When Do Baby Rabbits Open Their Eyes And What To Do If They Are Late
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It’s baby season!!!! So you have a litter of baby bunnies and you are wondering when do baby rabbits open their eyes. Or you are thinking they are running a bit late.
So first let me give you the time frame of how the eyes progress and then share some other tips and things to watch out for as your litter of rabbits is developing. Just to clarify I am talking about domestic rabbits, not wild rabbits.
Your litter of baby rabbits should start to open their eyes at 10-12 days and have their eyes open by 14-16 days. If they are much later than that you are going to have to watch for eye infections or “nest box eyes”. Don’t freak out it’s treatable. So hang with me.
Stages Of The Kits Eyes Opening
The newborn kits will have little creases straight across where the eyes should open. The kit’s eyes will start to open once they are 10 days old. Some will be the front corner of the eye. Some will be in the back corner towards the ear. Some might have one eye open but not the other.
Below is a three-day-old kit. YOu can see the line across the eye but it is nowhere near open.
It really doesn’t matter at this early age. But don’t be alarmed if there isn’t a small part of the eye opened on day 10.
Ideally, by 14 days old, they should have their eyes open and you should be able to see their sinny little eyeball if they open their eyes. They won’t be open wide or anything. Just little cracks that occasionally open.
These kits below are right at the stage where you want to see their eyes start to open. Between 12 and 14 days.
These rabbits below are 2.5 weeks and the eyes should be fully open with no issues. I realize the picture isn’t looking right at their eyes but you can at least get an idea of the stage of growth the body is in.
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What If They Are Slow To Open 14-18 Days
Here is where it gets tricky. Some newborn baby rabbits’ eyes are just slower to open than others and that’s ok. BUT if the eyes are stuck shut due to “sleep dirt” or gunk from the nest box you also need to help the eye open.
You should definitely see some level of your rabbit’s eyes opening by 14 days old. Ideally, they would be completely open by this age. BUT if they aren’t it’s still not safe to force the issue.
If your kits have reached 14+ days of age then you need to look very closely at the eye-opening of each baby bunny. Use your fingers to see if the eye will open easily.
By putting your thumb on the bottom of the eye and your finger at the top of the eye moving them open in the OPOSIT of a pinching motion. Move your fingers as if you are opening your pinching fingers to gently pull open the eye just a bit to see if it comes open.
Sometimes the kits are on the skittish side and are so focused on hiding that they have no reason to open their eyes. They almost force them closed and this slows the opening process.
If the eye seems stuck or you can see part of the eye open but it seems like there is something holding it down then get a paper towel or a soft towel with warm water on it and hold it over the kit’s eye for about 15-20 seconds if you can. Then test the eye again and see if it opens. Just like you would if a kitten had an eye infection work on it for a little bit and come back in a few hours if the eye is really full of gunk and work on it again.
How To Know If The Eye Is Infected
Ok this is about to get gross… Ready…
The first sign that something isn’t right is that there seems to be a bulge under the eyelid. You may not even see any leakage coming from the eye on the outside.
But if you see what looks like swelling under the eye then there is a good chance there is an infection and you need to help the infant rabbits open their eyes and clean it out. First things first you simply need to get the eye open. And this might take some work depending on how stuck the babies’ eyes are. You can wear gloves that are disposable if that would make you feel better and be able to work faster.
As soon as you get a small crease open from the eye you will have a creamy puss (looks like a cream doughnut filling) come out of the eye. It’s gross and can be amazing how much is in that tinny little eye.
If the kit will let you keep working on the eye keep going. Massage the eye until you don’t get any more liquid out. Make sure to wipe as much of the eye goop off of the outer eye as possible. If you leave a lot of access on the eye that will cause the eye to close up again and you will be right back where you started the next day. So make sure to wipe away the eye dirt and infection well.
If your kit does have nest box eye you are going to have to check the eye every day for a full week. One cleaning and application of antibiotics won’t fix it.
So make sure to keep checking. Below is my favorite eye treatment for eye infections.
Tools you’ll need
The terramycin is what I use to fight infection in a rabbits eyes and it usually works on minor infections in about 3 applications and bad ones in about 6 days as long as you keep cleaning the eyes well.
amyThe clear eyes is NOT an antibiotic but it does help to reduce eye irritation. I like to use this after the eye has started to heal and doesn’t need the pricier ointment but it is still getting aggravated.
once you clean out the eye make sure to apply the ointment and it gets in the eye, not on the outside. It won’t do any good mushed around the outer edge of the eye.
Pro Tip: Another reason you don’t want to leave ointment on the outside of the eye is the rabbit kits have to go back into the rabbit’s nest that doe has made for them. So the straw and rabbit fur will easily get stuck to too much ointment on the outside.
