Why Do Rabbits Eat Their Babies? All You Need To Know

Despite how implausible it may sound, rabbits do devour their offspring; thus, predictably, this may leave one wondering Why Do Rabbits Eat Their Babies? Furthermore, regardless of the fact that rabbits are herbivores by nature and not particularly into cannibalism, and considering their cute and innocent appearance, Rabbit Eating their baby bunnies is an interesting yet frightening phenomenon that has been witnessed at least once. 

So, what is it about these adorable creatures that cause them to feed on their young kits? Well, there are a variety of proposed explanations for this peculiar occurrence. Unfortunately, no one knows for certain why this occurs. The article will explore some of the possible reasons as well as preventative actions. 

Why Do Rabbits Eat Their Babies?

Rabbits, unlike their close relatives, hares, do not consume meat. Because they are not carnivorous, they seldom eat their litters on purpose.

Having said that, while ‘Rabbit Cannibalism Rabbit’ is a rare occurrence, it is not unheard of. Enthusiastic breeders or rabbit owners have reportedly witnessed this astounding occurrence at least one time.

why do rabbits eat their babies

Feeding on their own young is more likely if your pet rabbit feels very stressed, lacks dietary protein, or has grown overly territorial.

Additionally, after giving birth to their first litter, it may commonly result in young rabbits. This first-time momma rabbit is terrified and perplexed by the event, so she simply does what comes naturally to her.

Having said that, if you’ve ever seen this incident, you’ll probably want to know the reason why your Rabbit did it and what you can do to deter it from doing it again in the future. Here are some possible explanations for your Rabbit eating its babies:

  • Fear and perplexity: Rabbits are naturally herbivorous. As a result, a doe would not view her offspring as a ready meal and consume them for no reason. A decent indoor rabbit hutch is a must-have when your Rabbit has tiny babies. The majority of rabbits that consume their own infants are young first-time mothers. The terror and uncertainty that the rabbit experience (as a result of birthing the kits) may motivate the mother to follow her natural inclinations and consume some, if not all, of them.
  • The fight or flight response: Since their inception, rabbits have served as prey for a variety of other wild species. Rabbits are constantly at risk of being hunted by predators. Furthermore, rabbits are flight animals and timid creatures with highly developed senses to avoid predators. Therefore, if they are threatened and cannot evade predators, they will take flight. And owing to this natural instinct, a female carrying multiple kits will eat them up rather than be taken by a predator. This prey instinct has been incorporated into the species. Therefore, even though no predators are jeopardizing their lives at home, domesticated rabbits have this tendency to inherent in them, and you may find your pet eating its young if your pet feels threatened.
  • Another common reason is Anxiety. Rabbits are typically anxious animals. When a mother rabbit detects a threat and becomes scared, she will consume her litter. If a doe’s birthing area is in a noisy location, she may easily become anxious. She may also become afraid and agitated in the presence of other pets or strangers. Her worry can lead to her eating her newborns.
  • Territorial behavior: Rabbits can be territorial after undergoing a pregnancy phase. A mother rabbit that is feeling this way may be hesitant to share her cabinet with her young, and she may eat them off to prevent competition.
  • A rabbit may devour her young for various reasons, including nutritional inadequacy, fear that the kid would die, or stress and pressure.
  • If the mother rabbit suspects that the offspring are sick and unlikely to live, she will consume it in order to alleviate their misery. She may also do this in order to eliminate weak and deformed bunnies while preserving the robust ones.

How to Keep Rabbits from Eating the baby rabbits?

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If you’re trying to rear rabbits, a mother rabbit who constantly tries to consume her litter can be a real inconvenience.

Furthermore, it’s really upsetting to discover that your pet rabbit, your lovely and cuddly fuzzy little critter, has entirely devoured her entire litter, all of which originated from her. 

Listed Below are Some Measures you can undertake to avoid this from happening again.

Breeding should be avoided.

To begin with, you should refrain from breeding immature bunnies until they are six months old.

Prior to this stage, the new Rabbit is still considered immature, and they are not yet ready to shoulder the responsibility of being pregnant or producing a litter. When bred during this age group, the Rabbit may not be able to cope with the pressure of motherhood.

Increase their protein intake.

You must boost the protein content of the Rabbit’s food. Alfalfa hay is the appropriate food to include. Place it in the Rabbit’s hutch during the last few weeks of pregnancy.

This is the regular thing that most pet owners undertake to ensure that the Rabbit’s nourishment is adequate.

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Ensure a safer atmosphere for your pet rabbit. 

As previously stated, many rabbits, even domesticated ones, devour their baby rabbit since it is their natural instinct. And as the reaction to that tendency is to consume their young, you should address the underlying issue first.

Consider the following: why is that instinct kicking in? Is there anything in mother rabbits nest box that could harm her? What can you do to assist her in overcoming her fears? If this is your Rabbit’s main problem, do everything you can to help the mother rabbit feel safe enough to keep the baby bunnies.

