To answer simply, female rabbits (doe) can get pregnant anytime when they are 3 months old and can continue to give birth from that point of their first pregnancy till up to the age of 4 years. As for the male rabbits, (Bucks), they can mate with potential females till they are seven years of age.
So at what age can a rabbit get pregnant? Rabbits are a little different from most mammals because they can get pregnant and give birth to their young ones at any time of year as long as they are over 3 months old. As a pet owner, because of the prolific nature of these rabbits, it is probably best you separate your male rabbits from your female rabbits to avoid unwanted pregnancies.
Rabbit Pregnancy Symptoms
As a friendly reminder, note that not all does (female rabbits) will give clear signs of pregnancy within the first two weeks. So you may need to monitor your bunnies, paying close attention to any and all symptoms particularly regarding their gain or loss in weight.
However, just like every other pregnant mammal, there will be a gain in weight in your rabbits as the baby would tend to grow within them. So obviously, weight gain is one of the clear symptoms of pregnancy in rabbits.
Some of the pregnant females may show signs of an increased appetite for food, others may become cranky and restless, moody, some may display some feats of aggressiveness and erratic behaviour. Although mood swings are not unheard of in animals, especially mammals, so you should have a general idea about your pet’s personality, before using mood swings as a criterion for pregnancy.
If your female rabbits begin to feel unusually tired and sleepy, don’t panic or get overly worried about it, probably she is just resting more to stay healthy during her pregnancy (if she is indeed pregnant). Keep in mind that some bunnies are naturally unfriendly and they will not allow you pet them as often as you would like/want to, so it might be hard to tell if the bunny is actually pregnant during the first week.
At precisely 10-12 days after breeding, there will be some marble-sized bumps (easily noticed and can be felt) present inside your bunny’s belly, which is a clear sign of pregnancy. Just like all other animals, rabbits have a normal gestational period of 31 days. So if your rabbit/bunny has failed to deliver 2 or 3 days after a normal gestation period, it’s best to go see a vet to access the health status of your rabbit.
About one week to her parturition (the act of giving birth), the soon to be rabbit mom will exhibit signs of nesting behaviour. You will notice the build-up of beddings in her cage or she might be digging up holes at the side of her but or cage for her young ones. Essentially she will take any material she might need to create a comfortable and safe place for her delivery. These materials can include hay and blush blankets.
Another clear sign of a nesting doe is, she will pull out her fur in preparation of her delivery. So as pet owners this should not be a cause for alarm as it is perfectly normal.
According to experts, if a female rabbit is nesting, get ready for a new litter within one week and, when the future mom starts pulling out her fur, it’s most likely she will be giving birth within the next two days. Rabbits are nocturnal animals so most likely the anticipating mother will give birth to her young ones at night.
How Long are Rabbits Pregnant for?
As I have said before, female rabbits have the potential to give birth as soon as they are 12- 16 weeks old and can continue the birthing process until they are 4 years old. The male rabbits will definitely begin to show signs of sexual development a little bit faster than their female counterparts, and they will continue their mating process till they become seven years of age.
Rabbits also have a specific mating season. They are a bit different from other mammals in this category. The females are capable of getting pregnant throughout an entire year. So it is best to keep your bunnies separated during a supposed mating period if you don’t want to have hundreds of baby rabbits to look after, in just a few years. If you have no desire to start a commercial business with your rabbits it is best you keep them neutered or castrated.
In a nutshell, the total gestation period for any/most female rabbit is usually around 31 days, usually a month from initial pregnancy. Most likely you should brace yourselves for a whole lot of young bunnies from your pregnant rabbits between 28 and 33 days. Note that a single birth can have between 3 and 12 bunnies, but sadly not all of these youngsters will survive.
Below is a list of some common rabbits and their gestation period;
- Eastern cottontail: Gestation period is approximately 27 days
- Tapeti: Gestation period is approximately 42 days
- Mexican cottontail: Gestation period is approximately 30 days
- Swamp rabbit: Gestation period is approximately 37 days
- Desert cottontail: Gestation period is approximately 28 days
- Brush rabbit: Gestation period is approximately 27 days
- New England cottontail: Gestation period is approximately 28 days
- Dice’s cottontail: Gestation period is approximately 30 days
Rabbits Breeding Age Limit
We have already established the fact that the adult female rabbit (doe) does not have a heating period (oestrus), like other well-known mammals and that the doe will readily accept the male rabbit (buck) at any point in time of the year.
The matter of how long a female rabbit can breed also has its stipulated time. Mature female rabbits (does) can breed when they are 5 to 6 months of age and can continue to have babies for up to 4 years. So it is safe to assume that the breeding limit of any species of the rabbit should be 4 to 4.5 years. After the first birth, the doe can become pregnant again just after a few days, in preparation for the next birth of her babies.
However, as pet owners of rabbits, it is usually not recommended that we allow ours does to have another pregnancy immediately after her first birth. Spacing the birth of your bunnies is usually advisable. It is preferable to mate the rabbit when her young ones (litter) are 4 weeks old so that by the time she releases her next litter, the previous sets of young ones will be at least eight weeks old.
With this simple spacing method, one doe can produce at most 6 litters a year. It also preserves the health of mature female rabbits.