How will you know when your rabbit is in labour?
A female rabbit -- or doe -- goes into labour between 28 and 32 days after conceiving. It is not always easy to tell whether your rabbit is about to deliver her babies -- or kits -- simply from the size of her belly, but there are other signs that can signal an impending delivery.
Rabbits construct a nest in which to give birth. Some rabbits will build a nest several days before going into labour, but others will wait until the birth is imminent. Rabbits should be given the means to construct a nest. A box with shallow sides will be required so the rabbit can easily get in and out of her nest, as well as plenty of straw. Typically, the rabbit will place the straw into the box and fashion a hollow in the middle into which she will deliver her babies.
- Rabbits construct a nest in which to give birth.
- A box with shallow sides will be required so the rabbit can easily get in and out of her nest, as well as plenty of straw.
A doe will use her teeth to pull small amounts of fur from her back and underside. She will line her nest with the fur and use it to cover the newborn kits -- who are delivered without fur -- to keep them warm in their first few days of life. Some pregnant rabbits pull fur in the days leading up to labour, but others will commence just minutes before giving birth.
A rabbit that is going into labour will not want to interact with humans. Even if the rabbit is normally sweet natured, the stress of giving birth means she will shy away from contact. Look for her moving to the back of her enclosure and lying facing its rear.
A rabbit in labour should not be disturbed. Check on her regularly but do not attempt to handle her. If you do try, she is likely to grunt at you. Grunting is a sign of displeasure in rabbits and, if you ignore the warning, it can be a precursor to a bite.
- A rabbit in labour should not be disturbed.
- If you do try, she is likely to grunt at you.
Even during labour, a rabbit will not stay continuously in her nest box. Typically, she will spend between 5 and 30 minutes at a time there, jumping out and moving around her enclosure between times.
During labour a rabbit may also pant continuously. She will not hang her tongue out and make a noise, as, say, a panting dog would, but her flanks will expand and contract rapidly. This is often a sign that she is experiencing contractions. Your rabbit may also lick around her vagina during labour.
- During labour a rabbit may also pant continuously.
- Your rabbit may also lick around her vagina during labour.
Dirk Huds has been a writer/editor for over six years. He has worked for bookshops and publishers in an editorial capacity and written book reviews for a variety of publications. He is currently studying for his master's degree.