Are rabbits crappy moms?

Our lady rabbit (doe, if you will) gave birth late last week, most likely Thursday (3/10).  I say most likely because the babies are hidden under a pile of hay and fur in our makeshift nesting box, which is really just the hopper for the apple press turned upside down in her cage.  I’d read that you’re not supposed to disturb newborn rabbits, at least not for the first seven days, something about how their mother could abandon them if they smell like not-her (aka predator), which would be bad.  All of which is to say that Will’s been listening to the underside of the rabbit cage all week until he heard rustling.

On Saturday morning I thought I’d give Will a break from the farm chores.  When I checked on the rabbits, I noticed the doe wasn’t in the nest box so I panicked.  I was convinced she was neglecting her young, or worse that she’d eaten them (I don’t even know if that’s possible for rabbits, but my mama-brain took over at this point).  So I grabbed a stick and started moving the hay around to peer into the nest box.  Sure enough, there were several pink bodies covered in fuzz squirming around in a pile and I quickly covered them back up and apologized to their mother.

I mentioned this to Will after returning to the house and he gave me the tsk tsk that I deserved.  Of course, now I am completely paranoid about the bunnies.  I have never once seen the doe in the nest box with them and I keep thinking “if she doesn’t nurse them, they’ll starve!”  At which point my husband reminds me that I’m probably too close to the baby thing, being only one year past having every moment of my schedule dictated by when Alston needed to nurse (or I needed to pump).  That, and if she has abandoned them, it’s probably my fault.

Sure, she pulls fur off her own belly to line the nest box that will keep her children warm, but I’m ready to point my judgement finger at the doe and shout “Bad Mother!”

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3 responses to “Are rabbits crappy moms?

  1. Hi Lisa,
    Don’t worry about the kits. Your doe only feeds them once (maybe twice) every 24 hours, usually sometime after midnight. Talk about rich milk! She stays away from the nest the rest of the time so as not to attract predators to it. You can handle baby rabbits without worrying that mom will reject them. As long as their bellies are nice and round in the morning you can presume that they’ve been fed that night and are doing fine. I have three kits at school–the fact that mom was pregnant was a secret from me, so we had a happy surprise three days after I acquired her!!
    Bird

    • Thanks for the good news! I was ready to call Family Services on her, and now I’m just jealous she only feeds her young once a day. Very reassuring!

  2. Can’t comment from personal experience…but check with Jenna at Cold Antler Farm (jenna@itsafarwalk.com). She has bred and raised meat rabbits before.

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