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If you are wondering how fast rabbits grow there are A LOT of different factors that can play into the speed of how fast a rabbit will grow. Things like breed, bloodlines, what it is fed, what time of year, how large the litter was when it was born, and even how warm or cool the temperature was when it was born.
Young animals need to be fed well in order for them to reach maximum size. For rabbits especially this means adult protein (16-18%) and fiber (20-25%) but they can’t have one without the other. It will cause MAGOR health problems which I will get to later in this post.
While every rabbit is going to be different let’s cover all the things that can cause a rabbit to grow at a different rate first then get into the ages and what kind of progression you should see. Cool?
How Many Rabbits Where In The Litter
Different breeds have different “average” litter sizes. Small breeds like Netherland Dwarfs tend to have small litters of 3-4 and giant breeds can have an average of 8. But meat production breeds like Californians or New Zealands can have as many as 12.
While large litters are exciting the larger litters are harder for the mother rabbit to feed all of those babies. There is some theory behind how many teets female rabbits have and their ability to feed that same number of baby rabbits… I don’t really think that is the case.
It depends on how pushy the litter mates are as well as how much milk the doe can produce. If you have watched a rabbit nurse it is like a madhouse when she jumps in the box and it lasts for a minute or two and that’s it. Some newborn rabbits are food hogs and will push off their siblings to get more even if what they were getting was adequate.
The image below is of a litter I had where one kit was such a hog it more than doubled in size and the other four struggled to eat. I had to hand-feed three of the four to help them keep up.
All that to say if there is a lot of competition and or the doe is not producing a lot of milk it can cause a baby bunny to grow at a much slower pace as well as mature slower in those early stages.
The more they get of their mother’s milk the faster they will mature.
What The Rabbit Is Fed After It Is Weened Will Effect Growth Speed
Ok, this is BIG!!!! Pay attention.
There is a lot of pressure in the media these days to feed rabbits fresh foods and make sure they get lots of fresh greens (which people take to mean vegetables) and feed lots of grass hay over rabbit pellets.
The problem with that is your rabbit is going to starve if they do not get 16-18% protein. Vegetables and leafy greens have less than 3% protein and the hay that is sold in pet stores or in those nice little plastic bags is often 12% or less.
You need HIGH QUALITY, first cutting, alfalfa hay to reach that high level of protein. Commercial alfalfa-based pellets are formulated to reach the nutritional needs of your rabbit to grow nice and big. Another hay like timothy hay is not as high in protein which is what is often sold at pet stores or in the pet section. You need to get it from a farmer or dealer that has intended for the hay to be for horses. Even then I still don’t think feeding hay first is a good idea. Give your rabbit commercial alfalfa pellets first and anything else is extra.
When you push your rabbit to eat all of this extra stuff BEFORE they eat their pellets they are not eating a healthy diet or eating what their health needs.
It’s like you eating a smoothie before you eat your meat and vegetables and expecting to feel strong and healthy. Fruit mixed with ice sound healthy sure but has nowhere near the nutrients that you need to grow and keep muscle strength. You are going to have a hard time eating the same amount of food if you had that smoothy beforehand. Make sense?
I have a full blog post that goes much deeper on feed and why feeding mostly greens and veggies is a problem it’s a MUST-read.
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You Can’t Fix A Poorly Fed Rabbit
Rabbits are not like dogs where you can feed them lower protein and they will still get to be the size they are going to be. If they are not fed well from the beginning they will be a smaller rabbits. This is why you see rabbit raisers freak out when a rabbit goes off feed especially when they are young.
Temperature Of The Environment
This has come about from my own observation over 20+ years of raising rabbits. When the temperatures are too cold they are having to use energy to stay warm instead of growing. BUT when the temperatures are warmer than is ideal for rabbits they don’t eat nearly as much. I see this for both adult rabbits and young rabbits still in the nest box.
The ideal temperature for rabbits is 50 degrees Fahrenheit. I know it seems cold to us but this has been proven by many top rabbit raisers and I see this with my rabbits as well. They are the most relaxed and comfortable when we are in that 50-60 degree range.
Breeds and their Growth Rate
Different rabbit breeds grow at different rates. There are three different “brackets” of rabbit breeds and they tend to stagger by about 2-4 months in sexual maturity and completion of growth.
Smaller breeds like jersey woolies (which I have raised) reach sexual maturity as early as 4 months old. (however, they are capable even earlier but this tends to be the age they can do the job.) They will physically continue to grow until 6 months old but there is very little to no change in them after that.
