Rabbits breed quickly, this is something that any rabbit breeder will be familiar with. These animals can have as many as 10-12 litters in a year; although this isn’t advisable. However, with baby rabbits so often present in the homes of breeders, it is important to make sure that the babies are well fed and taken care of. But it isn’t very often you will see the doe tending to her young; so how do rabbits feed their babies?
Rabbits are mammals, and as such, produce milk to feed their babies. However, whereas a human baby may feed on its mother’s milk every couple of hours, a rabbit will only feed her babies once or twice a day.
If you have recently welcomed a litter of beautiful baby buns into your home then you will likely be concerned about their welfare and whether they are receiving enough nutrition. So let’s take a look at everything you need to know about feeding baby bunnies.
How Do Mother Rabbits Feed Their Babies?
Rabbits can have anywhere up to 14 or 15 babies in a single litter; that’s a lot of responsibility for one mother. Fortunately, rabbits are well-equipped to take care of their babies and feed them as much as they need.
But what surprises a lot of new rabbit owners is that the baby buns might not need as much nutrition as humans, or other pets, for that matter.
In the wild, mother rabbits will spend as much time as they can away from the nest. This reduced activity draws attention away from the nest and as such, makes it less obvious to predators.
However, babies need sustenance but again, rabbits are perfectly adapted to make the most of their situation.
Typically, a mother rabbit will only feed her kits once a day; she may sometimes up this to two times but this is rare. This may not sound like much but the babies are created in such a way that just one feed can keep their little bunny bellies full for up to 24 hours.
What’s more, the time spent feeding is also minimal with baby rabbits feeding for just five to ten minutes each day. Normally, the mother will feed her babies in the early hours of the morning, usually between 12 am and 5 am.
When it is feeding time, a lot of animals will lie down to feed their young but this is not the case in rabbits. The mother will hover over the babies and they must reach up to get their feed.
This unusual mealtime can cause a degree of concern for new baby bunny owners since it may appear that the mother is neglecting to feed her babies. However, the feeding will most likely take place when you are in bed. During the day, you might not see the mother go anywhere near the nest; but this is normal.
In some cases, mother rabbits may reject their babies although this is rare. This typically happens in first-time mothers so it is worth paying attention to the condition of the babies to determine if they are being taken care of. But more on that later!
You may also notice that the mommy rabbit doesn’t immediately feed her babies the moment that they are born. This again can seem a little strange if this is your first breeding experience since as humans, we are accustomed to babies being instantly offered milk from the mother.
Typically, rabbits will not give the babies their first feed until the night after giving birth.
How Do Rabbits Take Care Of Their Babies?
The way that mother rabbits take care of their young is vastly different from other species and, as we have learned, can be a little odd. However, there is a rhyme and reason behind the mother rabbit’s behavior and feeding is not the only thing that we could do with understanding.
Mother rabbits need to stimulate their babies to poop. This is because the tiny buns do not have a natural reflex to expel waste; this is something that will develop over time. Instead, the doe must lick the bottoms and bellies of the babies which will cause them to go.
This behavior isn’t exclusive to rabbits and if you have bred other mammals like dogs and cats, you will likely have seen them doing this too.
Before the babies are born, the mother will get to work creating a nest. She will use various materials for this including her fur, grass, and other soft materials. It is important that if you have a pregnant doe, you give her lots of materials that she can use to make a nest. It is not unheard of for a mother to reject a litter if she could not make a nest for them.
Mother bunnies are also very clean animals, and they like to have a hygienic environment for their babies. They will often bring new nesting materials in and remove any that are soiled or wet. For this reason, it is important to provide the mother with a lot of extra materials with which to do this.
How Long Are Baby Bunnies In The Nest?
Baby rabbits leave the nest at a relatively young age. By the time they are three weeks old, they will be big enough to explore the world.
At this point, the rabbits will not be fully grown but around the size of a chipmunk. Provided that the baby is covered in fur and appears to be alert, they will be fine coming out of the nest; even if they look tiny.
At this stage of development, the baby rabbits will come out and explore during the day. However, once darkness falls, they will head back into the nest. It is not until around the age of six weeks that the babies are ready to be independent.
Do Rabbits Move Their Babies?
Once a mother rabbit establishes a nest, this is where she will stay. Rabbits are very particular about this and so you should never move the nest. This could cause the doe to reject the litter.
Rabbits will not pick their babies up. In fact, the most that they might do would be to give them a slight nudge to move them closer to the other members of the litter.
How Do You Know If A Mother Rabbit Is Feeding Her Babies?
There is a belief that a mother rabbit will reject her babies if they are handled by a human, but this is not the case. That being said, there may be times when a mother will reject her litter and she may even eat them; although, this is rare.
Since the mother rabbit will usually feed her babies under the cover of darkness, you probably won’t see much happening. This can lead you to become worried that she is not feeding her babies.
However, there is a way to tell if the mother is giving her young the right nutrition. Babies that are well-fed will be gathered in a bunch and will feel warm. They will also have smooth skin without any wrinkles.
If you find it difficult to determine whether the bunnies are being fed, you might decide to weigh them every day and monitor the situation. However, if everything looks normal, you should avoid interfering with the babies until they are a little older and emerge from the nest.