Rabbits build nests in open areas, camouflaging them with grass and leaves. Some rabbits even build their nests in backyards, so it’s easy to disturb a rabbit nest accidentally.
A mother rabbit will return to a disturbed nest if she considers it safe. If you disturb a rabbit’s nest, repair it and move on before you are spotted. If predators gather, the nest will be abandoned.
Rabbits lack the strength to pick up and relocate their young. A mother will not build a new nest in a different location. If a rabbit’s nest is abandoned, her babies will not survive.
Where Would I Find a Rabbit Nest?
Rabbit nests are common in the wild. You may also find them in your backyard. Rabbits like to build nests in open, grassy areas. This is a protective measure. Most predators prefer not to venture into open, unprotected space.
Rabbit nests can be hard to spot. They are shallow, and often resemble piles of kicked-up turf. These nests will be lined with grass, leaves, and the mother rabbit’s fur.
Look out for rabbit nests while walking in the wild. Check your yard for nests wild rabbits live nearby. You may not notice a nest until standing over it.
Rabbit nests are most common between March and September. As the Journal of Mammalogy explains, some rabbits also breed in winter. In colder months, rabbits are likelier to nest underground.
Should I Touch a Rabbit Nest?
If touching a rabbit nest, leave the nest as you found it. A mother rabbit will know her nest has been tampered with. If you uncover a rabbit nest, ensure it is recovered and protected before you leave.
If you find a rabbit nest, check the baby rabbits within. Ensure that all are safe, warm, and breathing. Avoid scaring the animals. Baby rabbits have weak hearts. It’s easy to frighten them to death.
Do not be alarmed if the babies are alone. Their mother will likely return after dark to feed and groom her young. Baby rabbits give off no smell, but adults do. The mother rabbit is staying away to avoid drawing predators to the nest.
Never remove a baby rabbit from a nest unless its life is in immediate danger. Baby rabbits have specific needs and rarely survive in human care. Call a local wildlife rehabilitation center for help. PETA lists these by state.
How to Protect a Rabbit Nest
If you find a rabbit nest in your yard, fence it off. This will prevent dogs, cats, and small children from disturbing it. Leave a small hole for the mother rabbit to use for access.
If you find a rabbit nest in the wild, notify other walkers. Purchase small labeled flags or a build a sign. This will stop anybody else from disturbing the nest.
Be subtle about this marking. Do not use anything that will pique the curiosity of predators. Avoid anything too colorful or prominent. Never leave items with a unique or distinctive scent.
What is a Disturbed Rabbit Nest?
A disturbed rabbit nest is a nest that has been tampered with. This may be by accident or design. There are many ways that a rabbit nest could be disturbed:
- The nest is uncovered
- The nest is moved
- Another animal, such as a small bird, has occupied the nest
- A predator attacks the nest
If you find an already-disturbed rabbit nest, cover it up and mark the area. Do not remove the baby rabbits. Their mother will return and do what is necessary.
I Accidentally Disturbed a Rabbit Nest
It’s easy to accidentally disturb a rabbit nest. They are deliberately camouflaged to avoid detection. You may not notice a nest until it’s too late.
If a wild rabbit colony is located near your property, check for nests regularly. If you find a nest, avoid the following activities:
- Raking leaves
- Mowing grass
- Trimming hedges and bushes
If you disturb a rabbit nest, take the following steps:
- Ensure the babies within are unharmed
- Rebuild the nest. This must look as close as possible to the original shape
- Re-cover the nest with the original leaves and grass
- Mark the nest so it is not disturbed again
- If the fence is within your property, fence it off
- If possible, return 24 hours later to ensure the nest has not been abandoned
A rabbit nest should never be moved. Mother rabbits choose the location of their nests carefully. If the nest is moved, it will be considered compromised. This will cause the mother to abandon it.
My Dog Disturbed a Rabbit Nest
It’s common for dogs to disturb rabbit nests. This could happen in your own yard, or out in the wild.
