Why do Rabbits Eat Their Babies?

Females rabbits (does) have an average gestation period of about one month. This means that a doe can possibly give birth up to 12 times in one year. Each litter can vary from 1 baby bunny to 14 baby bunnies.

The chances of all these babies surviving to adulthood are slim because rabbits tend to eat their young ones. Other animals that display similar cannibal behavior as rabbits are rats, prairie dogs, reptiles, fish, sloths, birds, amphibians, polar bears, spiders, hamsters, chickens, pigs, and sand tiger sharks. The question is, why do rabbits eat their babies?

Reasons Why Rabbits Eat Their Babies

A mother rabbit can eat her babies for different reasons:

  • Extreme stress
  • Weak or sick baby
  • Weak mothering instincts
  • Nutrient deficiency

Huge stress can cause rabbits to eat their babies. Sometimes the female rabbit may get afraid of intruders and predators, forcing her to eat her little ones in what looks like protection.

Also, a mother rabbit bunny can eat her sick or injured baby while leaving the normal ones to grow. In most cases, female rabbits eat runt among their babies simply because he looks the weakest and less likely to survive.

However, it’s extremely rare for the doe to eat her entire litter. This is a clear indication that she’s not lacking any nutrition in her diet as it was previously thought. So during her giving birth, make sure to clear out other household pets or people to give her a calm and peaceful environment.

Most of the time mother rabbits panic at the slightest noise, causing her to eat some of her newly born babies. This cannibal behavior can also be prevalent in does that have weak mothering instincts.

So, how does a mother rabbit start to eat her babies?

Once she’s given birth, the doe will start licking her newborns to keep them clean. In the process, she will eat the afterbirth materials including the placenta.

This a common trend among small mammals because eating the afterbirth materials provides mother rabbits with special nutrients. In extreme cases, the mother may eat her newborn babies along with afterbirth materials.

How to Prevent Rabbits from Eating Their Young

Here are helpful ways to prevent mother rabbits from eating their litter:

  • A rabbit is likely to eat her litter when she gets excited by a sudden change to her environment (cage), food, or water. Make sure the change in her cage is gradual to help her transition to the new environment without causing unnecessary panic.
  • A few days before your female rabbit gives birth, ensure that her nails are trimmed to prevent her from inflicting injuries on newborn babies. Injured babies can compel mother rabbit to eat her litter
  • Mother rabbits dislike the presence of other animals/pets close to her during and after giving birth. Animals such as cats, dogs, or mice can easily upset her. Therefore, any household pet and people should stay away from her nest.
  • Check her water and food supply to ensure that they are fresh and cool. If possible, add some vitamin and mineral supplements to your does’ water to ensure that she gets sufficient essential nutrients.
  • If the mother rabbit is less than six months old she may not be able to handle the birthing process properly. As a result, she may resort to eating her babies due to panic and irritation caused by her new experience. In this case, you should strive to secure the babies to a safe place immediately before she eats them.
  • Inspect the nest to be sure that there is everything the mother rabbit needs while raising her litter. She will get upset easily if her nest is not lined with more fur or other bedding materials, making her kill her young kittens.
  • Nervous female rabbits make poor mothers, so they can eat their little ones due to their nervousness. To avoid such cases, you should ensure that the mother rabbit gives birth in a more secure and conducive environment away from anything that can make her uneasy or restless.
  • Once a mother rabbit discovers that there’s something wrong with some of her baby rabbits she may kill them. This is an instinctive way of getting rid of the sick, weak, or deformed kittens from her litter. Always keep away baby rabbits that look sick or weak for special care before their mother eliminates them.

Will a Male Rabbit Eat His Babies?

Yes! But it is extremely rare for the male rabbit to eat his babies. This is a very uncommon scenario because bucks (male rabbits) make good fathers to their little ones. If their rabbit babies get lost they often strive to find them and take them back to their nest.

On the contrary, father rabbits can kill their baby rabbits in a bid to find a way to breed with the female rabbit again. Keep the male rabbits in a separate cage before baby rabbits are born.

Do Rabbits Kill the Young Ones of Other Rabbits?

Most likely yes, especially when they have no intention of sharing their cages with other rabbits whether young or adults. Male rabbits can kill young rabbits due to perceived competition. As such, they will get rid of kittens in order to have the full attention of the female rabbit.

Will Mother Rabbits Kill Their Babies if You Touch Them?

Not at all. Mother rabbits don’t kill their kittens if you touch them. As a matter of fact, touching is not one of the reasons why a mother rabbit eats or kills her little ones. Rabbit breeders handle baby rabbits from time to time but mother rabbits seem not to mind the touching.

Furthermore, a mother rabbit will even remain unconcerned if she has been socializing with humans. Most importantly, domestic rabbits are always used to human touch since they interact with them often.

Wrap Up

Quite a number of rabbits, whether domestic or wild, take good care of their young babies. It is only once in many instances that a mother rabbit eats her own babies. This happens more often when she feels nervous, stressed during the birthing process, or threatened.

Also, the environment can make her kill her babies, especially where predation from other animals is a major concern. Sickness and injuries of  her some kittens can make the rabbit mother to instinctively eat her babies as well

avatar Jane
Jane is an experienced animal care specialist with a focus on rodents and small mammals, with over 10 years of experience in the pet industry. Her articles provide practical guidance on choosing the right pet and managing common health issues. Jane is an advocate for animal welfare and supports organizations dedicated to protecting wildlife. read more...

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