Animals show mysterious behavior at times and one of the rather disturbing traits many animals including rabbits exhibit is eating their own young ones.
However, that doesn’t mean they do this frequently. Since rabbits are herbivores, they don’t eat meat by choice, and neither do they attack other animals or grown-up bunnies to devour them.
Some people find it paradoxical and so the question is often put forth, do bunnies eat other bunnies? Well, the answer to this question is a yes and a no. By nature, rabbits are not violent or cannibal towards their own species. But in a very rare occurrence, a female bunny may consume her own babies.
In this post, we will try to find out when a female rabbit decides to eat her young one, what are the reasons that make her take such a step. Is it something that puts a question mark on her maternal duties?
We will also look at some ways to stop this behavior in your bunnies.
So, let’s begin.
Why Do Rabbits Eat Their Babies?
There can be many explanations for this type of behavior. Baby cannibalism is practiced to get nutrition when the female rabbit is pregnant and is drained of energy. In order to gain protein in their diet, these female rabbits may start devouring their little ones.
At times, the baby is stillborn and in this case, the mother would be tempted to eat her little one. Even if their litter is weak and they think it won’t be able to survive, instead of letting them live and die at the hands of some other animal, they would kill and eat the babies themselves.
Rabbits reproduce at a very fast rate. A litter can have up to 14 babies; some of them might be stronger than others. That is why it is often seen that female rabbits eat only a selective bunch of their babies and leave the rest to live.
In rabbits, the length of a pregnancy is only 31 days and after giving birth, a female rabbit can get pregnant again after a few days. This is again an explanation of why they want only the fittest of their kit to live and survive since there are so many babies to look after.
Sometimes when rabbits have to escape their predators and they have babies with them, instead of leaving any traces behind, they eat the babies up and run away. Fear and anxiety are other reasons that make rabbits devour their little ones in order to erase all their trace when they sense there is a predator nearby.
After giving birth, a rabbit is likely to eat her placenta just like other animals. But sometimes she can accidentally devour her baby thinking it’s the placenta. This is another rare but possible explanation of a bunny eating another bunny.
Legend has it that female rabbits will eat their young ones on which she smells human scent. Because of this, some people believe that they shouldn’t touch or caress the babies. This is completely untrue. Not only is it safe to touch the newly born bunnies but the mother will also be indifferent to your smell on her kit.
However, rabbit babies are fragile and you should take extra care while handling them. It’s better to leave them in the nest for a week or ten days or until the mother wants to keep them away. If there is no other reason to go and fetch the young ones, avoid doing it.
Also, keep in mind that a mother will only be tempted to eat her litter only during the first 24 hours after giving birth. If this much time has elapsed and she has started nursing them, it’s a sign that she has decided to keep them. There is no need to interfere and make her anxious if that’s the case.
Can You Stop a Rabbit from Eating Her Baby?
Yes, there are a few preventive steps you can take to make sure your rabbits do not end up eating their babies. You should also keep an eye on a few warning signs that may tell that a female bunny is not yet ready to become a parent or take responsibility for its young.
If you believe your rabbit has become overly territorial, it’s a sign she won’t accept her little ones. But before she has a chance to kill them, you can take some precautionary measures to prevent this from happening.
Here are some tips to prevent this type of behavior in your pet rabbit;
1. If, in the past, your rabbit has mistakenly eaten her baby thinking it’s the placenta, take it as a warning sign. Next time when she gives birth, remove the kits immediately so she wouldn’t repeat the mistake.
2. If a pregnant rabbit is thoroughly fed during her pregnancy, she is not likely to devour her little ones. But it might still happen if it’s her first pregnancy. She will likely feed on her newborn babies in panic and nervousness. Make her as comfortable as you can by providing her security and privacy especially if it’s her first pregnancy.
3. As soon as a rabbit is 5 to 6 months of age, he or she is ready to breed. However, it’s not recommended to breed at such a young age because it elevates the chances of cannibalism.
4. Rabbits need a private space when they are ready to give birth. That is why they dig burrows and want to be left alone. Make sure you don’t make your bunny anxious or stressed when she’s nearing her labor. Provide her with a nest box and complete privacy if you want her to avoid eating her little ones in distress.
5. It is advisable to feed your pregnant rabbit with alfalfa or clover hay so she gets all the nutrition she needs during pregnancy. Carrot greens and peelings are also rich sources of plant-based protein.
Be advised that under normal circumstances no female rabbit would abandon her babies. But, at the same time, rabbits are frightened and nervous by nature and they can easily get anxious and fearful of their surroundings. If you want to raise healthy and happy bunnies, make sure you provide a safe and secure shelter to them and make them as comfortable as possible.
What to Do If Your Rabbit Keeps Eating Her Young Ones?
If you notice that your rabbit almost always eats her young ones after giving birth, it’s a warning not to breed her again. Too young and immature female bunnies also tend to eat their litter after giving birth. So, it’s a good idea to wait for your bunny to have reached the age of maturity before breeding her.
Not all female bunnies are born with maternal instincts. If your bunny is rejecting maternity, you shouldn’t force it either.
If your pregnant rabbit is not building a nest or digging a burrow, it’s a sign she is not ready to accept motherhood yet. In such a case, you should come forth and raise the baby yourself and not breed the mother again.
Does a Male Rabbit Eat His Babies?
Male rabbits have not been seen eating their babies but since they lack paternal instincts, they usually have no soft spot for their little ones. If the mother keeps eating her young, you cannot transfer them to their father because he will most definitely not look after them.
He may also see them as his territorial competitors and hurt them in other possible ways. So, it’s better to keep the dad away even while the female is pregnant because if he gets frolicsome again, she might get nervous and end up eating her babies.
Do Bunnies Eat Other Bunnies?
And now returning to the question, do bunnies attack or eat other full-grown bunnies? The answer is no. While new mothers may be tempted to kill and eat their weak babies, other bunnies will never have the urge to feed on animals. They are herbivores and get all their nutrition from plant-based food sources.
Rabbits are not carnivorous animals, so they won’t eat other bunnies. However, the female bunnies may eat their newly-born babies when they think they are too weak to survive. Or she herself is in need of dietary protein or is feeling particularly anxious and fearful.
If you have pet rabbits, you would definitely want to prevent or stop this act of cannibalism in them. However, rabbits are born with survival instincts mainly because they are at the end of the food chain. They have many predators and therefore when they give birth, they want only the fittest to live.
You can decide to raise the babies yourself if you sense such behavior in your bunny. This can prevent the female rabbit from eating her litter. There are other precautionary measures as well that can help stop this type of disturbing outcome after giving birth. Follow the tips discussed in this article to make sure your bunny doesn’t end up eating other bunnies!