Pregnant dwarf rabbit: what to do
One of the reasons why it is preferable to spay or neuter your rabbit is that, as we know, our friends’ reproduction occurs quickly and constantly.
This is why, unfortunately, breeding facilities are very crowded and often it is not possible to find a home for every bunny.
That being said, it is not excluded that you may be caring for a pregnant female rabbit, so I will answer some common questions and give you some suggestions below.
At what age can a rabbit get pregnant?
The reproductive age of domestic rabbits is linked to their size, so it varies slightly with the breed of the rabbit. Domestic rabbits can weigh anywhere between 1 kg and 19 kg, incredible! Smaller breeds mature earlier than giant breeds, but all rabbits are considered fully adult at the age of eight months, although they may be physically capable of reproducing much earlier. A small female rabbit can conceive a litter from the age of 14-15 weeks.
That said, rabbits don’t look at the calendar for permission to reproduce. They will mate as soon as their individual hormones come into play, and that depends solely on your rabbit. So if you neglect to separate litter mates for too long, the surprise of one of the females becoming pregnant is almost guaranteed. The safest time to separate a litter should therefore be within 10 weeks of age.
Sex can be determined as early as two weeks of age and reliably at six weeks of age, so you should have no trouble separating them in time. However, mistakes in identifying gender do occur, so if your rabbit starts behaving strangely, I suggest taking it to the vet to check again and accurately determine the sex.
Does a male rabbit have to mount a female to get her pregnant?
I know it may seem like a bit of an odd question, but I think it’s natural to be curious about every aspect of our four-legged friend’s life.
And the answer to this question is yes. Although the actual position of the female rabbit is not always important. There are rare occasions where the male will mount the female while lying on her side, which is an indication of his supreme willingness. Even in these cases, the female can become pregnant.
When do rabbits breed and do they have litters?
Technically, rabbits can reproduce at any time. However, they tend to enter a resting phase from late summer until mid-autumn. During this time of the year, they have little interest in reproduction. That being said, a female rabbit can conceive and give birth to her offspring at any time, so it’s best to always keep an eye out if this concerns you.
How do I know if my rabbit is pregnant?
The only sure way to know if a female rabbit is pregnant, apart from a blood test, is to feel her belly. As the babies grow, they form bumps along the rabbit’s double-horned uterus. With a little practice, you can distinctly feel these bumps when the rabbit is pregnant for 10-12 days.
I know it may seem complicated, and in fact, it’s not that simple. It has only happened to me once to even try it, and I really recommend leaving it to the experts and taking her to the vet. However, if you want to try to understand, here’s what to do to feel for it:
- Position the female rabbit on a flat surface in front of you with her head close to you.
- Hold her hindquarters with one hand (so she can’t back away) and reach under her with the other hand, with your palm facing up.
- The spine divides the abdomen in half and marks the inner boundary of both halves.
- Using your fingertips on one side and your thumb on the other, you can examine or feel both halves of the lower abdomen simultaneously.
- With enough pressure to partially lift the rabbit’s hindquarters from the table, move your fingertips and thumb carefully and gently along the length of her belly. You’re looking for grape-sized lumps, not along the center but towards both sides of the abdomen. Small, hard lumps along the rabbit’s belly midline are fecal pellets lined up in a row as they come out of the rabbit. A tiny tangle of soft “spaghetti” just in front of the hindquarters is usually an empty uterus.
What is usually the number of puppies in a litter?
My rabbit is pregnant: how to behave and what to know
Separate the female from the males, so they cannot mate. If you don’t separate them, the male will mate with the female as soon as she gives birth. He will also mate with female offspring as soon as they reach sexual maturity. However, it is important that the two rabbits can see each other and potentially smell each other. This will decrease stress but will allow you to avoid reproduction.
Make sure the nesting area is in a quiet and protected place. The mother rabbit will pluck her fur and collect hay and other materials to create the nest just before giving birth. If she doesn’t do this, which is rare, you can create a nest yourself with hay.
Mother rabbits only nurse their young once or twice a day. This does not mean that she is not taking care of her babies, so don’t worry!
If you notice that the babies are away from the nest and cold, intervene in a delicate and non-invasive way. I suggest moving them to the nest and making sure they are warm, otherwise they will not be able to digest.
Check the babies at least once a day to make sure they have all eaten. If they have a sunken belly and wrinkled skin, it may be a sign that the mother is not nursing. In this case, you should take her to the veterinarian for a dose of oxytocin to stimulate milk production.
The babies can be separated from the mother after about 8 weeks, but not before! I also recommend separating the males from the females after 8 weeks, as some male rabbits may reach sexual maturity before 10 weeks and there is a risk of further reproduction.
Is it possible for a female to become pregnant with more than one male?
It is, because a female rabbit ovulates and then conceives 8-10 hours after the actual mating. Therefore, if a female rabbit is mounted by a second male within a few hours of the first mating, the sperm from both males can reach the eggs.
Are female rabbits attentive mothers?
If by attentive you mean spending all her time with the babies, then no! Rabbits are not attentive mothers in that sense. In the wild, the mother rabbit leaves her babies well-protected in a burrow with the entrance closed off with dirt and litter. She does not constantly check on the babies because she knows they are safe in the burrow. When her nipples fill with milk or night falls, she goes to feed the young.
Similarly, domestic rabbits usually enter the nest every 12-24 hours and only for the time necessary to feed the babies, which is about 5-10 minutes. This may not be “attentive” behavior by our standards, but it is normal maternal behavior for rabbits who are trying to ensure that their offspring survive until they are able to care for themselves.
I've heard that rabbits always kill their first litters. Really?
It seems to be a common misconception that most rabbits will kill or fail to mother their first litter. I believe this comes from the practice in some breeding operations of not respecting the rabbit’s age, so the young are removed from their mothers and returned to breeding too soon. If the mother rabbit’s instinct has not yet kicked in, she won’t know how to care for her litter. Responsible breeders who raise mature young can generally count on first-time mothers to successfully raise and nurture their litters.
And the little ones? Does a newborn rabbit have fur?
Rabbits are born more shiny and bald than ever, but their fur begins to grow immediately. Within 7 days, the bunny has almost enough coat to keep warm outside the fur-lined nest created by its mother. The fur of rabbits with normal fur reaches its full length within 3 and a half weeks of age. It has just grown before the first molt begins, usually between 6 and 7 weeks of age.
One more curiosity is the difference between a rabbit and a hare at birth. You might think there isn’t any difference, but in this case there is. Rabbits are born, as I said before, completely hairless. Hares, on the other hand, are born already completely covered in hair.
I hope all these tips have been helpful to you and I invite you to read the article I found a wild rabbit: what should I do? if you have also come across a wild bunny.