Mother rabbit and newborn litter

Looking After a Rabbit That Has Given Birth

Having baby animals around always makes for a wonderful time. Nevertheless, they can also be complicated times due to the care and attention required. You should mainly concentrate on tracking that the litter and their mother are safe, comfortable and healthy. Let the mother take care of her babies 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. Make sure that the mother has an abundance of both food and water at this sensitive time, while if you can confirm signs of lactation this will also be positive. Knowing that all this is in place is the best way of avoiding issues.

Follow the key steps below to deal with any anxieties related to having young rabbits, as this will reduce the number of complications you are likely to face.

Remove the Father Rabbit

Even though a female rabbit has just given birth, a male rabbit will still want to focus on mating rather than looking after young. Taking the father away removes this problem, as well as the potential of a subsequent unsuccessful pregnancy – which will be the case if left together.

Although separation is advised, if possible, try to keep the pair in close proximity. Being socially-minded, your rabbits will still take comfort from being able to see and hear each other. Even if they can nuzzle each other this will have benefits, reducing their sense of isolation and panic, which can be crucial for the babies being raised.

The preferable separation is to use some kind of gate, so although the pair cannot mate anymore they are still in each other’s company and can still interact.

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

The issue of safety, in this context, refers to protection from natural instincts and failed pregnancies, rather than being related to wild or violent behavior.

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 on your hands. After giving birth, give the mother a couple of days to regain her strength, then remove the father from her immediate presence. They’ll be back together again soon enough.

Why Separation is Vital

The chief purpose in separating a pair of rabbits is to avoid a failed pregnancy resulting.

Rabbits find getting pregnant very easy because mating causes ovulation to occur. Consequently, a female is able to become pregnant immediately after birth, even though her body doesn’t want to be.

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, as young will need eight weeks before they can be taken from their mother, but pregnancy takes between 28 and 31 days. Potentially more than two dozen young for one mother means a lot of stress for the body to cope with.

If you are looking to allow your rabbits to have more litters, then this should only happen once the initial litter has been weaned away. This tends to be after two months, though can be as early as five weeks. With the litter of young bunnies out of the way, there is no harm in the pair being together again. You’ll need to make this decision depending on how things progress.

If you want to avoid another litter, the only real way to achieve this is to have your rabbits spayed and neutered, as it would be cruel to keep a pair apart.

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 materials. This is a sign to go foraging for suitable material, though they will not always give you these warning signs.

In order to make sure a nest is ideal for a mother’s rabbit’s needs, favor an area that does not see much activity. Solitude is beneficial at this stage, allowing for peace of mind and also that crucial rest when she gets a chance.

Choose a small box for the actual nest. Your rabbit will feel snug in a small space, within which she will not need to check for danger in all directions or have to 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, offering natural bedding that can regularly be changed. Indeed, look to provide fresh straw and get rid of old material regularly – certainly within three days of its first use, as it will become damp and uncomfortable.

Nest Life

Once baby rabbits have been brought into the world, be conscious of any health concerns to both them and the mother.

As well as the sustenance that the mother will provide, keeping them warm and comfortable is vital at this time.

A low or high body temperature or an unusually shaped body should tell you if there are any health issues. Healthy kittens are round, with whitish stomachs due to all the milk they’re getting, and warm to the touch. If you find them to be cold and thin then you should look into reaching 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 given to the young. This includes keeping them warm and helping them to relieve themselves.

Cases of mother rabbits rejecting their kittens are very rare, though there are some cases of aggression toward the litter and these usually relate to poor health. Sometimes, therefore, owners have found it necessary to remove babies from their mothers and find ways to nurture the young themselves. Likewise, if for some reason a mother is to die during this time, this step will have to be taken.

If you find yourself looking after baby rabbits, the priority is to make sure they grow within a warm nest and receive all the appropriate nutrients. 

Choose an appropriate small box to create a handmade nest, then support it with a warm bottle of water, changed regularly to provide a regular heat source and to keep them away from cold.

Utilizing a quality towel of some kind, wrap the bottle inside to make sure the temperature is not too harsh to the touch. Avoid any towel that is too old, but if they are full of holes or frayed then the babies can be stuck or injured.

If you do find any clumps of fur from the mother rabbit, keep it inside the nest as the babies will find it comfortable. Some familiarity will also help the babies to adjust to the new nest.

So long as the towel is robust enough and the water kept warm, the babies will remain at ease and content.

Don’t Restrict the Mother’s Food And Water

This is a time for the mother to have food and water in abundance. She will need sustenance urgently sometimes to keep her energy up, so she does not need to be waiting for a feeding time. Along with straw and hay, she might also crave vegetables and pellets.

A mother with access to all the applicable nutrition will recover quickly from the exhaustion of giving birth so she can focus on her young. In turn, the babies will then 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, from which you can source various pellets, alfalfa hay, and orchard grass hay.

The vegetables your rabbit enjoys can be easily found in your usual grocery store. Cleansing the products is crucial, however, to remove any chemicals that farmers might use and your rabbit doesn’t want to digest.

Is the Mother Lactating?

Once the pregnancy is complete, do not be alarmed if the mother does not immediately start with the feeding process. There may be a whole day’s rest before they feel able to begin. Do not try to instigate any feeding during this time, as this will only prevent her resting and is likely to cause anxiety at a time when she is very sensitive.

If the wait goes on too long, however, the babies’ skin may become wrinkled due to dehydration, or their bodies thin due to empty stomachs. Plus, they may not respond at all when you attempt to handle them.

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

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