We have long been attracted to rabbits because of their silky fur and cute hopping pace. However, there is a dark and perplexing side to rabbit behaviour of killing its babies raises some troubling and disturbing questions about rabbit behaviour and can make us reconsider our beliefs about their maternal instincts. So, the question is, why do rabbits kill their babies? Is it normal? How can we prevent this? Let’s find all of these in this article.
Rabbits can kill their babies due to stress, lack of maternal instincts, territorial behaviour, poor nutrition or health issues. To prevent it, provide a safe environment, monitor the mother’s behaviour, separate if necessary, ensure proper nutrition and care, and consider understanding their needs.
This article will briefly discuss why rabbits kill their offspring and how we can prevent it by taking essential measures and many more. So, let’s get into it.
- 1 Why do some rabbits eat their babies?
- 2 Is it normal behaviour for rabbits to kill their babies?
- 3 Can stress trigger rabbits to harm their offspring?
- 4 How to prevent rabbits from killing their young?
- 4.1 1) Provide a safe and secure environment:
- 4.2 2) Provide proper nutrition:
- 4.3 3) Monitor them during and after pregnancy:
- 4.4 4) Socialize and show affection:
- 4.5 5) Avoid breeding younger rabbits:
- 4.6 6) Keep them calm during pregnancy:
- 4.7 7) Supervise your rabbit’s behaviour and separate them if necessary:
- 5 Conclusion:
Why do some rabbits eat their babies?
Rabbits are known for being able to reproduce and have many babies.
However, sometimes they may kill their offspring, which is called infanticidal behaviour.
Although rabbits are pure herbivores, they could kill their babies in their first litter at a very young age or due to a confused and terrified situation.
It may seem strange and can be distressing for pet owners or breeders who witness this behaviour, but there are reasons why rabbits do this.
The term stillborn means that a newly born animal is either born dead or passes away shortly after birth.
In the case of rabbits, if a baby is stillborn, it can lead to the mother rabbit killing its offspring.
The mother rabbit can tell if the baby is not alive or weak, and it may decide it is not worth investing resources into, so it will reject or kill it.
2) Lack of maternal instincts:
Some rabbits do not have strong instincts to care for their young ones, which causes aggression towards their babies and may neglect them.
In addition, lack of experience, environmental factors, and territorial behaviour are some factors that affect mother rabbits to kill its offsprings.
Also, if a rabbit gives birth at a young age or may have a genetic trait that makes it less nurturing to feed, it may not have the proper experience to care for and feed its babies, resulting in neglect and aggression.
When a mother rabbit is stressed, it can lead to them becoming aggressive or neglectful towards its young.
In addition, stress can trigger the rabbit’s natural fight or flight response, which can cause harmful behaviour towards its offspring.
A stressed mother rabbit lives in a small, overcrowded cage with noise and chaos and feels trapped and exposed.
When faced with stressful situations, mother rabbits may show aggression towards their young to protect themselves.
Also, stress may cause them to neglect their offspring as they focus solely on survival.
A mother rabbit needs a peaceful environment to care for its young ones and reduce stress.
In addition, each rabbit has unique needs, so providing plenty of resources and a peaceful atmosphere is essential.
To help a stressed rabbit, consult with a vet or experienced breeder.
Keep your rabbit busy with toys and activities to reduce stress and promote good behaviour.
4) Poor nutrition:
A rabbit’s diet plays a crucial role in preventing infanticide.
For optimal health, rabbits need a diet rich in fibre, low in fat and include fresh hay, vegetables, and water.
If a mother rabbit does not receive adequate nutrition, it may struggle to produce enough milk for its young or become malnourished and unable to care for its offspring effectively.
A mother rabbit lacking food or calcium may struggle to care for their young, becoming weak, lethargic, irritable, and even aggressive.
Calcium deficiency can also cause muscle weakness and tremors, leading to accidental harm to its offspring.
A lack of proper nutrition in mother rabbits can increase their likelihood of killing their offspring.
To prevent this, provide them with a well-balanced diet, including fresh hay, vegetables, and pellets.
5) Confusion with the placenta:
After giving birth, rabbits usually consume the placenta and afterbirth to regain vital nutrients and eliminate any traces of the newborns from the surroundings.
