How Long Do Baby Rabbits Stay In The Nest

Over the last year or so I have started to see rabbit raisers have some questions about how long their kits should stay in the rabbit nest. AND some are struggling to know if they should keep them covered with fur from the doe. 

There are so many aspects and little questions that come up about the care of rabbits when they are newborns so let’s cover some things about nesting right now.

how long do baby rabbits stay in the nest intro image

As a quick note, I am covering the nesting habits of domestic infant rabbits, not baby cottontails.

How long do baby rabbits stay in the nest

Domestic rabbits, also known as kits, stay in the nest that the female rabbit makes for almost two weeks before they start to shakily wander around. This does not mean they should leave the actual nest box.

The kits should not start to come out of the actual nest box until they are about 3 weeks old for their own safety. — But occasionally you may have the little adventurer. 

If you have a kit that has gotten out and they are not big enough to get back in the box you may have no choice but to flip the nest box on its side so the kit can get back in. It is risky if the litter is still fragile but it’s better than leaving the escape artist to not be able to get back in.

baby rabbits sitting in a nest box on its side

When kits are born they have no fur and their eyes are closed. However, within a week of age, they start developing a thin layer of fur. Over the next few weeks, their fur becomes denser and takes on the appearance of their parents.

Litter of baby rabbits

Their eyes start to open at about 10 days of age and you want to see them fully open by 14 days. At first, their eyesight is limited, but it quickly improves as they continue to grow. – This causes them to be somewhat jumpy and “popcorn” out of the nest if you reach into the nest. There is nothing wrong with handling them young (in fact I encourage it so you have friendly rabbits) just make sure you have a good grip on them so you don’t drop them.

Baby rabbits also start to gain strength in their hind legs during their time in the nest. By the time they reach 2 weeks, they will be pretty wobbly but by 3 weeks old they should be pretty solid on their feet.

As they approach 3 to 5 weeks, their mobility becomes more confident and they start exploring their surroundings outside the nest.

It’s important to note that baby rabbits rely solely on their mother for nutrition from 0-3 weeks old. 

Mother rabbits produce milk to feed their offspring, and baby rabbits will nurse 1-2 times per day. If a baby rabbit is found outside the nest, it should be returned immediately.

How long should baby rabbits stay covered with rabbit fur

The answer is it depends on the temperatures they are in. If you keep your rabbits outside in a barn or hutches (which is recommended) you need to pay close attention to the weather.

This is where I see people get (understandably) concerned when they go out to find the rabbit litter uncovered.

  • If the kits still have no fur developing it is 75 degrees or higher and you find the kits uncovered but still in a group just leave them be.
  • If the temperatures are 65 degrees or less (and the kits are under 1-2 weeks old) and you find them uncovered with fur then get all the kits back in one place if they have wandered off or surfaced and cover them up with the doe’s fur.

During this time, it’s important to provide a deep nest box for the baby rabbits. This prevents them from wandering out and potentially getting injured. A shallow depression in the straw, lined with the rabbit mother’s fur is what you want to see in the nest.

baby rabbit looking out of the nest

Once the kits are 3-6 weeks old there is no need to make sure they stay covered. If they are feeling cold they will huddle together in the nest for extra heat.

By ensuring the baby rabbits stay covered with fur long enough, and by providing a secure nest box you are good to go.

If you find a baby bunny or two that is out of the nest and on top the straw WHILE THEY HAVE FUR typically 10 days old or more and it is a warm and even humid day they are probably feeling hot. It’s not unusual to see kits spread out all over the nest to cool off. 

The only thing I would keep an eye on is where they are lying. If the mama rabbit jumps in the nest box make sure she won’t land on them. You don’t have to put them back with the nest of baby rabbits but just make sure they are not lying somewhere they might get squished.

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What if the baby rabbits are on top the nest

If its a warm day out and the kits are on top of the nest its and not covered it’s okay. It’s when the kits are still hairless and it’s less than 60 degrees out that you have to worry. – See previous section for temperature recommendations.

If the kits If you happen to come across baby rabbits on top of their nest, it’s important not to panic. Sometimes, these little buggers can wander out of the nest or get lost after feeding (mainly when their eyes are still closed) and find themselves in quite a predicament. 

You can touch the kits with no concern that the doe will kill them. If you have had your doe for any length of time she should trust you enough to not get in your way. 

Simply pick up the kit and place it back with the rest of the litter.

baby rabbit laying on  top of the nest

How To Know If Your Baby Rabbits Are Getting Out Of The Box

It’s important to keep an eye out for signs that they may be getting out. Observing the behavior of the mother rabbit can give you clues about whether the babies are venturing beyond their cozy home.

One indicator is the mother rabbit’s behavior. If you notice that she is becoming more hungry or her food is depleting faster than usual, it could be a sign that the babies are getting out of the box and helping themselves.

When the babies leave the nest, they start exploring and may begin nibbling on solid food, causing the mother’s food supply to diminish quickly.

Typically, baby rabbits start to leave the nest around 2.5 weeks of age.

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However, it’s important to note that just because they are capable of leaving at this age, it doesn’t mean it’s always in their best interest to do so. The nest box provides warmth and protection. So if you notice this starting to happen you may need to turn the nest box on its side so the kits can get back in.

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