Did your doe accidentally get exposed to a buck before getting spayed? Or you’ve recently bred your rabbit, but you’re not quite sure how rabbit gestation works?
Everyone has heard the saying, “breed like rabbits”. But, how much do you know about what happens AFTER breeding?
For all the first-timers and accidental breeders, this one’s for you. No judgment, just information. Keep reading for the essential guide to rabbit gestation and to get some rabbit pregnancy care tips.
Do Rabbits Have a Breeding Season?
Wild rabbits usually breed from March through to September. This means a doe can produce multiple litters a year. But realistically, a rabbit is can breed at any point of the year, especially domesticated rabbits.
You can breed domestic rabbits at any time if they’ve both reached sexual maturity, which is around 4-9 months for a doe (4 months for small breeds, 4-5 months for medium/large breeds, and 6-9 months for giant breeds) and 2-3 months for a buck. A doe is also capable of becoming pregnant again mere days after giving birth. This isn’t optimal for her health. But, it can happen.
How Often Does a Female Rabbit Go Into Heat?
As mentioned, a female rabbit reaches sexual maturity at 4-9 months. Breed, size, and exposure to males are big factors that can determine when a rabbit goes into heat for the first time.
Here are some signs that you’ll see in a rabbit that’s going into her first heat:
- Swollen vulva
- Aggressive or territorial behavior
- More affectionate
- Spraying/urinating all over the place
- Restless behavior
After the first heat cycle, your female rabbit will be in a constant state of heat. She can get pregnant at any point from then on.
Pregnant Rabbit Signs
Rabbits don’t get signs that we might display, but there are definite changes to look out for, mainly appetite and mood changes. And, of course, getting a good-sized belly.
Here are the signs of a pregnant rabbit for you to look out for.
During the first week, your rabbit’s appetite increases. Your rabbit will want to do less but will eat and drink twice as much to give her babies the right nutrition. Allow her to free-range and add in some fresh veggies and fruits for an extra vitamin boost.
One of the most obvious signs of pregnancy in all animals is prominent weight gain. You’ll notice through the weeks, that your bunny will get wider and wider. By week two, you should be able to feel small marble-sized lumps inside your rabbit’s womb. After that, they will grow rapidly, as will your rabbit’s girth.
If your rabbit is normally moody, this may not be a great way to judge whether or not she’s pregnant. But, unusual mood swings and increased aggression are early signs of a pregnant rabbit. So, if your normally affectionate rabbit has been bred and now wants to attack you, it’s a safe bet that there are some maternal extinct and hormones to blame here.
Pulling Fur (a.k.a. Nesting)
During the last week of pregnancy or a few days before giving birth, your rabbit will start pulling out clumps of her fur. This is her way of preparing a nest to house her kits, just like a bird does with twigs and feathers. You can help her out by giving her a shoebox and a towel she can shred and arrange how she likes.
The most obvious sign that your rabbit is expecting is when she develops nipples. Now, you should note that rabbits do have nipples, even if they’re not pregnant. But, they are not near as prominent. As your rabbit reaches the final weeks of her pregnancy, she’ll start developing breasts and milk to feed her babies.
How Long Is the Average Rabbit’s Gestation Period?
Once pregnant, a rabbit’s gestation period can last anywhere from 28-34 days, with 31 days being the average. This is heavily dependent on three factors: the doe’s age, breed, and how many kits she’s going to have. You can use our Rabbit Gestation Calculator to see when’s your bunny’s due date based on the date she was bred.
If your rabbit reaches 34 days and has still not given birth, please contact your vet. It’s very rare, but your rabbit may need to be induced or have a C-section, and every day past the due date can harm both the mom and her babies’ chances of survival.
Rabbit Pregnancy Timeline (Week by Week)
Rabbit gestation can last up to 34 days, which is just short of 5 weeks. Here’s what you can expect during a rabbit pregnancy from week to week.
During the first week, you might not see any signs at all. Your rabbit may start to eat a bit more. But you’re not likely to see much until at least the 10th day.
Midway through week two, you will be able to feel small bumps, which are the fetuses. The male should be kept away from this point, as she will become aggressive towards him, and a fight could cause an accidental miscarriage.
Your rabbit’s babies are now developing in her womb. So, from the third week on, it’s best to refrain from touching or picking up your pregnant rabbit. She’ll be much bigger and may start to make preparations
Through the 4th week (and maybe a few days afterward), your rabbit is now in full prep mode. She’ll be much more maternal and will start creating a nest for her clutch.
How to Care for a Pregnant Rabbit
There aren’t any special things you have to do to care for a pregnant rabbit. You may have to feed her a bit more often due to her increased appetite. Otherwise, she can take care of herself. It’s not like other animals or people where you need to have vitamins, ultrasounds, and all of that kind of attention.
Keep the Male Away
The first thing you need to do is get the male rabbit away from the pregnant female. If they are a bonded pair, it might be sad for your male. So, make sure to give him some attention too. But, you must keep him away from the female during and after pregnancy for at least 2 months until the babies are weaned.
