Ever heard the expression ‘breeding like rabbits’ but wonder where it came from? Unlike most animals, rabbits don’t have specific times where they are in heat and can conceive at any point throughout their sexually mature lives. Why else do you think they have so many babies? Even if you think you know a lot about rabbits, how much do you know about their pregnancies?
Most rabbits, both domesticated and wild, have a gestation period of around 31 days. Despite having this piece of information, there is still a lot that you don’t know about the entire process of pregnancy. How soon are rabbits able to get pregnant, and how should you handle it if your pet rabbit is expecting? This article includes all the pertinent information you need to know about rabbit pregnancy.
At What Age Do Rabbits Mate?
A female rabbit, also referred to as a doe, usually reaches sexual maturity before they are 6 months old. Smaller breeds mate with bucks as early as 4 to 6 months, and larger breeds sometimes wait until they are 9 to 12 months.
Since they are at the bottom of the food chain, they breed as much as possible and have large litters in order to perpetuate their species. It can be challenging to recognize and identify the signs of pregnancy in a doe. Signs that your rabbit might be ready to mate include restlessness, nervousness, and rubbing her chin on her food and water equipment.
If you think your doe is ready to mate, and you plan on her having babies, take her to the buck’s hutch so that they can breed. It will happen almost immediately after she is in the hutch, and then you can safely return her back to her own.
Is Your Doe Pregnant?
Bucks will sometimes continue to mate with the females even after they have conceived, so don’t put her back with the male. Instead, wait two weeks after mating and then feel the underside of her belly. If she has embryos inside her, they will feel like marbles and easily slip between your fingers. You can also confirm the pregnancy with a veterinarian.
How Long are Rabbits Pregnant?
Gestation starts from the time of conception up until the time of delivery. The entire process is quick and lasts around 31 days. During this time, you might not know that she is pregnant because they rarely act abnormally. A handful of does get more aggressive during the gestation period, and you might notice a slight increase in appetite, but there won’t be a lot of other signs to look out for.
What To Do if a Rabbit is Pregnant
So, you’ve confirmed that your rabbit is pregnant, and now you’re unsure about the next steps. Pregnant females begin nesting about 27 days after mating. She will likely pull some of her fur out to line the nest with. Put a nest box in the hutch with her, so she has a safe place to deliver her litter.
Now that she’s close to delivering, she might consume less food and become restless. Try not to disturb her until she has settled down. If she has her kits, don’t check on them until the day following the birth. At this time, if some of them didn’t make it, remove them from the nest and leave them alone.
Rabbit litters could include anywhere from one to 14 kits. The average number is usually around six. They are born blind and deaf but begin developing these senses after about 10 days of life.
After the Kindling
Kindling is the birth of a litter of rabbits. The entire process could last as little as ten minutes, and once they are born, the doe distances herself from them. This is an instinct used in the wild to protect them from predators.
Keep the buck away from the litter in order to give them a better chance at survival. Keep him away from the mother as well, or he might try to mate with her again. She will feed her litter when she feels comfortable and enjoys having alone time with them.
The doe usually feeds her litter twice a day; once in the morning and once at night. The young become fully weaned after 4 to 6 weeks. Continue to keep the female separate from males during this time so that she doesn’t get pregnant again immediately after the birth.
Sometimes, female rabbits have false pregnancies. They show signs of the typical behavior of pregnant rabbits, like nest building, but the only way to confirm that she’s pregnant is to take her to the vet. If you want to avoid a pregnancy, consider getting your rabbits neutered.
You might also be interested in: Can Two Female Rabbits Live Together?
The entire process of pregnancy is quick in rabbits. From the mating to the kindling, it only takes just over a month for this to occur. It doesn’t give you a lot of time to prepare, but work as quickly as you can and give your doe everything she needs to feel comfortable through the process.
Featured Image Credit: Alexas_Fotos, Pixabay