When learning about rabbit life cycles, you will discover that most rabbits breeds become sexually mature when they get between 3 and 6 months of age. Does (female rabbits) get pregnant as early as three months (12 weeks) of age. However, it is not recommended that such a young doe conceives because it could affect its safety and health.
So, any doe that is below 12 weeks old is not likely to get pregnant. When she crosses the three-month mark, only then can the breeders start talking about conception and littering – if you know what I mean. On the flip side, a rabbit that is past two or three years may be too aged for conception. So, the doe has little or no chance of getting pregnant.
The Whole Shebang Of Rabbit Pregnancies
Rabbits are lovely and delightful animals, whether they are companions (pets) or whether they are being reared for commercial reasons. Unfortunately, many breeders have little or no information on the history of their rabbits. So, they may end up selling a rabbit that is neutered or spayed.
If you recently adopted a bunny or are trying to breed it for yourself, you need to have particular mastery of rabbit physiology. That way, you will understand the signs of rabbit pregnancy. In turn, you will get prepared for the future of your female rabbits. This article will pursue the subject and bring you up to speed with everything about rabbit pregnancy. At the end of the read, you will have become a master of sorts. Trust the process.
First Part: How To Know If Your Bunny Is Pregnant
1. Do Some Inspection, Or What Is Called Palpation
Unless a doe carries inside her a large litter, she won’t show any overt signs of conception. What breeding experts and vets do is conduct a gentle inspection or palpation on the rabbit’s abdomen. This involves gentle stroking of that belly part using the hands or fingers.
If the rabbit is two weeks into her pregnancy, you will feel the young kits inside their mother’s uterus. To get the real feel of the fetuses without injuring them is a piece of work. What you are getting from this read is a general guide. If you are not an experienced rabbit breeder or a veterinarian, you should altogether avoid palpating a rabbit you think is pregnant. Here are some further guidelines:
a) If it is two weeks after the rabbit was bred, avoid conducting the palpating exercise. Fourteen days into a rabbit’s pregnancy means that the fetuses are developed. If you do the gentle check, you may damage them.
b) To start the palpating, get a gentle hold on your bunny’s ears. Then, use your right hand to take a flap of the rabbit’s shoulder skin. This move will help you secure the upper portion of the bunny.
c) Take your left hand and do a gentle cradling of the lower body of the rabbit, that is, between the pelvis and the hind legs.
d) Then, place your left thumb gently on the abdomen’s right side. Then, place your other left-hand fingers on the left side. If the female rabbit has conceived, you will be able to feel, inside her abdomen, developing embryos, which will each feel like grapes.
e) Get the vet to do the palpation exercise
If you’re not sure about doing it, let an expert help you out. Actually, this is what is most recommended since the vet will know how to do a safer inspection. Also, they are little or no chances that the expert will injure the fetuses.
2. Get To Know Your Rabbit’s Weight
Just like a pregnant human being, pregnant rabbits gain weight during the gestation period. However, the weight gain does not show any overt differences, so you won’t be able to notice it. The best way to know if the pregnancy has invited weight gain is by using an accurate scale, preferably the digital kind. With this option, you realize that you need to weigh the rabbit before it gets pregnant. Then, you need to weigh it again during pregnancy week after week to note any changes. The following table captures some details on the weight changes of a pregnant female rabbit:
|Weight Changes In A Pregnant Doe|
|Weight Gain During The First Gestation Week||Weight Gain By The End Of The Second Gestation Week||Weight Gain After The Second Gestation Week|
|The weight details||0.064 lbs (0.029 kgs)||0.126 lbs (0.057 kgs)||There is no noticeable change|
3. Get An Ultrasound Conducted For Your Vet
Traditionally, the ultrasound has been the best method of determining pregnancy. When the first week of gestation elapses, you can get a vet to conduct the procedure. It is 100% accurate after that first week. The ultrasound can be done accurately and quickly to know if the rabbit is heavy with litter.
Second Part: Learning The Physiology Of A Rabbit
1. Understand The Tendencies In And Around Rabbit Breeding
Rabbits are all-year-round breeders. However, male rabbit fertility tends to go down during extreme winters and summers. The likelihood of rabbits conceiving during the mild spring (or fall) weather is high. But that does not supersede the fact that rabbits can breed and get pregnant at any time of the year.
While other animals have ‘heat,’ rabbits experience a phenomenon called induced ovulation. This means that the body of the doe (the female rabbit) prepares for conception physically. This happens within eight hours of coming into contact with a buck (a male rabbit).
2. Check The Rabbit Nests And Look For Any Signs
When female rabbits are expecting a litter, their instincts will be activated, and they will start to build a nest. The pregnant rabbit will first create a fur lining on the nest. Then, she will express very territorial and protective behavior of the nest. So, if you see your female rabbits engaging in nest building, the chances are that she may be full of kits inside.
You need to know that sometimes, false pregnancies occur. In these cases, female rabbits usually engage in nest building, but they have not conceived. This implies that paying attention to nest building isn’t the best and the most accurate thing to determine a rabbit’s pregnancy. But, it indeed suggests that the doe’s maternal instincts are acting up.
