This might sound gruesome to some so this may not be for the faint-hearted. It is a fact, after all, that these fuzzy cuties have a dark side. This is ironic considering rabbits are in fact herbivores. What could be the reason behind rabbits who eat their babies?
Since they don’t have a natural motherly instinct, a young and new mother might decide to devour her litter. This is to avoid nursing them into adulthood. Some mothers would do this accidentally while they’re trying to eat the placenta after birth. This usually happens to inexperienced mothers who are giving birth for the first time. So, it would be best to watch over their babies when they get birth.
No, not all mother rabbits eat their babies but there have been some cases where this gut-wrenching has happened. But let’s not judge the motherhood of these fuzzy animals. We should ask why do rabbits eat their babies in the first place.
Why do rabbits eat their first babies?
First-time mothers, be it any species – even humans – all have fears towards motherhood. As they say, nothing prepared you to be a mother up until you give birth. Unfortunately, the rabbits don’t have a strong motherly instinct in their DNA. And can end up devouring, if not abandoning, their litters right after birth.
A rabbit may be able to birth 1-14 kits for her first litter. Usually, an average of 6 kits, which can be a daunting task for a young first-time mother. Brought by their inexperience on motherhood, some mother rabbits would feel anxious about taking care of their newborn litter which might lead to her eating them as they are birthed. They might feel inadequate and fear that they may not be able to survive without her.
There’s no known cure even to the cause as to why do rabbits eat their babies. The best course of action would be to get the babies and clean them yourselves. Taking care and keeping them well-fed and warm will end up being your job rather than the mom’s if you want to keep these rabbits alive until adulthood.
Do rabbits eat their babies if they are stressed?
The answer, yes. They do. But why do rabbits eat their babies out of stress?
Let’s look at wild rabbits for a second. In the wild, the rabbits are part of the bottom of the food chain. Due to their size and lack of fighting power against the big predators they have developed a keen decision to simply run. Running away from bears, snakes, eagles, just among others is their only option.
To help them run away, they would then decide to devour their litter. You may wonder why can’t they just leave them. Well, that’s because of the scent. Being newborns, their scent is almost the same as their mother’s so “getting rid of the evidence or trace” would be the best way to have a clean getaway. And because rabbits are known to be so fertile, by the time they have birthed their litter, they would probably be already pregnant with the next one. Sooner they are ready to be birthed in a new warren (a place where rabbits hold their fort).
Now, why does this answer the question, “why do rabbits eat their babies if they are stressed?” Imagine that instinct still stays with you even after you’ve become domesticated and in captivity. Makes sense, right? The rabbits you have as pets still have the same DNA running through them despite years of domestication. So, it becomes their mindset that the big predators might still be after them even now. This also goes true when they feel that the runt of the litter or if a kit of the litter is sick.
How to stop a rabbit from eating her babies?
Now that we’ve uncovered the truth behind why rabbits eat their babies, let’s talk about how to stop a rabbit from eating her babies.
We may have already pointed out that saving them after birthing is a good way to do so but we have also other moves you can do to avoid any cannibalism happening. Here’s what we found:
- Refrain from breeding rabbits that are no older than six months. This age has a level of immaturity that causes them stress. Being forced into parenthood is not an easy occurrence to accept.
- To keep mother rabbit from stress, calm her. Let her feel safe and secure.
- Give her some alfalfa hay to increase her protein intake. Due to probable protein depletion after birth, she may look at her litter as a source of the lost nutrients and decide to eat them for it.
- Closely watch your rabbit after birth as she might consume the baby along with the placenta.
- To reduce her territorialism and jealousy, show affection to the mother more compared to the babies. The mother may not be so adamant at sharing her space with the babies.
Keep these details close to you when you’re expecting babies on the way. That way, you’ll be sure to get lots more bunnies to play with. Feed the mother well and not stressed. This way, she’s calm and cool-headed and would probably not eat the litter. But if the mother is already known for devouring her kids after birth, the choice you need to make is either get them out of the cage right after birth or not have the mother mate at all. This way, you save yourself from a gruesome cleanup.
Motherhood is not for everyone – even if it means other species. Like humans, the mother needs some help in realizing that her babies are neither a threat or a liability to her security as an individual. They also experience stress because of motherhood. Keeping her calm, comfortable, well-fed, and happy are key details to remember if you want a successful bunny delivery. And if push comes to shove, taking them away from their mother for at least 24 hours would be the best move. This way, the mom cools her head and should be ready to nurse them to adulthood.
But, again, if the mother is already a known culprit at devouring her kids, it might be high time to stop forcing the idea of motherhood to her to avoid any further murder scenes. And if you’re a first-time bunny parent, keep a close eye on the birthing process or you might just end up shocked to witness how rabbits eat their babies.
Mother rabbits eating their babies may sound so absurd to you compared to dogs burying things or a flamingo standing on one leg. But animals, like humans the way they deal with stress is different from the rest of the animals. Humans who are higher beings than animals know that you can’t do what rabbits do to their own babies just because they are stressed.