This includes making a little hiding space for mama and the kits in your rabbit cage. This could make her feel more secure.

Keep an eye on the entire pregnancy process. 

You must maintain your activity level throughout the pregnancy — before, throughout, and after. When the Rabbit is anxious or stressed, she is more likely to consume the newborn bunny. As a pet owner, you must ensure that your Rabbit feels secure and safe.

Keep the doe away from the babies. 

In case you’ve already done everything you can to make the momma rabbit feel safer, and she still tries (or succeeds) in eating her newborn kits, it might be a good idea to keep them apart, at least until they’re a few weeks old.

First, make a nest box for the babies to sleep in, preferably with hay and paper shavings( a number of good nesting boxes are available online). After that, place the nest box in a cage with a lockable door.

This is done to prevent the mother from accessing the litter. However, you should still allow her to nurse the infants, at least once or twice a day, under strict supervision, of course.

Work on keeping the Rabbit occupied. 

Provide the mother rabbit with other foods or toys to keep her occupied. If you’ve tried the other two procedures, the mother rabbit still appears to be eager to devour her own offspring. It’s time to focus more on the mother, especially if this is her first time giving birth.

Chew Sticks can contribute as an excellent source of distraction. Studies show Mother rabbits are prone to become quite agitated immediately after giving birth.

Their senses are always heightened and working, and the immense duty of motherhood weighs on their shoulders. Even a rabbit doe might become overwhelmed when giving birth for the first time. 

In case you witness this trouble and agitation in your furry pet, try distracting her with other foods or toys. This accomplishes two goals: first, it entertains the mother rabbits, which lessens their tension, and second, it diverts their attention away from the infants.

You may also wish to adjust your pet rabbit’s diet, as some breeders claim that feeding extra calcium to pregnant or recently-birthed rabbit mothers dramatically reduces their anxiety levels.

Continue doing this until you realize the mother rabbit is no longer as stressed as she was before.

Mother Rabbits Kill Their Babies in What Way? 

A doe cleans her newborn babies and eats the placenta and afterbirth contents after giving birth. This is prevalent in small mammals because it provides essential nutrients to the mother after giving birth.

An inexperienced mother may devour her offspring, as well as the placenta and other components.

Furthermore, killing may also set in when a rabbit discovers that one or more of her kits are unwell or weak, and the instinct takes over; she eats those kits.

The reason for this is that weaker or sicker babies are liabilities that could bring down her other healthy kits by depleting their mother’s meager resources (i.e., milk).

What Happens When a Rabbit Gives Birth to Her First Litter? 

Rabbits’ eyes and ears are closed when they are born. Initially, the babies are absolutely furless, yet they mature and eventually gain the growth to cover their bodies (in the span of a few weeks).

Brown and White Rabbit on Green Grass

A doe with her first litter may require assistance in constructing a nest box. For an owner who hasn’t witnessed the wonder of bunny birth, some information about doe feeding, nursing, and weaning kits can prove handy:

  • Nest: When a female rabbit, or doe, is pregnant, she will usually build a nest for her offspring. Just before giving birth, she takes fur from her underbelly to make a nice, warm nest for her offspring. If your doe has her first litter, she may not build a nest before the pups arrive.
  • Weaning: Around two weeks of age, the newborn rabbits will graze on their mother’s food. The young ones will continue to feed for a given span of time, but as the weeks pass, they will consume the veggies, herbs, and hay alongside their mother. Increase the food supply so that the mother and her litter have enough to eat. The babies can be weaned from their mothers at about eight weeks of age. At this point, remove the babies from the cage. Rabbits reach sexual maturity around the age of ten weeks. And therefore, if you leave the litter (over ten weeks) in the cage, they will be able to mate, and you will have another litter in 30 to 32 days. 
  • Give your doe plenty of leafy green vegetables, fresh water, and grass hay. She’ll require extra calories and water while nursing her litter.
  • After the babies are born, your doe will only feed them once or twice a day. This is normal because newborns don’t require a lot of milk. Mother rabbits do not spend much time in their nests in the wild; instead, she waits close to entice predators away from their nest. Domestic rabbits have inherited this inclination and appear to ignore their young unless while nursing.

What Should You Do to Be Prepared for Baby Rabbits? 

Prepare for the delivery of baby bunnies before breeding your Rabbit. The gestation period is only three to thirty-two days long in rabbits.

