How many babies are in a rabbit litter? How many babies can a mother rabbit have? In this article we’re going to review all the important breeding habits of rabbits.
Rabbits are renowned for their prolific breeding habits and their adorable babies, but much of their reproductive cycle is kept a secret. These semi nocturnal creatures are masters at keeping hidden, which makes them even more intriguing. Luckily, devoted rabbit caretakers have put much time and effort into understanding the lifecycle and nuances of rabbits and their adorable offspring.
Rabbits are much different from other mammals, as they are induced ovulators. This means that a female rabbit will release a fertile egg(s) to the reproductive tract and can become pregnant whenever she breeds with a male rabbit. This means that their reproductive cycle is not limited to seasons, heats, or habitats. A sexually mature female rabbit can get pregnant at any time, allowing her to have babies all year. It is even possible for a female rabbit to get pregnant mere minutes after giving birth.
Adult rabbits are most active at dusk and at night, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t out and about during the day. All of this activity gives rabbits plenty of opportunities to find a mate at any time of day, so just like rabbit mating doesn’t happen during a specific time of year, it also doesn’t happen at a specific time of day. Domesticated rabbits are even less concerned with when they mate, as they lack natural predators and do not fear humans as much.
How Long Are Rabbits Pregnant?
An adult female rabbit is only pregnant for 28 to 31 days, so about a month. This gestation period, the duration of an animal’s pregnancy, is relatively short. When you combine this short gestation time with a rabbit’s ability to get pregnant again shortly after it gives birth, it becomes possible for a female rabbit to have a litter of baby rabbits monthly. This prolific breeding pattern can become problematic at times where resources are sparse, natural predators are minimized, or space is limited.
Rabbits give birth to numerous young at once, and those young are called kits or kittens, much like with cats. So how many babies can a rabbit have? A rabbit’s litter can have anywhere from 1 to 14 babies. Many people consider 6 kits to be average, but this is dependant on the exact species of rabbit, its age, resources, and a number of other variables. If you do out the math for the number of rabbits a single mother rabbit can result in if she breeds every month from 6 months to seven years old, and yields a litter of six kits with half male and half female, it results in 184,597,433,860 rabbits!
Rabbits have babies year-round. Considering that rabbits exist in a variety of climates, this may seem counterintuitive. Having a litter of hairless and helpless kits in the winter may not be best for the kits, but without any limiting reproductive seasons, there is technically nothing stopping this from happening. The harsh conditions may cause rabbits to cross paths less and therefore breed less in the winter, but good nest-building skills allow rabbits to maintain litters of kits even when it is cold out.
Since they are mammals, rabbits give birth to live young. A mother rabbit usually creates a warm nest of fur on the ground or under some form of cover during her pregnancy, and she gives birth to her young in this nest. Many mammals feed their young milk immediately after they are born, but that is not always the case with rabbits. The mother may give birth, get her young situated, and then leave the nest in search of food.
Mother rabbits are hardly ever at the nest as they would be more likely to attract predators than their unassuming nest is. During the day the mother rabbit forages and she most commonly returns to her nest at night to provide her young with milk and clean them. Kits normally only suckle once daily for around 10 minutes. This milk meal is so rich that it lasts them another 24 hours, and it also makes it possible for a mother rabbit to stay away from her nest longer.
Baby rabbits will stay with their mother for four to five weeks. They are born without fur but develop a full coat and grow an impressive amount over the course of a single week. By ten days old they open their eyes and begin to make use of their other senses, but they are still fully dependant on their mother. In another week or two, kits are weaned off of their mother’s milk and have the ability to leave the nest and explore. They will explore more and more as they grow but they will always return to the nest at night. At around four to five weeks of age, baby rabbits begin to set off on their own and leave the nest for good.
While young rabbits are normally capable of living on their own after five weeks old, they may not be considered fully mature. These rabbits still need to grow and they are not capable of reproducing yet. Sexual maturity in rabbits normally happens for females at around six months of age, but there is always a chance it can happen sooner, especially if they are housed or in close proximity to mature males.
- Mother rabbits rarely abandon their nests unless they are an inexperienced mother with their first litter. Despite the old tales, rabbits do not simply abandon their young because the nest has been touched by humans or other animals.
- Some species of rabbits nurse much longer, like jackrabbits who can nurse for up to 9 weeks and have a longer developmental cycle overall.
- Mother rabbits are masters of stealth. You will rarely see a mother rabbit at her nest or caring for her young, as they normally do so in the middle of the night and keep their visits brief. Some domestic rabbit breeders don’t even see their pet rabbits nurse their young.
- If you ever see a lone baby rabbit or a torn-up nest, assess the situation for blood, neglect, or bodily harm without touching the young if possible. If any of these aspects are apparent, call a wildlife rehabilitation center and they will guide you through what to do next.