Pregnancy is one of the great miracles of life, and if you own animals and one of them is expecting, it’s always an exciting and slightly nerve-racking time.
There’s a lot to prepare for to make sure that mom and baby stay safe.
But then, there are rabbits. Rabbits are absolutely infamous for breeding rapidly and in tremendous numbers.
To further complicate matters, most of the time, a female rabbit will give very little outward indication that she is pregnant at all.
Of course, the assumption that your female is pregnant if she’s been around an intact male at any time is it good advice, but hardly helpful when we need to know for sure.
Regardless, there are some subtle and not-so-subtle signs that you can look out for to tell if your female rabbit is pregnant and expecting. I will tell you about 10 of them below…
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One of the very first things that will probably tip you off that your lady rabbit has become pregnant is a serious change in attitude towards you, and even towards other rabbits generally.
Well before they are due to deliver, pregnant female rabbits typically get downright defensive.
She probably won’t want to be handled or maybe even petted, she might want to keep people and other rabbits out of her living space and it isn’t out of the question that she will growl, lunge, lash out, and potentially even bite if you don’t give her her space.
It’s not because she doesn’t trust you; it’s just because female rabbits, like most mothers, get very hormonal during pregnancy, almost to the point of paranoia.
These raging hormones result in defensiveness because she wants to be sure that she’ll be okay to safely deliver her litter.
If your female is getting agitated, it doesn’t mean you should automatically assume she is pregnant because many, even fixed females, do this every now and then.
But you should definitely pay closer attention especially if you see any of the other signs on this list!
2. Firm, Plump Abdomen
Another likely indicator of pregnancy in rabbits, particularly smaller breeds or individuals, is a firm, rounded, and generally plump abdomen.
It gets that way because it’s full of little baby rabbits waiting to be born!
Now, you are probably already thinking that this is the first and best way to determine whether one of your girls is pregnant.
And, considering that lots of other animals and even female humans become visibly gravid when they are expecting, this isn’t always the case with rabbits.
If your rabbit has a smaller litter, or if she is a larger breed of rabbit, it is unlikely that you’ll notice any significant changes in her abdomen until very late in her term, possibly the last week at the earliest.
I know it sounds impossible, but many rabbits really don’t show physically when they are pregnant!
3. Overall Weight Gain
Weight gain is a reasonably reliable indicator of pregnancy in rabbits.
For starters, if you’re still able to handle your rabbit you might notice that she feels legitimately heavier.
This is for one of two reasons, or potentially both: the additional weight of the little kittens she is carrying is one factor, and one that is immediately noticeable if she has a very large litter.
The other reason is that she might be packing on weight because she is eating a lot more food if it’s available to help sustain herself and keep her little babies growing.
So if your rabbit seems to be getting a little softer and a little pudgier all over, it is self-evident that she is eating more – but she’s probably eating more because she’s pregnant!
4. Increased Appetite
Speaking of eating more, one of the very first indicators that you’ll get is an increase in appetite.
Obviously, most of us don’t want to let our rabbits free-eat because they do have a tendency to put on weight.
If you’re a good owner, you’ll have them on a diet plan that gives them plenty of food but prevents them from gaining too much weight.
If you notice your female rabbit tucking into her food even faster and more energetical than usual, trying to take food from other rabbits or getting upset and temperamental when her food runs out you need to pay close attention and consider giving her more.
For starters, if she’s pregnant she will definitely need that food to keep her babies healthy.
Second, female rabbits have the ability to “self-abort” and reabsorb their fetuses back into their body if they don’t have enough nutritional resources.
I know it sounds macabre, and I guess it is, but this is an invaluable survival strategy for rabbits in the wild that face many challenges.
If your female rabbit seems “hungrier” than usual, she might have a bunch of little buns in the oven.
5. Nesting Behavior
An indicator, and a high-probability one, that your rabbit is pregnant is when she engages in nesting behavior, specifically nest building.
If you see her gathering blankets, soft toys, straw or anything else that can make a good nest site for her to give birth, she’s probably very close to doing so assuming she’s actually pregnant!
The reason I said high probability up above, and not certain is because some female rabbits engage in this behavior periodically even when they aren’t pregnant.
And once again, yes, that includes female rabbits that have been spayed.
If you do notice this behavior, you should inspect her closely to see if you can ascertain that she’s actually pregnant because once she starts doing this the babies are very close behind.
6. Digging at Floor or Ground
Rabbits, at least most breeds and species of rabbit, live and give birth underground in warrens, what most people call dens.
