Remember why the Easter festival is celebrated? To celebrate the return of Jesus from the dead. So why is such an event represented with bunnies and eggs? Haven’t you ever thought about it? It is because both the rabbits and the eggs are symbols of rebirth.
Rabbits get pregnant quickly and can reproduce almost the entire year. An amazing fact about female rabbits is that they can give birth to a baby rabbit while being pregnant with another baby. So, let’s get some more information about when a rabbit becomes sexually mature? How long do they remain pregnant? How many babies do they conceive at a time? and what to do if you don’t want the pet rabbit to reproduce?
At What Age Do Rabbits Become Sexually Mature?
Different rabbit breeds become sexually mature at different ages. Smaller breeds become mature at a young age of about 3 to 4 months, whereas larger breeds show sexual maturity at 5 to 6 months of age. Giant breeds can take even longer, about 7 months of age. Though small breeds are able to reproduce at 12 weeks of age, the first mating should be at least at 20 weeks of age.
Another fact is that male rabbits become mature earlier than female rabbits. Being sexually mature means reaching the proper age when the male rabbit can deliver his sperm to the female rabbit and she is ready to conceive a baby.
When a rabbit hits puberty, it shows many signs. It includes peeing and dropping his fecal matter around the house. Well, it is their way of marking territory. They suffer hormonal changes and become aggressive. They have mood swings that change in no time. They also start to mount you and other objects such as stuffed toys.
Do Rabbits Get Pregnant After Every Mating?
Yes, does can get pregnant after each time they mate with bucks. Female rabbits or does don’t release eggs monthly and get periods like humans. Neither exhibit estrus cycles like deer, cow, and dog. The does only produce an egg after mating with the breeding bucks. It means right after giving birth to baby rabbits; a doe can get pregnant by mating again with a buck.
How Long Is the Gestation Period?
Rabbits have a short gestation period and give birth after a month of getting pregnant. Commonly the pregnancy remains for 30 to 32 days. However, a period of 33 days is also considered a normal gestation period. It means a female rabbit can get pregnant 12 times a year.
What if a Rabbit Overdue Pregnancy?
Sometimes, a rabbit can overdue pregnancy. It means she can get late from the time she was supposed to give birth to the young rabbits. For example, you can wait for 34 days for a doe to deliver her babies, but something is not right if she has not given birth on the 35th day.
Don’t try to medicate her, as you can make the condition worse. Instead, take her to a vet immediately. Only he can examine what the problem is. It might be because the rabbit was unable to produce oxytocin. It is a hormone required and produced naturally in the rabbit body that aids labor contractions. The vet can offer an oxytocin dose to the rabbit to induce labor.
Another reason might be that vaginal delivery is not safe for either rabbits or litters. In this case, the cesarean section can also be carried out. It is the surgical method in which the babies are taken out of the doe’s body by cutting through the abdomen. Do remember on the 35th day of pregnancy; the litter might have died in the rabbit’s body.
It is highly possible that the rabbit was not pregnant at all. In this case, the doe might have shown all the signs of pregnancy, like lining the nest box with fur and marking the territory. As a result, you must have assumed that the rabbit was pregnant when in reality, it was not. This is called false pregnancy or pseudopregnancy.
Yes, you waited for all these days for nothing. If you wanted your rabbit to get pregnant and give birth to litter, rather than assuming on your own, confirming the pregnancy by a vet is way better.
Delivery of Baby Rabbits
After 30 days of pregnancy, the rabbit gives birth to the babies. The process of giving birth is called kindling. It takes 15 minutes. After the doe has given birth, place fresh hay and water in the hutch. Rabbit shows changes in its behavior, so it’s better to leave the rabbit and the litter alone. Don’t disturb the hutch; otherwise, the doe won’t feed its babies.
How Many Rabbits Are in a Litter?
Each rabbit gives birth to a litter, each having a different number of babies. It can produce a small litter with 2 to 3 babies or can produce larger litters having up to 12 rabbits. A rabbit can also conceive a single baby at a time. Right after giving birth, the rabbit is ready to conceive the next litter.
Baby rabbits are called kits. All the kits are born naked and blind with no hair at all. Slowly these small animals develop hair coats and become young. When the females are breeding, make sure the cage is large enough to accommodate the litter.
Superfoetation in Rabbits
Superfoetation refers to the condition in which an animal has two babies in its abdomen, both at a different developmental stage. One baby is also born, and the doe is still pregnant with the other baby.
Signs That a Rabbit Is Ready for Mating
Both males and females show signs when they are ready to mate with their partners. Do not show nervousness and restlessness. Instead, they rub their chins on the objects around. They continuously show signs that they want to meet other rabbits in their cage. Moreover, when females are ready to mate with males, their external genitalia becomes slightly swollen.
Usually, owners keep does and bucks in different cages. Bring the doe to the buck’s cage if you want them to mate. Doe’s cage is not welcomed for other rabbits as she is territorial. She starts fighting with other rabbits when they enter their cage.
Moreover, when one buck is kept in a strange cage, he starts inspecting the cage instead of mating. As a result, the male rabbit falls on his back after breeding the female rabbit. After they are done with the mating session, put the doe back in her cage.
Signs That a Rabbit Is Pregnant
If you have brought your rabbit from somewhere where she has been living with an intact male rabbit, there is a large probability of your rabbit becoming pregnant. Or, if you have a male and female bunny living together in a cage, it may be the time now to welcome a litter of cute young rabbits in your home.