Then there is a mid-range group of rabbit breeds that tend to reach breeding age around 8 months old and are done growing at 10 or so months old.
Then we have the larger breeds like the flemish giant rabbits that grow quite a bit their first 6 months of life then the rabbit growth rate slows way down. But they will continue to grow until they are 12-14 months of age. They tend to have their frame and “skeleton” size around 8-10 months and the remaining growth time for large rabbit breeds is used to fill out.
You won’t really notice this unless you raise domestic rabbits or are involved in the show world. Some bloodlines tend to grow a bit slower than others. Especially among the giant breeds. But it’s hard to know until you have had a few from the same breeder. It honestly doesn’t matter all that much unless you are raising meat rabbits. Then you want the rabbits to mature as quickly as possible.
It is handy for rabbit owners to know if their bloodlines do grow slower so you can give the rabbit enough time to mature before you decide if the rabbit is worth keeping or going to meet the breed standard of perfection.
Rate Of Growth For Baby Rabbits
Until baby bunnies are weaned they are fully reliant on the momma rabbit to feed them well. If you see a kit that is falling behind they can use a little human intervention and you can hand feed them. But they still are not as likely to grow to be as large as they would be if they were fed well by their mother.
Most baby rabbits regardless of the breed weigh about 1-1.5 ounces when they are born. (The kit below is a french lop, 48hrs old, and very well fed)
If they are fed well. They should weigh about 8-10 ounces by the time they open their eyes at 10 days old. This would be a nice round-bellied baby that is not skipped a meal.
French lop rabbits have an average size of about 2.5 pounds by the time they are 8 weeks old. More is possible but if you can help it you don’t want them to be much smaller than that.
A good guideline for any breed is you want the kit weighs 1/4th of the average weight of the adult size set by the breed standard of perfection. Give or take half a pound or so.
For example, french lops average 12 pounds but the minimum weight for the breed standard is 11 pounds for bucks and 11.5 pounds for does. So if a kit weighs 2.5 – 3 pounds at 8 weeks old that is right on track.
For a breed like the mini lops with an ideal weight of 6 pounds for adult rabbits, they should be about 1.5 pounds at 8 weeks old.
Rate Of Growth After 8 Weeks Of Age
From 8 weeks to about 4 months old this is the fastest growth phase. They will more than double in size. Growing their frame and often becoming longer before they grow wide and fill out. This is NOT the age to be making a call if a rabbit will stay with your herd if you want a true picture of what they will look like.
How Fast Do Rabbits Grow After 5-6 Months Of Age
Whether or not you have a large breed rabbit or a small “dwarf breed” they will grow much slower after this point. Small rabbit breeds will be very close to their full size while giant breeds still have about 1/3rd more of their weight to go.
For small breeds you may notice some skull shape changes. If the breed should have big bold heads this is the season when their head will start to match their body size. You will also notice their hind quarters start to fill out more.
Giant rabbit breeds can take as long as 14 months to reach full maturity. The image below is a 4-week-old french lop next to her 14-pound momma.
Tips To Make Sure Your Rabbit Grows Well
- Make sure your rabbit has plenty of food for the day.
- Feed them the same time every day so you can spot if they are eating a normal amount of if they are starting to slow down eating so you can look to see if something is wrong.
- Keep as much water as they want.
- Solid food over sweet treats with lots of water in them.
- Treats should only be given every so often and be unpredictable so the rabbit can not tell when they might get a treat. It is not uncommon for a rabbit to go on strike and only eat that type of treat they like best.
- Feed a pregnant doe more pellets if she is still hungry.
- DO NOT change up feeding routines on a doe that is bred or due to have babies. So many things could go wrong with that.
For pet rabbits or people raising show rabbits a simple feeding plan for rabbits is always best. There are so many things you can do to complicate what you feed your rabbits and it is rarely worth it.
Being fed well and having good genetics is going to do far more for your rabbit than any amount of supplements will do to make sure they are in good condition. It is good practice to feed your rabbits at the same time every day and only feed what they will clean up in that 24hr period so you can spot if a rabbit is not feeling well. Their first clue is they will go off feed.
Just do your best and pay attention to your rabbit. They will let you know when something is working or not. Do what is working for your herd of rabbits even if it goes against what the people with fancy letters after their name say to do. Most often they are going by what they were told in a book. Seldom are they sharing from personal real-life experience?