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If you are raising rabbits and this is your first litter you might be wondering when do baby rabbits leave the nest box? There are some important things you need to know about rabbits leaving the nest. But first let me be clear that I am talking about domestic rabbits, not wild rabbits.
So with that said the answer to your question is young rabbits will start to get out of the nest as young as 2.5 weeks of age. But that doesn’t mean that is always the best idea for them. Sometimes it can be to your newborn bunny’s detriment.
Typically 3 weeks old is a good age for any rabbit breed. Let’s run through the stages of newborns, the care of baby rabbits, and what you can expect as far as them getting out of the nesting box and what causes them to start to wander out.
Rabbit Litters Under 7 Days Old
The nest box should be in a quiet place (away from household noise and other pets if you’re keeping your rabbits in your house) and also allow the mother rabbit to get away from the babies. A female rabbit doesn’t stay with their litter. She feeds them and leaves them where they are so predators don’t notice where the kits are hiding and come for an easy snack.
There should also be no other adult rabbits with your doe and litter, especially male rabbits. Contrary to popular belief rabbits are solitary creatures and don’t want any other animals around their babies. Males can be intrusive and cause damage to the kits. Other females may kill them. Just don’t do it.
Newborn rabbits this young want to stay in their little shallow hole in the straw covered in the fur that the mother rabbit has pulled for them. Which is the best and safest place for them and will give them the best chance of survival.
Rabbit Kits 8-14 Days Old
At this point, you might have the occasional baby bunny wander around the nest area even though they can’t see much. Their eyes don’t open until 10-12 days of age. This is where you have to be careful and it is VERY important that you have a nest box that is deep enough to keep the infant rabbits in the box. They are extremely wobbly and could be hurt easily if they end out outside of the nest box.
After a few losses of kits getting out and wandering behind the nesting box and getting stuck, I covered up all of the U shape cutouts that are common for rabbit raisers to have in their box. The idea is for the doe to be able to get in and out of the box easier to take care of their babies but 99.999999% of the time the doe never uses it and she jumps over everything but that side.
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The Best Nesting Material And Tips
The nest box should be filled about fist deep so the kits can hide deep in the staw and rabbit fur to stay warm.
Straw is best so the mother rabbit can use it to mold and build up a nest that has some sides to it. I don’t like using hay or anything that the doe may want to eat rather than do her job and start the nesting process.
Pine bedding is ok but it does not build up hardly at all. I would only use this for the very bottom of the nest and have straw on top or if the air is very humid and the straw is drawing damp causing the kits to get wet.
For my French lops, the nest box walls are about 10 inches high. Then the straw packs down and leaves about 6 inches of height keeping the kits (new babies) from getting out.
What Causes Kits To Leave The Nest
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Most of the time domestic rabbits they are leaving the nest to look for a food source. Your doe starts to feed them less and less after two weeks old and the kits should be mostly weaned by 3 weeks old.
Do your very best to keep the kits in the nest box until they are at least 2.5 weeks old. I have had several brave baby rabbits that make this impossible so I know it can be hard.
That is why around 2 weeks old I start to offer the kits small amounts of solid food. I will put rabbit pellets in a small bowl and hold it in front of the kits. They often will get w whiff of it and come to check it out. Some may come to try it and some may not.
DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT give young kits fresh hay, veggies, or anything that is wet and not a good solid formula for rabbits. You could cause digestive upsets and ultimately kill the rabbits. You are also training the kits at this age to eat what is good for them. You don’t want them to get something else they like more than their complete rabbit ration and only want to eat the “doughnuts” before the meat and vegetables.
How To Know If Your Baby Rabbits Are Getting Out Of The Box
Sometimes the little buggers are sneaky and they get in and out without you knowing. The main way you are going to notice this happening is if your rabbit mother is acting more hungry than usual or she is running out faster.
My french lop does always eat about 50% more feed around the time they give birth and start nursing. So it’s always a good idea to increase the amount you feed around the time your doe kindles. But if you have found her rhythm for the past little while and all of the sudden she is hungry again it’s likely her babies are sneaking out and eating her feed.
Rabbits 15-20 Days Old Can Leave The Nest
So your kits have made it to the 2-week + point and they are starting to get out on their own. What do you do?
If the kits are determined to get out and they seem to be doing ok on the rabbit cage floor I will turn the nest box on its side. So the kits can easily get back in and have a place to hide which is the main reason they naturally want the box at this point.
You can also replace the larger box with a small cardboard box if you want to give the rabbits more space. I like this option as well because it can be thrown out or burned depending on your homestead situation.
If the kits start using the small box as a toilet just take the rabbit nest box out. After about 4 weeks old rabbits don’t tend to use the box.
What If Your Kits Are Not Leaving The Nest Or Opening Their Eyes
If you are raising rabbits and it is a bit colder outside than usual the new litter may not have a reason to want to come out and explore. They are mainly trying to stay warm.
The problem with this is it can cause them to get what’s called nest box eyes and it can turn into eye infections. So if your kits have not gotten adventurous around 10-12 days old and started opening their eyes you should start encouraging them to come out into the world.
Your nest of baby rabbits should be ready to face the world by 3 weeks old but it’s okay if they still want to hang out in the nest every so often. My french lops often have the nest box removed by 5 weeks old.
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