I Found A Baby Rabbit Nest! Now What?
It's spring time folks! The trees begin budding, the grass turns green again and the flowers shower the yard with their beautiful rainbow colors.
Spring signifies new beginnings. A fresh start.
It's also a busy time for the creatures of the world. A time where they begin the beautiful process of procreation. It's often that I get asked the question - "I found a baby rabbit nest in my backyard and the mom rabbit is nowhere to be found! What do I do?"
So I'm hoping you find this post helpful - if this is the case.
Rule #1 - Don't Worry.
Rabbits survive better than humans mainly because they live their day to day lives watching for predators, eating greens, and wandering around - doing what rabbits do (frolicking). A female rabbit's sole purpose in life is to reproduce - and they are pretty good at it. A male rabbit's sole purpose is to assist the female rabbit in her purpose. They are also very good at this as well.
It's important to remember that -Rabbits are not humans. Their feelings are strictly primal and instinctual, and those instincts play a huge part in their survival. God has given them everything they need to survive. They don't need a rabbit family, they don't mate for life, they are not monogamous.
To ease your mind, here's how the whole process comes to be - or rather - how that little guy ended up in your yard -
In the spring, female rabbits (also called Does) seek out a male rabbit (also called a Buck). They mate and the female runs off never to hear from the male again.
A female rabbit's gestation period is 28-34 days. She will build a nest (usually dig a hole) and right before giving birth, she will pull her own hair and line the nest with it. The hair is an amazing insulator which helps hold the heat in the nest. The baby rabbits (also called "kits") rely on each other's body temperature so they will always be cuddled up together. Kits are born without hair - so to me, they look like tiny hippos, which I'm sure you have seen me reference in most of my social media postings regarding baby rabbits. The Doe will leave the nest after giving birth and not return until later to feed them. This gives her milk a chance to come in.
When she is gone during the day, she is foraging for food and water, which she needs because she has a lot of little mouths to feed. The doe only returns to her nest at dusk and again at dawn to feed her little ones and clean them. This process takes 10 minutes tops. So you will not see her hang out for long.
Kits are born with their eyes and ears sealed shut. Around day 10, the kits will begin to open their eyes. By day 14, they are still sleeping most of the day but they have all of their hair in. By 3 weeks, they are beginning to nibble on grass and mom's poop - Gross right? Does produce something called cecotropes, also called night feces, or cecal droppings. This is necessary to develop their digestive system. (It's good for their gut health). They start by eating their mother's, and then switch to eating their own. Without this, they are not able to digest their food properly.
By 3 weeks, these curious little guys will begin wandering from the nest. They are about the size of a chipmunk. Their eyes and ears are fully open and they are able to be on their own. They may look helpless, but if they are able to wander around, they are independent enough to survive on their own.
By week 4, the doe has found another mate and is pregnant again. She begins the process all over - finding and digging a nest, having a litter, foraging and frolicking all day, like female rabbits do.
WHAT DO I DO IF I FIND A NEST OF BABY BUNNIES?
If you find a nest in your yard, it's best to let them be. If you are worried about the baby rabbits, you can carefully uncover them and feel their bellies to see if they are full. If they feel like water balloons, then they are well fed and should be left alone. This is an indication that mom is coming back and feeding them.
Contrary to popular belief, the mom will return to the nest despite your smell. Rabbits do not care about human smell. They are not that picky. Does have also been known to foster kits from other litters - like I said - not picky - just good moms. You do not have to worry about disturbing that nest and sabotaging this mom and baby relationship.
Wild rabbits are not known to survive in captivity. In fact, they only have a 20% chance of surviving if you bring them in and put them in a cage and attempt to raise them. They are not like domesticated rabbits in this respect. Their best chance of survival is back in their nest and out in the wild.
I hope you found this information helpful! Feel free to comment any questions you may have regarding wild rabbits.