Bunnies multiplying like…bunnies! Rabbit kits are born helpless and adorable. But how many fluffy babies will your new mama rabbit have, and how many will survive? Will she care for them properly or will that maternal instinct need some help kicking in? Can you keep doting daddy around or will Thumper go from fairy tale father to fatal threat? And what if mama starts gobbling up her wee ones instead of cuddling them? Raising a happy, healthy little warren of wonderful rabbit children takes knowledge and preparation. Let’s delve into the marvels and misadventures of your doe’s first litter! This comprehensive guide covers all you need to know to start your new rabbit family off on the right foot.

How Many Baby Rabbits Survive Out of a Litter?

The number of baby rabbits (kits) that survive out of a litter depends on several factors, including the mother's age, breed, litter size, and environment. On average, 75-85% of kits survive in a healthy litter with an experienced mother rabbit. Some key points on survival rates:

  • Age of the mother – Older, experienced mothers tend to have higher survival rates than first-time moms. Mortality rates are higher in the first 1-2 litters as the doe learns to care for her kits.

  • Breed – Larger rabbit breeds with smaller litter sizes tend to have higher survival rates. For example, Flemish Giants average 3-4 kits per litter with 80-90% survival. Smaller breeds like Netherland Dwarfs have larger litters (6-10 kits) and average 70-80% survival.

  • Litter size – Litters with fewer kits tend to have higher survival rates as the mother can nurse and care for fewer babies. Large litters over 10 kits often experience higher mortality rates.

  • Environment – Proper nesting area, nutritional diet for the mother, and lack of predators lead to higher survival rates. Stress, poor nutrition, or improper nesting may cause the doe to abandon or unintentionally kill her kits.

  • Time with mother – Kits that stay with mom at least 4-5 weeks have higher survival rates as they nurse, gaining nutrients and antibodies. Separating too early leads to malnutrition and vulnerability to predators.

  • Hazards – Dangers like extreme weather, accidents like falling out of the nest, and predators like snakes, birds, foxes, or house pets can kill kits. Proper housing and care reduce these hazards.

To maximize survival rates, provide an experienced, healthy breeding doe with proper nutrition and housing. Monitor her nest, reduce hazards, and disturb kits as little as possible in the first weeks. With attentive care by the mother doe, most litters should see a 75-90% survival rate.

My Rabbit is Ignoring Her Babies

It can be worrying if a mother rabbit suddenly starts ignoring her babies, as the kits rely entirely on her for food, warmth, and care in the first weeks. Here are some reasons a mother may ignore her litter and what to do:

  • Stress – Anything stressful in the mother's environment like loud noises, predators, kids/pets harassing her, etc. Could cause her to abandon the nest. Eliminate stressors and provide a quiet, peaceful area for the nest.

  • First-time mother – Young does may accidentally abandon the nest or be unsure how to care for their first litter. Gently return kits to nest if scattered and provide shelter nearby so she stays close.

  • Illness – Pain, poor nutrition, mastitis, or other health issues could prevent a doe from wanting to nurse. Have a vet examine her if illness is suspected.

  • Small litter size – A very small litter (1-2 kits) may not elicit proper maternal instincts. Fostering extra kits can help.

  • Interrupted nursing – If humans disturb the nest during nursing, the doe may abandon it. Check nest only 1-2 times per day to minimize disruption.

  • Poor nest location – Drafty, exposed areas may cause a doe to abandon the nest. Provide a contained space with adequate bedding.

  • Lack of nesting materials – Have extra hay or shavings available so the doe can rebuild the nest if it becomes destroyed.

  • Over-handling kits – Excessive touching by humans can remove the doe's scent and cause rejection. Handle only when necessary.

  • Mastitis – Inflammation in the mammary glands can make nursing excruciating. Treat the infection and facilitate nursing.

If a doe is ignoring kits, act quickly by containing the litter, providing supplemental warmth, and assisting with nursing. Have the doe examined by a rabbit-savvy vet to identify and treat any underlying issues leading to abandonment. With supportive care, most does will accept a litter back into the nest.

Can Baby Rabbits Live with Their Father?

Baby rabbits should not live with their father once they are weaned from their mother. Here's why father and offspring should live separately:

  • Pregnancy concerns – An intact male can impregnate a daughter once she reaches sexual maturity around 4-5 months old. This inbreeding can cause serious health issues.

  • Aggression – The father rabbit may become aggressive toward male offspring once their hormones surge at puberty, causing dangerous fights.

