How To Tell If A Rabbit Is Pregnant

Knowing how to tell if a rabbit is pregnant is not easy. Especially if you are a new rabbit raiser.

It takes time and practice. There are not a ton of options for seeing if a female rabbit is pregnant. You need to wait at least a week (more likely two weeks) to be able to tell and confidently say “yes, she is pregnant” or no she’s not.

And with a gestation period of about 31 days if you are not comfortable with trying to do any of these methods it’s not going to be long before you’ll know for sure because your mother rabbit will have had her baby bunnies before long anyway.

If you get to the end of a 31-33 day gestation period and your female rabbit has not had her litter it was likely a false pregnancy.

A false pregnancy is basically, the rabbit’s body behaving as if it is pregnant. Her belly will get big and she may even become sweeter. Which is normal for does after being bred.

So just take a breath and if your not sure your doe is pregnant just treat her as if she is and you’ll know soon enough.

It All Starts At The Breeding

IF you think you had an “ops” breeding then this isn’t for you. But when you are breeding rabbits it all starts back at the rabbit’s breeding.

The best way to be sure your female rabbit is pregnant is that the buck did at least one fall off. He will grunt and fall to one side or the other. If you can get him to do it twice is even better. Getting more fall-offs will increase the average litter size if you are consistent.

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How To Tell If A Rabbit Is Pregnant Through Palpation

The most common among rabbit breeders is palpation. However, you have to wait about two weeks before you’re able to feel the babies and even then it can be questionable if it’s a baby or a clump of poo that you’re feeling. Pregnant rabbits are not that large yet at two weeks along.

Regardless, the way to do it is to take the doe out of her cage and place her on a piece of carpet on a table. Place your hand under her belly and flank area.

Not extremely hard but press your thumb and fingers together to see if you are able to feel a baby or two. You will often find the baby rabbits closer to her back than the bottom of her belly. I have practiced on does that I knew we’re pregnant in a French Lop baby feels about the size of a seeded grape at 2 weeks.

But even then if they are hiding up towards the rib cage or the spine it can be hard to find anything at all. French lops are big animals and there are plenty of places for the baby rabbits to hide.

I do think it is easier on a smaller breed but honestly, I think learning to “read” your rabbit is easier.

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How To “Read” Your Doe For Signs Of Pregnancy

My favorite way is just to watch the doe’s behavior and her belly. There are obvious signs of pregnancy like a doe will start eating more, especially French lops, and will become lazy and start laying around more.

It depends on the doe but often within 3-7 days you will see a change in temperament.

You will start to see her belly grow around 2 weeks but by 3 weeks you will have no problem knowing if she is pregnant.

If the doe is pregnant her body weight will start to increase the final week of her pregnancy.

This image bellow is of a doe that is further along. But this is how I often tell if she is close to having her babies. Normally within 48hrs her belly “drops” as I like to call it. You can almost see a separation from her ribs and belly.

pregnant rabbit rabbit belly

If you are new to having rabbit litters make sure to check this post out. – How To Easily Handle Your Rabbit Giving Birth For The First Time – Read The Post

“Test” Breeding

There is such a thing as “test breeding” which is putting the doe back in with the buck around the two-week mark after the breeding and if she downright refuses him then you know she is likely bred.

There are a few reasons I don’t love this idea.

First, does do not always cooperate with being bred anyway even if they are “in the mood”. So unless she is a pro she doesn’t always get things quite right.

Second, even if she does not “lift” for him and he “gets it right” she could end up with two different age rabbit litters in her ovarian horns. Once she goes into labor she will give birth to babies that are not ready to be born. It could also cause her to not want to care for the babies she has. Rabbits are funny creatures and it’s best not to throw a wrench into what already works.

You want to make sure to give your doe a nest box around day 29 because if she delivers early you do not want to miss the time. But giving her a nest box to early can cause her to soil it.

The female bunnies will start nest building usually 24-48hrs before they are due. Some will even wait until they go into labor.

It really doesn’t matter when they make their nest for the kits so long as they do.

Like I said it takes time and practice to know if a rabbit is pregnant. If you are a breeder and are having trouble with getting a doe bred just keep at it. There are some years or seasons when things just don’t go as well. Not what you want to hear I know but it is just the case sometimes.

Preparing For The Kits

So you think newborn rabbits are coming. Now what?

