When Do Rabbits Have Babies: How To Know If Your Domestic Rabbit Is Close Giving Birth

First let me clarify that I am going to cover when domestic rabbits have babies.

But as a quick overview wild rabbits (depending on your location) have babies around mid to early April and mid-summer before cold weather sets it.

Now on to domestic rabbits. They are very different than the eastern cottontail rabbits you see out in the wild. There are a few ways I can answer this so first let me cover when CAN a rabbit get pregnant and have babies, and what age range is a good age to breed your rabbits. But as far as the time of year for your domestic rabbits to have babies. It really doesn’t matter so long as the kits can stay warm.

So let’s get into their gestation period, when adult rabbits are more likely to be interested in breeding, and when they have their kits after breeding.

When do rabbits have babies intro image

What Age Can A Rabbit Have Babies

So a female rabbit can get pregnant as young as 3-4 months of age DEPENDING on the breed and size. This is why you will see people recommending that you separate the bucks (intact male rabbits) and does (female rabbits) in a litter by 12 weeks of age so you don’t have any unwanted surprises. This is also the age when rabbits start to fight with each other even in the same litter.

As you will see the smaller rabbit breeds become sexually mature much faster than the giant breeds of rabbits.

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If you are raising rabbits for meat, or show, or they are just pets you should never let them get bred that early. Having a litter earlier than is ideal will affect how well they fill out as well as how large they will grow.

I raise a very large breed and I have noticed the does that were bred a little early did not get as big as their ancestors did. I can tell how much they weighed by looking at the pedigree.

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When Should You Breed A Doe Based On Full-Grown Size

If you are not sure it is always best to find a breeder that raises the same breed you do (or want to) and ask them when they would recommend that you breed your rabbits. Because you might find that there are some nuances with a particular breed. Sometimes there are things that are learned by experiance not in books or online that affect the pregnancy.

French lops are a great example of this. The ballpark you want to breed them in is 10-12 months but you do not want to wait past 12 months old if at all possible because I have had to wait because of the weather being too cold to keep young rabbits. And the mother rabbit was never able to have a good successful litter after that. The thought process is that their hips fuse around the 12-month mark and they are not as flexible.

Alright, let’s get into the ages of when you should breed your rabbits. These brackets are based on the breed standard weight which I have pulled from the American Rabbit Breeders Association Standard Of Perfection.

small ten day old baby rabbits

Be Intentional About When You Choose To Breed Your Rabbits

It’s easy to think any old time is fine to raise baby rabbits or maybe you have the hankering for raising cute little animals early in the year. But what is your plan for the babies after they are 8 weeks old? Rabbits grow up quickly and you need to have a strategic plan to follow before they start fighting with eachother.

  • If you want to raise meat for your homestead then having litters when the weather is still cold out will slow down their growth.
  • If you plan to raise rabbits to sell to show people or 4-H projects earlier in the year is better.

You also need to know your market if income generation is your goal. Which I teach you how to do in the profitable rabbitry playbook.

Rabbits That Have A Sr Weight Of 6 Pounds Or Less

There are several breeds that are what I would consider smaller breeds. They typically max out at 6 pounds or less.

Breeds like the Mini Lop, Jersey Wooly, Lionhead, Mini Rex, Florida White, and others could be bred between 4-6 months old.

Rabbits That Have A Sr Weight Of 8-10 Pounds

This weight and the next weight group after this can have some crossover. It largely depends on if the breed is fast-growing or is a much slower-growing breed.

Breeds like Californians, Palamino, New Zealand, Cinnamon, English Lop, and others can be bred between 8-10 months old.

Rabbits That Have A Sr Weight Of 11+ Pounds

These are the big boys and girls.

Breeds light the French Lop, Flemish Giant, French Angora, Giant Chinchilla, and others should be bred between 10-12 months old. (Personal recommendation is to not wait past 12 months old to breed a doe due to issues that may happen during delivery)

french lop rabbit in a nest box

When Can A Buck Get A Doe Pregnant

Now, this can be an arguing point for some people who are fact driven but have no (or very little) experience with raising rabbits. A buck can have babies as young as 4-5 months old. All of the necessary parts are functional. But the difference being that many larger breed male rabbits have no idea what to do at that age or are not even sure what a “girl rabbit” means.

