal.’  This is probably built into the rabbit as a protective mechanism, since in the wild, the doe might need to stay away from the nest for a while to avoid leading predators to her kits.

Which brings up an important observation for domestic rabbit breeders: Mother rabbits only ever feed their kits once a day, rarely twice, and that for just 5 to 10 minutes.  In this short time frame, the kits get their whole day’s milk supply.  So, if you never see the doe go near the nest box, but the little kits have round tummies, everything is fine.  You don’t need to help nature along.  The doe is doing her job while you’re in bed asleep.










Can I safely check on the kits?

Despite what you may have heard in the past, the answer is:

Yes

Here’s how it works:

The doe has spent her 10 minutes in the nest at 11 pm at night.  You come along in the morning and check on the kits.  Even if you come along in the evening, you can still follow these steps. 

  • Give the doe a handful of hay or whole oats (or other favorite treat).  This distracts the doe.

  • Remove the nest box from the cage and place on a flat surface.

  • Move the mound of fur aside.  If you see any dead baby rabbits or placentas, remove them.

  • Reach down into the deeper recesses of the burrow and pull out all the kits, counting each one.

  • Place them on top of the shavings in front of the burrow, one by one, where you can see them.

  • Observe that there are no dead kits in the back, down in their little sleeping burrow, and if there is, remove them. Remove any shavings that are obviously damp or bloody from the birthing process.

  • Check that each kit has a full tummy and seems healthy.  If the litter is large, there may be one or two whose bellies are not as full as the others, however hopefully they will have had at least some milk, and you can make a note to recheck in a day.

  • Replace the kits where you found them.  Some may have already crawled back down into their burrow.  Mound the fur where you found it, over top of the burrow.

  • Put the nest box back into the cage. The doe will come check it out. She might hop in the nest and feed her babies, but chances are better that she won’t return to her babies until late at night.

  • In the meantime, the kits will pick up the scent of their nest again, and lose your scent.

  • If your doe knows you and your scent, and is comfortable with you, the chance is very great that she’ll be completely unimpressed by your scent on the nest box.  I have NEVER had a doe reject her litter because I checked the nest box.


  • If you have doubts, for example, if you acquired a pregnant doe who is unfamiliar to her new surroundings, if you never handle the doe, or if you know your doe is skittish or highstrung, then put a dab of vanilla extract on her nose.  She won’t be able to smell anything else for a while, they tell me.  You can check the kits safely, and they will lose your scent by the time she goes back into the nest to feed them.

 

You've checked the nest carefully. The kits are well fed, snug and warm.

But what do you do should you discover a kit on the cage wire the next day, cold, still and apparently lifeless?

Go to Warming Chilled Kits for our best tips.


Any Help Needed for Rabbits Giving Birth?

Most of the time the answer is "no."  But sometimes it might take them a while before their instincts kick in.  Go to Help the Doe Take Care of her Baby Rabbits for more information. 

Learn more about taking care of the baby rabbits - Care of Baby Rabbits.

We hope this information about rabbits giving birth has been helpful to you, and we hope you enjoy watching your baby rabbits grow!

 


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I have three Flemish Giants. My one Doe had a beautiful litter of Four and was a wonderful mother. She housed them in a nice warm place during the winter …

2 week old bunny whose eyes are not yet open Not rated yet
My rabbit had 7 bunnies on Xmas day. They are 13 days old today and all except one have their eyes open. Should I be worried that this bunny still has …

Cold weather and babies? Not rated yet
Thanks for all your helpful information on this site, it was very useful for my first litter of babies! My French Lop and two Mini Lop does are due any …

Who's the mommy? Not rated yet
We got two small bunnies over the summer and the pet store did not know the sex. Well we have figured it out ~ they're opposite sex ~ we have 3 new babies …

Blind kits Not rated yet
I had a rabbit given to me, so I am unsure of her health. She had 6 kits and 3 are blind in one eye. One is completely blind and has since died. I am unfamiliar …

Some help please Not rated yet
My rabbits are a mini rex and I think a polish. Can they have lops because I think they are absolutely adorable. Also my mini rex had its 2nd litter that …

Trying to keep outside rabbits in 100 degree weather alive Not rated yet
We are in a very hot drought for Va in the beginning of June and all my rabbits are outside. I have 2 pregnant does, 2 does with kits only a week old, …

I think one of my newborn bunnies is getting all of mum's milk and the other two are getting none-help! Not rated yet
My bunny gave birth to five babies 3 days ago, 2 were unfortunately dead so we removed those, now I am concerned that mum is only feeding one of them as …

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Crisis in the Wild Not rated yet
I live in the country and my Dorkie (Weiner Dog/Yorkie Mix) has found a wild bunny nest in the yard. He's already killed one and I'd like to try and save …

Found a nest of Kits in yard. Not rated yet
Hi, I was clearing our back yard of weeds, lots and huge, and found a nest of kits. I originally thought they were rats and after calling places to see …

Checking Rabbit Kits Not rated yet
The doe is a very contented, affectionate dwarf lop - she gave birth to 5 kits but one got caught in a loop of straw and unfortunately choked. I could …

My Mini Rex's First Litter Not rated yet
I bought 3 mini rex rabbits to start hobby breeding after studying up on it for about 7 months. The first doe had a litter of 5. One was a peanut I think …

How to increase rabbit litter size Not rated yet
How can I make my doe give birth to at least 12 kits? She gives birth to 2 or 4. ** ** This is a very important question for a meat rabbit …

What if the doe neglects the kits? Not rated yet
What if the doe neglects the kits? I bring them into the house and care for them. Am I doing the wrong thing? ** ** Well, it depends what you …

