Unfortunately, the image of the cute rabbit also has a frightening downside – especially the breeding sector is affected: The talk is of so-called “rabbit cannibalism.”
This sounds pretty scary and should have a very unpleasant touch for tender-hearted minds, but fortunately this “murder” doesn’t happen too often.
In this post, we’ll tell you:
What exactly is meant by rabbit cannibalism.
What causes rabbits to kill their offspring
What you can possibly do to avoid this scenario
What does “rabbit cannibalism” actually mean?”
In some animal species it happens that under certain circumstances they kill their young by biting them downright dead. Besides rabbits, rats, hamsters, chickens and pigs, for example, also show this irritating behavior.
Many owners react in dismay and helplessness in this situation, as they cannot explain the murderous actions of their animals. But there are various reasons that move a mother animal to this action.
The answer exciting answer is coming soon….
First, a look at a “normal” rabbit birth with subsequent harmonious raising of young.
This is how a normal rabbit birth happens
Frieda, the black and white spotted rabbit lady nibbles with pleasure at the fragrant hay, as dessert freshly plucked dandelion, cucumber and a juicy piece of pear lure.
The delicious meal is washed down with water (the best drink for rabbits), to which a shot of carrot juice has been added.
Satisfied and relaxed, Frieda lays down in her comfort corner to digest.
Later in the day, Frieda makes the last preparations, because she instinctively senses that the birth is imminent. She plucks a few tufts of hair from her fur and cushions the already finished nest with them. This is in her favorite little house, in which she now disappears.
Early the next morning Frieda gives birth to her young in peace and without stress within 15 minutes. The babies are naked, blind and deaf when they are born, so they are completely helpless.
The mother now licks them dry, eats the afterbirth and covers the babies with straw and fur, because they need warmth now.
Soon the baby rabbits help themselves to the extremely nutritious mother’s milk. This is so rich in energy that the young are suckled only 1-2 times a day, but still develop rapidly due to the high nutrient density. N
After this first power drink, Frieda’s babies snuggle up to their proud mama with bulging milk bellies and dream of the exciting future rabbit life.
Why does a mother rabbit kill her young?
But unfortunately there is also the other side, where not everything runs so smoothly and it ends tragically for the just born boys: The mother bites her just born cubs to death.
The reasons that drive a mother rabbit to such a brutal act are different:
In the case of a pregnant female rabbit who cannot get any rest, is constantly “harassed” and “cuddled” by children, has no place of retreat or is constantly exposed to loud commotion, the probability of such a radical act is almost pre-programmed. A rabbit that is so stressed will not feel capable of giving birth and raising young.
If the female is still very young and this is her first pregnancy, there is a risk that the birth will overwhelm her. The completely frightened animal does not know how to help itself in its panic and bites the babies to death.
Attention: Sometimes this happens unintentionally while eating the placenta. Here it is useful if you keep an eye on the birth process and helpfully assist the young mother.
3: Natural selection
A sick or weak young rabbit is sometimes rigorously “weeded out” by the mother and summarily killed.
A behavior of this kind is quite normal in the wild, only the strongest and biggest are raised. Sometimes this instinct is still strong in domesticated rabbits, it varies from individual to individual and from breed to breed.
4: Reproductive instinct
This time, the father rabbit is the culprit, because if left in an enclosure with the new mother, he would prefer to mate her again immediately. But as long as she is raising the young, she is of course not willing to do so.
To change this, he kills the current offspring, even if it is his own, in order to be able to continue reproducing.
5: Lack of food and water
If the female lacks fresh water and nutrient-rich food, especially during gestation, she instinctively knows that she will not be able to provide enough for her offspring.
In this emergency, the innate instinct for self-preservation kicks in and the extra energy-sapping eaters, who probably wouldn’t have survived anyway, are eliminated.
Replacement mothers in rabbits – does it exist?
There are times when a rabbit will not immediately bite its babies to death, but will not accept them.
In the worst case, this can also be fatal for the little ones, as they cannot take care of themselves and are dependent on outside help.
In this case you can try to “foist” them on another doe. If you are lucky, this trick will work and your quick action will be crowned with success.
If this doesn’t work or there is no other female available, you can try hand-rearing with a mix of cat milk and nutrient preparations, which you can get at the vet. The procedure around mixing and administering the nutrient liquid is time-consuming and unfortunately often ineffective, because an optimal composition, as it is the case with the mother’s milk, can not be achieved.
Proven tips, for a positive birth experience, to minimize the risk of cannibalism
We have already told you the reasons that make a mother rabbit bite her offspring to death.
You can eliminate some of these reasons early on through species-appropriate husbandry.
To conclude, we would like to give you some proven tips from practice:
Nutrition plays an essential role for the mother animal. Make sure that there is always enough hay and provide the expectant mother with fresh greens, herbs and sprouts. You can fortify the water with extra nutrients, such as magnesium and vitamin C. This will keep her fit and the body healthy. This will keep her fit and not put too much stress on the body.
The rabbit’s father has no business in the mother’s cage during and after birth. Separate the two for the time of rearing, so you can also easily eliminate this danger point. Rest is the most important thing for a pregnant doe. Around the nest, running around, bustle and noise are absolute no-goes! Rabbits in general are already sensitive to loud noises, but with a pregnant female the stress level is exceeded much faster. You should exclude a very nervous and behaving female rabbit from breeding to avoid the risk of dead biting in the first place. As a rule, female rabbits are good mothers who handle their offspring with care.
For the small percentage among them that kill their young, there are always reasons that cause them to do so. However, with the information and advice given here, you can avoid cannibalism as much as possible and give your lady rabbit a relaxed birth.
We wish you good luck and a lot of fun with the rabbit offspring!
My name is Mark and the senior editor
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