My son was so excited when we found out that our bun was pregnant; we counted down the days until she had her first litter.
I am sure you can imagine our confusion when 4 days later, she kindled another 5 bunnies.
It turns out that our doe had experienced a double pregnancy and that this is a common occurrence in rabbits.
Can Rabbits Give Birth Days Apart?
Yes, there is a possibility that your rabbit can give birth just days apart.
Rabbits have a unique ability to carry two litters at once, which results in the doe kindling two different litters just days apart.
Double pregnancies can be dangerous as the kits from the second pregnancy can be born prematurely. It’s also possible for rabbits to kindle one large litter over 2 or 3 days.
Rabbits Are Induced Ovulators: What Does This Mean?
A female rabbit is an induced ovulator, and they do not have a menstrual cycle like other female mammals. Cats, ferrets, and camels are also induced ovulators.
A doe does not ovulate on a regular cycle like other female mammals such as dogs. Rabbits can also ovulate spontaneously.
Instead, a doe will ovulate after (or during) copulation or due to outside stimuli such as:
- Visual stimuli
- Genital stimulation
- Auditory stimuli
How Many Litters Can a Rabbit Have in a Year?
Rabbits are prolific breeders (they produce many babies) and can kindle up to a maximum of 12 litters a year, but the average amount of litters is between 3 and 4 litters a year to give the doe a chance to rest between pregnancies and ensure healthy kits.
This high number of litters is possible because rabbits can start breeding from the age of about 3 months old and have a short gestation period of 25 to 28 days.
A rabbit can have between 5 and 12 kits per litter, and the doe can fall pregnant very soon after giving birth and sometimes even while pregnant (double pregnancy).
Factors Influencing the Litter Size
Let’s take a closer look at some of the factors that influence the number of litters a rabbit can kindle in a year:
The Health of the Doe
Healthy rabbits can breed continuously throughout the year; however, if the doe is ill, her fertility will decrease and she will have fewer babies.
If the doe is malnourished, this will have the same negative effect.
Each rabbit is different and matures at a different age (some are ready for breeding at 3 months and others are only ready at 6 months old).
A rabbit that matures earlier will have more rabbits in a year than another rabbit.
Mature Buck Rabbit
A healthy, mature buck will need to be introduced to the doe for breeding to occur successfully.
Without a mature buck, breeding can’t occur, which means no litter.
Dual Pregnancies – Separate Conceptions
If you are breeding rabbits, it’s crucial to keep the doe and the buck apart when the doe is already successfully pregnant.
If the two are kept in the same enclosure, there is a very high chance that the buck will mount the doe again and impregnate her.
The doe will then fall pregnant a second time from a separate conception. A doe can carry two separate litters at the same time.
Unfortunately, a double pregnancy can be hard on the doe’s body, as she now has to produce more milk (she will need more food and nutrients) for the bigger and unexpected litter.
Double pregnancies should be avoided, and the doe and buck should be separated through a physical barrier during the gestation period.
Allow the buck to be able to nuzzle the doe through the barrier, as a complete separation can cause unnecessary stress and depression for them both.
Signs That a Rabbit Is Pregnant
If a rabbit is pregnant, you will notice subtle changes in her eating habits and behavior.
Let’s take a closer look at some of these signs:
Sign 1: Aggressive Behavior
When a doe is pregnant, her mood can suddenly change; she may growl at you or even attempt to nip you.
This is normal, as plenty of hormones are rushing through her body.
If you have other rabbits in the enclosure, you may notice that she becomes aggressive toward them too.
Sign 2: Pulling out Fur
An obvious sign that a doe is pregnant is when she begins nesting with materials that are in her enclosure.
She may even start pulling out her fur to use as nesting for her kits.
When this starts happening, you can assume that kindling will begin in a couple of days.
Sign 3: Feeling the Babies
If you suspect a doe is pregnant, a sure way to check is to stroke her belly gently at around 10 days.
You should be able to feel pea-sized lumps – this would be the unborn kits.
Be gentle when doing this, and you should avoid stroking her belly after 2 weeks.
The Rabbit Birthing Process (Kindling)
Rabbits prefer to give birth in the early hours of the morning as they feel safer, and it’s quieter.
The average kindling process can take about 30 minutes but can also take longer (12 hours to 2 or 3 days).
Once the kits are born, the doe will lick them clean, and she will eat the placenta and chew through the umbilical cord.
Domestic rabbits may need help with severing the umbilical cord. Some rabbits will eat the afterbirth over 5 days for extra nutrition.
Why Does Rabbit Labor Last for Days?
On average, rabbit labor can take about 12 hours, but the labor can carry over to 2-3 days depending on various factors.
Here are a few factors that can lead to an extended kindling process:
Size of the Litter
If a rabbit is pregnant with a large litter (more than 5 kits), it can take her longer to kindle the litter, as a big litter puts more strain on the doe’s body.
As long as she is comfortable and the babies are kept warm while she is kindling the other kits, everything should be fine. A big litter is typical of rabbits.
Some does have weaker genetics that makes them prone to longer pregnancies; this results in the birthing process being slower due to their genetics and body shape.
Complications During Birth
A doe can become anxious over the safety of her babies (especially wild rabbits with the risk of predators).
She could begin panicking, which will drastically slow down the birth process, as she will start clamping instead of pushing.
This is very rare in domesticated rabbits, as they generally feel safe in their living environments.
False Pregnancy in Rabbits (Pseudo-Pregnancy)
Rabbits can experience false pregnancies, also known as ‘phantom pregnancies’ (pseudo-pregnancy), once they reach sexual maturity.
This phenomenon can occur quite regularly in the beginning and occurs when there is ovulation and unsuccessful fertilization of the egg.
False pregnancies mimic the symptoms and signs of pregnancy.
Unlike a true pregnancy with a gestation period of 25 to 28 days, a phantom pregnancy will last for about 16 to 18 days.
A male rabbit may also react to the doe and start nesting.
Here is a list of some causes of phantom pregnancies in rabbits:
- Poor nutrition
- Sexual stimulation
- When another doe mounts a doe
- When a sterile buck mounts a doe
- Injected with a luteinizing hormone (helps the reproductive system)
Some FAQs about Rabbit Giving Birth
Can a rabbit get pregnant in one day?
A rabbit can get pregnant in one day, as a doe can become pregnant 24 hours after she has kindled a litter.
When can you separate rabbit siblings?
Rabbit siblings should not be separated from each other until they are about 8 weeks old.
How long do you leave rabbits together to breed?
If you want rabbits to mate, you should leave the pair together for about half an hour, as they might fight.
This will need to be done about 2 to 3 times for successful fertilization.
Final Rabbit Birthing Over a Few Days Thoughts
Rabbit birth differs from one rabbit to another; it’s essential to keep the doe calm and well-nourished during pregnancy and the kindling process, as you ideally don’t want any complications.
Try to keep a record of when a doe has her litter and when she is pregnant; this will help avoid double pregnancies and false pregnancies, both of which can cause unnecessary anxiety and stress for a doe.
Another way to keep your rabbits happy is to make sure the buck and doe can see and nuzzle one another during the gestation period to avoid depression, leading to complications during the kindling process.
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