These underground structures are surprisingly pretty big, and accordingly most rabbits are excellent diggers.
Don’t be surprised to see your female suddenly start digging in her enclosure, or attempting to dig through something that is un-digable, like a solid floor in your home or the corner of her cage or pen.
If you see her with her head down and rapidly bicycling her front paws, she’s trying to dig and that means she’s thinking about going underground and giving birth.
You probably already know what I’m about to say: though this is a reliable indicator of pregnancy, it is not a surefire indicator of pregnancy.
Some females do this instinctively at various times, and even females that are “falsely pregnant” will do it, sometimes exhibiting other signs of pregnancy as well.
I promise I’m not trying to be a downer, but it’s really, truly difficult to tell when rabbits are pregnant!
7. Fur Plucking
Fur plucking is exactly what it sounds like: when a female rabbit starts biting out chunks of her fur.
She is planning on using them to finish off the construction of her nest to make it as warm, soft and dry as possible.
This is actually a lot like how chickens and ducks pluck feathers from their stomachs; it is to help her warm her babies and also to keep them warm in the nest when she isn’t home.
Your rabbit will bite fur off of her body anywhere she can reach, but she tends to prioritize taking it from her chest, neck and shoulder area. Watch for her to deposit it in the nest she has already begun to construct.
But, fur plucking is not the smoking gun that you might think it is.
As destructive as it seems, a rabbit might still do this even if she isn’t pregnant, and any rabbit might do it if they are sufficiently stressed or sick.
Pay close attention if you see this occurring or if you notice missing clumps of fur on a given rabbit.
Examine the rabbit closely and see if you notice any obvious signs of disease, pest infestation, or injuries that might have resulted from fighting.
Only in the absence of other evidence like that can you chalk it up plucking to pregnancy behavior, and as always remember it could be a red herring!
8. Avoidance of Males
This is a symptom of pregnancy that doesn’t always occur, and it seems to be more linked to an individual rabbit’s proclivities than to any hardwired instinctive behavior.
Some female rabbits will avoid males entirely, even the male that got them pregnant, once they’re well into their term.
This can cause serious friction for obvious reasons, because if the male still has access to her, he probably isn’t going to take it very well: sexually intact males get very possessive over their females.
If these are two rabbits that have been cohabitating peacefully prior to this, fights and injuries aren’t out of the question so take this seriously.
If the pair is bonded and otherwise amicable, the best thing you can do is to separate them, but leave it so that the mail can see and smell the female and preferably smell the young once they are born.
This will keep things peaceful in the aftermath of the birth, and maintain the relationship between the two rabbits.
9. Seeing Movement in Abdomen
A stark and even startling indicator of pregnancy, and one that is undeniable evidence of the same.
In certain females, when they are very, very far along and birth is likely within a day or two at the most, you may sometimes see actual movement in her abdomen.
I mean to say you can see the physical distortion of her skin caused by the movement and repositioning of the tiny rabbits she is carrying.
This is, I think, really cool and not just because you’ll finally know for sure that your girl is actually pregnant and not faking it.
But you can’t stop and admire too long: if this is the last bit of evidence that you need to know for certain, you’ll also know that birth could happen literally anytime, including in the next several minutes.
So if you haven’t prepared for that, drop everything, including this article, and get to it!
10. Presence of Babies in Pen
I know it sounds a little glib, but the other only surefire symptom of pregnancy and rabbits is actually seeing little, adorable baby bunnies appear out of nowhere one day.
Remember when I said a way up above that rabbits tend to be pretty sneaky about their pregnancy? It’s this event right here that will drive that point home, I promise.
And if it hasn’t happened to you yet already I will guarantee that if you own rabbits long enough it will.
But, almost paradoxically, just because you are surprised with the sudden appearance of absolutely adorable baby rabbits, that doesn’t mean that your female rabbit, their mother, isn’t still pregnant…
Be Warned: Female Rabbits Can Get Pregnant Again Immediately After Delivery!
I wasn’t being snarky when I said that female rabbits may yet still be pregnant right after giving birth. No, it doesn’t mean there are one or two bunnies still stuck in there, but the next batch might already be on its way.
That’s because a female rabbit can get pregnant again mere hours after the birth of her last litter!
That means if you were unaware of the pregnancy and kept her and a sexually mature and capable male together, it’s all but certain she has already been impregnated again.
And menstrual cycle be damned: female rabbits release their eggs as a direct response to copulation with the male; not due to their own hormonal cycles.
So, celebrate, I guess. You’ve got a bunch of new additions, and in just about 28 to 32 days of gestation, you’ll have even more.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.