A Journey Through the Life of Baby Rabbits
While rabbits may look a bit like rodents, they are actually very different. Rabbits are mammals which belong to the ‘Lagomorph’ order (Lagomorph means ‘hare-shaped’) that also includes hares and pikas.
While they transform into cute little bundles of fur and charm, they are remarkably tiny and fragile at birth. In the wild, you may never see a baby rabbit until it has come to an age and size, where it is safe to leave it’s burrow.
As a prey species, they don’t always have an easy start to live. They might have to endure some peculiar parenting methods, but these cute little animals have some amazing qualities and a lot of love to give.
In this post, we look at a range of facts about baby rabbits, and answer some common FAQs about these amazing little fluff balls. There are also some cute pictures too!
7 Incredible Baby Rabbit Facts
Baby Rabbits Are Called Kits
Much like baby cats, beavers or baby rats, a baby rabbit is affectionately known as a ‘kit‘ or a ‘kitten‘. They are born in a ‘litter’ with several siblings in a ‘nest‘ within a ‘burrow‘.
Like baby deer, female rabbits grow up to be a ‘doe‘ and a male rabbit is called a ‘buck‘.
A group of rabbits can be called a ‘fluffle‘, a ‘colony‘ or a ‘herd‘. A group of young rabbits that may or may not be related, are sometimes known as a ‘wrack‘.
These are the most commonly used collective nouns for rabbits, but there are more that are used less frequently.
Baby Rabbits Are Born Naked, Deaf And Blind
New-born rabbits are naked, blind and helpless at birth. Their eyes and ears are sealed shut for the first few days after birth. They will start growing hair as soon as they are born, until they are around 4 weeks old. At this time, they will have a full set of working senses and be ready to start venturing outside the burrow.
Mother Rabbits Are Very Protective
Rabbit mothers get a bad name for being ignorant of their young. They are remarkably inattentive and could easily be considered as absentee parents. While on the surface this may seem like neglect, it is in fact out of a sense of duty and care that mothers leave their kits alone.
They don’t want to attract any unwanted attention to their babies, particularly predators picking up on a scent. So they stay away, drawing any attention away from the burrow, leaving their babies covered, camouflaged and warm.
They only return to feed their babies during the night when there is less risk.
Males (bucks) do not assist in rearing the kittens.
Wild Baby Rabbits Feed Once A Day
Most baby animals are known to feed regularly throughout a day. At one end of the extreme you have baby dolphins that feed around every 20 minutes across a full 24 hours. Baby rabbits, particularly wild ones however, are at the other end of the scale. They are only fed once – rarely twice – in an entire day, for just 5 to 10 minutes.
In such a short time frame, the kittens get their entire day’s milk supply. To overcome this limited feeding window, the milk of rabbits is highly nutritious and among the richest of all mammals.
A baby kits first feed is usually delayed until their first night. So if they are born through the day, they don’t feed immediately like many other babies do. Night feeding is instinctive for rabbits, as the safest time of day to vulnerable with their young.
A Baby Rabbits Teeth Never Stop Growing
Rabbits, like humans get two sets of teeth – a set of milk teeth and a set of permanent teeth. They are known as Diphyodonts. However, unlike other diphyodonts (like baby monkeys or baby pigs), and more like rodents which are monophyodont, a rabbits adult front incisor teeth never stop growing, like toenails.
Baby Rabbits Eat Their Own Poop
As baby rabbits grow and move onto a solid food diet, they learn to start eating their own poop. But why do they do this? The short answer is that they eat their own poop because it helps them to maximize the nutrients that they can obtain from their food.
Another reason they eat their poop is to ingest the bacteria that helps them break down complex carbohydrates in their diet. This bacteria is found in the gut of the rabbit and helps them extract all the nutrients they need from their food.
Bunnies can’t eat all of their poops, but actually make two different kinds. They leave the hard little black round pellets alone, but also form softer black ones known as ‘cecotropes‘ and these are the nutrient rich poops that they eat.
They will swallow up to 80% of their faeces and this process known as ‘refection’.
Baby Rabbits Live In Large Communities
Rabbits are social animals, though some breeds are more social than others. As such, baby rabbits learn to be social too. They often live in large communities of several families all within the same warren.
