My dear readers,
A new year has birthed upon us! Perhaps there are some birds and bees still alive from summer buzzing lazily in my house, or perhaps it is the warm fire, my favourite carrot brandy and Nibble and Gnaw second cut. Whatever it is, the imagery of a new year, birth, life and death has been on my mind this holiday period.
With that in mind I present to you a new series of articles dealing with the entire life cycle of a rabbit, from pregnancy to death. I hope these articles give you a whole new perspective on my species, our differences from yours but also our similarities. Please read on and enjoy our first instalment, Pregnancy.
How long is a rabbit pregnant?
Once you get to a certain age you’ve heard the innuendos and the jokes. Rabbits are prodigious pregnancy producers. A large reason for that is because a rabbits gestation period is a mere 31-33 days; quite a bit shorter than humans I’m told.
But that’s only part of the amazing story. A rabbit doe is ready to become pregnant again within hours of giving birth. They can also conceive at any time of year (as opposed to the more customary mating season seen in the animal kingdom), and within the space of a year they can yield up to 12 litters of 1-14 babies per year.
How to tell if your rabbit is pregnant?
Believe it or not, but pregnancy in rabbits isn’t always easy to tell. You might be expecting to see a belly grow so big mama rabbit can barely move but the truth is that our gestation period is much more clandestine.
Things to look out for include:
- Weight gain, though as mentioned this isn’t usually noticed until very late
- Signs of nesting. i.e. pulling fur from abdomen to line the nest.
- Mood swings, more aggressive and territorial behaviour
- Digging activity. In the wild it isn’t uncommon for mama to want to have a fresh place to give birth, so keep an eye out for any unusual digging behaviour.
- Reluctance to be held
At what age can a rabbit get pregnant?
The answer to this one is simple: very early. A female rabbit (doe) can become pregnant as early as 12 weeks old and can quite possibly continue to have babies until age 4. I hope by now you start to see the importance of neutering in rabbits if you are planning to not have any surprise pregnancies in your home.
Incidentally, as well as stopping unwanted pregnancies, neutering will also make sure that any rabbits of the same sex don’t get into territorial fights. Yes, the average wild bunny lives a wild and exciting life!
Ok, quick quiz time!
What do pregnant rabbits, JD Sports and a lumber mill have in common? They all have kits and kindling!
If you’re completely lost, don’t fret. Kindling is the term for a rabbit giving birth. A kit, short for kittens, is the term for a baby rabbit. Feast your eyes on these terms to brush up on your rabbit linguistic knowledge to speak like a pro!
- Doe – Female rabbit
- Buck – Male rabbit
- Kit – baby rabbit
- Kindling – Doe giving birth
- Breeding – when you mate rabbits
- Breed – Group of rabbits that share a common characteristic like size, fur type and colour
- Dam – rabbits mother
- Sire – rabbits father
What happens after birth?
So, another feature that separates my species from yours is the amount of contact between mother and baby after birth. Don’t be alarmed if you find that mama rabbit is spending time away from the kits. This is perfectly normal behaviour and should in fact be encouraged. Too much time together could lead to stress, with the mother inadvertently injuring or killing her newborn young.
For this reason, it’s important to make sure that the Dam has a safe space to escape to so that she has time to refresh and relax. Both physical and visual space is encouraged.
And there you have it, pregnancy. With all it’s strange, wonderful facets open to you I hope, if your rabbit is expecting, that you treat this time with excitement and tender care. Naturally, the health of the mother is vitally important to making sure that she is strong enough to handle the recent influx. Be sure to check out our hay range to make sure your Doe is ready for the adventure ahead.