You saw a cold, stiff baby bunny lying on the floor.
You’re pretty sure all the litter is in their nest before this happened.
So up until now, it’s still a mystery how the tiny thing ended up there.
Did the momma rabbit do it?
And is this normal?
Read on to find out:
- If rabbits will remove a dead baby from the nest or not.
- What makes mother bunnies bury their litter in the ground.
- The shocking truth behind rabbits eating their dead babies.
- Things you should do if there are dead baby bunnies in the nest.
- And so much more…
Will a momma rabbit remove a dead baby from the nest?
A momma rabbit will not remove a dead baby from the nest. But, she can ingest a stillborn on purpose due to survival instincts. This is because, unlike cats and dogs, rabbits don’t move their babies. So if a baby is out of the nest, they might have gotten out on their own or they latched on to mom.
But rabbits may also move a baby by nudging them. And this might be the closest thing they can do.
However, nesting boxes are often high.
This is so that babies can’t easily jump out of the nest. So it’s possible but quite unlikely.
Aside from this…
Some first-time moms may also give birth out of the nest.
But sadly, a baby was left out in the cold for so long and died. Or there could be a stillborn in the litter.
However, oftentimes, a kitten (a term for a baby rabbit) got out of the nest on their own.
“Really? Is that possible?”
They may look helpless with their furless bodies and closed eyes.
But oh, they’re pretty agile at their age and can wander if they want to.
It could also be that they latched on to their mother after feeding time. Then they fell out of the nest when she jumped.
The latter is a common occurrence for most litters too.
But after reading the paragraph earlier, you might also wonder…
Why can’t rabbits carry their young?
There are claims saying that wild rabbits move their litter.
But, there’s no evidence to support these stories yet. As no one saw them do it in person.
The Toronto Wildlife Center stands by the fact that rabbits can’t carry their babies.
They also share that bunnies are meticulous with their nests.
Mothers may have a certain criteria on where to put their babies. And they must be in the exact same spot where they left them.
Or else, they might abandon them.
You might also like: 11 Things You Can Feed A Baby Rabbit Without A Mother
Meanwhile, rodents can hold their young by scruffs. Then transport them to a new nest.
(One quick info, they’re said to be cousins with bunnies!)
So if they can, why can’t rabbits do it?
Well, there are no exact reasons for this yet.
But some believe that this might be due to their small mouths.
While others think that rabbits don’t carry their young by scruff as it’s painful.
Yup. Like us, a bunny’s skin is in contact with nerve endings.
So if it’s pinched, they could easily feel the pain. Or they might experience a weird sensation.
This is why picking rabbits in this way isn’t advised.
Interesting fact: A human’s skin has 3 layers – dermis, epidermis, and hypodermis. While experts say that rabbits only have 2 (same with humans, but minus the hypodermis). The part called dermis is the one that contains nerve endings. And it’s underneath the epidermis or the outermost layer of the skin.
What does a mother rabbit do with a dead baby?
Usually, a mother rabbit may eat a dead baby. But, there are also cases where she ignores it. The first one is a normal instinct since rabbits are prey animals. They know a dead body will rot and its smell can attract predators so they get rid of it. Plus, it may also spread diseases to the litter.
However, there are also instances where a dead baby is left in the nest for days. And the mother rabbit isn’t doing anything.
Now, this is dangerous for the mom and her healthy babies. Because when bodies decompose, they’ll attract flies and maggots.
And this is a recipe for disaster.
What do you do with dead baby bunnies in the nest?
If you see some dead baby bunnies in the nest, remove them immediately. If the mother is jittery, you may calm or distract them using a treat. Then while wearing gloves, take the remains out. If your laws allow, you can bury it in your yard. But ensure that it’s far from any water or food source.
Researchers even use dead rabbits for compost. As well as other small animals like chicks and rats.
But this needs a compost pile. And there are also laws about this so verify if it’s allowed in your area first.
To give you an idea, here are the steps of carcass composting:
- Dig a 2 ft to 3 ft (61 cm to 91 cm) deep composting area.
- Fill it with wood mulch.
- Place the carcass in the pit.
- Put 4 ft (122 cm) high of wood mulch over it. Make sure to shape it into a cone.
This is the standard for every dead livestock. But small animals like rabbits and chickens can be buried in a single compost pit.
Also, people shape the material that covers the hole into a cone. This is because if its tip collapses, it’s a sign that the carcass is already at its final stage.
“What if it’s not possible to bury them?”
Disposing them in the trash may do. But this is a different issue.
The carcasses will give off a foul smell as they decompose. So check first with your state or local collectors about this matter.
Note: Rabbits don’t mourn their stillborn kittens. But this might cause mothers to be overprotective of the other babies. They may lash at anyone when they try to come in their nest. So if you have to remove the carcass, do it without your doe’s presence.
Wait for them to go outside the nest. Or like I said above, lure them with their favorite hay or leafy green.
Be extra careful!
Will a rabbit eat a dead baby?
A rabbit may eat a dead baby out of instinct. This is because cadavers have a strong smell and can attract predators. So mothers eat stillborn to keep their nests safe. Aside from the foul odor, dead bodies can also transmit diseases. And they don’t want these to spread to the rest of the litter.
“Does this always happen after giving birth?”
According to the House Rabbit Society, this isn’t always the case.
But it occurs more often if there’s a stillborn.
However, for first-time mothers or young does, this might be due to anxiety.
They’re confused and they don’t know what’s happening around them.
And if there are noises or strangers, they may feel threatened.
So they may step on their babies by accident. Or mothers could also eat them while cleaning the membranes.
Why did my rabbit give birth to dead babies?
There are many reasons for stillbirth in bunnies.
A study says that it normally happens at the final stage of pregnancy.
Also, it’s often seen in does who are taking so long to give birth.
And its possible causes are as follows:
- Dietary imbalances.
- Too much large or small litters.
Do rabbits bury their dead babies?
Rabbits don’t bury their dead babies. They may either eat or ignore them so it isn’t an option. But, what you might have seen is a mother hiding her young. She’s covering the babies with her fur or leaves to keep them warm. And she’s also blocking the entrance to prevent predators from finding them.
Wild rabbits dig shallow nests in the ground.
They’ll give birth there and when they’re done, they’ll hop off the nest at once.
Unlike chickens, rabbits don’t stay with their litter to keep them warm.
Remember, they’re wary of predators. And this is an instinct they’re all born with.
So to keep their babies safe, they stay away from the nests as much as possible.
This is to not leave a trail to their home. As other animals could easily pick up on an adult rabbit’s scent.
While newborn kittens don’t have any odors yet so they’re safe.
This is also the common reason why you often see a wild rabbit in your yard – staying in one same place for days.
She’s likely a mother guarding her litter.
So, don’t worry if ever you see a wild rabbit burying their kits.
The babies aren’t in need of saving.
This is only a normal behavior in mother bunnies.
The babies can breathe just fine. And their mom will be back by dusk or dawn to nurse them.
So it’s best to leave them alone.