RABBIT BREEDING: How to make a nesting box and what to do before and after a rabbit gives birth
A rabbit may normally start breeding at the age of 6 months for the small to medium size breeds such as New Zealand whites and 8 to 9 months for the heavy breeds such as Flemish giants and giant chinchillas. The gestation period (which is the time between mating and giving birth) is 28 to 34 days, but usually 31 days. After the female rabbit, known as the doe has given birth, I normally re breed her at 6 to 7 weeks and wean the babies at 6 to 8 weeks.
A rabbit will give birth to 1 to 14 babies whenever she gives birth, but in most cases when the mother rabbit gives birth for the first time, she often delivers between 6 and 8 babies only. It's unlikely that all of these baby rabbits will survive. A first time mother may fail to care for her young, so you must ensure that the kits are kept warm and well fed.
In the wild, a doe constructs a nest out of her hair, leaves and grasses. You can put soft wood shavings in the bottom of the box for moisture absorption, then add hay to it for bedding. Once you do that, put the nesting box in the mother rabbit's cage and let her take care of the rest. You want to put the nesting box in the pregnant mother's cage about five days before she gives birth. This means you should give her the nesting box at around day 25 or 26 after you have mated them.
I have 4 rabbits that are pregnant and will be giving birth next week, so I have to make 4 nesting boxes for these rabbits. The dimensions of these nesting boxes are as follows:
- Length: 35cm
- Width: 25cm
- Height: 12cm
To complete this task I will need the timber, a wood saw, a metal hammer, wood glue and some nails. The nesting box doesn't need to be very fancy, it just has to be big enough to accommodate the mother when feeding her babies, and tall enough to protect the babies from falling down until they are over 2 weeks old when they open their eyes and are able to get in and out of the nesting box on their own. The mother can't help them do that remember, she can only watch helplessly. Don't forget to put the water bowl as far away from the nesting box as possible. I once woke up and found a 1 week old kit dead, floating in the water bowl.
At around day 30 or day 31, the pregnant rabbit will give birth. As a breeder there is nothing much you need to do in most cases. The mother rabbit will usually take great care of her babies and during the first week, you may not see her feeding her babies because she often does so early in the morning and late in the evening. During the day she hardly visits the nesting box.
All you need to do after she has given birth is to inspect her nesting box, gently remove the fur and count how many babies she has given birth to. Check if the babies tummies are expanding and contracting, this is a sign that they are breathing and are therefore alive. Avoid touching newly born babies. Nothing usually happens when you gently hold them, but don't do so when it's not necessary.
Continue inspecting the nesting box for at least up to a week because you may occasionally find dead kits in the nesting box normally within the first 7 days. Also take a look at the skin and belly of the babies. If they are round and plummy, then the mother rabbit is feeding her babies. If you happen to come across one or two babies with wrinkled and shrunk in tummies, it means they are hungry and you need to force the mother to nurse and feed those hungry babies. I have already uploaded a video that explains how you force a mother rabbit to feed her babies.
One of the most common myths we hear and is absolutely untrue alleges that If you touch a baby the mother will smell the human scent on them and will reject or kill it. Please note that it is not true at all….. The mom may think their baby smells gross, and give it a huge bath with her tongue, but she will not reject or kill it.
Newborn rabbits are fragile, and can't cope with too much human contact. If you can check on the kits without picking them up, you should do so. Once the babies are three weeks old, you can begin to interact with them a bit more. You can pet them, allow them to hop into your lap and pick them up occasionally.
Also bear in mind that it is also common that a rabbit gives birth 1 to 3 days apart. So when your rabbit gives birth to between 1 and 3 babies only, chances are she will deliver a few more babies 1 to 2 days later.
After she gives birth to young ones, after one day, monitor the nest. If you find a dead bunny there, it should be removed with proper care. NOTE: Keep in mind that, like other animals, rabbits are not able to move their young ones. So, rabbit mothers will not remove that dead bunny.
One or two newly born babies often die between birth and 3 weeks of age. The cause of death is unknown, but probably was caused by some type of trauma, such as being stepped on or hurt by the mother. General weakness can also lead to death not getting enough milk, being lethargic and not fighting for life.
Momma rabbits will also kill their litters in years when food is scarce. If she can't eat enough, she can't make milk to feed her kits so she kills them and eats them to try again another year. … First time moms can just feel overwhelmed so they kill and eat their kits.
People that raise a lot of rabbits occasionally come across a doe that eats her young. If this is her first or second litter, she may be forgiven for she knoweth not what she doeth. But if she eats babies with each litter, there's no sense in breeding her anymore. It's either you will need to sell it as a pet rabbit or eat it yourself.