How To Increase Milk Production in Rabbits

Raising a healthy litter of bunnies is one of the great joys of rabbit breeding, but it doesn’t come without challenges. The key to strong, thriving kits is excellent milk supply from mama rabbit. Milk provides the sole source of nourishment and antibodies for vulnerable newborns. Even as the kits start nibbling solids, mother’s milk remains a crucial food for the first weeks of life. But when milk production falters, the litter is at risk. Join us today as we dive deep into the secrets of bountiful milk and how to know if your doe needs a boost. Get ready for pro tips on nutrition, health, environment, and more so you can foster powerful milk flow and vigorous baby bunnies. The journey starts now!

Do Baby Rabbits Drink Milk from Their Mother?

Yes, baby rabbits rely on their mother's milk for nourishment in the first few weeks after birth. Mother rabbits only feed their babies once or twice a day, but the feedings occur for a fairly long period of time. The milk provides the kits with important antibodies, nutrients, and hydration that help them grow big and strong.

Mother's milk is the sole source of nutrients for newborn rabbits until they open their eyes at around 10 days old. At that point, they will start nibbling on solid foods but continue to nurse until 4-6 weeks old. By nursing and providing excellent milk, rabbit mothers are giving their offspring the best chance at survival.

How Long Do Baby Rabbits Need Milk?

Baby rabbits should drink their mother's milk for 4-6 weeks after birth. They will nurse 1-2 times per day during that period.

Newborn rabbits are born blind, deaf, and nearly hairless. For roughly the first week of life, they rely completely on mother's milk for sustenance. At around 10 days old, the kits open their eyes and begin eating solid food in tiny amounts. However, mother's milk remains the primary source of nutrition.

At 2-3 weeks old, the kits consume more solid food but still nurse frequently. By 4 weeks old, nursing starts decreasing as the kits transition to solid food. By 6 weeks old, most kits are fully weaned off milk.

It's important not to separate kits from their mother before 6 weeks. If removed too early, the kits may fail to thrive without the antibodies and nutrients from nursing that support their growth and health.

When Do Pregnant Rabbits Get Milk?

Pregnant rabbits do not usually produce milk until just shortly before giving birth. Lactation generally begins within 24-48 hours of kindling (giving birth).

A few days before kindling, the mother rabbit will begin "fur pulling" to build a warm, soft nest for her kits. Around this time, her mammary glands will also enlarge and pink up in preparation for milk production.

Within a day after kindling, the doe's milk will "come in." The milk is vital for nourishing the newborn kits. The early milk contains important antibodies and nutrients for the babies.

The onset of milk production is triggered by hormonal changes related to pregnancy and birth. The rising levels of prolactin and oxytocin cause the mammary glands to develop and secrete milk to feed the new litter.

So in summary, pregnant rabbits do not make milk through most of pregnancy. Milk comes in very close to active labor and birth.

Rabbit Not Producing Enough Milk

If a mother rabbit is not producing enough milk for her kits, it puts their growth and survival at risk. There are several possible reasons for low milk supply in rabbits:

  • Large litter. A rabbit mom may struggle to make enough milk if she has an exceptionally large litter, like over 10 babies. The kits compete for limited milk.

  • Health issues. Illness, diseases like mastitis, and poor nutritional health can inhibit milk production. Pain or illness can also prevent nursing.

  • Hormonal problems. Issues with prolactin and oxytocin hormones, or conditions like ovarian cysts, may affect milk supply.

  • Stress. Any form of stress, like loud noise, disruption, anxiety, or poor housing, may interfere with milk production.

  • Diet. Malnutrition, poor diet, or lack of water can all contribute to low milk supply. The doe needs proper nutrition to make milk.

  • Genetics. Some does are genetically predisposed to having lower milk production.

If milk supply seems low, the first steps are resting the doe, reducing stress, ensuring proper diet, and checking for health issues. Consulting a rabbit-savvy vet can help diagnose and treat the underlying cause.

Reduced or No Milk Production

There are a few key reasons why a mother rabbit may have little to no milk production:

  • False pregnancy – Rabbits produce milk when giving birth and nursing kits. But sometimes a female rabbit may exhibit pseudopregnancy behaviors like nesting and fur pulling even though she is not actually pregnant. The false signals can trigger a small amount of milk production.

  • Just gave birth – Milk supply is scant right before kindling and takes 12-24 hours to fully come in. So a doe may not have milk yet if she just finished giving birth.

  • Mastitis – This painful breast infection can cause milk supply to dwindle or disappear. The doe needs veterinary treatment.

  • Hormonal issues – Problems with prolactin, oxytocin, or other hormones can inhibit milk production and letdown. Certain illnesses are linked with hormone disruption.