For french lops and other giant breeds, bucks don’t typically start earning their keep until they are 7 months old or so if you get my drift. A buck should be competent at 10 months.

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When Is A Doe Ready To Have Babies

So you might find this hard to believe but domestic rabbits are not as easy to breed as wild cottontail rabbits. They take some finessing and you have to pay close attention to the timing of the seasons.

Best Time Of Year For A Doe To Have Babies

While they are domestic they still have some of their wild animal tendency. Their body doesn’t kick into wanting to have babies unless it knows there are good food sources around and the weather or “season” is a good time to raise kits (infant rabbits). In the dark and cold months of the year rabbits are not very likely to be interested in breeding.

But once the weather warms up just a touch and the days get longer most does tend to get pretty frisky.

The best way to tell if your doe is ready to breed is if she is on the grumpy side and that is not normal for her. Take her out of the cage and place her on a solid surface with a piece of carpet underneath her so she doesn’t slip. Run your hand over the curve of her hips and move your fingers like your are going to scratch her rump. Does she push out and lift? Then she is ready and willing to be bred.

It doesn’t always work as easily as this but if the timing is right for your schedule to deal with baby bunnies and she is ready then by all means breed her if that is the plan.

large breed rabbit nest box

When Do Rabbits Have Babies After Breeding

The gestation period for a pregnant rabbit is typically 31 days. However, it is not unheard of or odd if a rabbit delivers their litter on days 29-33. However, 99.99% of mine over the past 20+ years have all delivered on day 31.

Some of the first signs of pregnancy are going to be that her behavior has changed. She has gone from being on the grumpy side to being much more friendly.

If the doe has not had a false pregnancy and the breeding was successful. Her belly will start to grow bigger around 2-3 weeks after the breeding.

How long before rabbits give birth do they make a nest?

Some does are different but the domestic female rabbit nests in the last week of her pregnancy or as late as the last 24hrs. On their first attempt (if they are an early nester) tend to make some pretty shallow holes. But this is also a great way to know if she is pregnant if you have been doubting it.

French lop rabbit thinking about making a nest.

When you have bred your rabbit or you know the deed has been done it’s a good idea to mark the calendar 31 days into the feature.

Then on the 27th ish day of the gestation, the first thing you need to do to get ready for the new litter is to give the doe a nesting box. They are most often made of wood. But make sure to fill the nest box at least 4-6 inches thick with straw or wood shavings so the doe has something to make her new nest with.

Straw is typically the best material so she can make it nice and deep. Just make sure to check the straw for dampness because I have issues with the straw drawing damp from humidity in the air even if it has not been rained on. This causes the new rabbit kits to get wet and they could even die if they don’t try off and get warm again.

When She Is 24-48hrs Away From Giving Birth

A doe’s belly will “drop” or become loose and flexible before she gets close to giving birth. When she is standing on all fours you can almost see a visible separation or a line between her belly and her ribcage. If you see this you know she will be having her litter in the next day or so.

A pregnant rabbits belly that has droped

Once the doe has had her litter and there is a nest of baby rabbits don’t feel like you have to be as hands-off as some people leave you to believe.

After everyone has calmed down I often will check on all the kits when they are less than 24hrs old. It is a good idea to check and make sure all of the kits are in the nest that the mama rabbit has made so they stay nice and warm. Young rabbits will die in about 30-40 minutes if they are not in a nest filled with fur.

If you find one just pick it up and hold it over the top of the nest right on the edge and it should crawl towards the warmth.

You want to keep a close eye on them while they are young so they have the best chance of survival.

If all is well your young bunnies should start to open their eyes around 10 days of age and the babies’ eyes should be completely opened by day 14. Raising young rabbits is extremely rewarding and I am sure you will love it once you get the hang of it. Just know that raising rabbits does often lead to losses when they are really young and that’s normal. Do your best and that is all you can ask of yourself.

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