If your rabbit has recently given birth to a litter of kits, you may be wondering when you can separate rabbits from their mother?
By the time they are 8 weeks old, you should have separated the young bunnies from their mother. However, there is one crucial step you must complete: weaning the kits from their mother.
In this article, we will look at the weaning process in depth. We’ll go through what to expect during the first eight weeks of the newborn litter’s life, as well as any illnesses they could develop if they’re weaned too soon.
Additionally, we will walk you through the transition process and how to look after the newly separated litter. Finally, we have the answers to your frequently asked questions.
When Can You Separate Baby Rabbits From Their Mother?
As soon as the baby rabbits (kits) are eight weeks old, they can be separated from their mother. Most kits can survive on their own and feed on adult food by the sixth week. It’s best to allow the young bunnies a couple of weeks to adjust to their new surroundings.
However, the health of both the kits and the mother, the rabbit breed, and the environment are all factors to consider.
What Is Weaning?
Weaning is the process of introducing kits to an adult diet while reducing their dependence on their mothers’ milk. Essentially, the bunnies are no longer receiving their nutrition from the mother, but from high-quality rabbit feed.
Weaning in rabbits begins shortly after birth. And this continues even after they have been separated from their mother. It is best to stop feeding mother’s milk to baby rabbits between the sixth and eighth weeks of life. Their gut flora has matured sufficiently for them to begin eating solid foods.
Weaning Your Baby Rabbits
Let’s take a look at what happens during the weaning process, which lasts 6-8 weeks:
0-3 weeks after birth
In the first three weeks of life, baby rabbits are completely reliant on their mother. A mother rabbit will feed her young once or twice a day, typically at dawn and dusk. Feeding takes about 5 to 10 minutes.
The baby bunnies would have grown fur and their eyes and ears open after the two-week mark. They’ll continue to drink milk, but they’ll also start nibbling on solid foods like hay and pellets.
Stage of development: 3-6 weeks
In addition to their mother’s milk, the young rabbits will begin to consume more hay and pellets at this stage. It is vital for rabbit owners to keep an eye out for diarrhea during this time. Because baby rabbits’ digestive systems are still developing, they are prone to diarrhea as they transition to solid foods.
Diarrhea is the leading cause of sudden death in baby rabbits, and it can kill them in a matter of hours.
Even though the kits begin drinking water between the fifth and sixth weeks, they still need the antibodies in their mother’s milk while their digestive systems are still developing. Infections and malnutrition is a real possibility for the young kits and should not be weaned too early.
Stage of development: 7-8 weeks
The gut flora in young kits’ digestive systems would be fully developed by the time they are 8 weeks old. The kits would have successfully transitioned to a natural diet of hay and water. The kits are ready to be separated from their mother when they reach the age of 8 weeks.
The Transition Process
It’s a difficult process to separate newborn rabbits from their mothers. During this period, the kits will most likely be under a great deal of stress, which may result in their death.
However, because this is a delicate operation, extra steps must be taken to guarantee that each kit survives.
The following are the steps to achieve a seamless separation.
Are the Kits Healthy?
There will always be a few delicate kits that haven’t entirely weaned. Looking for the smallest and most inactive ones is an excellent method to spot them. It’s better to leave these frail kits with their mother for a couple of days. They can collect all of the nourishment from her milk and finish the weaning process needed to survive on their own at this time.
Healthy kits are quite active, bouncing around in their enclosure. Ensure that healthier baby bunnies’ ears, eyes, and teeth are in a good condition, with no signs of an eye infection.
Separate the Mother From the Kits
Remove the doe and weaker baby bunnies and relocate them to a new enclosure. To avoid causing stress to the healthier baby bunnies, keep the littermates together in the cage with their mother’s scent. The aim here is to keep the newly separated baby rabbits as stress-free as possible.