Wild European rabbits in particular are known to live in warren complexes with over 20 other rabbits. Each family will have their own burrow within the warren complex, and several families may live in a warren. Domestic rabbits tend to live in much smaller groups.
There may be several warrens in close vicinity of each other in what would be considered a colony. Young rabbits of different families that live in a colony will often play together. Leaping, spinning and twirling with excitement as they do.
It’s not just for fun, or company that rabbits live together though. As a prey species, bunnies have evolved to learn that there is safety in numbers. It is much easier to confuse, or raise the alarm to a predator, and a greater chance of survival when you live together in a group.
A group of rabbits in the wild can be as small as a group of two or three, or as large as a colony of several dozen. The size of the group will depend on the available resources and the terrain.
Baby Rabbit FAQs
What Is The Lifecycle Of A Baby Rabbit?
The gestation period of baby rabbits differs slightly across the many breeds, but will generally last somewhere between 28-33 days. For the first two to three weeks baby rabbits will survive from their mothers milk, but they grow up very quickly.
From 3 weeks old, baby rabbits will start to take in some solid food, and may start to leave the burrow for short periods at night.
Depending on the rabbit breed, they will be fully weaned between 4 – 8 weeks (up to 50 days), and ready to leave their mothers at that time.
Sexual maturity is reached between 16-24 weeks and rabbits can start breeding many times per year at this stage. You can see from this how quickly a population can spread!
Domesticated Rabbits have an average lifespan of between 8-12 years whereas wild rabbits have a life expectancy of less than 4 years.
How Many Baby Rabbits Are Born In A Litter?
Mother rabbits will generally give birth to between 4 -12 kits, possibly as many as 14. The average litter size though is 7 baby rabbits. As a female doe only has 6 teats, larger litters can be problematic in ensuring that all the babies get a suitable amount of milk.
How Big Do Baby Rabbits Grow?
Newborn rabbits, or kits, weigh between 1 ounce and about 2.5 ounces. They will double their weight in the first week and triple it by the third week. By the time they are weaned at four to six weeks of age, rabbits weigh between three to five pounds, depending on the breed.
What Do Baby Rabbits Eat?
Baby rabbit kits depend on their mothers milk for the first few weeks of life.
In the wild, once weaned from their mothers milk, baby rabbits will eat mostly vegetation. They are mostly herbivores who feed by grazing on grass, forbs and leafy weeds, however, they will also eat all vegetable matter and gnaw tree bark in winter months.
In captivity, baby rabbits should have a diet that consists mostly of hay, fresh vegetables, and a small amount of pellets.
If the environment is relatively non-threatening, the rabbit will remain outdoors for many hours, grazing at intervals.
Where Do Baby Rabbits Live?
In the wild, rabbits are burrowing animals, and tunnel out their homes underground.
The European rabbit constructs the most extensive burrow systems, called warrens. These are many burrows close together or joined. Warren tunnels can be 1 – 2 metres long. The nest at the end of the tunnel is lined with grass, moss and belly fur. They use regular trails, which they scent mark with faecal pellets.
A nesting burrow usually takes up one compartment in the warren complex, where a mother will nurse her young kits. Though kits are left alone for the majority of the time. Mother rabbits will spend most of their time away from their kits and their burrows, to divert their scent from any near by predators.
A warren may contain several rabbit families, sometimes forming groups in warrens of up to 20 individuals.
It’s estimated that half of the worlds rabbit population lives in North America! They are also commonly commonly found Southern and Western parts of Europe, parts of Southeast Asia including Japan, African and South America.
What Are The Natural Predators Of Baby Rabbits?
Rabbits are a prey animal for many predators. They are small, and have few defences to put up much of a fight against many of their larger predators, generally resorting to hiding underground. But even there, there are some hunters that are only happy to invade a rabbit burrow.
Because they are so widely located across the globe, these predators change from region to region.
Some of the most common predators of rabbits include weasels, rats, and snakes, who are only too happy to make their way into a burrow and eat everything they find. Baby rabbits are particularly vulnerable to burrow invading predators.