What Causes a Mother Rabbit Not to Have Milk?

By Kristie Karns

Michael Blann/Photodisc/Getty Images

Most of the time when it appears that the mother rabbit doesn't have any milk, she really does but for some reason is not expressing it for the babies yet. Rabbits are difficult to raise because the mothers have strict ideas on how to raise their little ones and any interference in her plans can make her nervous and shut down the whole process for a while.

Don't Panic

Baby rabbits can survive for up to 72 hours without being fed. Lowered lactation is normal for many rabbit mothers. A normal, healthy mother rabbit usually doesn't produce a lot of milk as soon as her kits are born but typically will give just enough to keep them alive. By the fifth day after birth, she should be producing plenty of milk. As long as the babies are plump, she's taking good care of them.

Feed the Doe Well

The mother rabbit must be fed adequately to produce a good supply of milk. If she is not lactating within a day or so of giving birth, she could be malnourished and might sacrifice this family in favor of a future one. Giving her plenty of fresh water, all the rabbit chow she wants and the fresh vegetables that she likes to eat will help enable her to produce more milk rapidly.

Twice a Day Nursing

A doe will not nurse her kits several times a day but only twice, once in the morning and once at night. She prefers this nursing time to be quiet, quick and private. It's common for the doe to feed the babies for only about 5 minutes at a stretch. If the nursing times are interrupted by people, for example, if several caretakers are watching, the mother rabbit might just skip the feeding period altogether.

Oxytocin

Two days after the birth, if the kits still look undernourished and the mother is definitely not lactating, it's time to take her to a veterinarian as quickly as possible. She probably is under a lot of stress and he can introduce a small dose of oxytocin into her system, which should make her begin lactating within 24 hours. Oxytocin has a time limit however and won't work if used more than 48 hours after the births.

Photo Credits

  • Michael Blann/Photodisc/Getty Images