Easter bunnies are often illustrated holding colorful eggs.
And there are also myths about an egg-laying hare.
So this could make a lot of people confused and wonder,
Do rabbits really lay eggs?
Continue reading to find out:
- Whether rabbits lay eggs or give birth.
- The shocking truth behind ‘egg-laying’ hares.
- How rabbits and eggs became the symbols of Easter.
- The difference in how wild and pet rabbits produce younglings.
- And many more…
Do rabbits lay eggs?
Rabbits don’t lay eggs. This is because they give birth like most mammals. So when they get pregnant, embryos will form inside their uterus. Then around 12 days after breeding, fetuses can be already felt in their tummies. And on the 31st or 33rd day, they’ll show nesting behaviors and give birth.
So, rabbits aren’t oviparous or animals who lay eggs. Like birds and fishes.
But, did you know that there are also mammals who produce babies by means of eggs?
These are platypuses and echidnas. This is why not all mammals give birth as well.
Where did this confusion come from?
Well, if we talk about bunnies and eggs…
The thing that’ll come up first in our minds is Easter. And I’m sure that we’re all familiar with this.
During this holiday, bunnies and eggs are everywhere.
Children will do egg hunts. And they’ll also carry candies and chocolates.
Easter is about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As he came back to life after being crucified.
So how on earth did bunnies and eggs become its symbols?
Okay. Let me share some theories about it.
First, rabbits are said to be symbols of fertility.
They reproduce fast. So they’re used by some traditions as icons of new life.
Second, there’s a famous legend of a Pagan goddess.
According to the story, her name is ‘Eostre.’
She’s the goddess of spring. And after the long cold winter, she transformed a dying bird into a hare.
But this hare wasn’t just an ordinary one.
They retained one of its bird traits to lay eggs. (Well, colorful ones to be exact.)
This originated in the Pagan culture so you might wonder,
“How did it reach America and other parts of the world?”
In the 1700s, historians claim that German immigrants brought this tradition to the U.S.
They said to have lived in Pennsylvania. And they introduced the magical ‘egg-laying’ hare.
They also have a name for it – ‘Oschter Haws’ or ‘Osterhase.’
Then after many years, this became the Easter bunny. And the Pagan tradition spread to most countries.
Like rabbits, eggs are also used to represent new life in Pagan traditions.
But there’s one more theory.
Eggs can also be linked to the resurrection of Christ.
This is because he rose from the dead. Which is similar to a youngling emerging from a hatched egg.
Interesting fact: Have you heard of the story of a woman who claimed that she gave birth to rabbits? Yes, you’ve read it right. A lady named ‘Mary Toft‘ tricked many doctors.
She made them believe that she conceived baby bunnies. So this became the talk of the town in the 18th century.
Her scheme was finally discovered.
Someone caught the man who brings rabbits to her room. And because of this, she was imprisoned for months.
How does a rabbit give birth?
What will a pregnant doe do first in preparation for the delivery?
She’ll start creating a nest for her babies.
This usually happens a week or even hours before giving birth. And the whole nest preparation normally takes 2 to 7 hours.
“How do they build their nest?”
As for pet rabbits, they may dig in their cage for hours. While some may move their bedding or litter.
They’ll also pluck their fur out for about 1 to 2 hours. Specifically around their ‘dewlap’ (under their chin), tummy, and sides.
Then they’ll put the collected hair inside the nest.
So if you see this, don’t freak out. This is only normal for pregnant does.
“But why do they do that?”
The doe will have some loose fur in the last stage of pregnancy.
This allows them to use their fur as nesting material. And it’ll keep the babies warm after giving birth.
Based on a study, this is due to the increased level of prolactin in her body.
“What is it?”
It’s a hormone responsible for milk reproduction. As well as the development of mammary glands.
Note: Does may also lose their appetite 1 or 2 days before delivery. Then they’ll become restless too as they’re building a nest.
Does’ pregnancy usually lasts up to 31 or 33 days.
And when they’re close to giving birth, they’ll also go into labor.
“What happens during this?”
Research says that in this stage, their uterus will contract. Then their cervix will open too.
But it’s hard to tell whether they’re already in this stage or not.
And this is because labor may also occur as they nest or while giving birth.
So this normally happens in a blink of an eye. And you’ll not notice that your rabbit is already in the next stage which is…
This is the term used when rabbits or hares give birth.
Typically, this phase only takes about 10 to 15 minutes. (Yes, rabbits kindle so fast!) And it mostly happens early in the morning.
