When your bunny is pregnant and expecting babies it’s an exciting and scary time. It’s also a confusing time that leaves you with lots of questions about rabbit pregnancy. We’ve had rabbits in our family for decades and have had countless litters of bunnies. In this article, I’m going to answer the most common questions about your pregnant bunny.
How Long Are Rabbits Pregnant – Rabbit Gestation Period
The gestation period is the time between when your rabbit mated and when she gives birth which is called kindling. A rabbit’s pregnancy, and gestation period, last for 28 to 32 days, with the average being 30 days. [Source]
If you’d like a better feel for the development of a rabbit’s embryo, check out this image from the 1905 publication “Normal Plates of the Development of Vertebrates Vol. 5.” by Charles S. Minot and Edwing Taylor. The numbers on the images indicate the number of days into the rabbit’s pregnancy.
A female rabbit, known as a doe, can get pregnant when she is sexually mature, sexually intact (hasn’t been fixed), and has mated with a sexually mature and intact male rabbit, known as a buck.
Female bunnies reach sexual maturity before male rabbits and smaller breeds of rabbits reach sexual maturity before larger breeds. [Source]
Rabbit Breeding Age
Small or dwarf breed female rabbits can reach sexual maturity as young as 3 months old, while larger breeds of rabbits take longer to reach sexual maturity. Medium-sized female rabbit breeds can reach sexual maturity as early as 4 months, and giant-sized breeds as early as 5 months. Male rabbits reach sexual maturity a few months after females of the same size and age. [Source]
Keep in mind that the ages listed above are the earliest seen bunnies reach sexual maturity, not the average.
Table Of Average Sexual Maturity Of Female Rabbits (Does) By Size
|Rabbit Breed Size||Earliest Sexual Maturity||Average Sexuality Maturity|
|Small or Dwarf Bunny||3 Months||4 to 5 Months|
|Medium Sized Rabbit||4 Months||5 to 6 Months|
|Giant Sized Rabbit||5 Months||6 to 8 Months|
As noted above, male rabbits take longer to reach sexuality maturity.
Table Of Average Sexual Maturity Of Male Rabbits (Bucks) By Size
|Rabbit Breed Size||Earliest Sexual Maturity||Average Sexuality Maturity|
|Small or Dwarf Bunny||4 Months||6 to 7 Months|
|Medium Sized Rabbit||5 Months||7 to 8 Months|
|Giant Sized Rabbit||6 Months||8 to 10 Months|
You should keep these ages in mind so that you can avoid interaction between breeding mature female and male rabbits that haven’t yet be fixed. I’m linking another article I wrote in case you’d like to know more about the cost of getting a rabbit spayed or neutered.
If you let your mature male and female rabbits interact, you can have a lot of rabbits really fast.
Assuming your female rabbit is old enough to get pregnant and has interacted with an unfixed male who is also sexually mature, it’s time to start looking for the signs of rabbit pregnancy.
14 Signs That Your Rabbit Is Pregnant
Let’s start with the earliest signs that you might see when your rabbit is pregnant and work our way to the last signs you’ll see before it’s actually time for your rabbit to give birth to her bunnies.
1. Female Rabbit Becomes Cranky
Around day 10 of pregnancy, your bunny is going to start getting a little more cranky. She’s not going to want to be petted, and if there are other rabbits or other pets around that she used to cuddle with she’s going to start pushing them away.
A pregnant doe needs her space, and she will get her space even if she has to be aggressive to do so.
At this point, most expectant rabbits will not want to be held, even if they loved it just a few weeks ago.
If your bunny is getting cranky, it’s a good sign she’s pregnant.
2. Weigh Your Rabbit
Rabbits don’t gain as much weight as humans when they are pregnant; probably because they are not pregnant for nearly as long. But they do gain a little weight.
This isn’t the most accurate sign of pregnancy as we’re talking about ounces of weight gain over the course of your bunny’s pregnancy.
3. Changings In Eating Habits
During pregnancy, you should continue a healthy diet that focuses on high-quality hay and limited high quality pellets. While rabbits should always have unlimited access to hay, it’s even more essential during pregnancy.
In addition, you might want to increase their daily serving of pellets to ensure they have all the essential nutrition during gestation to raise healthy bunnies.
4. Bunny Starts Sleeping On Side
The most common sleeping position for a bunny is the loaf position where they sleep on their tummy with legs tucked under their body, thus resembling a loaf of bread.
However, when your bunny is pregnant, laying on their tummy often becomes uncomfortable so they switch to a side-sleeping position. While some bunnies naturally sleep on their side all the time, but if your rabbit doesn’t normally sleep like this then it could be a sign of pregnancy.
5. You Can Feel The Baby Bunnies
Feeling for babies in your rabbit’s belly is called palpating your rabbit and it is one of the most accurate early ways to confirm that your rabbit is pregnant. You can usually feel baby bunnies in the doe’s belly at about weeks from conception. Experienced rabbit breeders can palpate for babies at 10 days. [Source]
Learning to palpate your rabbit in a manner that is safe for your bunny, her babies, and still effective takes some time. Once you figure it out, it’s super easy to do.