Adding Alfalfa to Her Diet
You can give your rabbit some extra protein and nutrients by offering her some alfalfa hay. This shouldn’t be offered instead of Timothy hay, but in combination.
You don’t want to change her diet all of a sudden, because that can cause problems with lactation. So, offer her small amounts starting a week or two before going into labor.
Providing Nesting Materials
As mentioned, your rabbit will go into nesting-mode a few days before giving birth. Normally, she’ll pull out fur and bunch it up, but you can help her decorate too.
You can give her a shoebox or small animal bed for the base. And, for the bedding, you can provide her with good nesting materials like extra hay, straw, recycled paper bedding, and shredded paper.
Pregnant Rabbit Labor Signs
Most of the time, you won’t notice your rabbit giving birth. It’s usually near dawn when everything is quiet and the mom won’t be disturbed. Here are some warning signs that your rabbit is going to go into labor soon:
Again, this is the last thing your rabbit does before actually giving birth. Starting a few days before going into labor, you’ll see her pull clumps of fur out to make a bed for her clutch.
Loss Of Appetite
After the whole pregnancy, where your rabbit is eating much more, you can tell she’s ready to give birth if she’s not eating. If this happens before the due date, it could also mean she’s miscarrying.
Blood in the Bedding or Nest
Right before giving birth, your rabbit will start bleeding a bit. This is the sign that it’s about to happen. Give your rabbit some space, and leave the room for at least a half-hour to give her time.
What to Do When Your Rabbit Is Giving Birth
Nothing. Just give her a quiet, safe space where she will not be bothered. Don’t sneak in to see how she’s doing unless you hear her in distress.
When she is done, you can check to see how many kits she’s had, and if any of them didn’t make it, which isn’t uncommon for rabbits, especially young first-time moms. The first clutch will probably only be 2-4 rabbits.
How Long Will a Rabbit Be in Labor for?
Rabbits normally give birth overnight when there are no disturbances. Once a rabbit goes into labor, it usually only lasts around 30 minutes.
Complications During Rabbit Labor
As mentioned, if your rabbit still hasn’t given birth after 34 days, you should take her to the vet immediately. Labor complications are extremely rare in rabbits, but they do occur. Sometimes, your rabbit may need to be induced or even have a C-section. And the longer you wait, the riskier the situation gets.
This is absolutely the worst part of rabbit pregnancy. When my first rabbit Butterscotch had her first clutch, there were only 3. Unfortunately, one didn’t make it. However, I was honestly more heartbroken about it than she was. That’s just a part of nature, as sad as it may be.
If one of your rabbit’s kits hasn’t survived, the only thing to do in this case is to dispose of it. The best way to do that is to put it in a shoebox or tea towel and bury it deep, so animals can’t get to it.
Be very careful when reaching into your rabbit’s enclosure after she’s given birth. Your rabbit will likely become protective and territorial. She may try to attack you, thinking you’re taking her babies away. So, limit your contact to feeding and just looking in on them.
Post-labor Care Tips for Mom and Baby Rabbits
After your rabbit gives birth, you won’t have to do much. Even first-time rabbit moms have the instincts they need to take care of their babies. Here are some post-labor care tips for rabbit moms and babies.
Leave the Placenta
Shortly after having her kits, your rabbit will also evacuate the afterbirth. It’s gross, I know. And, you’re not gonna want to watch or think about this. But your rabbit needs to ear her placenta after giving birth.
This is completely normal. It’s something almost all animals (and even some people) do to give their babies the highest amount of vitamins, nutrients, and antibodies. Just leave it where it is and let nature take its course.
Remind Your Rabbit That You’re Not a Threat
Do what you can to make sure she knows you’re not a threat to her or her kits. You will have to stick your hands in her enclosure every day to feed and check the babies. So, she’ll need to get used to you checking in.
Pet her, give her treats, and talk very softly. Most of all, resist the tempting urge to touch those babies for at least a week. After their eyes have opened, you can get some cuddles in.
Checking the Babies
You should be poking your head in daily to check if the babies are doing okay. Check if all of their bellies are full. If they are, they’re being fed well and there’s nothing to worry about.
However, if they look sunken in and wrinkled, this may mean that your rabbit isn’t able to feed them. Should this be the case, both mom and the babies will require vet assistance ASAP.
Give Mom Some Me-time
Give the new mom some free time, free-range out of her enclosure. She may need extra exercise time to get away from these babies. even bunny moms need a break! Through the first week, she’ll be more attentive. But after, she will need some extra room.
As the babies grow and begin to hop around on their own, it’s a good idea to get a larger enclosure for the mom to be able to get some exercise without being followed by her kits.
No Contact With the Male
As mentioned, the male rabbit should be kept away, preferably in a separate room. At no point should a male rabbit ever be around the kits or mother after birth.
Rabbits are not like humans, dogs, or other “family-type” animals. Realistically, he will most likely try to kill the babies in order to breed with the mother again. This is a cruel tactic that is also used by male bears.