Creating a calm environment for your pregnant rabbit is crucial. She needs a nest box that is large enough for her to jump into without stepping on the kits is important.

Privacy is also vital during this time because you don’t want the doe thinking another animal is a danger to her kits and end up not having them in the nest box. Or doing something worse.

Cage Location For The Doe

Have your rabbit’s cage and the nest box to a quiet and secluded area where your rabbit can feel safe and undisturbed. This will help her to relax and ensure a successful pregnancy. Stress can cause lost litters and it has happened to me several times.

Creating a quiet space for your pregnant doe is essential to ensure her comfort and safety during the gestation period. This separate area allows her to exhibit her natural nesting instincts.

Don’t Change Up Too Much

Keep in mind it’s best to not change up too much on your doe if you don’t have to. Keep her calm and as little change wherever possible. BUT it is still important to do what is best for the kits.

Whatever you do, DO NOT change her food. I have had this cuase loss of litters more than once.

Give Her A Nesting Box

One option is using a wooden box (you want it to be heavy enough that she can’t knock it over. I like to have the box be big enough that two full-size rabbits could sit next to each other in it.

Line it with soft bedding material such as hay, pine bedding, or shredded paper to provide a warm and comfortable environment for the kits. This will give her a dedicated space to build her nest line it with fur to keep it the kits warm.

To reduce stress, it’s a good idea to isolate the pregnant rabbit in her own enclosure. This provides a calm and quiet environment. Rabbits can get weird ideas in their head and you don’t want her to not have her kits in the nest or decide not to take care of them because she thought there was danger nearby.

What To Feed a Pregnant Rabbit

When it comes to caring for a pregnant rabbit, providing a high-quality diet is essential for the health and well-being of both the mother and her growing babies.

A pregnant rabbit has increased nutritional needs,  To ensure your pregnant rabbit gets all the necessary nutrients, it’s also beneficial to provide pellets that are specifically formulated for pregnant rabbits. These pellets are designed to provide a balanced diet and meet their increased nutritional needs.

16-18% protein is ideal for a pregnant doe and make sure to “free feed” her. Her feed intake will likely increase the last week of her gestation. In terms of water, fresh and clean water is a must make sure her water’er stays full as well.

What To Do When Your Rabbit Is In Labor

On average, the gestation period for rabbits is around 31-33 days.

When labor begins, it usually lasts for varying amounts of time depending on the rabbit. But most rabbits have had all their kits in about 8-12 hours.

The mother rabbit will start by pulling fur from her belly to line the nest and create a warm and cozy environment for her newborns. She may also dig and rearrange the nesting material.

During this time, it’s important to give the mother rabbit the privacy she needs. I will leave her be if she has started nesting and is in labor unless she seems like she wants me there. But this is rare for rabbits. The main reason for giving her space is to make sure she uses the nest box and doesn’t harm the kits. Rabbits are funny creatures and will do dumb things for no apparent reason.

young rabbits

Understanding and Managing False Pregnancies in Rabbits

A false pregnancy is where a female rabbit exhibits signs of pregnancy without actually being pregnant. 

False pregnancy in rabbits often shows up through nesting behavior where the doe builds a nest and becomes more territorial and protective. She may also display moodiness and hormonal changes. Her midsection may even swell. These signs can be confusing, but it’s important to remember that there are no actual growing babies. 

Most times the false pregnancies last a little less than the full 31-day gestation period. If you intended for your doe to have a litter you can try breeding her again but its ideal to wait until she seems to be behaving normally and try again.

rabbit litter

How To Keep Your Rabbit Form Getting Pregnant

One of the most effective ways to prevent pregnancy in female rabbits is through spaying but its not necessary if you keep her on her own.

The simplest thing is to keep your rabbit away from other rabbits. One misconception of social media and other outlets is that they think rabbits need a “buddy” and this could not be further from the truth. Rabbits are not herd or pack animals. Telling the gender of a rabbit is not easy. I can not tell you how many times people have messaged me about what to do about an “ops” breeding because they got their rabbit a buddy and it was not the same gender.

Rabbits don’t need another rabbit competition and you will have a better pet if they don’t. You can read more about it here.

Rabbit mating can happen in 30 seconds or less if both parties are interested so be very careful if your rabbit comes close to another one. And if you think the mating took place. Treat your doe as if she is bred for the next 33 days or so and if not great. But if she is then you are prepared. You can learn all about the process of rabbits giving birth right here.

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