Being unprepared until your Rabbit is pregnant can result in stressful situations for your Rabbit. The mother rabbit may be unable to cope with the changes or the pregnancy. Here are some things you can do to get ready for baby rabbits:

  • Cage– Make sure the cage is large enough to accommodate a nesting box. Waiting until the infants are born can put the mother in a stressful predicament.
  • Nesting box – Around day 27, place the clean nest box in the corner of the cage a few days before she gives birth. It should not be close to the litter box. If you put the box in too soon, she can use it as a litter box. The nesting box will remain in the cage until the babies reach the age of two weeks.
  • Put some extra straw in the cage for the bedding of Momma rabbits. Make sure the environment is dry and clean for her to give birth in.
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How Does a Mother Rabbit Prepare for the Birth of Her Young Ones?

Mother rabbits prepare for “kindling” or delivering a baby by plucking their fur from their stomach. The mother uses this fur to line their nesting box, which you have placed within her cage.

The naked, hairless babies will be kept warm and covered by her fur. This is a natural reaction. Don’t modify it when she starts lining the nest with her fur. She must construct the nest in the manner in which she desires.

Interfering can be stressful for the female Rabbit. Some mothers don’t build a nest until a few days before giving birth, while others wait until the day of the delivery. Observing your female’s nesting patterns is one way to determine whether she will be a good mother.

If she isn’t pulling her fur out to line the nest, it could be an indication that she is immature. You may need to remove the babies and provide them with another source of feeding. 

Some Methods for Keeping Your Baby Rabbits Safe

After understanding why rabbits eat their own babies, you’re undoubtedly wondering how we can avoid this from happening in the future.

Rabbit, Bunny, Cute, Puppy, Kitten, Young, Wildlife

Because each of the causes for rabbit mothers eating their young has a behavioral or dietary basis, we may provide support ahead to birth and minimize any unintended consequences.

  • If possible, it is advised to avoid breeding very young rabbits. Any rabbit that hasn’t fully matured and mellowed with age is more likely to react negatively to the stress of birth.
  • Limit or eliminate anything that may be stressful to the Mother rabbit. Restricting or eliminating loud noises, bright lights, and sudden movements in the mother’s vicinity prior to and after the birth will prove helpful. Creating a peaceful and quiet environment will help keep stress and danger signals to a minimum.
  • Make sure your rabbit mother’s diet is high in protein. As the highest-protein, most nutritionally packed hay, Alfalfa is a fantastic choice to supplement your pregnant pet rabbit’s diet in the weeks leading up to birth. You must also feed your pregnant doe fresh food. You can provide your Rabbit with fat-rich sunflower seeds as well as organic parsley. It can also be fed calf manna. A nutritious diet helps keep your Rabbit from feeling hungry. It will also assist it in producing enough milk to feed its litter. She won’t be tempted to consume her infants this way. If you discover the mother rabbit isn’t producing enough milk, take her to the vet right away.
  • Keep a close eye on the mother and her infants. Monitoring the mother rabbit and the newborns immediately after birth. The mother will eat the placenta to replenish critical nutrients and should be closely monitored to ensure that she does not eat one of her offspring.
  • Nails Monitor: Trim your rabbits’ nails. You’ll need to monitor your Rabbit’s nails to ensure she doesn’t injure her offspring before or after birth. The best way to go is to clip her nails before giving birth. It will keep her from harming herself or her newborn when breaking the placenta. It will also assist you in keeping the kits alive.

Do male rabbits eat their offspring? 

Filial cannibalism in rabbits is an emergency maternal response to danger, stress, or malnourishment induced by birthing. While mother rabbits may occasionally devour their young ones, no similar issue exists in male rabbits.

Male rabbits feeding their offspring is an extremely rare and unusual occurrence. As a matter of fact, Bucks are often excellent fathers to their offspring. If the kits become separated from their parents, the male rabbits frequently discover them and return them to their nest box.

However, in certain circumstances, the buck may accidentally kill its newborn. This is typical when their cage is small. If you’ve been watching your pet since it was a baby, you’ll notice that they move around a lot!

As a result, it is recommended that a large enclosure be provided so that the father does not step on the offspring and they have plenty of room to explore.

Competition is another incentive for a buck to destroy its kits. After giving birth, the doe or mother rabbit fixates on her babies; therefore, the buck may not receive the attention it needs from the doe. As a result, they may be pushed to kill the kits.

That being said, you must verify that your rabbits’ cages are on the right side of the desired size. It is also critical to keep the bucks isolated from the female rabbits when they are giving birth.

If you leave the male around the doe for an extended period of time, he may try to fertilize her again. Because a female rabbit can become pregnant 24 hours after giving birth, this would be detrimental to the litter she already has.

As a result, unless the father has been neutered, keeping him away from the family is advisable.

why do wild rabbits eat their babies?

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Although mother rabbits do not often eat their kits, this unpleasant event can occur in domesticated and wild rabbits. And, while it’s difficult to believe, mother rabbits in the wild devour their young for a variety of reasons.

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Here’s a detailed explanation of why do wild rabbits eat their babies: 

Fight or Flight Reflex:

When faced with peril, rabbits have a deep-seated inclination to consume their offspring. Because of their small stature, larger mammals and birds are constantly chasing and hunting them. And rabbits are naturally flighted animals.

