Rabbits can sometimes eat their own young. This is most likely to happen if your pet is feeling particularly anxious, lacks dietary protein, or has become excessively territorial.
Feed your rabbit a diet of Alfalfa hay in the days before the birth of her kits. This will prevent her from eating her young because she lacks nutrition. After giving birth, she’s likely to eat the placenta, but could eat a baby in error. Remove the kits if there are early warning signs.
Unlike hares, rabbits don’t eat meat. They’re not carnivorous animals, so they’ll very rarely eat their young by choice. It’s most likely to happen with young rabbits after giving birth to their first litter. The rabbit is frightened and confused by the experience, and just does what comes naturally to her.
Why Do Rabbits Eat Their Babies?
There are several why a rabbit eats her kits:
- Stillborn. Where a baby was stillborn, your rabbit will proceed to eat the body.
- Placenta. The rabbit was eating the afterbirth and placenta, and became confused. She ate the baby thinking it was part of the afterbirth.
- Panic. She was already nervous and ate her babies to avoid attracting predators to her hutch.
- Dietary protein. She was left drained and devoid of energy following the birth of her kits.
- Territorial behavior. She has no intention of sharing her hutch and removed the competition.
- Weakest less likely to survive. Rabbits can be Darwinian in their approach to motherhood.
The majority of the time, a rabbit will not consciously decide to eat her young. Once she has birthed multiples litters, she’ll have a better understanding of her role and what is required of her.
Should I Remove My Rabbit’s Babies?
Baby rabbits need their mother as they’re unlikely to survive on their own. Baby rabbits must live with their mother for around eight weeks. By this point, they’ll be more independent. The young rabbits will be eating solid food, moving of their own volition, and will no longer need milk.
Once 24 hours have elapsed, your rabbit will have moved past any desire to eat her babies. The nest should be safe and the babies will quickly grow up.
Why Does My Rabbit Keep Killing Her Babies?
If this happens more than once, then you should spay your rabbit and not breed her again. Clearly, your rabbit rejects maternity. The more you force her to breed, the more it will distress her.
You may find that a female rabbit kills some of her young, but not others. This could be through active deed or neglect. She may divide her young into two groups and only feed one group.
This is because one group has been declared overly weak and vulnerable. Rabbits are governed by survival instinct. A big part of this is reproducing strong babies that will continue to expand the species. She has decided to focus her attention on the young that are most likely to survive.
If this is the case, you can attempt to raise the babies yourself. You can make your own rabbit formula to feed them. Contact the nearest wildlife center for help and advice, if required.
How Can I Prevent My Rabbit from Eating Her Babies?
To minimize the risk of your rabbit eating her young, take these precautionary steps:
- Avoid breeding rabbits younger than six months of age. Until this point, your rabbit will still be immature. She won’t be ready for the responsibility of having a litter.
- Keep your rabbit calm before, during, and after the pregnancy. If your rabbit is stressed or anxious, she is more likely to eat her young. Ensure that your rabbit feels safe and secure.
- Increase the protein content in your pregnant rabbit’s food. Add alfalfa hay to her hutch in the last few weeks of pregnancy. This way, she will not feel that she lacks adequate nutrition.
- Watch your rabbit after she’s given birth as she’s likely to eat the afterbirth. She may confuse a baby rabbit for the placenta.
- Shower your rabbit with affection. Help her understand that she is not being replaced or superseded by her babies. This should reduce her jealousy and territorial instincts.
Will a Male Rabbit Eat His Babies?
Male rabbits rarely eat their babies, but kits should not live with their fathers. Male rabbits lack paternal instincts. Also, baby rabbits could end up hurt in other ways.
A male rabbit is incapable of feeding the babies. This means the young rabbits will go hungry and not have any of their additional needs met.
The male rabbit may also see these new rabbits as territorial rivals. He’ll likely have a submissive role. If he gets the chance to assert dominance, he’ll almost certainly take that opportunity.
As soon as a female rabbit is impregnated, it’s advisable to separate her from the male. The male will continue to be frisky, but the female will be in no mood for mating. Pregnant rabbits are volatile and are far more likely to attack a mate if approached.
While a female is pregnant, it’s the ideal time to get a male neutered. Do not put him back in the hutch immediately after the birth as males are fertile for six weeks after neutering. Females, meanwhile, can be impregnated 24 hours after giving birth.
Do Rabbits Eat Their Babies if You Touch Them?
A popular myth dictates that you must never touch baby rabbits. Legend claims that a mother will eat her babies as they are ‘tainted’ by human scent.
This is completely untrue. Your rabbit will be indifferent to your scent on her young. If you have a good bond, she may even find the smell comforting.
Why Do My Baby Rabbits Keep Disappearing?
If your rabbit is going to eat her young, she’ll do so almost immediately. If she is nursing and feeding her babies, she won’t change her mind and eat them later. If you return to your rabbit’s hutch and find babies missing, one of two things has happened:
- The baby rabbit has fallen out of the nesting box/wondered off. Search the hutch, checking under piles of hay. Look for holes in the hutch that the rabbit could have escaped through.
- A predator has gained access to the hutch and is eating the young. This could be a small animal, such as a rat. Your rabbit will not sleep with her babies, so she may not realize.
If you find the baby rabbit, return her to the nesting box at once. Baby rabbits will not last long without the warmth and milk of their mother. In some circumstances, it may already be too late.
If the babies are being eaten, you’ll need to improve hutch security. Check the wire door for any signs of gnawed holes. A large rodent may have nibbled its way in and eaten a baby rabbit.
A Perspex cover to the hutch is advisable in these circumstances. This will protect your rabbits and they can still see out. Just leave enough space for fresh air to circulate.
Not all rabbits will eat their young, and those who do will typically only do so once.