Baby rabbits nurse off of their mothers for just 3-4 weeks. The nursing session happens once per day and only lasts 3-5 minutes. This provides the baby rabbits with enough nutrients to get through the day.
What You'll Learn
- 1 Baby Rabbits Only Nurse For 3-4 Works. Why So Short?
- 2 Baby Rabbits Only Nurse For 3 Minutes at a Time
- 3 Breastmilk: What Makes it Special
- 4 Location, Location, Location
- 5 What Happens if the Mother Rabbit Cannot Nurse?
- 6 Nursing Time is Short and Sweet
When someone starts talking about these adorable, petite balls of fluff, what is it that you picture in your mind?
Do you picture a baby bunny hopping through the grass? Nibbling on a carrot? Racing with their siblings, since there is never just one kit born to a rabbit (where do you think the phrase “breeding like rabbits” came from?). Or do you picture an image of a little baby bunny munching on some grass in the warm summer sun?
While kits grow to love fresh green grass over time, they don’t start out eating their body weight in greens. Like any other mammal, a baby rabbit needs to nurse to get the particular nutrients they need.
Baby Rabbits Only Nurse For 3-4 Works. Why So Short?
Increased Nutritional Needs
Just like any other newly born animal, even human babies for that matter, kits need a moderate amount of nutrient-packed milk for them to mature properly.
As mentioned above, kits only nurse for a measly 3-4 weeks, unlike human babies that could potentially nurse for a couple years.
Without their mother’s milk, they would become frail and not survive more than 48 hours.
As these fur babies grow over those 3-4 weeks (at a rapid rate, might I add), their little growing bodies require more than just mother rabbit’s milk, which they only get approximately 15-20% of the milk that is equal to their body weight. Not a whole lot, huh?
After those initial 4 weeks, the baby rabbits will include more into their diet, such as freshly cut grass.
Baby Rabbits Only Nurse For 3 Minutes at a Time
Not only is the duration of nursing among rabbits shockingly short, but the length in which the mother feeds her babies is even shorter. The whole process for a kit to complete a feeding is a whopping 3 minutes!
The term “be there or be square” certainly seems appropriate for these little ones. In addition to having only 3 minutes to frantically consume their daily dose of milk, they are only fed by the mother rabbit once a day, sometimes (but rarely) twice. That’s it. If a kit cannot nurse during the slim time frame, they are out of luck.
Breastmilk: What Makes it Special
1) It Impacts Their Growth Rate
Kits only nurse once a day for a short time because the milk their mother produces is loaded with the best nutrients for healthy growth. Any more than this, and a kit would appear… Well.. a little more “fluffy.”
2) Contents of Breastmilk
Rabbit milk consists of high concentrations of protein, fat and bacteriostatic properties, which is a fancy term for destroying harmful bacteria, and providing immunity support to babies with no immune system.
3) The Bonding that Takes Place
One of the things that makes nursing so special is that the mother rabbit can bond with her numerous kits.
As you may know, rabbits aren’t usually the type of mammal to have only one kit at a time (hence the phrase, “breed like rabbits”).
On average, a rabbit will have 6 kits in a litter. It’s also important to remember that a female rabbit could have many litters throughout her lifetime.
With this in mind, it makes the fact that the mother rabbit can bond with each of her babies that much sweeter and impressive.
Location, Location, Location
Mother Rabbit’s Nest
Have you ever uncovered a rabbit’s nest while mowing your lawn? If you haven’t, let me tell you it’s a heart-stopping moment as you think you just murdered a group of baby bunnies, and you start to instantly hate yourself.
When mother rabbits create their nest, it is typically out in the open where people can easily walk and disturb the nest.
Composition of the Nest
Typically you can spot a rabbit’s nest because it looks like a thick layer of dead grass is covering one small area of the yard with warm fur underneath.
After the mother rabbit builds her nest, the kits will bury themselves under the grass to stay warm and protected from predators.
The only time they emerge from their grassy oasis is to feed off the mother rabbit once a day.
To help keep these little guys safe, it is recommended that if a rabbit’s nest is found, it should be marked somehow so it is clear for anyone in the area that increased caution should be implemented.
What Happens if the Mother Rabbit Cannot Nurse?
It is very rare that a mother rabbit would abandon her kits. Unfortunately, it does happen on occasion.
If it appears the mother rabbit has not been back to her kits within about 24 hours, action should be taken to help the kits survive.
Start with Handheld Feedings, then Supplementation
The top-rated formula to use with kits is KMR (fun fact: it’s also an excellent kitten supplement!). Kits should be bottle-fed at least twice a day. Once the kits become a little older, they can eat pellet food specific for rabbits as an additional supplement.
Visit Your Local Vet
And lastly, when in doubt, call your local veterinarian. They are the perfect resource for providing you with education, and medications, treating any medical problems, and providing emergency care if need be. This is likely not their first rodeo, and they are more than happy to provide guidance to new baby bunny parents.
Nursing Time is Short and Sweet
While the length in which kits nurse from their mother is short and sweet, it is an imperative time for the mother to bond with her babies and for the kits to grow to be strong, self-sufficient rabbits. And remember, if anything appears suspicious, seek advice from your veterinarian.