The pitter patter of tiny paws fills the air as your beloved rabbit’s new litter arrives. It’s an exciting time, but also one filled with great responsibility. These fragile little lives depend on your care and guidance as they take their first hops. While mama rabbit’s motherly instincts kick in, you play a vital role too. From preparing the perfect nest to ensuring mom’s health and comfort, the joys and duties of rabbit parenting await you. Though it’s not always easy, the elation of watching your bunny family grow is so rewarding. This special time bonds you even closer with your rabbits. Get ready for an adventure as your tiny kits explore their new world under your watchful and loving eyes.
Remove the Father Rabbit
It is important to remove the father rabbit from the mother's hutch once she has given birth. The father may injure or even kill the newborn kits. Separate the father into his own hutch or pen. Be sure to provide him with plenty of hay, pellets, water and affection during this transition. Though it may seem cruel, removing the male is vital for the safety of the new litter.
Why Separation is Vital
Separating the mother and new litter from the father rabbit is essential for several reasons. The mother will be very protective of her kits and the presence of the male may cause her distress. She may act aggressively toward him. The male may also inadvertently injure the kits while attempting to mate with the female again. Baby rabbits are extremely fragile, so keeping the father away prevents accidental casualties. Once the kits are older and less vulnerable, the male can usually be reintroduced to the rest of the rabbits. For now, separation allows the mother to focus on nursing her litter without interference.
Make a Nest for the New Litter
It is important to provide the right nesting environment for the newborn rabbits and mother. The nest should be warm, dry and safe. Provide plentiful hay for the mother to build her nest with. You can also add soft bedding like shredded paper or fabric. Make sure the nest box is large enough for the litter to move around, but small enough to contain them. Elevate the next box a few inches off the bottom of the hutch so it doesn't sit in urine or feces. Check that the mother rabbit can easily get in and out of the box to feed the kits. Cover part of the hutch to provide a dark, secluded space for nursing. Monitor the nest daily and add more nesting material if needed.
For the first week or two, the newborn rabbits will spend all their time in the nest with their mother. She will only leave them for brief periods to eat, drink and relieve herself. The kits cannot regulate their own body temperature yet, so they rely on snuggling together in the insulated nest for warmth. Their eyes and ears will be closed at first. Around 10-14 days old, they will open their eyes. Their mother encourages nursing by making special noises and arrangements in the nest. As the kits grow bigger and stronger, they will gradually venture out more but still return regularly to nurse and sleep. Enjoy watching their daily progress while resisting any urge to handle them at this delicate stage.
Don’t Restrict the Mother’s Food or Water
It is important not to limit the mother rabbit's access to food and water after she gives birth. Nursing and caring for a litter is very nutritionally taxing. The mother needs unlimited hay, pellets, vegetables and fresh water to meet the demand. Restricting her intake can cause health issues like GI stasis. She also needs to eat and drink regularly to keep up her milk production. Provide the doe with a high quality diet and replenish food and water as often as needed. Give her extra treats like rolled oats, sprouts and carrots for supplemental energy. Make sure she is maintaining a healthy weight. Avoid overfeeding treats, but let the mother eat and drink to satisfaction while nursing.
Is the Mother Lactating?
Check that the mother rabbit is properly lactating to nourish her litter. Look for evidence that the kits have round bellies and milk mustaches after nursing sessions. Weigh the babies daily for the first week to ensure they are gaining weight steadily. Listen near the nest when the mother is inside for suckling noises. Gently press the mother's nipples to express a drop of milk. It should appear white or slightly yellow. If concerned the doe has low milk production, contact your vet. They can advise lactation supplements, injections or other assistance. If the litter still appears underfed, you may need to hand feed replacement formula. Monitor closely to ensure the kits are getting adequate nutrition from their mother.