Rabbit Pregnancy

Rabbit Pregnancy. It is easy to raise rabbits - or is it?
Follow an entertaining conversation between Raising-Rabbits and Marlene about telling if rabbits are pregnant.

One of the most frequent questions we get at Raising-Rabbits is: "Is my rabbit pregnant, and how can I tell??"

The answer is: It is not always easy to tell!

We wrote a page about it and titled it 5 CLUES to a Pregnant Rabbit. There’s a reason we call them clues - because sometimes rabbits pull fast ones on their breeders!

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Recently Marlene (from Texas) and I had an entertaining rabbit pregnancy conversation via email that illustrated several ways that pregnant rabbits can fool their rabbit owners.

The exchange illustrates well the joy and the occasional unpredictability of raising rabbits. Marlene is doing a great job having learned 'on the job' the different faces of a rabbit pregnancy and how to take good care of the kits, and gave her permission for you to listen in on the conversation too.

Marlene Wrote:

Baby Californian Kit of Belle's

“I weighed and bred three does on Sept 18 and 19 once our Texas temperatures had moderated. I didn't know to watch them for 30 minutes to know whether or not they peed. I also didn’t know that this is their "natural time of rest" (see Rabbit Rhythm e-zines). I then weighed each doe on the 28th day and placed nest boxes in their cages, just in case.

Belle, an 8 month old virgin, had gained 2 pounds and at placing my hand on her tummy, thought I felt a kick. She was fearful of the nest box, but finally jumped in and kicked out 90% of the nesting material. I put fresh clean bedding in the box the next morning. She lay outside the nest, just chilling. Still no bunnies after 33 days.

Betty, also an 8 month old virgin, had only gained 5 ounces. This morning she delivered 2 live bunnies, but one was a little cool. She pulled NO hair, but remained in the box and the babies were not together. I put both babies under my shirt on my tummy to warm them while instructing hubby to empty the dirty box and put in new nesting material.

A couple warm baby Californian rabbit kits

(Betty's 2 little ones at 2 days old. They are finally getting the idea that staying together shares the body heat. They now seem to be thriving.”)

"Both warmed babies went back into the nestbox snuggling together and I covered them lightly with soft dried grass [see note at page bottom]. Betty jumped in and lay there all day. The one cool baby was plump, but the other one looked like the Michelin Man (ready to pop).

Bonnie, the third doe, is 2 years old, an experienced and by-the-book Mommy. She had gained about 6 ounces since breeding. She took up residency in her next box except to void. No bunnies, just a contented ol' gal.

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(Below: This is Bonnie, saying, ‘Yeah, I know that you were expecting a rabbit pregnancy from me, but I have my own ideas. By the way, thanks for the nice comfy nest. I think I will snooze away the afternoon.’

Bonnie, a 2-year-old Californian doe lounging in a nest box.

"When this project started last March, hubby said about raising rabbits,
‘There’s nothing to it.’  Well, ‘they showed me!’"

“The one (Belle), that "I knew was pregnant" wasn't, the one (Betty) I figured was not pregnant was, and the third one (Bonnie) is probably laughing her butt off at me. Her litter in June was perfection. All three of these does were exceptions to all the rules. My guess is that the old doe peed to prevent her rabbit pregnancy. Just thought that you would be interested in the learning curve these three are giving me. Gotta laugh, they know more than I do.

Karen Sez:

Marlene’s experiences with rabbit pregnancy show how difficult it is to lay down hard and fast rules for raising rabbits. Because the minute you do, the rabbits will pull a fast one on you. Or in her case, two or three 'fast ones.'

But keep reading, because one doe is going to pull one more trick...

Nesting Box Materials: Pine Shavings, Hay, Straw

Marlene Wrote Again:

“Here is a photo of Belle on day 34. What do you think?

Belle, a young Californian doe on day 34 of first pregnancy

"Is she:

  1. Tidying up her cage after her human puts hay and dried grasses in her cage?
  2. Showing her human that she can indeed make a nest much better than her human can? 
  3. Is she actually getting ready to give birth?"

Karen Sez:

Number 3 of course!

Yay - any doe in my barn doing THIS on day 34 is for sure pregnant. (HINT: Full lengths of hay for the nest box, instead of those short little pieces, might be more effective for the doe's nest-building efforts.)

Marlene Wrote Yet Again:

Belle's nest box containing 2 unseen kits. Belle is a Californian rabbit.

“I checked Belle's cage this morning, and found lots of hair pulled and 2 babies. One was alive, one was dead. The living kit is plump, warm and wiggly. In reality, I realize that with having no litter mates, it is less likely to make it. It is in the hands of God now. A clean nest and regular checking is its best insurance for my part.

“The ol' doe Bonnie got her nest box removed today. Time for her to chill out.

“Wanted to tell you how much I enjoy sharing these experiences with you. Anything I share with you is public as far as I am concerned, and if it helps another NEWBIE, I am tickled pink.”

Very Large Rabbit Pens:

The rabbits at Aurora Rex Rabbit Ranch
pull the same rabbit pregnancy tricks now and then!

Marlene ended up putting all three kits together into Belle’s nest (see below). She also chose to bring them inside until they got a little older and more furred. Belle has been spending nights indoors with the kits and days outside in her hutch.

Said Marlene later,

"Momma and babies are all doing so well."

Three Californian kits from two mothers cuddling in the nest

Great job with each rabbit pregnancy, Marlene!

We hope you gain insight into the ins and outs of rabbit pregnancies simply by listening in on this conversation. 

We all have expectations, but sometimes the rabbits make up their own minds. There is no single way to raise rabbits. Many things depend on your own circumstances, the weather, the availability of supplies, etc.There are multiple ways to accomplish the same rabbit pregnancy care.

A quick note about covering the kits with soft dried grass in the nest: A grass covering only works in places like Texas while the temperatures are warm. In late fall and winter, or for the rest of us, a good cocooning with rabbit fur is absolutely essential to bunny survival. Groom it from the doe or even a buck if necessary.

The doe Betty failed to pull her own fur, but perhaps she nevertheless had a sixth sense (the good ones do) – she provided her own body heat by remaining in the nest. Perhaps next time she’ll actually pull a few wisps of fur, or even a lot…

Go from Rabbit Pregnancy to Pregnant Rabbit Clues

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