It is both cautionary and normal for your long-term rabbit to suddenly feel aggressive, even towards you. However, there are several ways you can make sure your fur-baby feels safe and know that their offspring will be safe.
Rabbits are aggressive when pregnant. Therefore, it is all the more apparent to make sure that not only do they feel safe in the environment that they’re placed in, but they have all the things that they and their kits will need. Knowing your rabbit’s behavior can make a big difference in pregnancy.
In this case, there are at least five ways you can help reduce aggression in the mother. Let’s go through the necessary information you need to know about your pregnant rabbit’s behavior and how to properly provide for their needs.
Create a Safe Environment
On average, a rabbit can give birth to around 12-13, rarely 18, in the gestation period of 31 days. You need lots of space, preferably about the size of a small bathroom where the mother can freely move around as much as she wants. If this is unavailable, getting a deep-wired adjustable pen will do. Make sure the food is always nearby so the mother doesn’t stress about where to eat.
Despite already having a nest, the mother needs a nest within the nest, specifically for the babies when they are born. Pet shops will sell wooden nests. Not only are they about the size of a shoebox, but they have a large triangle-like opening where the babies will slip out.
Proper nests need to be in a rectangular space, so even a cardboard box will work. This is so if she gets nervous, she has the other nest box to hide in.
If you see the mother pull out tuffs of fur, this is not a sign of stress. The mother is only making safer padding for her babies. She will use some of the fur from her chest and abdomen area to create a warm nest. This fur nest is also super soft. The baby rabbits won’t be visible once they are born because they will all be under this layer of fur, so don’t worry if you cannot see the baby rabbits for some time.
This fur bed is light and airy, so it will not suffocate them. You can potentially move the fur to the side and take a look at your bunnies that lie below. Be cautious of the mother rabbit, though, because she will be very protective and wary of a potential predator looking for a meal.
You must avoid pine and cedar bedding. This can be toxic to your mother rabbit and her babies. Instead, provide comfortable bedding, such as aspen shavings and recycled paper, which is safe for rabbits.
Keeping the Nest Safe for the Kits
Even after pregnancy, the litter tray needs to be cleaned more to reduce the risk of the mother and babies receiving E.coli, as mothers will tend to rest there. With their diet, the mother should have an unlimited supply of Timothy hay, rabbit food pellets with high protein (18% at least), and fresh vegetables as better milk for the kits.
You can see the many health benefits of hay along with the best methods for storing and feeding it to your rabbit on my page all about feeding your rabbit unlimited amounts of hay here.
Within the nest, there must be tight mesh padding because the gaps can be too big for the kits’ feet and may result in breaking the legs.
The kits will need to be placed in a warm enclosure, so if they are in a barn outside, it must be insulated to protect from the wind.
You certainly shouldn’t neglect caring for the mother after she gives birth as this is just as important as caring for her pre-birth. To find out how to best care for her after she gives birth, see the guide I wrote called How to Care for Rabbit After Giving Birth.
Splitting up Father and Mother or Other Pets
If the father rabbit is residing in the house with the mother, there can be contention, so they will also need to be monitored during pregnancy in case they need to be separated from each other.
When the kits arrive, however, the father will need to be away from them. Males will be aggressive, resulting in potentially eating the kits to state dominance. The father can then be reintroduced when the bunnies are about six weeks in age, though the mother may still be protective.
As far as other pets, such as cats and dogs who are natural predators of rabbits, it is recommended that they are separated from the mother. This is why a bathroom-sized room away from where other animals can access is a good option.
Even if the animals were raised side-by-side as babies, it is still recommended that they are separated for the time of gestation. Make sure your pets are well fed, and if the mother is in a wired pen, keeping it covered at night.
How to Respond Around the Mother
As much as comforting a pregnant mother constantly feels natural, it is best to give your rabbit space in case they feel overwhelmed. When petting your rabbit, you must be more gentle and do not scratch under their chin or other areas of the body.
If the rabbit’s nose doesn’t wiggle as much, they are on guard. Always move slowly within the area the rabbit is in and even outside when approaching.
Watching Over the Mother’s Behavior
Certain signs of stress to look for are the same as typical rabbit behavior (stomping feet, running around in circles, etc.). Pink and red discharge is normal if present. Your rabbit might even growl. If you hear growling, make sure you read Rabbit Growling: What It Means & What to Do here.
However, if there is a green or brown discharge that smells then the mother should be brought to the vet. It is a sign of the mother trying to abort the pregnancy. Symptoms of urine infection and/or stress would be lethargy, not eating or drinking, or not willing to move from the corner of the room.
While it may seem a lot to take in, rabbits are still one of the easiest pets to care for, especially in pregnancy. That’s one of the blessings of having a passion for this amazing pet. If your curious, you can see a list of the absolute easiest rabbit breeds to care for here.
After the kits arrive, it’s all about monitoring them to make sure they equally cared for and fed, as well as ensuring the mother doesn’t get too overprotective with the father after six weeks.
Best of luck to you and your mother-to-be as you welcome a new batch of adorable baby rabbits.
- Do Rabbits Know and Recognize Their Siblings? – Ever wonder if the sibling rabbits that are born will ever recognize each other as siblings later in life? You might be surprised at the answer. Check out this article for more!