Mother rabbit and newborn litter

Looking After a Rabbit That Has Given Birth

Having baby animals around always makes for a wonderful time. However, this can also be a tricky time because of the care and attention the babies will require. Your main focus should be to make sure that the litter and the mother are safe, comfortable, and healthy. Let the mother take care of her babies herself and just make sure she has everything she needs.

It’s best to separate the mother and father. This allows the female to concentrate on making a nest. It is important to make sure that the mother has an abundance of both food and water at this critical time, and it is also a good idea to look out for signs of lactation. Knowing that all this is in place is the best way of avoiding issues later on.

Remove the Father Rabbit

After the mother has given birth, remove the father from the immediate vicinity.

Even though the female rabbit has just given birth, the male rabbit will still want to mate with her rather than look after the young. Taking the father away will remove the problem, as well as avoid a subsequent pregnancy – which will be the case if they are left together.

Although separation is advisable, do try to keep the pair in close proximity if possible. Being social animals, your rabbits will still take comfort from being able to see and hear one another. Being able to nuzzle each other will reduce any sense of isolation and panic, which can be crucial for the well-being of the babies. A good means of separation is to place a gate between them, so although the pair won’t be able to mate, they will still be in each other’s company and able to interact.

Remember that the aim here is to protect the rabbits from their natural instincts and avoid a failed pregnancy rather to prevent any wild or violent behavior.

If you have plans for the pair to mate again, a separation with continued closeness is the best advice. The father will also get used to seeing and interacting with his young and will be less likely to be rough with them later on. Be aware, however, that the father will want to mate with any available rabbits once they are mature enough. 

If you want your rabbits to have more litters, then this should only happen once the initial litter has been weaned away. This can take between five and eight weeks. With the litter of young bunnies out of the way, there is no harm in the pair being together again, but your decision will depend on how things progress.

If you are not looking to have another litter of rabbits, make sure the father and any male young are neutered – or else you will certainly have more babies on your hands. It would be cruel to simply keep the rabbits apart to avoid further pregnancies.

Why Separation is Vital

Rabbits become pregnant very easily because mating causes ovulation to occur. Consequently, a female can become pregnant immediately after birth even though her body isn’t necessarily ready. A second, sudden pregnancy can be dangerous to the mother’s health. Plus, a second, unwanted pregnancy could leave a mother with two litters at once. The young typically need to be with their mother for up to eight weeks, and pregnancy only takes between 28 and 31 days. This could potentially mean more than two dozen young for one mother and a lot of stress.

Make a Nest for the New Litter

Making sure that a mother with young has a nest is essential. Sometimes rabbits will pull out their own fur if they are short of nesting material. This is a sign that you need to go foraging for suitable material, though a rabbit may not always give you these warning signs.

When creating a nest for your rabbit, favor an area that does not see much activity. Solitude is beneficial at this stage, allowing for peace of mind and for the mother to rest whenever she gets a chance.

Choose a small box for the actual nest. Your rabbit will feel snug in a small space where she does not need to check for danger in all directions or worry about numerous escape routes for her kittens. Baby rabbits can easily hurt themselves if they stray too far from their mother’s protection, so make sure they remain in close proximity.

Both hay and straw are ideal for nesting purposes as they offer a natural bedding material. Remember to change this bedding regularly – certainly within three days of its first use – as it will become damp and uncomfortable.

Nest Life

Be vigilant of any health issues that the babies and the mother might have.

A low or high body temperature or an unusually shaped body should tell you if there are any health problems with the kittens. Healthy kittens are round and warm to the touch, with whitish stomachs from all the milk they’re getting. If you find them to be cold and thin, then you should call a vet. In these cases, it is usually the health of the mother that turns out to be the issue.

If the mother is feeling well, then she will be robust in the care and attention she gives to her young. This will include keeping them warm and helping them to relieve themselves.

Cases of mother rabbits rejecting their kittens are very rare, though some mothers can be aggressive toward the litter and this is usually because of poor health. In these cases – and if the mother rabbit dies – owners may need to find ways to nurture the young themselves. 

If you find yourself looking after baby rabbits, the priority is to make sure their nest is warm and they receive all the nutrients they need. 

Choose an appropriate small box to create a handmade nest and use a warm bottle of water, wrapped in a towel and placed inside the nest, to keep the kittens warm. Avoid towels that are full of holes or frayed as they can cause the babies to get stuck or injure themselves. Change the water bottle regularly to provide a steady heat source. So long as the towel is robust enough and the water is kept warm, the babies will remain at ease and contented.

If you do find any clumps of fur from the mother rabbit, keep them inside the nest, as the babies will find them comforting and it will help them to adjust to the new nest.

Don’t Restrict the Mother’s Food or Water

This is a time for the mother to have food and water in abundance. She will need enough sustenance to keep her energy up, so don’t make her wait for feeding times. Along with straw and hay, she might also crave vegetables and pellets.

A mother with access to all the nutrition she needs will recover quickly from the exhaustion of giving birth so she can focus on her young. In turn, the babies will also benefit from their mother’s health via the milk she provides.

Become familiar with some of the better websites for pet food, like petco.com, chewy.com, and amazon.com, where you can source pellets, alfalfa hay, and orchard grass hay.

Vegetables can be easily found in your usual grocery store. Cleaning the vegetables is crucial, however, to remove any chemicals that might have been used on them.

Is the Mother Lactating?

Do not be alarmed if the mother does not immediately start to feed after birth. The mother may need a whole day’s rest before she feels able to begin. Do not try to instigate any feeding during this time, as this will only disrupt her rest and is likely to cause anxiety at a time when she is very sensitive.

If the wait goes on too long, however, the babies may become thin or their skin may wrinkle as a result of dehydration. In addition, they may not respond at all when you attempt to handle them.

In this scenario, check to see if the mother is lactating properly. If you think she is not, then you will need professional assistance.

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