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You are anxiously awaiting the arrival of your baby rabbits. It can feel a little concerning when you’re a first-time rabbit momma raiser and you don’t feel like you know what you’re doing.
But that’s okay you are looking for answers and that is the key to getting better. Even when things don’t go the way you wanted keep trying and solving each problem that comes up.
How long does it take for a rabbit to give birth?
If you have a female rabbit (also called a doe), you may be able to see her give birth to her litter of rabbits (baby rabbits are called kits).
But just how long does it take for a rabbit to give birth?
As the due date approaches, you may notice some signs that your rabbit is preparing for birth. These can include nesting behaviors, where the doe begins to gather bedding material and build a nest in a secluded area.
She might also become a bit more agitated and show increased restlessness or seek out a quiet and safe space.
Here’s the thing. Your doe needs to have her kits in a nest box. If she doesn’t the kits will not be safe and stay warm. In the wild, a doe would dig a nest in the ground to contain her litter if rabbit kits but you have to give her a nesting box instead.
How many hours does it take for a doe to give birth?
Typically a rabbit should give birth to all of her kits within 12-18 of going into labor. Some does are much faster (around 8 hours from the time you see her looking agitated) and that is ideal. But don’t be concerned if it takes longer.
After you see that the first kit has been born keep checking on the litter of newborn rabbits to make sure the doe has the rest of the kits in the nest box. You should see each kit born about 30 minutes apart but up to an hour apart is normal.
It’s important to note that if a rabbit is in labor for more than 24 hours, it can be a sign of complications such as kits getting stuck in the uterine horns and the uterus. — Most times the doe can pass the kits but the whole litter will likely be dead on arrival.
It is not uncommon to miss your adult rabbits giving birth to their baby bunnies completely. Typically once my does reach day 31 in their gestation I will check on them twice a day until I notice the signs that they are getting close to delivery. Then I will check on them three times a day if the temperatures outside are not warm enough for the litter of kits to survive without fur.
Some does will cover their kits with fur and others will not cover them up right away. There could also be a kit born on the wire outside the nest box. Which will leave you to pick the kit up and put it with the rest of the litter to keep the babies warm.
How do you know when a rabbit has finished giving birth
Once a rabbit begins the birthing process, it typically lasts for several hours.
The first signs are wide eyes, heavy panting, digging, nesting, or restlessness.
Some of the signs that indicate a rabbit has finished giving birth is when the contractions have ceased, her eyes will become calmer, but you still may see some heavy panting for another hour or so after birth.
The doe’s body will relax, and she will appear calmer and more at ease.
The steady flow of newborns should also come to an end. It’s important to give the mother rabbit and her kits some quiet time to make sure the doe is not annoyed by any threats in the rabbitry causing her to be distracted from her job of feeding the kits.
While the duration of the birthing process can vary, it usually takes several hours to complete.
There is no average litter size because it depends on the breed. But small rabbits under 3 pounds can have 2-3 or larger breeds of rabbits can have as many as 12+ but that doesn’t mean all of the kits will survive.
Can Rabbits Give Birth Days Apart?
While it is more common for rabbits to give birth all at once, in some rare cases, they can give birth to their kits days apart. Most often if it does happen the results are not good.
Several factors can influence whether this happens.
The most common is when the doe has been bred a second time a few days after breeding the first time. Some will take the doe to the buck multiple times in a day for up to 24 hours. This is not a practice I tend to do. I will take the doe back to the buck a second time later in the day if I only got 1 “fall off” from the buck. But no more than 12 hours apart.
Another reason that can impact the timing of rabbit births is the number of kits. If a doe is expecting a large litter, she may experience a more prolonged labor, which can result in the kits being born over the course of a few days.
Additionally, the size of the doe can also play a role. Smaller does may struggle with delivering all of their kits at once, leading to staggered births.
Complications during birth can also cause rabbits to give birth days apart. If the doe experiences difficulties during labor, such as a stuck kit, it can result in the kits being born at different times. — Often times in this situation the rest of the kits may not be born alive.
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Signs Before a Rabbit Gives Birth
It’s important to be able to “read your doe” and be able to tell when a rabbit is about to give birth. This will help you be ready for the doe and have more successful rabbit litters.
While each rabbit may exhibit slightly different behaviors, there are several common signs you can look out for.
First Sign Of Giving Birth – Belly Dropped
Her belly has dropped. – Just like humans a does belly will drop and it almost looks as if it has separated from her rib cage. Her muscles are getting looser and relaxing which is a good thing for her. This typically happens about three days before she is due to give birth.
Second Sign – nest building
You should give our doe the nest box around day 27 of her gestation. But it is not likely that you will see her start to build a next as soon as you give it to her. Some does will and some won’t. They may check it out but don’t stress if she doesn’t
Most does don’t get serious about building a nest but they are in labor or 24 hours away from giving birth.
She will start to gather materials such as hay, straw, and sometimes a little fur in the early stages to create a cozy nest for her soon-to-arrive babies. They will dig, scratch, and push these materials into a specific area of the nest box.
Make sure she uses the nest box. If not you need to make her living area small enough that she has no choice but to use it. It’s for the safety of the kits that she uses the box.
Thirds Sign – She has gone off feed
The next thing you will notice is less than 12 hours or so before your doe will go into labor she will have likely eaten about half the feed she normally eats.
Fourth Sign – Fur Pulling
Fur pulling is another behavior that may be observed in pregnant rabbits. Does pluck fur from their own bodies to line the nest, providing insulation for the newborn kits. Some pull a tuff or two early and some will pull a lot right after the kits are born.
Most of my does pull fur while in labor. You just have to learn your does habits.
During this time, it’s not uncommon for mother rabbits to display more aggressive behavior or reluctance to be petted.
This is a natural instinct to protect their nest and ensure the safety of their babies so they tend to withdraw from anything that could be preserved as dangerous. It’s important to respect their space and limit handling until after the kits are born.
If you push to hard the do may move the nest or do something that is not good for the kits.
NOTE: DO NOT act overly stressed or anxious around the doe. You will stress her out by hovering and she will know that you are stressed.
Length of a rabbit’s pregnancy
On average, the gestation period for a rabbit lasts between 28 to 31 days. However, this can vary depending on factors such as the size of the litter. Larger litters tend to have a shorter gestation period, while smaller litters may take a bit longer. Each will vary only by a day or so.
It is not uncommon to have a litter go as long as 33 days. If your doe goes longer than that the breeding may not have “taken” It is possible for does to have false pregnancies where they show all the signs of being pregnant but never deliver.
If this is the case with your doe you can breed again if needed.
Rabbits can reach sexual maturity as young as 4 months of age depending on the breed. And the breeding will happen very quickly so make sure to keep each rabbit separate if they are not fixed. It doesn’t matter if the doe is in heat or not she can get pregnant.
Accidental breeding is also a possibility so keep each rabbit cage at least 3 inches apart. Rabbits can breed through wire if both parties are interested.
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