The thought of silky soft fur, tiny paws and big eyes makes many rabbit owners clucky. But there are several important questions they need to ask themselves first – Do I have enough time? Can I find them good homes? Should there only be one litter? A doe is capable of breeding again just a few days after giving birth. This can quickly get out of control for inexperienced owners, so it is recommended you have the buck castrated after successful mating. Males can remain potent up to six weeks after castration, which means that strict gender segregation is a must.
To mate rabbits, put the doe in the buck’s cage, not the other way around. The “woman of the house” may react aggressively to a male intruder in her territory. She should be housed separately directly after mating, as well as for the entire pregnancy and rearing – optimally without any sight, sound or smell of the buck. Otherwise, he could disturb her and later, attack the offspring.
Pregnancy lasts between 29 and 33 days. Rabbits need plenty of peace and quiet during this time, and should not be taken out of the cage for playing and cuddling – it is essential you avoid contact with their tummy. The long-eared mother-to-be needs a balanced diet rich in protein and minerals, as well as plenty of fresh water.
Preparing for the bunnies
When the time comes, put a nesting box in the corner of the cage and fill it with straw. The lid should be removable so that you can regularly check on the new family. Litters are usually born at night when the mother settles down and she takes care of the birth herself. However, if you are unsure about anything, ask your vet.
Baby rabbits, or kits, come into the world blind and hairless. . Mummy rabbit suckles her little ones once or twice a day then departs the nest if she has enough space. But first, she makes sure the nest is kept clean. When the babies become more active they learn how life functions within the rabbit colony , with the help of their mother. They start eating solid food when they are between two and three weeks old. Make sure to provide them with plenty of hay, but be careful with green feed – too much can lead to serious digestive problems. Kits stay with their mother for seven to eight weeks. Giving them away too early can make them more susceptible to disease later on. Baby rabbits need plenty of love and care from mum in the first few weeks of life!
Hares, by contrast, are no stay-at-homes and will “fly the nest” by seeking out their own hidey-hole immediately after birth. But even they are suckled by their mum for about a month – mostly at night, as with rabbits, to avoid their offspring attracting the attentions of predators. Then mother hare leaves her young behind once more.
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