But, this might also get delayed if the doe becomes nervous around a stranger. Or if they feel cornered by observers.
So if your female bunny is about to give birth, she may become more sensitive.
This is why it’s best to give her some privacy. Then check her and the litter after a few minutes.
“How do rabbits kindle?”
Studies say that a doe close to giving birth will sit and bend.
She’ll do it in a way where she can reach her private parts.
This is so that she can see and lick the babies.
Before the younglings come out, you’ll also observe a slight shaking or movement.
Then the babies will be pushed out of her body in just a few minutes.
You may or may not already know this, but baby rabbits are born ‘altricial.’
It refers to underdeveloped younglings. And this is because newborn bunnies are hairless and with closed eyes and ears.
So the straw and fur in their nest will keep them warm in their early stages.
#4: Cleaning the litter
After giving birth, a doe will also clean her litter.
Now, this may look like she’s eating her kits.
Mother rabbits don’t usually mean harm when they do this.
Although some does may overdo it and nibble on their litter. While others may eat their babies unintentionally.
Also, they’ll ingest something.
And if you see this, it may give you a shock.
“What do you mean?”
This is because as babies are expelled from her body…
They also come with membranes. As well as placentas, a.k.a. ‘after-birth.’
And to clean this mess, does will eat them like a snack.
“How about umbilical cords?”
Those usually get cut inside. But does may also cut these on their own and ingest any remnants.
And this whole cleaning process can last up to 5 days after the delivery.
If you’d like to know how giving birth looks like in person…
Check out the short clip below:
(Warning: The video has some graphic scenes. So viewer discretion is advised.)
#5: Covering up their young with fur
Lastly, once a doe finishes giving birth and cleaning her babies…
She’ll leave the nest at once.
Yup! She’ll jump off the box. Then she’ll cover her kits with fur and other nesting materials to keep them warm.
Unlike dogs and birds, mother bunnies don’t stay much in the nest with their babies.
They’ll only go back once a day (at dusk or dawn) to nurse them.
But this doesn’t mean that she’s abandoning her litter.
“So why do they do that?”
Experts say that this is an instinct.
Bunnies are prey animals.
They’re careful of being tracked by predators.
And did you know that adult rabbits can spread their scent everywhere?
While newborn babies don’t give off any odor?
So if the mother always stays in the nest…
They may leave some of their scent inside. Then it might attract other animals.
Note: Avoid going into the nest of a doe many times. Why? Because as I said earlier, they can be sensitive during and after delivery. Your presence may stress them out. And this may cause them to display unwanted behaviors. Say, stepping on her babies.
Learn more: How To Stop A Mother Rabbit From Stepping On Her Babies
How do rabbits give birth in the wild?
#1: Digging and nesting in the ground
Pet and wild rabbits usually kindle the same way.
The only difference is the nest that they’ll make.
Since house bunnies are indoors, the only thing they can dig in is their cage or bedding. Gather papers, fur, or straws.
But when it comes to pregnant wild rabbits, they’ll dig a burrow in the ground. (Not too deep!)
Then they’ll also fill it with their fur. As well as fallen leaves or twigs.
According to experts, Cottontail rabbits usually dig a shallow depression. And this will be 4 in (10 cm) deep and 5 in (13 cm) wide.
Most wild rabbits create their nests in grasses or bushes. And they’ll usually do these at night.
Wild rabbits will also go into labor.
Their uterus will contract and their cervix will dilate in preparation for delivery.
In the nest they created, pregnant wild rabbits will also sit and bend down as they kindle.
This also happens fast (around 10 to 15 minutes). And the babies are born with their eyes and ears shut too.
#BONUS: Cleaning and covering
Does in the wild clean their babies too after delivery. Eating every afterbirth material.
Then once they’re done, they’ll also hop off the nest. Staying away from their litter.
So that they don’t attract other animals and put the lives of their babies in danger.
They’ll also block the entrance to their burrow. Then they’ll visit it once a day for 3 to 5 minutes to feed the young.
This is why if you see a wild bunny in your yard. And they always sit and come back in one place…
They’re likely guarding a nest.
Do hares lay eggs?
Hares don’t lay eggs. Same with rabbits, they also develop embryos in their uterus. Then they’ll give birth to a litter with an average of 6 babies. This idea likely came from a Pagan legend. Where a goddess of spring named ‘Eostre’ saved a bird nearing death. Then turned it into an egg-laying hare.