Two litters back to back Not rated yet
Hi, I bought two female rabbits but found out too late that one was actually male. I removed the male once I had found the nest of kits. They are now just …

My doe had her babies outside,its -10.....-15 Not rated yet
Its really cold, way below 0. She had her babies outside, she did make a nest and have them covered with her fur. But its like -10......-15 degrees and …

baby rabbits Not rated yet
I thought I had 2 male rabbits until earlier today when I realised there were three baby rabbits in the upstairs side compartment. I really don't know …

Second litter is dying...we're sooooo bummed!! Not rated yet
We had our first litter of 6 and one by one they all died. some were scrawny some looked healthy and plump, but still by day 3 they were all dead. it was …

The mother rabbit died of mastitis - now the kits are dying! Not rated yet
Our rabbit gave birth to a litter of six kits 12 days ago. Sadly, a week later she became very weak, and died. The vet said that nothing else could have …

My rabbit isn't feeding her kits, 2 have already died!  Not rated yet
Hello my name is Emma, I have 4 adult rabbits, all live in the same cage, 1 is a mother of the two. I thought they were all girls and one day I noticed …

One of my kitten's eyes is crusting over... Not rated yet
Hi there, My doe had five kittens and they are all doing fine except for one. One little buck can't seem to keep his eye open. A little while back I …

An oops litter of angora kits Not rated yet
My angora rabbit gave birth last night to four kits. We did not know she was pregnant and she has a very large metal cage that sits about 3 feet off the …

New Born Rabbits Not rated yet
Firstly, thank goodness for your website. Our beautiful rabbit just gave birth last night for the very first time. She built a lovely nest of bedding and …

Bunnies have not opened their eyes yet?? Not rated yet
My doe kindled Friday night, 25th of November. So, by tonight/early morning, they should be 11 days old. They have not yet opened their eyes... They …

4 new arrivals?? Not rated yet
Well, my 8 month old Dutch rabbit kindled 4 kits last night. We've separated the other doe that usually lives with the mum. The kits are warm and wriggling, …

Buns in the oven!  Not rated yet
I have a Lop, he is around 7mths old and seemed very depressed, so I went and got him a friend. I was scared to see if they were going get along. Well, …

First time Mama! Not rated yet
Lila is a first time mom! Although they were an accident I am excited to see if Lila will take care of them! I'm hoping she will be a good Mama even …

Your site helped so much for my 'surprise litter' thank you!!!!!!!! Not rated yet
I had a lot of trouble at my house during Hurricane Irene August 28, 2011 and in preparation I made different arrangements on where I was going to keep …

Cleaning out cage with kits inside? Not rated yet
Hi - My Netherland Dwarf rabbit has 6 kits 5 days ago. I have her inside in a quiet room where she can't be disturbed. I have today managed to scoop …

2 Babies & now 6 more Not rated yet
My Rabbit had 4 babies on the 12th of October I didn't even know she was pregnant went in to feed her in the early morning lifted the lid to the hutch …

I have no rabbit experience!! HELP PLEASE! Not rated yet
I'm only 13 yrs old and my baby girl just had 3 babies! One of them is a dark color and I don't know if she's feeding that one or not... Will I disrupt …

Can a female have a kit 5-6 weeks after having a litter? Not rated yet
My two pet rabbits (supposed to be two girls) one had a litter about 5/6 weeks ago. Sadly none survived. I was not prepared for it as I assumed both were …

First litter and all dead :( Not rated yet
We have a male and female mini lop and they have always lived together since they were only 6-8 weeks old (not siblings) We obviously knew we would be …

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My rabbit didn't give birth??!! Not rated yet
I mated my rabbit at about 5/6 months old on the 25th of September, it's the 31st day today. I palpated her on the 14th day, I could feel grape-sized balls. …

I'm lucky to see a rabbit giving birth Not rated yet
I was able to watch my new zealand white give birth...it was really cool and NOT disgusting at all...okay some may be disgusted but at least I don't mind …

2 does (chuckle) and now 10 babies Not rated yet
Recently got 2 does, kept them together because I was "assured" they were both girls. Hmmm. Now I have 10 little ones. Unfortunately, I did not notice …

Rabbit pregnancy limitations? Not rated yet
Dear Sir/Madam I would like to thank you for precious information cited in this website. I wanted to ask you a question about rabbit pregnancy. I was …

Replacing the birthing box Not rated yet
My rabbit is a first time mom. Her kits are 3 days old. I noticed the she started destroying her birthing box (cardboard). The kits would fall out through …

Worried Bunny Grandma Not rated yet
I have three rabbits, and wrongly thought all three were boys. One of course was a female and I now have a surprise 6-7 week old litter doing very well, …

First time rabbit mom, will she keep her kits alive? Not rated yet
My doe mated with my buck 10 days ago and I don't know how to palpate her but she does dig everywhere. But I am worried about the babies-if there are gonna …

Newborn kits Not rated yet
My bunny gave birth to 7 kits 2 nights ago -- we have just discovered that one has no ears -- has anyone ever had this happen and is there a concern, is …

My doe gave birth outside the hutch! Not rated yet
I have two female bunnies living in the same cage...next door's male rabbit has escaped a few times and mated with mine. Today I went out and saw a baby …

My rabbits first litter - they are all skinny Not rated yet
I have 2 females one had a litter of 4 and they all survived and the other just had her litter of 7 it has been 5 days and all the babies seem to be very …

A Sad Day for Bunnies Not rated yet
I recently moved my rabbits to outdoor hutches that are on the ground. We live in a subdivision where there are no real threat of predators so I figured …

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