Why Would A Mother Rabbit Kill Her Babies?

Categorized as Bunny Care Tagged
A newborn rabbits inside a nest without their mother.

Last Updated on July 28, 2021 by Rei

Rabbits would eat her kits for a variety of reasons like when the kits are sick, stressed rabbit, not enough milk, mistaken for the placenta, kits already dead, or when the rabbit is too young to be a mother.

Rabbits would not willingly eat meat without reason because they are herbivores. What’s happening is just nature telling the rabbit to survive and procreate at all cost even if it means eating her own.

Now that I’ve told you the gist of the article, read on to know the details of the reason why rabbits would eat her kits:

The kits are sick.

Newborn rabbits or kits that are still inside the nest.
“Rabbits’ Nest Day 2 – 2” by Nick Busse is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

When a rabbit detects that one or more of her kits are sick or weak, her instinct would kick in and eat those kits. The reason is that weaker or sick babies are liabilities and could drag down her other healthy kits by robbing them of their mother’s limited resources(i.e. milk).

This reason is especially true for wild rabbits who have far less nutritional food than pet rabbits. But still, pet rabbit’s instinct is the same regardless.

It’s an instinct to avoid predators.

A rabbit's nest full of baby rabbits or kits.
“Rabbits Nest Day 6” by Nick Busse is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

When a rabbit is threatened by predators around her, she might start eating her babies to not draw attention to her nest. The same thing happens with pet rabbits who are stressed out or when she’s not comfortable with her current environment.

Before breeding your rabbits, make sure that they are comfortable with their home. Look for signs of stress like aggressiveness, nervousness, over-grooming/not grooming, lack of appetite, and lethargy.

If you see any of these symptoms, consult a veterinarian for proper advice because your rabbit might be suffering from conditions you are not seeing.

She is too young and inexperienced.

Inexperienced rabbits are often bad mothers. That’s why it’s not advisable to breed your rabbits before 6 months old. What would often happen when a rabbit is bred young is they lack the instinct of a mother because they haven’t reached sexual maturity yet.

But sometimes, even older rabbits can be bad mothers if it’s their first time.

Finally, if your rabbit eats her babies the second time she got pregnant, stop breeding her and get her neutered.

She doesn’t have enough milk.

A grey rabbit with her five kits inside its nest.
“champagne d’argent mom and babies” by Joan

Another reason why a rabbit would kill her kits is due to a lack of nutrients. Rabbits who lack nutrients would not produce the adequate amount of milk required to keep their kits alive.

This in turn would make her kits a liability. Unfed rabbits would likely die, and in turn, attracts the attention of predators due to their smell.

This is all instinctual to rabbits. They are herbivores and would not eat meat willingly. What’s happening is just nature trying to keep her alive and extend the bloodline further.

The kits are already dead.

As I mentioned, kits that are dead attracts predators due to their smell that’s why most of the time the rabbit would just eat them.

Another reason why rabbits would eat a dead baby is that rabbits are meticulous cleaners and likes to keep their burrow/home clean and sanitize. Not to mention carcass attracts deadly diseases.

She tought it’s a placenta.

Mama rabbits would eat the placenta after giving birth. This would ensure that no decomposing meat would be left in the nest that could invite predators due to its smell as well as bacterias and diseases.

Sometimes, rabbits would confuse the placenta with her kits and eat them instead.

Summary

Rabbits would eat her children for a variety of reasons due to her instinct to survive and procreate at all costs.

One of those reasons is when the kits are already sick and weak. Sick or weak rabbits are just a liability to her because rabbits in the wild have limited milk to give due to scarce food sources. Letting the weak kits live would likely just drag her other healthy babies.

Eating her babies could also be due to a stressed rabbit. In the wild, when a rabbit is stressed out, she would eat her children in order to not draw attention from predators.

Another reason why a rabbit would eat her young is when a rabbit got pregnant that’s less than 6 months old. Young first-time mothers don’t have the right instinct yet so it’s best to wait for your rabbit to sexually mature before breeding them.

Also, mama rabbits could also confuse the placenta with her children and eat it instead.

And finally, if the kits are already dead, the rabbit would just eat them to keep the place clean and avoid attracting diseases and predators to her borrow.

Cite this article:

Bunny Horde (November 14, 2021) Why Would A Mother Rabbit Kill Her Babies?. Retrieved from https://bunnyhorde.com/why-would-a-mother-rabbit-kill-her-babies/.
"Why Would A Mother Rabbit Kill Her Babies?." Bunny Horde - November 14, 2021, https://bunnyhorde.com/why-would-a-mother-rabbit-kill-her-babies/

Sources and further reading

  • Buseth, Marit Emilie., and Richard A. Saunders. Rabbit Behaviour, Health, and Care. CABI, 2014.
  • Lebas, F. The Rabbit: Husbandry, Health, and Production. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 1997.
  • Patry, Karen, et al. The Rabbit-Raising Problem Solver: Your Questions Answered about Housing, Feeding, Behavior, Health Care, Breeding, and Kindling. Storey Publishing, 2014.