Baby bunnies are cool! Volunteers at the House Rabbit Society often get numerous calls from concerned individuals when they suddenly find “orphaned” baby bunnies in their yard. Their instinct tells them that they need to save the baby bunny. Not knowing anything about baby bunnies can place them in danger.
If you are confronted with such a situation, knowing all about baby bunnies can help save the day.
How to Take Care of Baby Bunnies
A mother rabbit is called a doe, and baby bunnies are called kittens or kits. Rabbits give birth after 4-5 weeks. They can give birth (kindling) to up to 15 kittens at a time.
- Checking Baby Bunnies (Kits)
After giving birth, the mother bunny will not stay beside her baby bunny all day to check on the nest without causing any damage. Start checking, though, on the second morning of the rabbit giving birth.
Give the mother bunny some treats so you can check on her nest gently, quietly, and with just a slight disturbance. Check that all the baby bunnies are alive. Remove any dead kits and uneaten placentas (if any) from the nest.
If the baby bunnies have round bellies, this means their mother has nursed them. Cover the baby bunnies because their mother will surely take excellent care of them. It is rare for a mother rabbit to abandon or ignore her baby bunnies.
- Feeding the Baby Bunnies
Mother rabbits will feed their kittens for about 5 to 10 minutes and only once daily. Nursing starts the night after the kittens were born.
The baby bunnies will be able to get their milk’s supply in this short feeding time. If you never see the doe go near the nest, it does not mean she is not feeding her kittens. She must have done the feeding while you were not looking.
Mother rabbits will often feed her baby bunnies between 12 am, and 5 am. This is a protective mechanism used by mother rabbits because, in the wild, mother rabbits often stay away from the nest, so predators do not get attracted to her baby bunnies.
- Weaning Baby Bunnies
When baby bunnies get to be three weeks old, they will start to eat their caecotrophs or special night poos. They will also start to nibble solid food and be almost ready to leave their nest and start running around their cage and exploring more of their surroundings.
On your end, give the baby bunnies fresh hay daily, most preferably as their bedding so they can easily access it.
Baby bunnies will become independent of their mother when they get to be 6-8 weeks old. At this time, you can transfer the largest baby bunnies to a separate cage. As you notice the rest of the baby bunnies growing, move them, too, to separate cages until all of them have been separated from the nest.
Do the separation of the baby bunnies from their mother gradually so the mother rabbit does not suffer mastitis (inflammation of breast tissues affecting nursing mothers that can lead to infections).
Keep the baby bunnies near the mother and father rabbit for a few days after they have been separated from the nest.
Female baby bunnies should be sprayed, and male baby bunnies should be castrated as soon as they become sexually mature. These processes are known as neutering or the surgical removal of their reproductive organs.
Neutering is good for rabbits because they can:
- Prevent cancer of the uterus in female rabbits
- Prevent testicular disease including cancer and abscesses in male rabbits
- Prevent pregnancy in female rabbits
- Prevent other life-threatening diseases of the uterus (uterine aneurysm, pyometra, and endometritis)
- Prevent aggression and treat because baby bunnies can attack anyone and everyone they see.
- To avoid frustration and stress when if only one of them is neutered.
- Allows rabbits to leave healthier and longer lives.
Neutering should be done when rabbits are sexually matured. Female rabbits become sexually mattered at four months old and male rabbits at 8-12 weeks old.
Do Mother Rabbits Eat Baby Bunnies?
Many people say mother rabbits tend to reject their babies when they begin to be handled by humans. A myth says that the scent of humans removes the natural smell of baby bunnies, preventing them from recognizing their babies. This can cause mother rabbits to abandon and even eat their babies.
However, the myth is not true because mother rabbits do not abandon their baby bunnies simply because of unfamiliar human smell, especially when they recognize the scent like that of their owner.
Rabbits have a powerful sense of smell, even more, powerful than that of humans. Though the mother rabbit will recognize your smell, she will be able to detect her baby’s smell underneath you.
It is rare for mother rabbits to eat or abandon their baby bunnies. However, she will due to threats or extreme stress. Smelling the human scent on the fur of her baby bunnies is not enough to trigger her to eat her babies.
When can you start Cuddling Baby Bunnies?
You can start cuddling baby bunnies as soon as they are born, provided you have developed a good relationship with their mother. The mother rabbit will not mind you handling her babies as long as she detects your smell and knows that you will not harm her babies.
However, here are some tips on when and how to handle baby bunnies:
- When you have to weigh them
- When you have to hand-feed them
- Return them immediately to the nest
Try to check on baby bunnies without picking them up. Baby bunnies are fragile and will be stressed when handled by humans. You can interact more with baby bunnies, pick them up, pet them, and let them hop on your lap when they are about three weeks old.
At three weeks old, baby bunnies are not so delicate they can be treated as older rabbits. Just the same, handle baby bunnies gently and be conscious of any signs of stress. It will be helpful to allow baby bunnies to interact with you, instead of you interacting with them.
Never allow children below 10-years old to pick up a baby bunny because they may squeeze or drop them.
Baby bunnies can only suckle, squeak, and wiggle. Baby bunnies are born:
- Fragile because they have delicate bones that can easily be broken
You may be scared to pick them up because you may feel as though you will hurt them. If you are not careful, you will inevitably hurt baby bunnies or even kill them when you pick them up. Thus, picking up baby rabbits can be a matter of life or death.
Baby bunnies prefer to remain huddled and covered with their mother’s pulled fur because they are born extremely helpless and cannot, therefore, regulate their body heat.
Picking up and cuddling baby bunnies is good for their socialization skills. If you start carefully handling baby bunnies at an early age, they will become more tolerant and close to humans.
What to Feed Baby Bunnies
The first six months of life of baby bunnies will dictate their overall health for the long term. During this time, they should be well-nourished to develop healthy muscle mass and bones.
Water and hay are essential food for baby bunnies. They also need a good supply of protein, so alfalfa hay and pellets are right for them. When baby bunnies are weaned from their mothers, goat milk is the best substitute for mother’s milk.
Baby bunnies, though, should not be over-feed to avoid obesity. As they age, they will need more fiber and less protein.
When can Baby Bunnies be allowed to go outdoors?
Rabbits are outdoor animals. When they are domesticated pets, baby bunnies should be allowed to get some fresh air, have enough space to play, and be allowed to munch on grass. They can be brought outdoors when they are no longer too fragile.
Bunnies can live for more than ten years. If you are planning to adopt a baby bunny, make sure you can live up to the responsibility.