As you are learning how to palpate rabbits, if you don’t feel babies at 10 days, be sure to try again at 13 days and finally at 17 days. As you get better at palpating your rabbit, you’ll be able to find the babies earlier and earlier.
Steps To Palpate Your Rabbit
- Practice on a non-pregnant rabbit so you know what a normal rabbit feels like.
- Start with your rabbit’s head facing you.
- Calm your rabbit and use one hand to hold their head down.
- Place the other hand under their belly, and cup their midsection.
- Use your thumb and finger to feel for small grape-sized lumps which are the babies.
6. Ask Your Veterinarian To Perform An Ultrasound
Your veterinarian can use an ultrasound machine to detect rabbit pregnancy as early as 7 days, though most veterinarians prefer to wait for at least 12 days and up to 16 days before performing an ultrasound.
An abdominal ultrasound to detect pregnancy in a rabbit costs $400 on average. The machine is high tech and expensive, and it takes more of your veterinarian’s time than a simple hand examination.
Personally, I would not pay for an ultrasound, but do what’s right for you.
7. Have Your Veterinarian Palpate Your Rabbit
At about 13 days into her pregnancy, your veterinarian can easily confirm your rabbit’s pregnancy by feeling for the babies, called palpating. This is a simple and safe procedure that you can learn on your own, but your veterinarian will have lots of experience with the procedure.
As a side benefit, your vet will probably even teach you how to palpate your bunny as part of the office call.
8. Rounded Belly
As the babies grow in your rabbit, you will begin to see a more rounded belly.
A pregnant belly usually becomes obvious around 20 days into the pregnancy, though if your rabbit has long hair or started her pregnancy a little chubby, then it’s much harder to see this sign of bunny pregnancy.
9. You Can Feel Or See The Bunnies Kicking
About 25 days into your rabbit’s pregnancy, your doe’s babies are going to be big enough that you’ll easily be able to feel them moving around and kicking by gently laying your hand on your rabbit’s tummy.
Do be careful when feeling the bunnies, as the doe might not want to be handled and the babies are more fragile now then they were when your were feeling for them between 10 and 16 days into the pregnancy.
Likewise, if your rabbit isn’t a long-haired variety like French Angora, you can probably even see the bunnies moving and kicking as the mama rabbit relaxes on her side.
10. Early Nesting Behavior
All mother rabbits start building their birthing nest at different times. Some at the last second, and others a few days before.
However, many expecting rabbit mums will start exhibiting early nesting behavior days to weeks before they are actually ready to kindle (give birth).
Early nesting behavior includes gathering hay and/or straw into a corner and starting be build a deeper nest than they normally sleep on. Early nesting behavior does not include adding lots of fur that that nest.
Early nesting behavior is a sign that your rabbit is pregnant.
11. Disinterest From Male Rabbit
Male rabbits always like female rabbits (after all, they do breed like rabbits). However, as a female rabbit approaches the end of her gestation period, any male rabbits around will lose interest in her.
Hopefully, by now you have already separated your female and male rabbits, but if not it is essential that you do so today.
12. Weight Gain
Rabbits normally gain very little weight during a pregnancy. If you weighted them on day one and then again just before birth, the difference would be mere ounces.
If it’s going to be noticeable, it’s going to be only towards the end of your bunny’s pregnancy though I wouldn’t count to strongly on this sign that your bunny is expecting babies.
13. Fur Pulling & True Nesting
Starting up to two days before giving birth, your rabbit is going to be flooded with a hormone that prepares her to give birth. This hormone will drive her to build a true kindling nest complete with her own fur to keep her babies warm and snug.
Fortunately, the hormone not only drives her to pull her own hair out, but it loosens the hair on her belly and haunches. This makes it easy for her to remove a lot of fur to make a great nest for her babies.
Hair pulling and nest building is the great sign of bunny pregnancy, and the last sign before birthing begins.
The final sign that your rabbit just might be pregnant is when she actually starts giving birth (called kindling). If you don’t know for sure by now…
What Time Of Day Do Rabbits Give Birth?
The physical act of giving birth is called parturition and for most rabbits birth usually takes place in the morning and lasts less than 30 minutes. When the entire litter has been born, the doe pulls more fur from her body to cover the litter in its nest. [Source]
Pregnant Rabbit Signs Of Labor
The most obvious sign that your rabbit is going into labor is building a nest complete with her own fur. This normally happens one to two days before birth. As actual labor begins, your rabbit will spend more time in her nest, and usually be facing the back of the nest which is unusual for most rabbits.
It is very important that you do not mess with your rabbit while she’s in labor. Even if she’s normally sweet, during this time she can be aggressive and even bite. Just give her space.
Your Rabbit Friend,
Other Rabbit Pregnancy Expert Resources
University of Illinois – BUNNY BASICS: PROPER RABBIT HUSBANDRY
PE Department of Ag – 4-H Rabbit Manual – Page 31