My Dog Found a Rabbit Nest in the Yard
Backyards patrolled by dogs are popular spots for rabbit nests. The mother will smell your dog. She knows that his presence will deter most natural predators.
If your dog sniffs out a rabbit nest in the yard, he will be curious. If your dog disturbs a nest, cover it and fence it off. Once a dog knows where to find rabbits, he will regularly return to the nest.
This could lead to your dog killing the rabbits. This is an instinctive behavior, especially in hunting breeds. If possible, keep your dog indoors or on a leash until the rabbits leave the nest. This could take up to three weeks.
My Dog Found a Rabbit Nest in the Wild
Dogs can smell rabbit nests in the wild. Keep your dog on a leash in unfamiliar terrain. If he becomes excited by a new scent, investigate what piqued his curiosity. It may be a rabbit nest.
In this instance, distract your dog with a ball, treat or toy. This will take his mind off the rabbits. Repair any damage and mark the nest to warn other dog walkers.
Find an alternative route when walking back. Your dog will remember the rabbits and disturb the nest again. Even gentle dogs are driven by instinct to hunt and chase smaller animals.
Will a Mother Rabbit Return to a Disturbed Nest?
A mother rabbit will usually return to a disturbed nest. Her priority will be to protect her babies.
The only reason a mother would not return is fear. If you return to a nest too often, she may see you. Rabbits have excellent eyesight from a distance. If a rabbit considers the nest to be compromised, she will abandon it.
Wild rabbits fear humans as much as any other predator. The rabbit will not understand that you are trying to help. This is why you should never return to a nest within 24 hours of locating it.
How to Tell if a Rabbit Nest is Abandoned
If you suspect a rabbit nest is abandoned, perform a simple test. Make a distinctive pattern from thread or string and place it over the nest. Return 24 hours later and look at the nest.
If the pattern is disturbed, the mother has been there. She left again before your inspection. If the string is untouched, the nest had been abandoned. The mother rabbit would have returned overnight if she was going to.
If the nest is abandoned, check the health of the baby rabbits. Remove and bury any dead rabbits. They may be carrying disease that will infect the other rabbits.
Notify a wildlife rehabilitation center of the abandoned nest, and let them take over. Do not take the surviving baby rabbits home. You will not be able to care for them without specialist equipment.
Never leave the surviving babies food or water. Rabbits have a specific diet. The wrong food can kill them. As Veterinary Record explains, inappropriate foods cause a fatal intestinal blockage. The smell could also attract predators.
Will a Rabbit Hurt Her Babies if Disturbed?
It is a myth that rabbits eat babies that smell of humans. A mother rabbit is only concerned with protecting her young.
The only time a mother rabbit will hurt her young is if panicked. If a rabbit fears that predators will find her, she may eat her babies. She is destroying the evidence of her presence.
This rabbit behavior is only seen in young and immature mothers. It typically only happens once. When rabbits reach maturity, they protect their young. Rabbits are instinctively driven to ensure the continuation of their species.
Will Baby Rabbits Flee a Disturbed Nest?
Baby rabbits are too weak to flee a nest. The average rabbit will leave its nest at three weeks old. Until then, the rabbit is dependent upon its mother.
If a rabbit can hop out of a nest, it’s old enough to be alone. Signs that a baby rabbit is too young to leave the nest include:
- The rabbit’s eyes are closed
- The rabbit’s ears are not erect. No breeds of wild rabbits have floppy ears
- The rabbit has not yet grown fur
Rabbits this young cannot flee a nest, but they can fall out accidentally. As the mother may not return for several hours, this animal is vulnerable. It could be eaten by a predator or freeze to death.
If you find a loose baby rabbit, check that it’s still alive. If so, return it to the nest. Be sure to cover the nest afterward, and do not touch anything else. Remember, if the rabbit is fully furred and hopping, it does not belong in a nest.