As a result, when faced with a fight or flight situation, rabbits prefer to flee. They are well aware that they have no chance against their predators. However, before fleeing, they must conceal all signs of their presence.

The only method to accomplish this for new mothers is to kill/eat the kits. In this manner, the doe flees her predator in the wild. Therefore, When feeling threatened, this urge prompts them to consume their young.

Any stressful scenario might cause this instinctive condition of fight or flight. And your doe’s reaction will be the same.

Kits are born dead

A doe will most certainly consume a dead kit. Delivering dead babies is not uncommon in the case of rabbits. It can occur as a result of a variety of accidents, problems, or deficits.

If the rabbits in the wilderness give birth to a dead baby, she will eat it to keep predators away from it or catch on the scent. In this manner, she can secure her personal safety as well as the safety of the remaining kits.

Next on the list is the Survival of the Fittest: 

The mother rabbit will devour it if the newborn Rabbit is too weak or wounded to live. They do this to protect the kit from harm. They also do it to ensure that the fittest members of their litter survive.

The mother rabbit may also undertake this course of action in order to keep the infected kit from infecting the healthy babies. Furthermore, if a mother rabbit injures her kit after birth, she will most likely consume the kit. 

Ignorant or inexperienced mother rabbits:

A doe that is young or inexperienced is more prone to consume her kits. If the Rabbit is under six months old, she may succumb to her natural territorial instincts or experience overwhelming terror.

It is possible that she will injure or consume her baby rabbits as a result of this. Furthermore, a young doe may confuse her kit with a placenta. This is particularly true with distorted kits.

A first-time mother may also not realize she has given birth and may devour her kits out of curiosity. She might also ignore or abandon them. Immature rabbits can further mistake their kits for hamsters or mice and thereby possibly kill their offspring as a result of the same.

Deficiency of milk:

If your Rabbit has a large litter, she may find it challenging to feed them all. In such a case, she may abandon the weakest of her kits.

If she continues to be fatigued by regular nursing, she may consume the weaker kits. It will assist her in gaining the energy she requires to keep her young ones fed.

A lack of maternal instincts: 

Finally, if your doe continues to devour her litter on a regular basis, she may lack a motherly instinct. 

Do I Have To Get Rid Of The Baby Rabbits? 

No, baby rabbits must remain with their mother because they are unlikely to survive on their own; it is only after a specific period of time that you can separate your newborn rabbits from their mother.

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Factually speaking, a bunny is born deaf and with closed developing eyes ( that open after birth). As a result, they must spend the first eight weeks with the doe.

Following the given period of postnatal development, the little fur babies will become adequately self-sufficient after this point. They can already eat solid food, move on their own, and, of course, will no longer require their mother’s milk.

Furthermore, you only need to keep an eye on the first 24 hours; after that, the mother rabbit will no longer want to consume her babies. Also, make sure the nest is secure, as this will aid the baby’s growth.

Final Consideration on Why Rabbits Eat Their Young

So, in summation, we hope that this guide has helped throw light on the underlying causes of Why Do Rabbits Eat Their Babies and thereby preparing you with everything you need to know about preventing this dire unfolding in the future.

In truth, it is just another aspect of life’s cycle—for better or worse, who knows, but it is what it is.

Nevertheless, taking the necessary precautions in advance of delivery can reduce the stress and danger to all animals involved.

You can keep the rabbits from eating their young ones by making the mother rabbit feel more secure or distracting her with other activities, so she is not quite so focused on her litter.

Furthermore, you can also avail yourself of separating the mother rabbits from their baby bunnies while they are still little and defenseless. 

FAQs

Do rabbits know when another rabbit died?

Since rabbits have no concept of what a dead rabbit looks like, expect to see it in another rabbit. As a result, they don’t naturally know if a rabbit is dead; they must spend time with the body in order to comprehend that a companion has died.

How long after birth does a rabbit feed her babies?

The mother rabbit’s milk may be delayed to arrive (the first feeding is frequently 24 hours after delivery), but she would be able to feed in a few days (sometimes up to 4 days after birth). If the babies have not been fed for the first two days, they must be fed again.

What happens to bunnies when they die?

When your Rabbit is dying, you may notice their breathing changes; they grow agitated and make nervous movements. Their pulse will slow, and they may begin to tremble or stiffen. A rabbit will frequently begin to drool when dying. It can expel a lot more saliva than you’d anticipate from such a small animal, especially if the Rabbit hasn’t had much water. Although the Rabbit’s fur will absorb part of the drool, it may still leave a mess.

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Gulshan
Hi, I am Gulshan, a pet blogger, and author. I've been working with the local pet groups for the past five years. I have been fascinated by our pets and am here to share that wonder with you.