  • Poor nutrition – Not eating enough quality food and fiber, or lack of access to water, are common diet issues leading to low milk supply. The doe’s body relies on proper nutrition to make milk.

  • Extreme stress – Significant ongoing stress from situations like loud environments, harassment, inadequate housing, or poor care can cause does to produce less milk.

  • Genetic predisposition – Occasionally, unproductive udders are an inherited issue in some genetic rabbit lines.

Addressing the underlying cause, like diet, stress, hormones, or health, is key to improving milk production in rabbits. Consulting an experienced rabbit veterinarian can help diagnose the problem.

Large Litter

It can be challenging for a mother rabbit to produce enough milk for a very large litter of kits. The average rabbit litter contains 4-12 babies. But litters of 13 or more put significant nutritional demand on the doe.

When a mother rabbit has an exceptionally large litter, there is greater competition among the kits over her limited number of nipples. Some of the weaker kits may get edged out. They can become undernourished, dehydrated, and smaller than their littermates.

Large litters also drain the doe's body resources faster. She has to eat more food to replenish her energy and milk supply. If she cannot keep up with the nutritional demands, her milk production will start to decrease.

There are a couple options for helping a doe care for an overly large litter:

  • Foster mother – Move some of the kits to a foster mother rabbit temporarily who has a smaller litter of her own.

  • Supplemental feeding – Use an eyedropper or small syringe to give undernourished kits a supplement like goat milk or kitten formula.

  • Culling – As a last resort, have a veterinarian humanely euthanize some of the weakest kits to lighten the burden on the mother.

It is best to avoid breeding situations that regularly produce litters over 10-12 babies. Large litters are difficult for the mother and can impact kit health.


A rabbit doe must be healthy in order to produce adequate, nutritious milk for her kits. Various illnesses and medical issues can negatively impact milk production and quality.

Common health problems that interfere with nursing include:

  • Mastitis – This bacterial infection of the mammary glands causes inflammation, swelling, and pain. It requires antibiotic treatment and often ruins the doe's milk supply.

  • Hormonal disorders – Issues with prolactin, oxytocin, estrogen, and other hormones involved in milk synthesis and release. May be linked to other illnesses.

  • Uterine infections – Bacterial contamination of the uterus after birthing can spread and cause illness that affects nursing.

  • Dental malocclusion or mouth injury – The doe struggles to eat normally, causing nutritional deficiencies.

  • Obesity or underweight – Unhealthy body condition interferes with hormonal signals for milk production.

  • Abscesses, tumors, cysts – Any abnormalities involving the mammary glands.

  • General illness – Diseases like pasteurellosis that make the doe feel unwell, have fever, or lose appetite.

Providing excellent care and nutrition is the best way to prevent health issues. Seeing an exotic vet for prompt treatment maximizes chances the doe can recover and nurse her litter.


To produce high volumes of nutrient-rich milk, mother rabbits need to eat a healthy diet in adequate amounts. Some key dietary factors influencing milk production include:

  • Calories – Nursing does require 1.5 times their normal caloric intake to meet energy demands. Insufficient calories lead to low milk supply and weight loss.

  • Water – Lactation increases water needs by 2-3 times. Dehydration inhibits milk synthesis. Clean water must be available at all times.

  • Protein – Milk protein levels directly correlate to protein in the doe's diet. Aim for at least 18% protein pellets, ample hay, and some high protein treats.

  • Fiber – Provides energy for milk production. offer unlimited grass hay.

  • Vitamins – B vitamins, vitamin A, and others support milk quality and supply. Feed a balanced rabbit pellet.

  • Calcium – Needed for milk synthesis and the doe’s healthy bones and teeth. Alfalfa hay offers lots of calcium.

  • Fatty acids – Omega-3s in flaxseed, walnuts, and other foods make milk more nutritious.

Monitor nursing does to ensure they are eating enough. Supply extra food, fresh greens, and enticing treats as needed to prevent weight loss.


To produce adequate milk, mother rabbits need to feel safe and comfortable in their surroundings. Stressful situations will cause a doe's milk supply to decrease.

Rabbit does are vulnerable while nursing and easily frightened. It's important to provide a very secure, peaceful environment with minimal disruptions:

  • Quiet, low traffic area – Loud noises, activity, and distractions are very stressful. Nest boxes should be in calm locations.

  • Dim lighting – Bright lights are unnatural for a burrow-dwelling animal and cause anxiety. Opt for gentle lighting.

  • Hide box for privacy – A box with one entrance makes does feel more secure while nursing vulnerable litters.

  • Comfortable temperature – Keep the nest area draft-free and between 60-75°F. Extremes of hot or cold are dangerous.