  • Competition – Adult males will compete with other males for territory, resources, and mates. The father may harm even his own sons.

  • Different needs – A father rabbit has different habitat and nutritional needs than growing juveniles. They are best housed separately.

  • Bonding troubles – Rabbits form strong bonds with cagemates. Separating bonded rabbits causes psychological stress.

  • Population concerns – Allowing a male to live with female offspring can result in rapid over-breeding. Litter sizes will become unmanageable.

  • Monitoring puberty – Signs of puberty like sex hormone behaviors are harder to spot when rabbits are housed together.

  • Niplle injury – An adult male may attempt to nurse from a maturing juvenile female, causing nipple damage.

To avoid the risks of housing fathers with offspring, the male parent should be removed to a separate enclosure once the litter is weaned. The weaning age is typically 6-8 weeks. Some breeders may house sons until 12 weeks, but any older is unwise. For the health and safety of both father and offspring, separate housing is best.

Why is My Rabbit Eating Her Babies?

Though disturbing, sometimes mother rabbits engage in cannibalism and eat their young. Here are some reasons why:

  • Stillborn litter – If babies are stillborn or die shortly after birth, a doe's instinct is to clean the nest by eating the deceased kits. This is completely natural.

  • First-time mothers – Young, confused mothers may accidentally savage parts of the litter while trying to build the nest. This usually resolves with experience.

  • Stress – Extreme stress can trigger a rabbit to cull the litter by killing and eating some or all of the kits. Remove environmental stressors.

  • Malnutrition – Not getting proper nutrition during pregnancy and nursing can cause a doe to cannibalize kits to regain protein. Improve diet quality.

  • Mastitis – Painful mammary infection and clogged milk ducts may lead a doe to kill and eat kits while avoiding nursing. Treat mastitis.

  • Broken bones – If a kit has severe injuries like broken legs, the mother may eat it to conserve resources for healthier kits.

  • Predator smell – If a predator like a snake or rat touches the babies, the doe may eat them due to the foreign scent. Secure housing from predators.

  • Bedding issues – Lack of proper nesting materials may cause accidental smothering deaths that the doe then eats. Provide ample bedding.

  • Crowded nest – Too many kits can cause accidental deaths as the doe tramples the nest. Reduce litter size if needed.

If cannibalism continues past the first day or two, correct any environmental issues and monitor the doe for signs of illness, injury, or malnutrition. Separate surviving kits if in severe danger of being eaten. With attentive care and removal of stressors, cannibalism should cease.

My Rabbit Still Hasn’t Had Her Litter

If your pregnant doe seems to be taking longer than expected to give birth, don't panic. Here are some reasons for delayed kindling and what to do:

  • Miscalculated due date – It's not uncommon to miscount the days to a rabbit's due date, especially with a first litter. Be patient if she's acting normal.

  • Normal variation – Healthy does deliver anywhere from day 28-35 of gestation. Wait until at least day 36 to suspect trouble.

  • False pregnancy – Some behaviors like nesting happen with both true and false pregnancies. Have a vet confirm pregnancy.

  • Stressed mother – Anxiety can delay milk letdown and onset of labor. Create a relaxing environment for her.

  • Environmental disruption – Loud noises, predators, change in housing, new cagemate, etc. could disturb normal nesting. Reduce disturbances.

  • Obesity – Excess weight makes kindling more difficult. Monitor diet and exercise pre-breeding.

  • First-time mother – Delayed kindling up to 38 days is common in young, maiden does as their bodies adjust.

  • Large litter – Carrying many kits may prolong gestation time. Expect delivery at the later end of the range.

  • Poor health – Illness, poor nutrition, hydration issues, or pain can all affect the hormonal triggers for birth. Have her examined.

  • Physical obstruction – Very rarely, a blocked birth canal or malformed kit may physically prevent birth. This requires emergency veterinary care.

Be patient within reason, but if the doe shows signs of illness or distress, contact your vet. With supportive care, the litter should arrive within 1-2 weeks of the estimated due date in healthy rabbits. Call the vet immediately if labour stops mid-delivery.


In summary, the number of surviving kits in a rabbit's first litter depends on the mother's health, breed, and environmental factors, but averages around 75-90% survival under ideal conditions. Issues like ignoring kits, housing with the father, cannibalism, and delayed kindling can arise but can be remedied through proper care, nutrition, and veterinary guidance. With attentive, experienced owners, most rabbit mothers can successfully raise large, healthy first litters. Be sure to educate yourself on proper rabbit breeding and care before undertaking your first litter.



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