In the animal kingdom, it is not uncommon for mothers to eat their offspring. This is known as infanticide or filial cannibalism.

The question is do rabbits eat their babies? 

Unfortunately, the answer is yes, and it is uncommon in rabbits. However, it does tend to happen among female rabbits who have recently given birth. 

The reasons behind this can vary, and we will go over them in detail. 

This article will look into the possible reasons rabbits eat their babies and whether father rabbits do the same. Continue reading to learn how best to avoid rabbits from eating their babies, as well as the answers to your questions.

Do Rabbits Eat Their Babies infographic

 

Do Rabbits Eat Their Babies? What Every Owner Should Know

While it is not a common occurrence, female rabbits (doe) are known to eat their young. This can happen just after female rabbits have given birth. Although the exact reasons are not well known, there are various possibilities rabbit owners and breeders should be aware of.

Bred to Early

Rabbits, like humans, go through a physical and mental maturation process. The maternal instincts of a rabbit do not emerge until she is approximately six months old.

If the mother rabbit is under the age of six months, she may not be able to cope with the birthing process. According to the experts at Rabbit.org, a female rabbit under the age of six months may not understand how to properly care for her babies. 

The nervousness and anxiety of giving birth and the young mother rabbit’s immaturity could all be contributing factors to her eating her babies. You may have to remove the babies away from the mother rabbit in order for them to survive.

Accidental: Placenta 

After giving birth, female rabbits will clean their newborn babies (kits) and eat the placenta and afterbirth matter (placentophagy). The placenta and afterbirth matter contain essential nutrients the mother rabbit needs. An inexperienced female rabbit may accidentally injure or eat her newborn kit thinking it’s the placenta and afterbirth. 

Could Be Stressed

A mother rabbit might become afraid, stressed, and nervous if there is too much activity around her. Family pets like cats and dogs as well as young children could be the source of this concern. 

If the doe thinks her kits are in danger in their environment or simply too much activity around her, she may eat them. Just like wild female rabbits, domestic rabbits will eat their young to keep predators at bay.

Poor Nutrition

If a mother rabbit’s nutritional needs are not met, she may eat her young. Female rabbits who are exhausted and depleted of energy after giving birth may consume their young. 

Carrying and giving birth to babies can impose a strain on a doe’s nutritional needs, resulting in a nutritional and protein deficiency.

This could also be why non-aggressive mother rabbits would eat their babies. They are so protein-deficient as a result of the birthing process that they are afraid for their lives and health. Newly born kits are the closest possible supply of nutrients and energy the mother needs in this situation.

This behavior could also be influenced by mother rabbits that are experiencing a scarcity of food. They are aware that their offspring may be hungry, to alleviate this issue, the mothers will eat her young if she believes that she cannot feed her babies nor herself. 

3 baby rabbits

Stillborn Kits

Although a mother rabbit can successfully give birth to her kits, not all of them will survive. If this happens, rabbits will instinctively eat their stillborn young. Rabbits, like most animals, will eat their stillborn babies in order to keep predators away from their other, healthy babies.

Sick Kits

When a mother rabbit notices one or more of her offspring are unwell or weak, instinct takes over and she eats them. The reason for this is that weaker or sicker infants pose a risk of suffocating her other healthy offspring. Mother rabbits will also eat their deceased babies in order to avoid attracting predators due to their smell.

Territorial Mother Rabbits

A mother rabbit who exhibits territorial behavior has no plans to share her hutch. A doe who is feeling this way may be hesitant to share her hutch with her young, and she may eat them off to avoid competition.

 

Do Male Rabbits Eat or Kill Their Babies?

Male rabbits (bucks) eating their young is a very rare and uncommon occurrence. They are typically great fathers to their offspring. 

Male rabbits may regard the baby bunnies as competitors for female rabbits’ attention and territory. As a result, a buck to kill its kits is considered competition. 

After giving birth to her babies, the mother rabbit tends to focus on them, thus the buck may not get the attention it needs from the doe. As a result, they may be compelled to kill the kits.

 

How To Prevent the Mother Rabbit From Eating Her Babies

Armed with the right knowledge, here are a few ways to keep the mother from eating her babies.

Avoid Breeding Young Rabbits

Female rabbits can conceive at just 12 weeks old. Refrain from breeding your female pet rabbit at a young age. Young rabbits are more prone to eat their young compared to mature rabbits.

