Among some of the worries of owners who have pregnant rabbits, are how to care for newly-born baby rabbits. Raising baby rabbits is a big responsibility. However, all the bunnies grow up in no time and very soon you will find that your miss all the good times looking at how all the cute little bunnies grow up.
Most of the times, rabbits pregnancy will result in a litter of 7 to 13 kits (newborn baby rabbits are called kits). The gestation period of a pregnant rabbit is between 28 to 31 days. One week before delivery of the newborn rabbits, the doe (the female rabbit) will start building its nest. She will gather hay, newspaper, and pull out its fur to build its nest, usually in a well concealed location, that she considers safe.
Some female rabbits will only starts gathering hay few days before the birth of the newborn, with some only starts pulling out its own fur as close as one day before the birthing of the baby rabbits. In any case, pulling out fur from her chest is the most crucial sign that she is about to deliver.
It is important to keep the buck (the male rabbit) away, preferably in another cage. This helps to prevent the buck from hurting both the female and the baby rabbits. It is interesting to note that, most of the times, the buck are not even expecting the arrival of the new-born and may thump its hind legs when he first saw some many bunnies.
Baby rabbits are born blind and deaf. Their eyes are still closed and they do not have any fur or hair on their bodies. After the birthing of the newborns, the female rabbit may immediately leave them. This is due to the natural instincts of rabbits as a prey animal.
To the female rabbit in the wild, spending lesser time with the newborns will expose them less to the attention of predator animals. For the same reasons, female rabbits spend very little time nursing their young. This had resulted in the high mortality rate of baby rabbits.
Unlike other small animals that will refused to nurse its young if they were touched by human, rabbits allow their baby rabbits to be touched by human. After the female rabbits had left the young, you may want to check on the baby rabbits to ensure that they are warm. You can provide some towels to help them to maintain their body temperature.
If the newborn baby rabbits are cold and chilly, warm water bottles wrapped with towel is a good idea to help the newborn stay warm.
Even though the doe spent very little time feeding their young, its milk is full of nutrition that is sufficient to help the baby rabbit grow. However, in an environment where the fittest will survive, some weaker baby bunnies may not have the chance to get the feeding it needs. To help increase the survival rate of the baby rabbits, we suggest that you become the surrogate parent and feed them.
It is a good idea to get a feeding bottle from a pet shop. Cow’s or goat’s milk are not suitable for rabbits. The closest substitutes are dog’s or cat’s milk. These can be bought from pet store in powder form.
Feed the baby rabbits at least twice a day. Most of the times, the female rabbit will also feed the baby rabbits twice a day, each time lasting about 5 minutes. You would want to feed the baby rabbits after the mother rabbit had done so.
Feeding with a feeding bottle need some time to get used to. Initially, you may spend about one hour per feeding session as the young bunnies easily choked on the milk and may reject the milk initially. Make the milk a little bit warm so that it may be more similar to the mother rabbit’s milk. Gradually with experience, each feeding may take less than 30 minutes.
Hair may grow as soon as three days and by the tenth day, they will start opening their eyes and taking in sounds. They will also learn to crawl and as soon as they are able to move on their own, they can be very cute and naughty too. This is the time to introduce them to some solid food in the form of alfafa hay.
Provide them only the leaf. By the 7th week, they should be able to consume small amount of pellets. All these while, milk should still be fed to the bunny rabbits, either by you or by the mother rabbit.
The bunnies can go fully on solid food and weaned off the mother rabbit when they are 10 weeks old. As the bunnies grow older, you may want to separate them to separate cage for more space. Bunnies that grow up together seemed to stay and play together. They will also learn to groom each other.
Rabbits reached sexual maturity around 5 months. We suggest getting your bunnies spayed or neutered once they reached sexual maturity.
Caring and raising baby rabbits may consume a lot of your time and energy, however, this is well rewarded from the joy felt and the satisfaction gained of watching the baby rabbits grow up.