Extended Labor in Rabbits

We blew it. Except we didn’t know we were blowing it.


Here’s the story – we put the nestbox in with our doe. We waited. She pulled fur and had one baby. All evidence pointed to the fact that this was a singleton litter and our temperatures are still below freezing many nights, so we fostered the little loner in with another litter to better its odds of survival, then removed the nestbox from mama.


And walked out the next morning to six more babies on the wire of mama’s cage, frozen solid.


What the….?!


All of our rabbit husbandry experience has taught us that rabbits give birth within a span of about 15 minutes. But in this case, I can say absolutely without question, that there was at least a 36 hour break between that first little bunny being born and the other six!


I don’t know how often this is, and without having personally experienced it we would have pooh-poohed the possibility of rabbits giving birth at different spaces. However, it does make me wonder about the few times we have counted babies, then a week later discovered our count was wrong and there is another baby in the box. Did the mama have another while we weren’t looking?


The only explanation I can figure for this behavior is if both of the uterine horns were impregnated. Since we occasionally leave our rabbits in with the bucks overnight (in the winter they typically don’t want to breed immediately so we’ve found making them roommates for a time works better) perhaps the doe was impregnated in different uterine horns, hours apart, and that caused a different delivery schedule?


Who knows, but I was shocked enough I felt it was worth noting on the blog that it can happen.


And we’re so bummed about the babies who didn’t make it because we blew it.

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6 thoughts on “Extended Labor in Rabbits

  1. willowcreekfarm April 10, 2017 at 10:44 am Reply

    Sorry for the loss. But glad you shared it so others can learn from it. I think everyone who keeps/breeds animals has at one point or another had to learn a lesson by blowing it. We definitely have. Not fun, but you know it will never happen again on your watch.


  2. Amu April 10, 2017 at 11:14 am Reply

    I had one give birth all DOA and two weeks later one more came out. I’m thinking it was a natural abortion. Because this is the best time to breed after a bummer like this. The doe will be receptive. I think the “humping” caused her to expel that last kit. This was a good thing because otherwise it may have ended up mummified inside. The one I rebred had 10 healthyspunky kits.


    • Amu April 10, 2017 at 11:15 am Reply

      They may have been DOA. She still had nestbox?


      • madhatrabbits April 10, 2017 at 3:17 pm

        No she didn’t have the nestbox anymore because we thought she was done. I’m pretty sure we lost the litter because we made a mistake.


  3. Janelle April 25, 2019 at 5:00 am Reply

    I just had a similar situation my doe had 6 babies and I thought she was done I checked on them before bed again all was well. The next morning which was 24 hours after the 6 were born I checked on the kits to make sure all was well to find 2 new kits total of 8.


    • madhatrabbits April 25, 2019 at 5:18 am Reply

      I think that’s crazy! But it happens and the rabbits seem very fine…

      One thought I’ve had for “why” is – maybe this can happen because of a repeated exposure to buck? Many breeders will have more than one visit to the buck for breeding. Maybe that explains why the babies can arrive at different times?


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