However, a mother rabbit may sometimes unintentionally consume one of its newborns, as they confuse it for the afterbirth.
Rabbits may behave erratically during delivery due to fatigue, inadequate lighting, disorientation, pain, or discomfort.
Additionally, this can lead to accidental harm to offspring.
A mother rabbit giving birth in a poorly lit or unclean environment can make it hard for them to see their newborns clearly, and it might mix up the afterbirth with its actual babies.
Also, if they are in pain or distress during delivery, they could unintentionally hurt their young.
When rabbits give birth, their owners must create a peaceful and well-lit space for them.
Additionally, keeping a close eye on the mother rabbit’s behaviour is crucial to ensure they taking good care of their babies.
If a rabbit unintentionally harms its young, it is crucial to seek veterinary care to treat injuries and avoid infection promptly.
Also read: Do Rabbits Have Nipples?
If a rabbit is unwell, it might lack the energy or desire to care for its offspring and may exhibit hostility towards them.
It could pose a significant issue if the ailment is contagious since it can rapidly spread to the entire litter, putting their lives in danger.
In addition, if a mother rabbit has a respiratory infection, it may have difficulty feeding its young, resulting in malnourishment and weakness in the litter.
On the other hand, if the mother rabbit has a parasitic infection like coccidiosis, it may become uncomfortable and irritated, leading to aggression towards its young.
As a responsible rabbit owner, be alert for signs of illness like lethargy, loss of appetite, or behaviour changes.
If your rabbit is sick and you can’t provide care, consider hand-feeding or giving the litter to another female rabbit.
In severe cases, putting down the babies may be necessary to avoid further suffering. Seek veterinary care if needed.
7) Avoid predators:
Rabbits face constant danger from wild predators like foxes, hawks, and coyotes.
Mother rabbits have developed different survival tactics to safeguard their offspring, such as concealing their young in burrows or nests and not leaving traces of their presence.
Sometimes mother rabbits may kill their young if they perceive them to be in danger, which can help ensure survival.
A mother rabbit may eliminate its offspring if a predator is nearby and they are at risk.
To reduce the risk of attracting predators, mother rabbits remove the scent and movement of their young.
Domestic rabbits instinctively protect their young, even when there is no real danger of predation.
This behaviour can be observed when the mother rabbit senses a threat from animals like dogs or cats and may become aggressive to keep its young safe.
Sometimes a mother rabbit may accidentally harm its young, but deliberate harm is a natural survival mechanism, not neglect or cruelty.
Rabbits have evolved a strong instinct to protect their offspring from predators, which is essential for survival. We should appreciate and understand this behaviour.
Also read: Are Rabbits Aggressive?
8) Territorial behaviour:
Rabbits are territorial and may attack their offspring if they feel threatened.
A mother rabbit in a small enclosure may feel threatened by its growing young ones.
Rabbits may get aggressive to protect their territory, food, water, or young.
Other animals nearby can impact a mother rabbit’s territorial instincts.
They may become more defensive of their young and aggressive towards potential threats.
Rabbits need enough space and resources to avoid territorial feelings.
Seek advice if a mother rabbit shows harmful behaviour towards its young.
Also read: Do Male Rabbits Spray After Neutering?
9) The instinct to avoid its predators:
Rabbits are prey animals and face many predators, such as foxes, cats, wolves etc.
In addition, they have natural actions to protect themselves and their babies.
And to safeguard their offspring, they avoid leaving evidence that might lure predators and endanger the entire litter.
Sometimes, a mother rabbit might feel like its babies are in danger, like if there is a predator nearby or a strange smell.
In such cases, it might kill one or more of its babies, a defence mechanism that helps keep the other babies safe and alive.
Similarly, mother rabbits may relocate some of their young to a safer place if they sense a predator nearby, even if it means killing them.
Although it may cause distress to observe, this behaviour is a normal aspect of a rabbit’s reproductive instincts and survival tactics.
In addition, with appropriate care and attention, the surviving offspring can flourish and thrive.
Is it normal behaviour for rabbits to kill their babies?
It is not considered normal behaviour if your rabbit tries to kill its babies.