For this, you must know if your rabbit is pregnant or not. Below are the few signs of your rabbit being pregnant, so you can make a mindset according to these:
Pulls Her Fur
The pulling of a rabbit’s fur is one sign that she is pregnant. Don’t worry! It should only cause her slight pain, and her skin does not appear to be red or inflamed. This is a natural maternal pattern of behavior that occurs at the end of the rabbit’s 31-day gestation period and is nothing to be concerned about. This symbol denotes that the kittens will be born soon.
When a doe is getting closer to having offspring, the hair on her flanks and belly loosens due to a hormonal reaction. This makes it easier for her to pull their hair out. As a result, her chest, abdomen, and flanks are all shaved in most cases. The doe uses this downy hair coat to line the nest for her babies. Because babies are born without hair, it provides soft and comfortable bedding as well as a layer of insulation for their protection.
Prepares a Nest for the Newborn Rabbits
Nesting is another sign of your doe being pregnant. This behavior is rarely seen in pets other than rabbits. The doe prepares a nest for her young ones just before the time to give birth. Their natural instinct guides them towards building a comfy place for their babies.
A doe builds a nest using hay, straws, or leaves and lines it afterward with her own hair. The wild rabbits dig burrows and then build nests in them. Nesting may also happen during false pregnancies. Well! If you have an expecting doe, make sure to keep a nest box for her where she can give birth to a litter without any concerns.
Marks Her Territory
Rabbits are territorial animals. Usually, a buck marks his territory when he wants to breed. On the other hand, a doe marking her territory is a clear sign of pregnancy. She needs a personal space where no other individual is allowed to enter so that she can complete his gestation in a calm environment.
A doe marks her territory either by pooping, peeing, or releasing specific secretions from the glands situated below her chin. The other rabbits will accept it as her territory after they smell these. In this way, she is trying to make others realize, “Hold On! This is my area!” You can make the work easy for her by providing a nest box for your pet.
Like humans, rabbits also suffer from sudden mood swings when pregnant. You will also be able to notice these when you are breeding rabbits. The doe becomes extremely aggressive in her pregnancy. She will be extremely angry if you want to pet her or stroke her out of affection. She may even growl back at you. She will not like it to be handled by someone.
A doe can even bite you when she is in a bad mood. She will show defensive behavior in an attempt to protect her territory. Although mood swings is not a clear-cut sign, you will be able to notice these along with other signs of pregnancy.
Increase in the Body Weight
Another sign of pregnancy that you can check by yourself is the doe’s weight. The doe gains a weight of 0.029 kg in her first week of pregnancy. When the second week is about to end, you will notice a weight gain of almost 0.057 kg. After the second week of pregnancy, there is only a negligible difference of weight which can’t be noticed as much. You can check this difference by weighing the rabbits before pregnancy and at regular intervals during breeding.
Effect of Environment on Rabbits Fertility
The prolific breeding rate in rabbits can be affected by the temperature. Mild weather conditions are best for reproducing. An increase in the temperature makes them sterile. A study conducted in 2015 shows that the bucks tend to become sterile in extremely hot weather. An increase in the outside temperature raises the body temperature that has a negative impact on the sperms.
Sperms lose their quality are not that motile, resulting in poor fertility. During the late summer and the early winter months cause them to stop breeding. When the mild season comes back again, they begin breeding. The heat seems to effect old bucks more readily, and they can remain sterile for 2 to 3 months.
Can Complications Occur During a Rabbit’s Pregnancy?
A doe can suffer complications during her pregnancy. A common problem is a dystocia. It is the condition in which the female is unable to deliver the litter outside her body even after reaching the due date. It might happen due to the enormous number of reasons. The doe might be obese. The kittens might be healthy and a bit large in size. The vaginal entry of the doe might be small in size. Hypocalcemia, i.e., low levels of calcium in the blood, can become the cause of dystocia.
Pregnancy toxemia, also called ketosis, is the second most common complication seen in these breeders. It occurs when a doe is not fulfilling its nutritional requirements from her diet. When the doe is breeding, she needs more energy and nutrients from food to keep the babies healthy and prepare for lactation. If she is not supplementing this demand, this condition can occur, whose symptoms include sluggishness, loss of appetite, and difficulty breathing. The condition can become severe if not treated timely. Prolonged toxemia can result in the death of the kits (abortion), seizures, or even the death of the doe.
I Don’t Want My Rabbits to Reproduce! What to Do?
When you keep the opposite sex of these breeders together, males can get females pregnant in no time. So if you want to avoid them from breeding, make them sterile. The process of making a female infertile is called spaying, while in males, the process is called neutering.
There are many benefits of these processes. Spaying can actually make the doe safe from uterine cancer. Similarly, neutering also reduces the risk of testicular cancer. After the rabbits have been spayed or neutered, don’t disturb them for the time being. They become aggressive, and their moods change from time to time.
Moreover, try to keep the buck separate from the doe; you can build two different cages for them to prevent mating.
Unlike most of the other animals, rabbits are always fertile; they can breed during the whole year. They become sexually mature during 3 to 6 months of their age. Rabbits can continue to breed for 4 years. They have a short gestation period of 31 to 32 days. The does can become pregnant again immediately after giving birth. A doe is always fertile because it is an induced ovulator; produces egg upon mating.