What an infected eye can look like.
This doe poked her eye when she was about 7 weeks old most likely while stretching herself she caught her eye with her toe nail. Either way it will help you to see what an infected eye looks like and help you know what to look for.
The image below is where the eye is starting to look better. but notice where the hair around the eye is clipped off. I will often do this if the eye is very weepy and the hair will get stuck causing the eye to stay closed.
You will also notice that the rim around the eye is slightly swollen due to my cleaning it. This is ok but I would not push it much past this point or the eyelid could start rolling in on itself causing another set of issues for you.
Some kind of buzzers or small scissors will help get a large amount of the fur off. You will have to clean most of the gunk off first before clipping the fur just because the scissors won’t cut the eye dirt.
This image is just of her sitting there but it will I’ve you a better view of the eye and what they look like if they are swollen.
This image below is after about 2 weeks of consistently cleaning the eye and applying ointment to the eye. The hair is starting to grow back. You can see a bit of eye dirt in the corner of the eye so I would make sure to pic those eye crusties out of the eye to make sure they didn’t build up in the eye.
Clean Is Good But Don’t Over Clean And Cause It To Swell
This is a fine line to walk and is hard to do sometimes if there is a lot of dirt and puss in the rabbit’s eye.
But rabbit’s eyes are very sensitive and the skin around the outside of the eye swells VERY easily. Cleaning the eye is good but if you cause massive swelling from the eye that is going to be hurting you more than it is helping because the eye will be producing more dirt from the initiation.
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What Can Cause Kits’ Eyes To Not Open
There are two things that I have learned over the 20+ years of raising rabbits that can cause young rabbits to not open their eyes.
They Are Skittish And Are Hiding In The Nest For Too Long
The most common is newborn rabbits are very skittish and afraid of becoming a snack. This fear causes them to stay scrunched up and hidden inside the nest that the mother rabbit made for them to stay in because it is their safe place to live. It’s all a part of how they are wired to stay alive.
When they are not interested in checking out the world they are scrunching up into a tight nest and not trying to open their eyes.
When the kits get to be 14 days of age or so they start to get interested in the world around them and start walking around the nest to check things out. As they get older their eye muscles start to get stronger and eventually start to gently tug on the eyelids as the skin that holds their eyes shut starts to get thinner each day. Usually on the 12th day you can see some part of their open eyes through the crack.
Their wild animal instinct is in them until they are about 2.5 weeks old and then it starts to subside. This even happens with my french lops which are an extremely friendly breed with the people they know so don’t think you have a bad litter of grumpy babies. I don’t make a judgment on temperament until they are about 4 weeks of age.
If your littler of rabbits seem to be more skittish than normal or you have one kit in particular that is a fussbudget when you pick it up make sure to give them extra attention.
The Colder Weather Will Cause Them To Hide More
A few times I had litters born when it was getting cooler outside and the kits were simply staying in the warm nest and had no reason to want to check out the world. Cuaisn them to hold their little eyes shut and leading to infection.
Most Common Questions
Can Rabbits Open Their Eyes At 7 Days Old
No. I am seeing this a lot on the internet and this is still to young. Their eye crease will be significantly more noticeable but DO NOT force the rabbits’ eyes open at this age.
When Can You Touch A Baby Rabbits
You can touch baby rabbits from day one. And it’s a good thing to do so because you want to make sure they are healthy.
Here are some key things to keep in mind. Make sure the female rabbit trusts you or is distracted either with food or does not seem to mind you messing around in the nest box. Most of my does are ok with it but I have had a doe come at me for upsetting her babies. This has only happened one time in my 14 years of raising french lops. After the kits are born look around the nest box for any dead ones and make sure that all the kits are healthy. I have had the occasional baby rabbit end up with a scratch that needs cleaning or ointment.
Will A Heating Pad Help With Getting The Eye To Open?
Not really. The key to getting the rabbit’s eye to open is to get warm moisture into the eye so the eye dirt will soften. If the weather is 70+ degrees farenhight you don’t have to worry about the kit getting old. Just stand in the sun and they will be fine. If you bring them inside to work on them that is fine too. The heating pad could cause the kit to get over heated if they are sitting on it for a long time.
Getting your kits eyes open can be a bit scary and even nerve racking. Just take it slow but consistently keep cleaning the eye out as the eye dirt shows up. Even if you see a small dab of eye dirt in the kit’s eye and you can easily get it out by all means do so. Adult rabbits don’t do anything about the eye so it is up to a little human intervention to fix the problem you see.
The best thing you can do is keep it clean with a wet cloth until there is no more eye goop showing up. You got this.
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