Although certain factors like stress, illness, or lack of maternal instinct can cause behaviour problems, it is essential to note that most rabbits will do their best to care for and safeguard their young.
In addition, mother rabbits are very caring and protective of their young.
They create a nest and spend a lot of time caring for them.
However, some rabbits may not have the ability or desire to care for their offspring, leading to potential neglect or aggression.
When a rabbit is stressed or sick, it may be unable to care for its young properly.
It may also become aggressive due to pain or discomfort.
Similarly, if a rabbit is inexperienced or has a genetic predisposition towards aggression, it may have difficulty properly caring for its offspring.
In some cases, a mother rabbit may accidentally hurt its babies while taking care of them by stepping on them or biting them too hard.
It could usually not be on purpose and may indicate that it needs assistance or guidance in caring for its offspring.
Also read: How To Identify Male And Female Rabbits?
Can stress trigger rabbits to harm their offspring?
Stress can lead to the harming of offspring by rabbits in certain situations.
If a rabbit is stressed, it can cause changes in its behaviour and mood, which may affect how it interacts with its young.
Rabbits are delicate creatures that can become easily stressed by alterations in their surroundings, daily routine, or social interactions.
Confined spaces, loud noises, and bright lights can cause anxiety and aggression in rabbits, leading to neglect or territorial behaviour towards offspring.
Similarly, new scents or objects can also result in defensive or frightened behaviour towards the young ones.
If a rabbit is sick or hungry, it may become stressed and neglect its young, causing it to spend less time with them or become aggressive, especially if it is in pain or discomfort.
Also read: Should I Neuter Or Spay My Rabbit?
How to prevent rabbits from killing their young?
Rabbits are adorable and affectionate pets that can bring happiness and companionship for a long time.
However, pet owners should be aware that rabbits can exhibit aggression towards their young in certain situations, which may be concerning.
As prey animals, rabbits have a natural drive to defend themselves and their offspring from potential predators.
In addition, it can sometimes result in aggressive behaviour towards their young, particularly when they feel threatened or stressed.
However, here are some ways to prevent rabbits from harming or killing their young.
1) Provide a safe and secure environment:
Rabbits are constantly on guard for predators and defend themselves and their babies if they feel threatened.
Creating a safe, secure environment for your rabbits begins with their living space.
Keeping rabbits in a safe and secure enclosure, like a hutch or cage, is vital, free from distractions or threats.
In addition, this means protecting them from predators like cats, dogs, or wild animals and avoiding placing their living space in a high-traffic area.
Their living space must be clean, well-maintained and provide regular access to fresh bedding, food, and water to ensure rabbits are healthy and happy.
Overcrowding should be avoided to prevent stress and aggressive behaviour, while much space for exercise and play can promote good behaviour and reduce stress.
2) Provide proper nutrition:
A balanced diet is crucial for rabbits’ overall health and wellness, especially for pregnant ones.
When rabbits are pregnant, they require more nutrients to stay healthy and ensure the safety of their offspring.
In addition, it’s essential to ensure they’re getting the right amount of nutrition to avoid harm to the mother rabbit and its babies.
Ensuring proper nutrition during pregnancy is crucial, and increasing the protein content in the diet of rabbits is an important step to achieve this.
Protein is essential for rabbits to grow, stay healthy, and boost their immune system.
In addition, pregnant rabbits need more protein to support their offspring’s growth and development.
Feed your pregnant rabbit a balanced fresh hay, veggies, and water diet.
Choose high-quality hay like timothy orchard grass and nutrient-rich veggies like kale, spinach, and carrots.
We recommend oxbow timothy and orchard hay for your pregnant rabbit as they provide beneficial high-quality nutrients required in its diet, which you can find on amazon.
- All Oxbow hay growers are trained in the production of premium hay
- 100% ALL-NATURAL HAY – no additives or binders
- TWO POPULAR HAY VARIETIES IN ONE - Western Timothy & Orchard Grass
- Recommended by leading veterinarians worldw
Avoid sugary or carb-heavy foods to prevent digestive issues and obesity.
3) Monitor them during and after pregnancy:
Monitoring the mother rabbit’s behaviour before and after pregnancy is crucial to safeguard their offspring from harm or death.
