Rabbits are some of the most common animals that can be found in the wild because of how they are able to multiply so quickly. In that regard, it is also quite possible for you to find baby rabbits in the wild but without their mother with them. You might think that the mother might be out to find food but the most likely scenario was that the baby rabbits were probably abandoned. So, in that regard, do rabbits abandon their babies?
It is rare for mother rabbits to abandon their young. Female rabbits most often abandon their young as a result of immaturity or a lack of motherly instincts needed to properly care for their kits. If a rabbit’s nest is disturbed, it’s best to restore the nest to its original state before the mother returns.
So, considering that rabbits rarely abandon their young, it should come as a surprise for you if you do uncover a nest of baby rabbits that don’t have a mother around. But when you do find abandoned baby rabbits, you may be able to help them out or else they won’t be able to survive for a long time without food and support.
Why do rabbits abandon their babies?
While I said that it is rare for mother rabbits to abandon their babies, there are still instances when the mothers would actually find a good reason to abandon their young. While such instances are rare, they do happen from time to time.
The most probable reason for a mother rabbit to willfully abandon her young is a result of immaturity at the time she gave birth to her babies.
An immature mother rabbit is still yet to develop the proper organs that would allow her to produce enough milk to properly feed her young. In some cases, the mother may not even develop any milk at all. Additionally, immature rabbits often fail to build a nest or make any preparations for their babies at all
Additionally, baby rabbits might also appear to have been abandoned is when something tragic has happened to their mother.
When a mother rabbit in the wild has finished feeding her young, she will most likely need to leave the nest to find food for herself as she needs the energy to produce milk for her babies. However, as wild rabbits are out looking for food, a snake, fox, or hawk can make a quick meal out of them. Heck, wild rabbits can even be hunted by humans!
If something unfortunate did indeed happen to the mother rabbit, that is when the kits would appear to have been abandoned. While the mother probably intended to return to her nest but was not able to do so due to circumstances beyond her control.
If this is the case, you should assess the situation and try to help the young rabbits, especially if they were found in a place that is heavily inhabited by people. This leads us to our next point…
Will Rabbits return to A Disturbed Nest?
It is very common to see rabbits whenever you are in the outdoors because of how rabbits are so quick to multiply. With rabbits under domestic care around the world numbering over 700 million, You can just imagine how many rabbits are in the wild, especially in populations unchecked by predators.
That said, because there are plenty of rabbits in the wild, you might end up encountering a nest of rabbits when trekking or taking a stroll far away from civilization. Wild mother rabbits are known to build nests for their young and are also known to leave the nest from time to time in search of food.
However, they usually come back to nurse their young until they are old enough to leave the nest on their own. So, if you do find a disturbed nest of baby rabbits and you noticed that the mother rabbit is not around, you might begin to wonder if the mother rabbit actually abandoned the nest.
So, will rabbits come back to a disturbed nest?
Rabbits will most often return to a disturbed nest when they feel safe and no predators are present. Wild rabbits leave their nests to look for food and return only to nurse their kits twice a day. If a disturbed nest is discovered, return the nest to its original state and the mother will likely return.
If you do notice that there is a disturbed nest of baby rabbits without a mother, try to assess the situation first before you come to the conclusion that the nest was abandoned by their mother. It might be that she is simply out there looking for food and will eventually come back to take care of her kits.
Rabbits rarely abandon their young as they are not known to leave their babies to fend for themselves. In fact, mother rabbits are known to be great mothers with amazing motherly instincts.
Return the nest to its original state and give it some time for the mother rabbit to return before making a move to try to save the baby rabbits.
You should also inspect the baby rabbits and try to assess whether they are healthy and strong enough. Baby rabbits that are plump, healthy, and snuggled next to each other, are probably well taken care of by their mother.
So, when the rabbits don’t look to be in danger, just leave them alone and do not try to be a hero.
If you happen to live close by, you can simply leave the rabbits alone and come back the next day to inspect the formerly disturbed nest. If you do come back and you notice that the mother is there, she likely left to find food for herself.
If the mother is not around, try inspecting the bellies of the baby rabbits. They should look plump and full, as this is a sign that the mother actually come back yesterday to feed her young.
Mother rabbits feed her babies only once or twice a day and will either stay in the nest to keep the babies guarded and warm or leave to find food herself before coming back to take care of her young once more.
This will continue for about three weeks when her young rabbits should be big and independent enough to leave the nest and take care of themselves.
So, if you did notice that the mother rabbit did not come back or if the baby rabbits look like they have not eaten for a while, that is when you might have to conclude that the mother rabbit did not come back or has not come back to feed and take care of her babies.
Do Rabbits Abandon Their Babies if Touched By Humans?
There is a common myth circulating that suggests mother rabbits will abandon their young if handled by humans. For the most part, this is completely untrue.
Rabbits will not likely abandon their babies if touched or handled by human hands. While wild rabbits can occasionally abandon their young when startled by human smells, pet rabbits are very familiar with their owners and will not be alarmed by the presence of human scent on their young.
What To Do When Discovering Abandoned Rabbits
If you do notice rabbits that were abandoned willingly or unwillingly by their mother, try to assess the situation first before you try to help them out. Even if the young kits were abandoned, they might not always need your help. If you notice some of the rabbits look healthy enough to move and jump around, they are probably already old enough to take care of themselves.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when discovering abandoned rabbits:
- Keep Your pets at a safe distance. It’s best to keep rabbits away from both cats and dogs as they are natural rabbit huntersand may hurt baby rabbits.
- Place the young rabbits in a small box with the bedding that came from their nest. Use very soft rags but make sure to handle them minimally as baby rabbits can easily become stressed when handled by humans.
- Keep abandoned rabbits comfortable. You should find a place that is warm, quiet, and far away from the reach of children and pets.
- Use a heating pad. If you have a heating pad, keep it in the low setting and keep it under the rabbits’ box to give them the heat that they need.
- Avoid giving baby rabbits any kind of milk formula. Milk formulas are not formulated for the needs of rabbits and may harm or even kill young rabbits.
- Contact a local vet. If the rabbits’ eyes are not open, they are most likely under 10 days old. These young rabbits will need special care and most people are not equipped for the task. A local vet can refer you to a licensed rehabilitator who is skilled in caring for abandoned rabbits.
- Ensure proper hydration. If the rabbits’ eyes are open, you can put a few leaves of clover or dandelion greens in their box. Spray a bit of water on the greens to give the rabbits a chance to rehydrate. Do not attempt to give them any commercially availible hydration formulas unless directed to do so by your vetrinarian.