Rabbits are known for being fluffy, but they don’t start out that way. Newborn rabbits are born blind, helpless, and unable to move much. They’re also born naked, with no fur at all.
Most rabbits will have some fur by 7 days old. By 12 days, they’ll have a thick layer of fur covering their entire body. Sometime between 3 and 12 months of age, they’ll lose their soft, cottony baby fur. Then, their sleeker adult coat will grow in. It may be a different color.
We’ll explain what newborn rabbits look like, and whether they’re ever born with fur. You’ll find out when their fur starts to grow and how long it takes, and what happens when the adult coat grows in.
What Does a Newborn Rabbit Look Like?
Baby rabbits are called kits, short for kittens. If you’ve never seen a newborn kit before, you may be surprised by its appearance.
Rabbits are born helpless and dependent on their mothers. They are deaf and blind, with their eyes and ears closed. They are only around 2 to 3 inches long, weighing 1-2 ounces. This can vary depending on the breed. Newborn kits also can’t move much. They’ll try to move straight away, but all they can do is wriggle for the first few days.
Do baby rabbits have fur when born? Rabbits are born completely hairless regardless of the breed. No matter how much hair your rabbit will have when grown, it starts life with none at all.
Most newborn rabbits have pink skin if they’re going to be a light color. Rabbits destined to be darker (brown or black) may have dark skin at birth. If their skin is mottled, with dark patches amongst the pink, they’ll likely have multicolored fur. It’s often possible to make out their future markings from as early as birth.
Can You Touch a Newborn Rabbit’s Fur?
You may have heard that you should never touch baby rabbit kits. The belief is that you’ll transfer human scent to the babies, and the mother will reject them. Fortunately, this is untrue.
Rabbits don’t get put off by human scent. They’ll recognize their baby’s scent underneath yours, and it won’t bother them. This is particularly true for domestic rabbits that have been bred to be comfortable around humans.
The myth was likely started to convince young children not to interfere with a wild rabbit’s nest. Rabbits are very fragile, and it’s easy to hurt them if you’re too rough. Not to mention, handling wild rabbits can cause extreme stress. According to research in Pathophysiology, acute emotional stress can cause sudden death in some rabbits.
If you’re breeding your own rabbits, it’s sometimes necessary to touch the babies. For example, you’ll have to touch them to weigh them, feed them, or move them. As long as you’re gentle, they’ll be fine. Just try not to keep them separated from each other for too long, or they’ll become stressed. Here’s some advice on how to look after a baby bunny.
When Will Baby Bunnies Get Fur?
Baby rabbits are fast-growing. You’ll be able to see them transforming daily. This serves an important purpose for wild rabbits. The sooner the babies can see, hear and run from danger, the more likely they are to live. And of course, to keep warm, they need to grow fur.
By 3 days old, most baby bunnies have started to grow soft, downy peach fuzz. This is the beginning of the rabbit’s undercoat. It’s not thick enough to keep them warm yet. At this point, they’ll spend all of their time in the nest, snuggled up to their siblings. Their mother will have covered the nest with some of her own shed fur to provide warmth.
At 7 days old, most baby rabbits will have a soft baby coat. They’ll have a fine, short, soft layer covering most of their body. Their feet, belly, nose, and ears may still be pink.
All rabbits, regardless of breed, will have developed a full coat by day 12. By this point, their fur is thick enough to keep them warm. Their eyes and ears will be open, and they’ll be far more coordinated, too.
At this point, the baby’s fur will be close to their adult color. However, it may not be exactly the same. Their color can still change until their adult coat comes in. When this happens can vary from rabbit to rabbit.
How Long Does It Take Rabbit Fur to Grow?
Rabbit fur starts growing from the moment they’re born. It continues to grow every day until they’re around 4 weeks old. It will seem like every time you check on the babies, their fur is a little thicker.
Between 4 and 6 weeks of age, the baby coat will turn into the “intermediate coat.” It’s made up of downy hairs and longer guard hairs. This is about the time that wild rabbits will be fully weaned, and leave the family group.
Their intermediate coat will continue to grow in thickness until it is replaced by the adult coat. This can happen anywhere between 4 and 12 months of age.
Generally speaking, the adult coat is longer, sleeker and more protective than the subadult coats. A rabbit’s fur can vary wildly in appearance and texture from breed to breed.
Why Is My Baby Rabbit Losing Its Fur?
It’s normal for rabbits to lose some hair each day. You’ll notice this if you brush your rabbit.
Adult rabbits will also go through a full molt every few months. In the spring, they’ll shed their thick winter coat, and replace it with a light summer one. In the fall, they’ll lose their summer fur as the winter coat grows in.
Baby rabbits don’t shed much until they’re about 4 to 5 months old. This is when they have their first big molt, and their adult fur starts to come in. Before this, any fur loss should be minimal. If your baby rabbit is losing its fur, there may be several different causes. For example:
- Over-grooming. This is usually triggered by stress or boredom. This is where one rabbit plucks the fur of another rabbit, usually due to dominance issues.
- Parasites, such as fleas or ear mites. Excessive scratching can bring on hair loss.
- Bacterial or fungal infections, such as ringworm.
- Illnesses, such as an autoimmune condition.
If you’ve noticed fur loss resulting in bald patches, consult a rabbit veterinarian. They’ll be able to establish whether it’s a medical or behavioral problem.
Can Bunnies Change Color?
At 8 weeks old, rabbits are ready to be separated from their mothers, and join their forever homes. By this point, they’ve finished most of their important development. They can eat solid food, run from danger and live independently. The only thing left to do is to finish growing.
Depending on breed, a rabbit may reach its full adult size between 6 and 12 months of age. As they approach adulthood, they will go through their first big molt. This is when young rabbits lose their baby fur, and grow their adult coat.
Your rabbit’s first molt will happen at about 5 months old. For about a month, their coat will look strange, as it transitions into the adult fur. It may look patchy, uneven or messy. You should brush your rabbit every day while it molts, to help remove loose hairs.
At the end of this process, you may find that your rabbit’s fur has changed color. The fur may become darker, lighter or a different shade. This is because the long, adult guide hairs may be a different color to the juvenile hairs. It won’t go through any dramatic changes, though. Your tricolor rabbit won’t suddenly turn black, for instance.
Your rabbit’s fur may also change color going into the winter, or into the summer. Some rabbits, for instance, get white fur in the winter. This helps them blend in with snow in the wild.
Baby Rabbit Fur Color Genetics
Domestic rabbits have hundreds of different colors and combinations. The color that a rabbit will be depends on what genes it inherits from its parents.
Some colors are recessive. A rabbit must inherit one recessive gene from each parent to express that color. Dominant colors will be expressed even if they only inherit one gene for it.
In rabbits, some genes also “turn off” certain colors, or dilute them to make them lighter. And of course, the rabbit may also inherit genes for particular patterns, like tricolor.
Unless you know what recessive genes each parent carries, it’s hard to predict what color babies they’ll create. But as soon as the babies have grown their fur, you’ll know what they’ll look like as adults.