New Born Rabbits
Thinking about breeding rabbits? If you are, there are some things you need to know about new born rabbits
. The average gestation for a doe is 28 to 30 days. Make sure she has a sturdy nestbox and some type of bedding to fill it with at least a few days before she is due. Soft grass hay is a good choice, since the doe can easily move it about and pack it the way she wants in the box.
Either the day she gives birth or the day before, you may notice her pulling fur from her dewlap and belly. This fur will be tucked into the nestbox to keep the kits warm after they are born.
Your rabbit will probably choose a time to birth when she is alone. Rabbits are not big fans of having an audience when birthing. If you do happen to witness it, leave the doe alone to do her job. Each kit will be born one at a time. The doe will remove the amniotic sac from the new born rabbits and clean it up, eating the placenta.
Sometimes does get a little carried away during clean up, and you'll end up with kits with only one ear or missing a tail. There is really no way to know about this until after unless the kits are being born on the floor instead of in the nestbox.
Unlike cats and dogs, rabbits have no way of lifting their kits up and putting them in the box if they are born elsewhere. Kits born on the floor will usually perish from cold unless you happen to find them right away.
Most new born rabbits, however, are happily born into the soft warm nest their mother made for them. Does do not sit with their kits for long periods of time like cats and dogs do with their litters. They have learned through generations in the wild that this can attract predators to the nest. Instead, they feed their babies once or twice per day. Feeding only takes a minute or two. Rabbit milk is very nutrient dense and baby rabbits are very efficient at nursing.
Once the babies are born, poke around in the nest and make sure all of them are okay. Remove any that were born dead, and remove any afterbirth pieces that were not cleaned up by the doe. Cover the babies well with the fur and let them be. You'll know if they have been fed because their bellies will be rounded and look whitish in color. An empty belly is soft and wrinkled.
The doe will still care for her babies if you touch them. She is used to you and your scent. It is more important to remove any material that may decay than to leave them completely untouched. Sometimes you'll notice a kit is pushed towards the opposite end of the box, away from the rest of the litter. Usually this happens when there is something inherently wrong with the kit. The mother knows this, and keeping them separate protects the healthy kits.
You can try to raise it on your own with a syringe and kitten milk replacer, but usually new born rabbits in this predicament will die on their own.
The eyes will open up between days 10 and 14, so make sure the nest is cleaned at least once, shortly before this occurs, so they don't run the risk of eye infections from a dirty nest.
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