After delivering their offspring, rabbits naturally consume the placenta and afterbirth.
However, this behaviour can create confusion and result in the mother rabbit accidentally consuming their offspring.
Observing a mother rabbit’s behaviour towards its babies can help detect potential problems early on.
If the mother appears aggressive, separation or extra protection may be necessary.
Otherwise, it will be attentive and caring towards its young, nursing and keeping them warm.
4) Socialize and show affection:
Socialize and show affection to your rabbit to prevent negative behaviour towards their young.
Socializing your rabbit positively and controlling it is essential for reducing fear and anxiety and building confidence.
In addition, showing affection to your rabbit is essential for their well-being.
Spend time with them, pet them gently, and speak to them calmly to create a bond of trust and love.
Showing love to your rabbit can lower stress, improve maternal behaviour, and reduce aggression.
Creating a secure and comfortable environment for your rabbit can help them feel loved and enhance their ability to care for their young in a positive and nurturing way.
However, every rabbit is unique. So, when you spend time with your rabbit, think about their needs and likes for being social and getting affection.
5) Avoid breeding younger rabbits:
Breeding fewer than six months old rabbits can be dangerous for the mother and its offspring.
Breeding young rabbits can cause complications during pregnancy and delivery.
In addition, your young rabbit may not be ready for the demands of caring for their young.
Breeding young rabbits may cause them to lack the proper instincts and behaviours to be good mothers.
Your rabbit may not know how to care for and protect their young, harming the offspring’s survival and well-being.
Allowing rabbits to reach a minimum age of six months before considering breeding gives them time to mature physically, mentally, and emotionally.
By waiting until this stage, you can ensure that the mother rabbit is more likely to have the capacity to provide appropriate care for its young.
6) Keep them calm during pregnancy:
Keeping your rabbit calm before, during, and after pregnancy is essential for their well-being and babies.
They are sensitive animals that can quickly become anxious or stressed, affecting their behaviour and maternal instincts.
You should provide a calm environment so they can feel secure, become less aggressive, and not act up to their offspring.
Before pregnancy, providing a quiet, secure and stress-free atmosphere for your rabbit is essential.
Avoid excessive handling or disturbances during pregnancy, which can increase stress levels.
In addition, your rabbit can be stressed out due to sudden movements or loud noises.
You should keep your rabbit in a calm, cosy and private nesting place where your rabbit can retreat and prepare for the birth of its young.
And after the birth of the young, you should avoid handling the babies or frequent disturbances around your rabbit’s nest.
By keeping your rabbit calm before, during, and after pregnancy, you are promoting a positive environment that allows the mother to exhibit its natural mother instincts and ensures the well-being of its offspring.
7) Supervise your rabbit’s behaviour and separate them if necessary:
Monitoring your rabbit’s behaviour after giving birth is essential, and if necessary, separating it from its babies is also an important step to prevent them from harming its young ones.
You should monitor how your rabbit interacts and watch for any indications of aggressiveness, neglect, or stress.
Biting, scratching, or pursuing the young are examples of aggressive behaviour.
Neglect may be apparent if the mother fails to milk, groom, or warm their children.
Extraordinary pacing, agitation, or vocalizations may be signs of stress.
If you find these behaviours, separating your rabbit from its babies is best to prevent harm.
Separating the mother and the young can prevent potential injury or aggressiveness, and the child can get alternate care or intervention if necessary.
Additionally, it makes it possible to keep a closer eye on the mother and the baby to ensure their particular needs are addressed.
It is crucial to remember that removing the mother from the young should only be carried out in extreme cases and under the supervision of a veterinarian or skilled rabbit breeder.
Also read: How To Tell If A Rabbit Is Pregnant?
- Rabbit infanticide is a complex behaviour influenced by stress, hormones, and survival instincts.
- Understanding why rabbits engage in this behaviour helps create a safe environment for both mother and young.
- Prevention involves providing a secure living space, monitoring the mother’s behaviour, and separating if needed.
- Proper nutrition, including more protein for pregnant rabbits, reduces stress and promotes healthier development.
- Understanding rabbits’ behaviours and instincts can improve care and nurture a positive relationship between mothers and their offspring.