Bunnies are known to be fast in breeding.
And oh, they could easily multiply in months.
So you might wonder,
“Does a female rabbit give birth to many babies at once?
Or can they have babies days apart?”
Keep reading to discover:
- The things that determine the litter size in rabbits.
- Whether rabbits give birth to all babies at once or not.
- How long it usually takes for a female rabbit to give birth.
- The total amount of babies that a rabbit can have in a year.
- And many more…
Do rabbits give birth to all babies at once?
Rabbits give birth to all babies at once. On average, a doe can produce a litter with 6 younglings. But females could also deliver around 1 to 14 babies at a single birth. This number will depend on the length of pregnancy. And a study says that long ones result in small litters with many stillborn.
How do rabbits give birth?
Rabbits give birth fast and it can be divided into 3 stages. The first one is the last phase of pregnancy called nesting. This is when rabbits dig and pull their fur out to line their nests. Next, they’ll go into labor. But this might also happen at the same time as the last stage which is kindling.
So, are you curious about how rabbits deliver their babies?
Well, so do I.
This is why I did some research about the matter. And I’ll discuss each stage briefly.
Pregnant rabbits will usually lose their appetite days before giving birth.
Some may become irritable and aggressive too.
But aside from these, does will also become restless.
Wild bunnies will dig a shallow burrow in the ground.
While pet rabbits will dig furiously in their cage. And they could also alter or organize their beds.
“Why do they do that?”
What they’re doing is called ‘nesting behavior.’
Once hormones kick in, does will have an urge to build a comfy nest for their babies.
So they may gather paper, leaves, or any material to line their nest.
And oh, they’ll pluck and use their fur too.
“Oh no! But why?”
Don’t worry. They don’t do it because they’re stressed.
This is only caused by a hormonal change in their body.
Vets say that rabbits will have loose fur at the last part of their pregnancy. And you’ll see that they’ll have a lot of these in their belly and sides.
This will make plucking their hair out a lot easier. So that they can line their nests with fur to provide extra warmth for their babies.
Note: Nesting usually happens a week or a few days before giving birth. But some mothers may also nest hours before the delivery.
Next, once rabbits are close to giving birth…
They’ll start to have uterine contractions.
This may occur at the same time as nesting. But one study says that does may also both go into labor and start expulsing babies.
So, this stage happens pretty fast.
And mother rabbits will usually get over this and go to the last phase.
“What does it mean?”
It’s the term used when rabbits and hares give birth to a litter.
In this stage, does will usually assume a sitting position on their nests.
Then, they’ll shake a bit and start to expel their babies.
On average, Dr. Krempels says that a litter will be composed of 6. But a doe can also give birth to 1 to 14 kittens or baby rabbits at once.
However, some bunnies may also exceed this and deliver 18 babies. Like the rabbit you’ll see in this video:
Also, newborn rabbits are hairless. Plus, both their eyes and ears are shut.
But, their ear canal will usually open on their 7th day. And their eyelids will also start to separate 10 days after birth.
“How long will this take?”
As I said earlier, this stage could only last up to 15 minutes at most.
Although anxious bunnies may also deliver their babies longer than expected.
Note: So if you have a soon-to-be-mom at home, avoid stressing her out. Place her nest in a quiet area. Then give her some privacy with her babies during and after delivery.
You might also want to check out: How to reduce stress in rabbits?
#BONUS: Cleaning and eating of after-birth
Lastly, newborn rabbits will come out bloody. And they’ll also have ruptured sacs and placentas with them.
So mothers will bend down and lick their babies to clean them up – like a special bath.
Then they’ll also free the babies from the sacs if they’re confined inside.
Also, are you eating or drinking something right now?
If so, please excuse me.
This is because does will also eat those membranes. As well as stillborns in the litter (if there’s any).
I know. It’s absolutely gross.
However, hear me out first.
Rabbits don’t eat their placentas because they’re hungry.
They do this because placentas are rich in nutrients. Say, vitamins, iron, and minerals.
So eating these can help them recover fast after giving birth.
Also, mothers eat stillborns because of an important reason.
Rabbits ingest them and their after-birth materials to not leave any traces.
Remember, bunnies are prey animals.
They’re hunted down by many predators in the wild. So they’re cautious and have a strong instinct to hide.
Although pet rabbits live at home, these traits are still deeply ingrained in them.
And leaving a dead baby can invite unwanted visitors into their nest due to its smell. Same with bloody (stinky!) sacs.
So what will mother rabbits do?
They’ll eat their stillborn. As well as other after-birth materials.
Think of this as their way to clean up any evidence of birth. And also to prevent the spread of diseases to healthy babies.
Interesting fact: Researchers found that lack of vitamin E is the common cause of stillbirth in rabbits. When does were given enough amount of it, stillborns weren’t present. And their fertility was also restored.
Learn more: 19 Real Reasons Why Rabbits Eat Their Own Babies + 7 Tips
How long does it take for a rabbit to give birth?
It usually takes 31 to 33 days for a rabbit to give birth. This length will depend on the size of their litter. Experts say that the smaller it is, the longer the pregnancy. So a rabbit with a big litter may give birth earlier than 31 days. Then 24 hours after delivery, she can be impregnated again.
“What if a rabbit still doesn’t give birth after 31 to 33 days?”
Does in this situation will have induced labor.
It’ll be done by a vet. And this is necessary to avoid them from delivering dead babies.
How many babies can a rabbit have in a year?
A rabbit can have 72 to 168 babies in a year. This is based on an expert’s estimate that a female can produce 1 litter a month. With an average size of 6 babies per litter or 14 at most. But this is only possible if she’s with a male rabbit all year round. As females can get pregnant after delivery.
What determines the litter size in rabbits?
According to Merck Vets, there are 2 things that affect the size of a rabbit’s litter.
One is the length of gestation (as I discussed earlier).
The longer the pregnancy is, the more likely a doe will give birth to a few babies. And vice versa.
The other one is a rabbit’s breed and size.
Usually, medium and large-sized bunnies deliver 12 babies or more. While smaller ones may have fewer young.
Although this may still vary per rabbit.
So, going back to the previous topic.
If a single doe can produce 12 litters a year, she may have 72 babies on average.
And this could go up to 168 if she gives birth to 14 babies per month.
Take note, this is only an estimate for a single female bunny.
So imagine the total number of kittens in a year if the babies in the first litter also gave birth to new ones and so on.
Yes. Rabbits are ‘pros’ in the reproduction department.
And let me state the reasons why.
First, females mature as early as 5 to 6 months old.
Second, their pregnancies are short and only last a month.
And lastly, does can be impregnated by males right after giving birth.
So this is why they can multiply fast.
But if you ask whether rabbits can have babies days apart or not…
The answer is yes.
However, we’re talking about 31 to 33 days or less here. And not only a few days as it’s not physically possible.
But, realistically speaking…
Specialists say that this amount of babies isn’t healthy for a rabbit
This is because the ideal number is only 8 to 10 litters a year.
Also, many baby bunnies aren’t well taken care of. And it’s hard to find a home for every abandoned one out there.
This is why experts recommend spaying and neutering. Especially if you don’t have plans to breed your bunny.
Aside from avoiding unwanted litter, VCA points out that this can also:
- Prevent reproductive cancers.
- Reduce chances of pseudo-pregnancy.
- Keep them calmer and easier to litter train.
- Lessen unwanted behaviors (e.g., mounting, urine spraying).
And this is normally done when a rabbit is around 4 to 6 months old.