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Anna, Pet Expert/Biologist
Category: Pet
Satisfied Customers: 11508
Experience:  40 yrs.: herps, pocket pets, rabbits, poultry, dogs, horses. Biology degree. Vet assistant.
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why would a young mother rabbit kill her 2 week old babies.

Customer Question

why would a young mother rabbit kill her 2 week old babies. she had just weaned her first litter...and accidently got pregnant.
Submitted: 8 years ago.
Category: Pet
Expert:  Anna replied 8 years ago.

I just want to be sure that I'm clear about what happened. Was it the second litter that she killed?

How old was the first litter when they were weaned?

How did the mother kill the babies - trample them, bite them, etc.?

Do the rabbits live indoors or outside?

Thank you.

Customer: replied 8 years ago.
it was the second litter.they seemed like perfectly healthy,fat 3 week old babies..just starting to open thier eyes. the mother and babies were moved about 4 days before to a more private cage..away from the weaned litter..about 8 weeks old. this new litter was a looks like she bit was still alive and untouched,,seemed to be in shock. she ignored him and he died shortly there after.the bunnies live outside in a large,cozy cage.
Expert:  Anna replied 8 years ago.
Thank you for getting back to me. The most common reason a mother would kill babies at this point is that something disturbed her, frightened her, or didn't feel quite right to her. It is thought to be an instinct that keeps predators from eating the babies. I know it doesn't make much sense to us. Any little disturbance can trigger the behavior - a car horn, a dog barking on the next block, a cat coming into the area. It could even be an odor in the new cage that she didn't like.

Rarely, a mother rabbit isn't able to produce enough milk. This can happen when two litters are close together. Rather than let the babies die slowly, the mother may kill them. This is, however, unusual. It is more likely that something frightened her. If this just happened today, you can check to see if she's producing milk now to find out if that was the problem. If you have more questions about this, just let me know by clicking on REPLY.