Baby Bunnies And Their MomsIf you find yourself caring for a Rabbit that you suspect is pregnant, or has recently given birth you will probably have a million questions. This article addresses not only rehabilitation care, but is also a guide for answering questions and concerns about the proper care of the domestic mother Rabbit and her babies and orphaned Rabbits.
First Things First
The first thing to do is to remove the father, or any male, if he is with the Mother.
This is a great time to have the male neutered, while the mother raises the babies.
Males will probably not hurt the babies, but he can impregnate the female again, even on the day she gives birth. Not only can he impregnate the mother rabbit; he will also impregnate the female offspring as soon as they mature.
Males or Females?Often times, people suddenly discover babies in their rabbits' cage and never realized that they had a male and a female. Help is often needed to sex adults. We here at The Sanctuary have made mistakes sexing Rabbits, as have Vets we have known. A behavioral attitude, such as mounting, does not necessarily help identify sex in a rabbit. It is usually easy to identify the male once we know what to look for: large testicles, recognized as pink, hairless "sacks." This can be difficult in young Rabbits, before the testicles drop. The scent glands in a young female can be mistaken for emerging testicles. Males can also pull their testicles in to their abdomen. If you have any doubt, a trip to the Vet may be warranted.
Is There A Problem? Often times people are concerned that the mother rabbit "is not feeding the babies," sometimes because she is never seen with them. This is normal behavior for a domestic (or wild) rabbit and that mother rabbits do not "lay" with their offspring in the same manner as dogs and cats.
Domestic rabbits retain some of the genetic imprints of their wild European ancestors, who are animals preyed upon by others in nature. Mother rabbits instinctually sense that staying with their offspring would call a predator's attention to the nest. Adult rabbits have a scent, while babies do not.
Most mother rabbits will not hop into the nest (or box) to check on their infants during the day, although she is usually watching from a safe distance. This is normal behavior.
Rabbits feed their offspring only once or twice per day and will only do so when they feel safe, usually just before dawn and/or just after dusk. If humans and children are continually gathered around the cage, the mother may become too stressed to nurse the infants.
There is a way to determine that the mother is indeed feeding the offspring. Did the mother rabbit pull fur? Did she shred papers, or gather hay or rip up carpeting (if housed indoors) in an attempt to "make a nest?" Mother rabbits usually make a nest any time between a few days prior to the birth up to the day of birth itself. She may also do so without an actual pregnancy.
A mature female will often pull fur to make a nest, with or without a male present and regardless of whether actual mating has occurred. This hormonal behavior is known as a "false pregnancy."
If the mother has pulled fur in an attempt to make a nest, she will probably be all right if her nest is appropriate. It is safe to examine the babies and move them, with the mother, to a more proper place, if necessary.
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