Third Part: Preparing Yourself For The Coming Litter
1. Keep The Doe Away From The Buck Or Bucks
When you have established that the female is really pregnant, you must keep her away from all the males. This is because the males could rebreed and reimpregnate her merely hours after she delivers her litter. While this seems okay at face value, it may go a long way in stressing the female. This is because it would be impossible to carry the second litter while trying to wean off the first one.
Some animal experts encourage rabbit owners to find ways of allowing the female and male rabbits to interact without having to be in the same hutch. The reason is that it may be hard for the two rabbits to be reintroduced to each other. So, the two rabbits should only be physically separated. They can be kept in different hutches that face each other. The other option is allowing them to see each other through a fence.
Also, the male rabbit should be kept as far away as possible from the litter. The chances are that he will try to mate with the does, which can be overwhelming to the female offspring. This is a better reason for separate the male from the female and the young ones until they are weaned.
2. Have The Gestation Period Of Rabbits In Your Mind
The period runs for a month, specifically, between 31 and 33 days. If the pregnancy goes beyond this, the chances are that it is a false one, a pseudopregnancy for that matter. Also, the litter may have unfortunately died in the uterus of the does. The medical recommendation by vets is that labor should be induced after 32 days elapse. This will help prevent and reduce the risks of litter death while being inside their mother.
3. Ensure The Female Rabbit Receives An Excellent Supply Of Food
A pregnant rabbit needs to be supplied with enough water and food. The recommendation by experts is that the rabbit wonder should increase the food-water supply gradually. During the ‘pregnant’ times, the pet parents or breeders should ensure that there is more than enough alfalfa hay. This is the rich type of hay with the extra nutrients needed by the nursing or pregnant doe. The water that you supply the does with should be changed at least twice a day.
Even though the female is weaning or pregnant, their diet of the rabbit will not vary a lot. This is as long as the necessary nutrients are supplied. If you’re getting rabbit food from a pet store, check the feed label and see whether it checks all boxes.
|Protein||16 to 18|
|Fiber||12 to 22|
|Fat||Less than 3|
Post-Pregnancy: Caring For The Doe’s Kits
This section explicitly addresses the post-pregnancy situation. At this point, your rabbit has already delivered her litter successfully. You should know that the rabbit will not require any help during the birth process, which typically happens early morning or late in the night. Read on and get essential care tips.
1. Checking And Re-Checking The Kits
After 32 days of gestation, your female rabbit will probably be tired. When you wake up in the morning, you need to check how the litter looks. Check and see if there is any kit that did not survive the delivery. To do this, you need to draw the doe out – you can use a treat to distract her. If you get there too late, the doe may have already eaten her kits. If you find any that are dead, take them out.
Apart from eating her kits, the female also eats the placenta (the afterbirth). If the fleshy items are still there, take them out and get rid of them. Don’t be afraid or scared to handle the kits. The mother will have already gotten accustomed to the scent you have.
2. If You Can, Ensure That The Kits Are Warmed Up
Since birthing takes place in the open, the kits will remain lying in the box and gather cold. To warm them safely, you can get a bottle that is full of warm water. Then, take a towel and place the bottle under it. Neither the towel nor the bottle should get into contact with the kits. The towel should surround them at a safe distance.
3. Look For Nursing Signs From The Mother Doe
The instinct expressed by the doe is to avoid the nest. So, do not be alarmed or shocked when you don’t see the mother rabbit nursing since it happens around twice every day. To know if she has been nursing, pay attention to the babies. After an excellent feeding, the babies will have rounded tummies, and they will be warm. Also, they will be quiet when well fed. If not, you will hear them making kitten sounds.
4. If The Mother Doe Is Not Nursing, Talk To A Vet
To know if the mother has not been nursing them or not doing it properly, here are some things you should observe:
a) The kits will barely respond to your handling because they are weak.
b) The baby rabbits will have tummies that are sunken.
c) They will have wrinkly or wrinkled skin, which is caused by dehydration.
If you’ve checked all the boxes in the bullets above, contact a vet. When the mother has many kits, like eight of them, she may abandon the overwhelming situation. If this is your condition, you need to tell the vet. He or she will provide bottle feeding instructions for the kits.
Although the vet will guide you on the nursing program, the result may not be successful. This is because there is no formula or program adapted for kits 100 percent.
5. Ensure That The Nesting Box Remains Clean
The baby rabbits will keep toileting in the birth area until they get the strength to use a litter box. Therefore, you will need to clean the box every day by providing clean and dry towels together with clean bedding.
6. Feed The Kits With A Diet Specifically For Them
The mother doe will nurse her babies for a couple of weeks. After that, the kits are ready to start nibbling on rabbit pellets. You should know that nursing is to continue for two months (a full eight weeks). This is important since the doe’s milk provides the kits’ bodies with protection against pathogens. So, if weaning ends soon, the kits’ immune system might not stand for too long.
7. Do Not Handle The Kits Too Soon
Until the weaning period is over, the baby kits will be highly susceptible to bacteria and illness, such as E. coli. Since the kits will have a delicate immune system, the E. coli bacterium can kill it in hours. So, before you handle the kits that are being weaned, wash your hands thoroughly.
Once weaning time elapses, handle them more often. This will help in their domestication, and they will grow into tame adult rabbits.