What To Do If Your Mother Rabbit Is Stepping On Her Babies

It’s really hard to control everything in a litter. But there are some things you can do to help if the mother rabbit is stepping on the babies and they are dying.

But let me make it clear that it will look like your doe is stepping sometimes but no real damage is being done. Don’t let this stress you out.

If the kits are not dying and the doe is just stepping on them a bit it’s not the end of the world. Baby rabbits are a bit chaotic when they see her jump in so if no damage has been done do your best to ignore it.

The only time you need to intervene is if the mother rabbit has killed a baby by stepping on them. And if you have a smaller breed of rabbits you may not deal with this. BUT if you are like me and have a giant breed rabbit then you will be more likely to deal with dead babies.

Seeing your mother rabbit stepping on her babies is very unnerving. Especially if it is causing heavy losses and it can really set you back in your homesteading or backyard farm strategy.

Keep in mind the older they get the more they can handle so if your litter is a few weeks old you can breathe a bit more.

how to keep a mother rabbit from stepping on her babies intro image.

How To Know If A Baby Rabbit Was Stepped On

Keep in mind that when doe nurses she stands over them so it can look like she is stepping on them but she really isn’t doing any harm.

If the mother rabbit stepped on the baby and killed it the baby would look fairly normal except for the fact that the lower half is very loose and looks like it has taken impact. If the baby is a light color you might see some blue and purple color around the midsection indicating internal bleeding.

The dead baby rabbit wouldn’t look flattened unless it was on a hard surface before the doe stepped on it. This shouldn’t be the case if they are under 2 weeks old and in a proper nest box.

a nest of baby rabbits snuggled in under the straw and fur from the doe.

Why Your Mother Rabbit Is Stepping On Her Babies

When you are raising animals you have to learn to read them and the situation to get a good idea of why they are doing the thing you don’t want them to. In this case, stepping on their babies.

1. It was an accident

It is not super common to be on purpose. Most times it was simply an accident and the kit was somewhere the doe didn’t expect it to be. The way you are going to be able to tell if the doe has done it on purpose is you will find multiple kits (or possibly the entire litter) dead or smashed all at once.

Most of the time the doe tends to be a bit more aggressive with the kits from the beginning. If this happens and she has lost the entire litter I would wait about 3 weeks and try to get her bred again and see what she does.

If it was more than one at a time then you might have more issues and should consider moving the doe on.

A nest of 7 day old baby rabbits.

2. She is not interested in doing her job in raising the litter.

If this is the case then the litter is likely not being fed and she seems to be totally ignoring the babies. Unfortunately, there is not a lot you can do if a doe has decided not to care for her litter and the best thing you can do is to find a foster doe.

I will often try to breed two does at the same time if possible in order to have one at the ready. Even if the doe can’t take the whole litter sometimes they can raise a few extra. If I foster them out I put the ones that look like they have the best chance of survival in the host litter.

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3. She is just a big girl and the litter needs to be in a space where she can jump in and out of the box without landing on the litter.

This is more often the case. The doe does not mean to hurt the litter. It’s just a case of wrong place wrong time. But one key thing you can do to help avoid this is to have a larger nest box. Most of the time you see a nest box just big enough for the doe to get in the box. But if she is a larger breed this makes it hard for her to get in the nest and not step on the kits at the same time.

A large rabbit sitting in her nest box making a nest for her babies.

I make my nest boxes big enough that two rabbits the size of Momma could sit side by side in the box. So essentially there is a place for her to jump in and land without the babies being right underneath her.

This has virtually put and end to the kits being stepped on for me. Accidents still happen but its far less often.

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Move The Litter If You Have To So Momma Doesn’t Step On Them

Sometimes the doe builds her nest in the wrong spot or the babies start balling up together after birth not where momma intended. So you might have to reorganize things. And that’s ok.

Your mother rabbit won’t abandon her litter because she smells human on them. That’s just an old wives tail.

Steps To Remake The Nest

  • Make a nice little hole in the corner of the nest box with some straw between the bottom of the box and the babies.
  • Then use some of the fur momma has pulled and line the new nest with it.
  • Then place the babies inside.
Rabbit nest that is moved to the corner of the box so the mother rabbit doesn't step on her babies.

I give you more details on handling nesting box issues here in the rabbit breeding made easy guide.

What To Do If The Mother Rabbit Keeps Stepping On Babies

If worst comes to worst you can do what is called “shelving” meaning you keep the litter out of the cage where the doe is and only bring them out to feed.

This brings a whole other level of complication to raising the litter. But if you want the litter to survive its your next best option.

Just take the nest box inside somewhere warm and safe. Then take them out to their mother one to two times every day morning and evening so the doe can feed them.

If you are brand new or not feeling confident it’s not as hard as it might sound. If you are worried you might not do something right and the kits will die. Just remember that they are no worse off if they stay with the doe that is stepping on them anyway.

You will need to keep a close eye on the litter to make sure each one has been fed enough. Possibly hand-feed a few of them if needed.

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Portable Shelving Unit

If the doe is not being careful you may need to consider shelving the kits. Basically, take the litter out to feed once or twice a day and they stay inside for the rest of the time. Having a portable shelf that can be kept away from house pets and wagging tails is a must. This shelving unit works perfectly.

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What To Do If The Mother Rabbit Is Stepping On Her Babies As They Get Older

This is a hard one as the babies are becoming more active. If they are still at the age where they don’t have their eyes open try to keep them out of her way. But the bigger they get the more they can handle.

Keep an eye out on warm days during the summer because this is when it can happen because the babies will come to the surface of the nest if it is too hot to be underneath and very likely be spread out. Making them easy targets for getting stepped on.

older rabbit litter sitting on the surface of the nest on a warm summer day.

Don’t bury the kits again but move them out of the way if there are any lying where she typically lands in the nest box.

When they are a few weeks old and still nursing it can look a little rough but they can handle a lot and if you haven’t had any losses you just have to trust the doe. If you need a start-to-finish rabbit breeding guide make sure to check out the Rabbit Breeding Made Easy Guide Book

Hope that helps. If you’ve got questions leave them below and I will come back to answer them.

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  1. My doe, killed 3 of 4 Young bunnies maybe 4-5 week old,they looked flattened and was laying next yo eachother like sardines

  2. Awe that’s so hard. It’s not an easy thing to fix either. If this was her first litter I would try her again in a few months and see what she does. If she does it again I wouldn’t breed her. Because bad behaviors like that can be passed on to the offspring.

  3. My 1 doe had 3 babies. They are about 10 days old.
    The colony bit 1 dead on the side an 1 paraplegic and have no movement at the legs.
    I took them out, cause my heart is bleeding and I want to save the 2 that’s left.
    How do I go about this?

  4. If you can give the mom her own space and keep the others away from her and the kit that is going to be your best bet. This is why I don’t keep rabbits together ever. Its not your fault that the main stream media is pushing this idea that rabbits are social group loving animals. Its not true. The rabbits that live in colony’s are VERY different from those we raise and even the eastern cotton tail rabbits. If you separate the rabbits you will get better behaved and easier to handle animals as well. Email me at [email protected] if you have more questions. Sorry you are struggling with this.