Monday, March 2, 2009

My Pet Bunny Had Babies! Help!!

My Pet Bunny Had Babies! Help!!
What do I do?

Is the father still in with the mother and babies? If so, stop reading this and separate them now! Then come back and continue to read.

Maybe you purchased two "female" bunnies (does) at a pet store and one was actually a male (buck) or maybe your bunny was already pregnant when you got her. Whatever the case, it is a big shock to look in the cage and see hair everywhere and a cluster of squeeking little bald mice.

Making a Nestbox
First of all, is the mom doing a good job? Is the nest good enough or do you need to help rebuild one for her? Unless the mom is indoors and has built a very nice nest, you will more than likely need to give her a nestbox and create a nest for the babies. If the nest is inadequate, promptly remove the babies (kits) from the cage and place them temporarily in a warm area or in an opened container with paper towels underneath them. Since you were not planning this, you probably do not have a rabbit nestbox handy. You can make one with a cardboard box and tape. Depending on the size of the mom, you should use a box just big enough for her to sprawl out in. One of the narrow flaps should be cut out and an opening should be created. Take a look at the picture of one I made.Next you should fill the box with timothy hay and make a little nest at the back of the nestbox by creating a hole in the hay. You can stuff some of the mother's hair in the hole and create a cozy nest for the kits. Put the warm kits into the nest you have just created and then cover them with remaining hair. If the mother did not pull hair or has not pulled very much, you may need to pull some from her yourself. The hair should be loose, so it should be easy to do. Just hold the mom on your lap and pull hair from her abdomen. This is necessary to expose the teats for nursing and to create the nest. If you don't feel comfortable doing this, you can first put the nestbox back in the spot where you found the kits and see if the mom pulls hair and covers them herself.

Nestbox Tips
To avoid the possiblity of the nestbox being moved or knocked over, you can keep them in place with a couple of bricks around the outside. The nestbox should be in a corner, so two bricks should work well.
You can also tape the box to the cage. I have used duct tape and just removed it when I need to take the nestbox out of the cage.

Warming Kits
If the kits are cold to the touch or appear to be dead, you can attempt to revive and warm them up by floating them in warm water. To do this, I take a large bowl of very warm (not hot) water and put each kit in an opened sandwich baggie and let them float around in the bowl for up to 20 minutes. Over the years, I have revived dozens of kits this way. You will need to keep the water very warm, so you may want to use a couple of bowls and move the babies between the two bowls adding new water as it cools. Do not get the kits wet. Once the kits are moving around really well and are warmed, put them back in the nestbox.

Nursing Kits
The mom will nurse them twice per day. But it may take her a day or two to start. She will usually only go into the nestbox to nurse the kits and that will be early morning and evening. If she has nursed them, the kits will have full round bellies. If the bellies are wrinkled and small, they have not been nursed.

If she has not nursed them by the end of the second day. You will need to force her to nurse the kits. You can do this a couple of ways. The best way is to put a blanket or towel down on your lap and hold the mom on her back and allow the kits access to the teats. This will need to be forced and the mom may protest. If you are unable to do it this way, you can also hold her still on your lap in an upright position and put the kits underneath her belly and let them find the teats. This works best if you put the mom's hind legs on your left leg and hold her by the scruff of her neck with your left hand. Once the kit latches on, it usually only takes less than a minute for them to fill their bellies. If you see nice round bellies, they are done.

Once they have nursed, wipe their bottoms good with a warm moist cottonball or q-tip. This should allow them to urinate. They will probably urinate right into the cottonball. It is very important to do this every time they nurse. Hopefully you will only need to do this one time and then mom will take over from there.

If you feel she is not doing her job or that she is trying to hurt the kits, you will need to do this twice per day (morning and night) and the nestbox will have to be permanently taken from her cage and placed in a warm safe place. There is no formula that you can buy or make that will keep the kits alive and healthy.

Opening Eyes
The kits will open their eyes between day 9 and day 12. It usually happens on the 10th day. If their eyes are not opened by the 12th day, gently wipe them with a cottonball of saline solution a couple of times per day. It is possible there could be an eye infection. If you see puss or a discharge coming from the eye, you can get some terramycin ointment and apply it 3 times per day for 10 days or visit your vet. I get terramycin online and it is around $10 for a tube without a prescription. They also sell it at local farm stores.

Removing the Nestbox
You can take the kits out of the nestbox at around day 15. I never leave them in any longer than day 18. If their eyes are open and they are already hopping out of the box, I would just remove the nestbox , give them a solid area to stand on if they are in a wire cage and provide plenty of hay.

