How to know when a rabbit is having babies

Written by k.t. parker
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How to know when a rabbit is having babies
It can be difficult to determine if your rabbit is pregnant. (Digital Vision/Photodisc/Getty Images)

There is a reason bunnies are synonymous with fertility. They produce large litters and can conceive multiple times throughout the year. A female rabbit ovulates just by being exposed to a buck, so there are no heat cycles. Make sure your does and bucks are separated if you aren't planning to breed. If you have been trying to breed, or think your rabbits might have got together accidentally, you won't be able to tell if the doe is pregnant until she is at least 10 days along.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Nesting box
  • Nesting materials, like straw or wood chips

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Instructions

    Pregnancy

  1. 1

    Palpate the rabbit's stomach around 14 days past the initial breeding attempt. She won't have a visible "pregnancy" tummy until around three weeks along. Feel for a soft, fluid-like spot in her stomach. That is the amniotic sac. The average rabbit owner should be able to feel the kits, which are like masses about the size of an olive, by 14 days. Some vets and experienced breeders can detect pregnancy as early as 10 days after breeding. Use a very light touch, because kits are fragile and are easily injured or killed. It is advisable to have a vet show you the proper technique with your first rabbit's first pregnancy.

  2. 2

    Look for nesting behaviour at around 16 days of gestation. The rabbit might dig in her bedding or stuff straw into her mouth.

  3. 3

    Feel the kits move by placing your hand on the female rabbit's stomach around day 21. She should also look pregnant by now.

    Birth

  1. 1

    Provide a nesting box around day 29, along with nesting materials, like wood chips or straw.

  2. 2

    Determine your rabbit is in labour by observing her behaviour. She will give birth, or kindle, anywhere from day 30 to day 32 of gestation. One sign of her impending labour is nesting. She will outfit her box with the nesting materials, along with her own hair. Don't be alarmed when she starts pulling her fur out, because she is using it for insulation.

  3. 3

    Observe her delivery. First-time moms are more likely to have birthing difficulties than seasoned does. After she is finished birthing, check to make sure she hasn't retained any kits by examining her genitals. Look for bits that look like chunks of liver and help her remove any that are stuck.

Tips and warnings

  • If your rabbit is familiar with your scent before she births, it is OK to touch her babies. You should take each one from the nesting box and check it every day to ensure no dead kits remain in the box. This also ensures the bunnies are used to being held and touched, making them better pets for future owners. If the doe resists letting you examine the babies, you can try removing the nesting box from her living area to perform the exam before returning them.
  • Pine or cedar shavings are available and commonly used for rabbit bedding. Rabbits are sensitive to both, which can cause cutaneous (skin) or respiratory reactions. It is best not to use these for bedding, especially for nesting material intended for newborn kits.

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