Before allowing them to get pregnant, wait until they reach maturity at least six months old. During this time, keep your female and male rabbits separated.

When you have a healthy litter and start raising it, you should separate the male’s and females kits at the age of eight weeks. Male rabbits reach sexual maturity at ten weeks of age, so you’ll want to eliminate any chance of pregnancy before they’re ready to reproduce.

Provide an Adequate Diet

It is far more important for pregnant rabbits to consume a well-balanced, nutritious diet before giving birth. Ensure that they always have clean water and that it is topped up throughout the day.

Alfalfa is high in protein and energy, so it will keep your mother going during labor and delivery. Alfalfa hay contains a lot of protein, calcium, and fiber. It is also jam-packed with plenty of vitamins and minerals.

A typical rabbit’s diet only requires 12 to 15% crude protein, whereas a pregnant rabbit’s diet requires 16 to 20% protein. Most importantly, ensure that they are getting more protein than usual.

If the mother isn’t producing enough milk, call your local veterinarian right away. You can offer the lactating mother rabbit some organic parsley to help increase milk production. 

Note: Make sure to avoid feeding pregnant doe parsley. 

Provide a Stress-Free and Calm Environment

Keep her in a quiet area of the house and avoid making any loud noises in the room she is in. Ensure that there are no loud noises or other pets in and out of the room the pregnant mother is in. 

Keep anyone who could be rough or frightening, such as very young children, away from your doe. Your pet rabbit will feel at ease knowing that she is safe from predator assaults.

Keep in mind that stress can be harmful to both the mother and her children’s health, so she should feel safe around you and everyone else who interacts with her. If you have rambunctious kids, keep them away from the doe during this sensitive period.

Make Sure She’s in a Big Enclosure

Make sure she’s in a spacious enclosure that’s three to four times the size of theirs. Provide the mother doe with a large enough nest box to accommodate all of her young. A safe and fall-proof nest box is essential. Add her favorite toys to keep her mentally stimulated during the waiting process.

Cut Her Nails Before Birth

It’s advisable to cut the doe’s nails before she gives birth to avoid any injuries to her newborn babies.

Take Care of the Kits

Unfortunately, some rabbits are not cut out for motherhood. It makes no difference whether this is due to violent behavior, a prolonged nutrient shortage, or an abnormally fragile and skittish disposition. Once a mother exhibits these signs, you should stop breeding her right away.

Should the doe abandon her young, it is your obligation to look after them. If she tries to harm or eat her kits, you must intervene. The sad reality is that it is best to spay the doe if she attempts to eat or harm her kits.

However, even if these behaviors are observed, the litter in question must still be properly cared for. The first 24 hours after delivery are crucial in most situations; if your mother does not exhibit any worrying behavior during this time, she is unlikely to consume her young after that.

three rabbits with mum

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Do Rabbits Kill Their First Litter? 

The main reason first-time mother rabbits kill their babies is lack of experience. Due to the lack of skill in handling their babies carefully during childbirth or grooming, they may inadvertently step on or eat their babies.

Do Rabbits Eat Their Babies if You Touch Them?

There is a prevalent belief that you should never touch a baby bunny. It goes on to say that because a mother’s babies are tainted by human scent, she will eat them. This isn’t accurate at all. Your pet rabbit’s young will be unaffected by your scent. 

 

Final Thoughts: Why Do Rabbits Eat Their Babies?

Female rabbits are quite capable of caring for their young. However, every now and again, it is instinctive for a mother rabbit to eat her offspring. She may be stressed as a result of the birthing process. If the environment in which your rabbit gives birth feels threatening, she may eat her young. 

Armed with the right knowledge and taking the necessary precautions, hopefully, this will help prevent rabbits from eating their young. 

 

 

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Sarah Logan

Sarah Logan is the Editor here at The Bunny Hub. Sarah is a long-time bunny lover having kept pet rabbits since early childhood. With over 35 years of experience caring for fluffy-tailed, lop-eared friends, Sarah wanted to create a space dedicated to providing expert advice on not only general care, but proper nutrition, and, the best products and accessories every serious owner needs. Here you will find everything you need to make informed decisions in all aspects of becoming a proud rabbit owner. We do all the hard work for you. We research and test out the latest products, then we tell you about our discoveries. From choosing the right breed of bunny for your family, to making purchases you won’t regret for the important things like a hutch for your fur baby to live in. We’re here to make sure you have all the information you need to give your bunny and happy and healthy life.

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