How To Set Up A Rabbit Nesting Box For Raising Healthy Litters

Ok so what is a rabbit nesting box and why do they need them? 

The main reason the nest box is necessary for a mother rabbit is to contain her baby rabbits and give them more protection.

A rabbit nest box is used to also keep the baby rabbits from getting lost randomly around the cage. This helps keep the doe from stressing out and stepping on them by accident and killing them.

I’m going to cover how to set up a nest box, what nesting box material works best, and some tips to help you care for the coming litter of rabbits.

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When To Give A Pregnant Doe A Nesting Box

Always put the rabbit nest box in about two to three days before the mother is due to have her litter. You never know if she will give birth early or not. This also gives the doe time to start building her nest ahead of time. Some does will and some won’t build it until they are in labor. Either way is fine as long as they get a nest built for the kits to stay warm.

If you put it in too soon the doe could start to go to the bathroom in the nesting box and you don’t let too much waste inside the box. A few pebbles are fine and normal but not too much.

Then the pregnant rabbit will line that nest with her own fur. Some may add a tuff or two when you first give her the nest box to them, but most won’t line the nest just yet.

If you see something like the image below then she is likely within 24hrs of giving birth if she has started to pull fur.

rabbit nest box with fur pulled.

Rabbit Nesting Box Size Recommendations

The size of the nest box will depend on what size rabbit you raise. For the French lops and other large rabbits, it seems best to have a box big enough that two of the Mama’s could sit next to each other in the nesting box.

So essentially two adult rabbits wide.

It’s not that the babies need that much space, it helps the momma get around without stepping on the babies. Once I made bigger boxes I had far fewer babies getting stepped on by the mom when she jumped in to feed them.

Rabbit Nesting Box Dimensions

Here is a list of recommended dimensions for different size rabbits by weight.

  • For rabbits under 6 pounds – 10 Inches Wide x 14 Inches Long x 8-10 Inches Tall
  • For Rabbits 6-9 Pounds – 10 Inches Wide x 16-18 Inches Long x 10 Inches Tall
  • For Rabbits 10 pounds and up – 12 Inches Wide x 18 Inches Long x 12 Inches Tall
  • For rabbits 12 pounds and up I Recommend a box that is big enough for the doe to jump in one side and still have plenty of space on the other side next to her. So almost “two mommas” wide.

What Nesting Material To Put In The Rabbit Nesting Box

I prefer straw for nesting material because it seems to be the warmest. And it is easier for the doe to build up the nest and make it deeper to keep the kits hidden inside. I will fill a nest box about half way and let the expecting doe do what she wants with that for a day or two then see if it looks deep enough. If not I will add another amount on top of the nest if the doe has not had her babies yet.

But when the weather is extremely humid I use mostly pine bedding as long as the weather is warm enough. The straw will absorb the water in the air and become extremely damp, causing the babies to get wet. (That is deadly to kits)

The pine bedding doesn’t absorb the water as much so you have to make sure that the bedding in the nest box is deep enough for the babies to sit above their waist and that urine will have somewhere to go. So it takes a lot more pine shavings to get a thick bed.

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Steps For Setting Up A Nest Box

  • Dust out the nest box to make sure it is free of old debris – Do not use a wet nest box.
  • Spray the nest box with water-based fly spray and let it try – (this will help keep flies from harming the babies once they are born. The birth process can leave the nest a bit messy and is a perfect house for flies. Which we don’t want.)
  • Add enough straw or bedding to fill the box halfway.
  • Give the box to the doe 2-3 days before her due date.

You shouldn’t have to clean out the nest box more than once a week or so if the temperatures and weather are cooperating.

What Can You Use For A Rabbit Nesting Box

Wooden nest boxes are my first choice. When you are looking for a rabbit nest box the key thing is it needs to be strong and heavy enough to not be kicked over or easily moved every time the doe jumps out. This can cause damage to the doe or the kits.

I tried using plastic tubs for one year and they are way too light weight. They had to be zip-striped to the side of the cage because they are easily flipped. 

The reason cardboard boxes are not a good idea is because they are easily torn up. The doe will get into a nesting frenzy and could tear down the walls that will keep her babies in. 

Just be careful if you use a mettle box that it NEVER gets in direct sunlight while kits are in it. You could accidentally create a sweatbox without realizing it if your rabbitry is outside.

Nesting boxes on a cart

How To Make Nesting Boxes

If you have large rabbits then chances are you’re better off just making the boxes yourself. It is super easy. All you have to do is build a box without a top. Building your own nest box will help ease the farm budget because you can use scrap wood. Save that money so you can put that income towards another project in your backyard farm project plan.

Plywood is better because the pressed wood absorbs the waste.

  • Always frame the corners so you have something to screw the sidewalls into. This will make your boxes stronger and you won’t run the risk of pointy objects coming through the other side of the wood.

The one caution I would give you is to not make the scoop or V on the side of the box like you might see sometimes. This is intended to make it easier for the doe to jump in and out of the box but most times they never use it. This allows for the kits to get out of the box before they should.

If they are less than two weeks old they will get stuck behind the box or mama will step on them accidentally. I lost a few babies before I realized that I had to close up the scoop that we put in our nest boxes.

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When Can You Remove A Nesting Box

My French Lop babies don’t typically start coming out of the nest box until 3 weeks old. BUT sometimes there is a bold one or two in the litter. 

If that is the case and they seem to be handling the wire pretty well on their own then I take the wood nest box and flip it on its side. It’s ok if they get out but they still need to be able to get with their siblings to stay warm.

This also gives the kits can be on a solid space and “hide” like what is natural for them to do at night.

3-week old french lop baby peaking out of the nest.

If the weather is nice enough and the kits don’t seem to be using the nest box at all you can take the wood box out and replace it with a cardboard box to see if they use that. These are great once the litter gets a bit older because they can be thrown in the trash or burned.

Eventually, they will just start using the nest box as a toilet and it’s VERY unsanitary for them to take it out rather than leaving it there for them to make a mess out of it.

By 5 weeks old 9 times out of 10, I have removed the nest box for my giant breed rabbits.

If you set your rabbit nest box up right and keep an eye on the baby bunnies you should have a successful and healthy litter.

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