  • Protection from predators – Keep the doe and litter safely away from pets, children, or other perceived threats.

  • Handle kits infrequently – Excessive touching and holding stresses the doe. Limit handling litters to quick health checks.

  • Minimal rearranging – Changing around the cage frequently is unsettling. Keep a familiar, consistent setup.

A decompression period after birthing, with minimal interruptions, also helps the doe relax into her new role as a mother.

How To Increase A Rabbit's Milk Supply

If a nursing doe seems to have low milk production, there are some techniques for increasing her milk supply:

  • Evaluate her diet – Ensure she is eating plenty of quality foods with adequate protein, calories, vitamins, etc. Address any deficiencies.

  • Treat health issues – See a vet for any mastitis, infections, or other medical problems interfering with milk production.

  • Reduce stress – Create a peaceful nesting environment away from noise, disruption, bright lights, threats, etc.

  • Encourage more nursing – The more the kits nurse, the more milk will be produced. Place kits on her nipples frequently.

  • Supplement kits – Bottle feed kits goat milk or formula so they nurse less. This gives the doe time to rebuild supply.

  • Try fenugreek – Offer fenugreek-laced treats. The herb may help boost milk volume.

  • Genetics – Breed does from lines known for excellent milk production.

  • Be patient – In healthy does, supply usually rebounds within a few days as hormones ramp up.

Persistently low milk supply may indicate health issues requiring veterinary diagnosis and care. Provide supportive care in the meantime.

What To Feed A Nursing Mother Rabbit

A nursing mother rabbit has high nutritional needs to produce plenty of milk and maintain her health. Some ideal foods for a lactating doe include:

  • High quality pellets with 18% minimum protein, providing a balanced nutritional base. Increase ration by up to 50% while nursing.

  • Unlimited grass hay like timothy or orchard, to provide energy and fiber for milk production. The doe may eat twice the normal amount.

  • Leafy greens high in calcium and vitamin K like kale, parsley, cilantro, arugula, and broccoli. These support milk nutrients.

  • Vegetables for hydration and minerals like cucumber, zucchini, celery, carrots, peppers, and sprouts. Provide a variety.

  • Oats and barley to increase calories.

  • Alfalfa hay or alfalfa-based pellets to provide abundant calcium for milk.

  • Black oil sunflower seeds for calories; flaxseed for omega fatty acids.

  • Occasional high-protein treats like rolled oats, eggs, cottage cheese, beans, or salmon. These supply amino acids needed to synthesize milk proteins.

Free choice water, along with a balanced diet high in fiber, protein, and vitamins is key. Monitor the doe’s body condition and increase food as needed to avoid unhealthy weight loss.

How To Make Rabbit Milk Replacer

If a mother rabbit cannot produce enough milk for her kits, a substitute milk replacer can be made at home. Here is one recipe:


  • 1 cup of whole goat milk
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp heavy cream


  • Whisk all ingredients together until fully blended and smooth.
  • Warm the mixture under hot running water or use a water bath to heat it up to about body temperature. Do not microwave it; this destroys nutrients. Test temperature on your wrist before feeding.
  • Transfer milk replacer to a clean bottle, syringe, or eye dropper. Feed newborn kits 2-5 cc per day divided into multiple small feedings. Gradually increase each feeding to meet their needs.
  • Refrigerate leftover milk replacer immediately; gently reheat before each use. Discard after 24 hours.

The milk replacer approximates the nutrient profile of real rabbit milk. Always use proper handling and sanitation procedures when making and feeding it. Check with a veterinarian on proper technique and amounts. Homemade replacers are an emergency bridge until the doe hopefully regains normal milk supply.

Homemade Rabbit Milk

There are no perfect homemade recipes that fully mimic the unique nutritional composition of rabbit milk. But in an emergency situation where a doe cannot nurse her kits, homemade replacement milks may save the litter. Here are two options:

Goat milk – The closest match nutritionally is commercial goat milk. Look for whole goat milk without additives. Dilute with equal parts water or whey for newborns. Heat to body temperature before feeding with a syringe or dropper. Refrigerate immediately after use.

DIY replacer – For short term use, blend together 1 cup goat or cow milk, 1 egg yolk, 1 tsp light cream, and 1 tsp honey. Heat gently before feeding 2-5 cc per day divided into portions. Discard any uneaten milk after an hour.

These substitutes lack the antibodies and specialized nutrition of doe’s milk, so they are not a long-term solution. Work on addressing the mother rabbit’s milk production issues so her kits can resume nursing as soon as possible for the best health and survival outcomes. Check with an experienced rabbit vet for dosage guidance. Only use homemade formulas in true emergencies and for brief periods.


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