Fluffy fur is one of the most endearing traits of a cuddly baby bunny. But did you know newborn rabbits are actually born bald? When do those soft fuzzies first appear to transform tiny pink jellybeans into true furballs? What if your nest of kits starts losing their fur – is something wrong? And how is it even possible for some bunnies to change colors entirely as they grow? Get ready for an in-depth look into the fascinating process of fur development in infant rabbits. We’ll hop through the stages of coat changes these tiny babies go through from bare to fully furred. Read on for cute facts and photos of bunnies growing their fluff!
What Does a Newborn Rabbit Look Like?
Newborn rabbits, called kits or kittens, are born hairless and with their eyes closed. They typically weigh 30-40 grams at birth and are about 2 inches long, about the size of a human thumb.
Kits are born pink and hairless, with just a light covering of fuzz. Their skin is very delicate and transparent at first. You can see blood vessels underneath in their first few days of life. The kits have teeth and claws at birth. Their noses and paws have a little more fuzz than the rest of their body.
Baby rabbits are able to move around right after birth. They instinctively make their way to their mother's teats to nurse. The mother rabbit, called a doe, only feeds her kits once or twice a day. She cleans them to stimulate urination and defecation.
Newborn kits cannot regulate their own body temperature. They rely completely on their mother and siblings for warmth. If they get chilled, they may die. That's why wild rabbit nests are lined with the doe's fur she plucks from her chest and belly.
Domestic kits can huddle with litter mates and snuggle into soft bedding for warmth. The nest box should be in a quiet, dark area around 90°F. Some rabbit owners may provide supplemental heat with microwavable disks or heating pads under half the box.
Kits nurse on their mother's milk until around 3-4 weeks old. They are completely dependent on the doe at first. She licks them to get them to urinate and defecate. The kits are born deaf and blind. At around 10 days old, their eyes begin to open. Their baby fur starts growing in at 3-5 days old.
Can You Touch a Newborn Rabbit's Fur?
It's best not to touch a newborn rabbit's bare skin. Their delicate furless skin is extremely sensitive. Any handling should be minimized for the first week of life.
There are a few exceptions when it may be necessary to handle newborn bunnies:
If a kit becomes chilled, it may need to be warmed up gradually before being returned to the nest. Place it against your warm skin under clothing. Do not attempt to warm up cold kits quickly with heat lamps or other methods, as this can harm them.
To examine for any birth defects or injuries. Pick up each kit gently to inspect briefly, then immediately return it to the nest.
If a kit needs supplementary feeding by syringe due to the mother's low milk production. Handle only as much as needed to get food into its mouth.
If the mother rabbit refuses to feed and care for the litter, they may need supplemental care from a human. In this case, regular gentle handling is necessary for feeding, keeping them clean, and providing warmth.
Aside from these exceptions, kits should be touched as little as possible in the first week of life. Their skin at this stage has almost no protective fur covering. Even gentle handling can damage their delicate skin surface and disrupt bonding between kits and their mother. Allow the mother rabbit to take care of nursing, cleaning, and keeping them warm.
When Will Baby Bunnies Get Fur?
Most baby rabbits will begin to sprout their first coat of fur when they are 3-5 days old. Growth starts from the nose and paws, then covers their body over the next week.
By two weeks old, kits will be fully furred. Their baby coat is very soft, dense and plush compared to the coarser adult fur. The fur helps them retain body heat better so they stay warm and cozy in the nest.
Wild rabbits tend to get fur at around 3 days old. Domestic rabbits may start a little later, at 5 days or so. Larger breeds also tend to fur out slightly later than smaller breeds.
The fur may look thinner at first. It will get noticeably thicker and fuller when the kits are 7-10 days old. You may notice their baby fuzz looks damp or “sticky” at this stage because the new hairs are still coated in amniotic fluid. The mother grooms this off as it dries.
Some kits also go through a molt around 2 weeks old, shedding their newborn fuzz. The second coat replacing it is denser and more water-resistant. Nest box linings may be full of discarded fuzzy blue-grey hair at this stage.
By 3 weeks old, the fur will be adult length. Baby bunnies are fully furred out and starting to explore outside the nest at this age. Their fur will continue growing thicker and develop guard hairs until they reach maturity around 4-6 months old.
Why Is My Baby Rabbit Losing Its Fur?
It’s normal for baby bunnies to lose their first coat of fur when they are around 2 weeks old. This baby “fuzz” is replaced by a second, fuller coat. Finding bunches of fur in the nest box is no cause for concern. Their new fur will be coming in very soon.
However, fur loss in very young kits can also be a sign of trouble. Here are some reasons baby rabbits may lose fur:
Inflammation of the skin, called dermatitis, can cause fur loss in sections. It may be triggered by mites, fleas, fungus, or urine scald from constantly damp fur. Kits with dermatitis may have bare, red, irritated patches on their skin. Treatment with antibiotics or anti-parasite medication is needed.
If kits are housed in unsanitary conditions, the mother may overgroom them trying to keep them clean. Constant licking and nibbling can rub their fur off over areas like the back or hindquarters. Provide soft, clean bedding and nest box material to encourage proper nursing behavior.
Mastitis in Mother
Mastitis is a mammary gland infection in the doe. It can cause nursing problems due to the mother’s sore teats. Kits may suckle roughly, trying to get milk, leading to damaged skin and fur loss around the belly and legs. Treat the doe with antibiotics and hot compresses to improve milk flow.
Mites that burrow into the skin cause mange and severe itching. Hair falls out around mite infection sites as kits scratch vigorously with hind legs. Treat topically with anti-parasite medication. Keep environment very clean.
Coccidia parasites invade the intestinal tract, causing diarrhea. The constant dampness and scalding around the hindquarters leads to fur loss. Oral coccidiostats to kill parasites and dry bedding are needed.
Loose Fur Syndrome
Some Rex breeds of rabbit are prone to loose fur syndrome. Their fur lacks structural integrity and falls out easily with any rubbing or handling. Genetics are thought to play a role. Supplements like flax seed may help strengthen the fur over time.
If baby bunnies are losing significant fur, examine them carefully for any skin abnormalities. Have a rabbit-savvy veterinarian diagnose the cause so proper treatment can begin right away. Providing a sanitary environment and balanced diet supports healthy fur growth.
Can Bunnies Change Color?
Baby rabbits can undergo color changes as their adult fur grows in. In domestic rabbits, wide color variations are possible even within the same litter.
There are two main reasons baby bunnies may change coat color as they mature:
Molting Baby Fuzz
As mentioned, many kits will shed their initial fuzzy fur at around 2 weeks old. The new replacement coat may differ noticeably in color and patterning. For example, a kit born solid black could molt to reveal brown ticking.
Agouti Fur Development
Rabbit fur has two types of hair – guard hairs and undercoat. Agouti refers to color banding on each hair. As the guard hairs grow in, agouti banding becomes visible altering the overall color. A kit with black undercoat but orange agouti guard hairs may change from dark gray to fox-red.
Some other common color changes include:
Black to blue or blue-gray
Solid white to cream or brown points
Tan/fawn to smoke pearl gray
Chocolate brown to lilac
Pink to white
Wild rabbits tend to have less dramatic molting phase changes. Their coats provide camouflage, so fur color often adapts to match the environment. Seasonal changes in daylight hours can impact molting and maturity of the coat too.
No matter what colors a bunny starts as or changes to, their loving personality remains the same! With proper diet and care, they will continue growing a healthy and soft coat. Regular brushing and grooming keeps it looking shiny and bright. Though baby bunnies may go through an awkward fluffy stage, in time they will become quite the handsome little fuzzballs.