Why Does a Newborn Rabbit Keep Moving?

By Angela Libal

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Newborn rabbits wiggle and make mewing noises to stimulate their mother to care for them. You shouldn't get a chance to witness this, because they should be in their nest, inside a nest box, out of your sight and undisturbed. If they were born outside the nest, are trying to crawl out or are cold to the touch, constant movement may signal a serious problem.

A Room of Their Own

For the first 10 days of life a baby rabbit can't see you, because her eyes aren't open. You shouldn't see much of her either, because she belongs inside her nest with her brothers and sisters. Mother rabbits build small, fur-lined nests shortly before their babies are born, drop their newborns inside, then spend most of their time elsewhere. The safest, most comfortable place for babies and momma is a nest box. It gives a sense of security, retains warmth and keeps babies from accidentally wandering away. If your newborn rabbit is outside the nest, place her back inside. If she's still highly active 24 hours after birth, check to make sure her belly is full and she's pinkish and warm to the touch.

One Square Meal a Day

Mother rabbits usually only nurse once a day, generally late at night or very early in the morning. As long as a newborn's belly is plump and full, she's getting enough milk, even if you don't see momma feeding her. If it's been more than 24 hours since birth and the newborns are very active, they may not be feeding well. If baby's belly is sunken, she's feels cold or is bluish, consult a veterinarian or experienced rabbit keeper about how to stimulate the mother to nurse and how to warm and hand-feed newborn rabbits. Most bunnies are good mothers and simply need peace, quiet, a secure area and enough food and water to do their job well.

Not Too Hot, Not Too Cold

Newborn rabbits should spend their time clumped together in a pile. Mother rabbits don't sit on their nests -- the babies keep each other warm. Movement of a newborn out of the sibling pile isn't normal. Move her back in. A baby who keeps moving away, isn't feeding or is cold needs intervention. If all the babies are very active and not forming a sibling clump, they may be too hot or too cold. The temperature in the room with the nest box should be around 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Unlikely Orphans

Rabbits almost never abandon or neglect their babies. They do, however, steer clear if they sense danger to avoid drawing fatal attention to the nest. Constantly checking on, disturbing or handling the young can be extremely stressful to them and their momma. Leave them alone as much as possible, especially the first 10 days. If the rabbit in question is wild, don't mess with it at all. Wild animals don't abandon their babies -- unless you actually see a dead mother, or the nest area is destroyed, the best way to help these supposed "orphans" is to get out of the area so their mom can return to care for them.

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Author

Angela Libal began writing professionally in 2005. She has published several books, specializing in zoology and animal husbandry. Libal holds a degree in behavioral science: animal science from Moorpark College, a Bachelor of Arts from Sarah Lawrence College and is a graduate student in cryptozoology.