To make the transition as seamless as possible, do not move the young rabbits to a new location. Keep the location as is and most importantly, keep their feeder exactly the same. Sudden changes can be distressing to the kits. The fewer changes that are made to their enclosure, the better.
The Health Effects of Stress on Newly Separated Rabbits
During the weaning process, there’s no way to entirely prevent stress. In some respects, weaning can be a stressful time for the young weanlings. Bunnies who are subjected to a high number of stressful events in a short period of time are more prone to develop illness and disease right after weaning.
Stress can induce or worsen a dangerous imbalance in the intestines of baby rabbits with immature intestinal flora known as dysbiosis. Remember to keep an eye out for diarrhea. Newly weaned kits could also develop digestive issues like milk enterotoxemia and mucoid enteritis which could be fatal.
During the first few days following separation, you must be particularly alert and watch for any indications of sickness or diarrhea. If any of the newly separated kits display the following symptoms, seek immediate medical assistance from your vet:
- Stools with a lot of mucous
- Grinding of their teeth
- Appetite loss
- Eye discharge (pus)
How to Care for Newly Weaned Rabbits Properly
What To Feed Your Kits
What you feed your rabbit has a significant influence on his or her health and happiness. Feeding a baby rabbit the right food can help them grow and develop appropriate eating habits, which will help them avoid many diet-related difficulties later in life.
Although young rabbits eat the same foods as adults, we must consider their growing bodies’ nutritional demands as well as the increased sensitivity of their maturing digestive systems.
Newly weaned rabbits should have access to an unlimited amount of hay. Ideally, kits should eat the same rabbit feed that their mothers did when they were weaned. The hay and alfalfa in mother rabbits’ diets are perfect for their complicated digestive systems. Their digestive systems will be used to it, lowering the likelihood of diarrhea and digestive disruptions.
Also, ensure the kits have constant access to fresh water. Clean their water bowl and refill it with new water on a daily basis.
Separate Male and Female Kits
Before the male and female kits reach the age of 9-10 weeks, they need to be separated. When the kits reach sexual maturity, they will begin reproducing. Separate them into different cages and neuter or spay both male and female kits so that they do not breed early.
Unneutered and unspayed same-sex rabbits can be aggressive and difficult to handle. De-sexed rabbits are friendlier and more playful than sexually aggressive rabbits.
Look for Dental Issues
Examine the teeth of the kits. Make sure they do not have malocclusion or “wolf teeth”. Young kits may be at risk of dental issues in the future if not tended to early.
Once they reach the age of 10-11 weeks they will be fully weaned and ready for adoption.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Often Should You Clean the Rabbit Nesting Box?
Only clean the nesting box if it is wet. Every two to three days, check-in. Replace the bedding if it is moist, and try to keep as much of the pulled fur as possible. Place straw, grass, or hay in the bottom of the nesting box to absorb any moisture.
When Should the Nesting Box Be Removed?
When the kits are about 12 days old, remove the nesting box to prevent eye infections and mastitis.
What Happens if Baby Rabbits Are Removed to Early From Their Mother?
When baby rabbits are separated from their mothers before they reach the age of eight weeks, they do not receive the essential gut flora and antioxidants provided by the mother’s milk. They need to continue feeding off their mother. Baby rabbits that are separated from their mother before this period are more likely to perish.
Final Thoughts – Why Eight Weeks Is the Right Time
Baby bunnies should be removed from their mothers no later than 8 weeks after birth. The explanation is quite precise and extremely important to their digestive health. Baby rabbits require nutrients and antibodies that can only be obtained through their mothers’ milk.
During these eight weeks, kits are the most susceptible. They may get infections and suffer digestive problems if they do not receive sufficient nourishment.
Weaning is a tough procedure, but it is critical for the littermates’ health. It is critical that the littermates stay in the same cage after being separated from their mother, while the mother and the younger, weaker kits are transferred to a new habitat.
Do your best to keep the transition as stress-free as possible to avoid distressing the newly separated baby bunnies.