Why does a female rabbit sometimes eat her babies and how to prevent cannibalism

Why does a female rabbit sometimes eat her babies and how to prevent cannibalism

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Atypical behavior of females can be provoked by an improperly selected diet, inattention of owners or poor handling, sharp noises and strong unusual odors, the birth of dead or sick rabbits. That is why sometimes the bunny will eat her newborn bunnies. The optimal solution to prevent such situations is to create good conditions for the rabbits during pregnancy and lactation.

Poor diet

One of the significant reasons rabbits eat their young is due to lack of nutrients. Owners do not always take into account that pregnant rabbits need to increase the nutritional value of the diet by 200-220 feed units. Moreover, in every 100 g of feed units, proteins (digestible protein) should be 15-18 g.

Therefore, in order to prevent the problem of eating cubs, it is necessary to adjust the diet of pregnant animals. Females' feeding is formed from feed enriched with mineral supplements and protein. Soybean meal, sunflower meal are high-protein mixtures.

The stage of pregnancy is taken into account when drawing up a diet. In the first weeks, embryos are formed, the placenta and fetal membranes are formed. These processes consume a variety of nutrients. In the second half of the term, the growth of the placenta, embryos continues, and the composition of the diet changes slightly. About a week before giving birth, they reduce the volume of roughage, grass and increase the mass of concentrates (oats, legumes, mixed fodder).

Lack of milk

Most often, poor nutrition provokes a lack of milk. With weak lactation, the rabbit is practically unable to fully feed more than 6-8 cubs. Therefore, a situation arises when the rabbit ate several newborns.

It is recommended to use specialized feeds to adjust the diet of lactating females. Mixtures with a high protein content (soybean meal, sunflower meal, oats) are suitable. In summer, animal food is enriched with plant additives (clover, oat mixtures, meadow herbs). In winter, you can diversify the food with boiled potatoes, carrots, beets, high quality silage. It should also be remembered that a dairy female needs a significant amount of fluid to produce milk.

Therefore, free access to drinking bowls and the constant availability of clean drinking water are guaranteed.

Stillborn rabbits

Cases of birth of dead or sick babies are not uncommon in rabbit breeding. In such situations, the female can eat non-living newborns. These actions are explained by the manifestation of instinct: in the wild, cadaverous smells serve as bait for predators. To get rid of the corpses, the rabbit eats them.

Poor nutrition, stress, infections contribute to the appearance of sick offspring. To ensure adequate nutrition and development of healthy rabbits, the female kills newborns with physical disabilities.


One of the reasons for the rabbit's inappropriate behavior may be the sudden onset of the sexual cycle. In this case, the female ceases to pay attention to the newborn cubs. In this state, the animal can rush around the cage, tear fluff and hay, refuses to feed the rabbits - does not let them near the udder. An individual's anxiety can be caused by other reasons:

  • moving to other cells or rooms;
  • harsh sounds in the room;
  • rough treatment of rabbits by the owner;
  • unpleasant strong odors (other pets, exhaust fumes, gasoline, kerosene, paint, alcohol).

Expert opinion

Zarechny Maxim Valerievich

Agronomist with 12 years of experience. Our best summer cottage expert.

Important! It is not recommended to take newborn rabbits in your arms - someone else's smell on the body of babies can cause stress in the rabbit and refusal to feed the rabbits.

Veterinarians advise to wash hands with laundry soap before handling animals. To reduce the smell of soap, you can rub dry hands with lint taken from the nest. And only then they take the cubs in their arms. In an open cage, if there is no queen cell, the stress state of the rabbit provokes the close presence of the male, his perceptible smell. In such situations, the females sometimes gnaw the rabbits down to meat.

How to prevent eating?

Rabbits are herbivores, and the manifestation of cannibalism is a phenomenon that is not typical of their nature. There are various reasons for females to eat cubs. To prevent cannibalism, you need to study each case, because the decisions are different:

  • a sharp change in feed can provoke a lack of certain substances in the female's body. Therefore, it is not recommended to radically change the diet of rabbits before giving birth or in the first days after birth;
  • the rabbit can be hostile to strangers' newborns. If the rabbits are transferred to another female, it is advisable to first rub their fur with bedding hay from the nurse's cage, which smells of her urine;
  • transfer to a new cage can cause severe stress in the female. It is advisable to transfer the rabbit to a cage with a queen cell in advance, so that the animal has time to get used to new conditions before giving birth;
  • rabbits have a nervous disposition. It is important to protect pregnant females and rabbits with newborns from noise, strong odors. In the first week after giving birth, they do not even change the litter in the mother liquor, so as not to frighten the animals with fresh unfamiliar smells.

Visitors with unfamiliar smells become a great stress for females. Therefore, it will be better if feeding and caring for animals is entrusted to certain people. But even in this case, it is undesirable to take newborn rabbits in your arms.

Keeping pregnant and lactating females requires increased attention. The diligent owner is interested in having a healthy and numerous offspring. Therefore, he must not only monitor the nutrition and health of the females, but also provide the animals with a comfortable and calm existence.

Watch the video: Rabbits Eating Their Own Babies - The SR Rabbit Update 5-16-17 (September 2022).