It’s best not to touch newborn rabbits for the first week of their lives. This allows the mother rabbit to bond with and nurse her babies without interference from humans. After that, it is advisable to wait at least another week before handling the litter.
This is because a rabbit’s milk is very rich and transferable to her kits via colostrum — “the special milk” — during the first 24 hours after birth. Mother rabbits produce this thick, yellowish liquid which contains all of the antibodies and nutrients necessary for baby rabbits in their most concentrated form.
It also gives baby bunnies their distinctive smell that helps mama recognize them as hers once they’re old enough (around 2 weeks) to venture out from beneath her protection, even if she can’t see them.
Kits are extremely vulnerable during this period, and their mother is very protective. She will even aggressively attack if they are handled by humans before they are old enough to leave the nest box on their own.
Though it is normal for kits to die in the wild because of predators or accidents, it is not normal for them to be killed by loving pet owners attempting to handle them too soon after birth. Once the bunnies start growing fur at around 9 weeks, they may be safely handled without risk of harm from your rabbit.
Slightly older kits should not be handled for the first month after birth, or until their eyes are open. This gives them time to build up immunity by drinking colostrum and also keeps other pets from accidentally harming them while they’re still learning to move about on their own.
The first week of life is devoted to growing fur and staying close to the mother rabbit. Kits do not eat solid food during this period; instead, they nurse continuously. Once they can walk about freely without falling over too often, you can begin handling them with confidence that your attention will go unopposed by either parent.
How long is a rabbit pregnancy?
Rabbits are pregnant for about 31 days, though the exact length of the gestation period can vary by up to five days. This is because it’s not quite as accurate as human pregnancies.
Also Read: what do 6-week old rabbits eat?