They will also start to nibble on some pellet food and hay as soon as they leave the nestbox. Make sure the water source is within their reach and that they do not eat any treats, nuts, fruits or fiesta mix types of diet. The rabbit feed should be alfalfa-based and pellet only with a protein content of at least 16%. I use Manna Pro or Manna Gro with equally good results. They should continue with this food until they are around 5 months old and then they can switch to a timothy-based pellet diet and treats, fruits, etc can be added. Timothy hay should be given in unlimited quantities while they are growing. Even though the kits will start eating a little at two weeks of age, they shouldn't be separated from their mom until they are at least 6 weeks old. They will continue to nurse until then.

If you have separated the kits from the mom and are hand nursing them, you can offer them pellets, hay and water after their eyes open. You can then stop nursing at 4 weeks of age.

Pregnant Again
Remember I asked if the dad was still in with the mom? Mom is most fertile within hours of kindling (delivering) and if the dad was still in with her it is very likely that she is pregnant again. This means that when her current litter is only 4 weeks old, she will make another nest and kindle again. If you suspect this is a possibility, 27 days after her litter was born place a new nestbox in her cage and give her plenty of hay. If she starts to build a nest and pull hair, you will need to remove her kits from the cage and wean them early. They will be alright once they are 4 weeks old. It is not recommended to wean them that early, but as long as the litter stays together until they are 8 weeks old they shouldn't get too stressed. If the mom is building a new nest and pulling hair, I recommend that you go out to a farm store and buy "Calf Manna." This will help her to produce enough milk for her second litter (so quickly after her first) and will give her extra energy - she will need it. You can give her a few pellets every day. It is good for all nursing does.

Sexing the Kits
At around 2 weeks of age some breeders are able to sex the kits. I can usually sex them sometime between 2-3 weeks. The does will have a slit and the bucks will have a circle that looks like a cheerio. It is very hard to tell if you do not have experience sexing them. Most vets are unable to sex them at this age. Bucks testicles don't descend until they are around 3.5 months old. The difficulty of sexing kits is possibly why you have this unexpected litter. I would recommend that you find a local breeder from and ask them if you can take the kits to them to find out the sexes. Also ask how confident they are in their ability to sex the kits and at what age they can do it well. Don't rush it. Just be sure that you have sexed them properly before they are 12 weeks old or have gone to a new home. You will need to separate them by 12 weeks of age to avoid unwanted litters.

If you need help finding homes for your bunnies, try or local ads in a paper. You can also contact a local breeder for help. Please do not take them to a pet store. They may end up pregnant again and then someone else will be in your situation. Good Luck!


Anonymous said...

Very informative post! Thank you sharing this information.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the helpful information!

Danielle said...

Here is another great place to sell bunnies:

Most of mine have been sold there.

Anonymous said...

That was wonderful information! Thank you so much. However, I have a question. My doe surprised us by having a litter tonight (of 8). She is indoors in a bought rabbit cage, plastic floor, metal wired sides, etc. She started pulling her hair and basically lined the cage this morning. Now the kits are all in one corner,together, hair is on top of them, but there is nothing underneath them but the cage. Should I be putting in a cardboard box for them with her hair in it, or since it is inside the house, leave well enough alone and leave them be? Secondly, since they are covered with her fur, how does she go and feed them? Do they come to her, or does she go to them? Maybe I am worrying too much, but I want to do the best, and am learning as I go.

Bunny Lover

Christie Riddle said...

Bunny Lover - Yes, you will still need to make a nestbox for her. The fur is not enough and the babies will soon be able to move from that spot and won't be confined enough, so they can wander off and die. The nestbox should have plenty of timothy hay in it with a little hole for the babies. She will visit them once or twice per day and pull the hair away and nurse them.

Tina said...

Hi Christie,

I would like to thank you for your post, so very helpful. I was surprised to see my bunny pulling her hair out. I waited a couple days wondering when she would have this litter. Little did I know, by the time I saw the hay moving it was 3 days later. Fortunately she was taking great care of them.

This is my second couple of bunnies, the first couple I purchased also turned out to be male and female. I thought the mother was bleeding to death, not having babies. As it turned out both of these things happened. It was heart-breaking. I was very nervous about everthing being perfect this time around, thank you for providing great information. After reading this I realized why the mother was so stressed when the male hopped the gate to chase her. I thought she was still pregnant, only hoping he never caught her. Thanks to you they are separate.

My only question is; When I have the buck neutered can they all go back together? I feel so bad for him being alone.

Bunny Hugs

Christie Riddle said...

Tina - Thank you for your comment! I am glad the post was helpful. Once your buck has been neutered, you would need to wait one month before reintroducing them since it can take that long for him to be sterile.