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Rabbit Reproduction and What to Do if you Find a Rabbit’s Nest


With Easter just around the corner, bunnies are everywhere!  The Eastern Cottontail rabbit is the main species in Pennsylvania.  Wild rabbits begin nesting mid-March through earlySeptember. A rabbit doe can have 3-8 babies or “kits” per litter and can have about five litters per breeding season.  Rabbits are pregnant for about thirty days.  Their young are born in shallow burrows or nests lined with mama’s fur and covered with brush or grass.  Babies are born with their eyes closed but mature quickly and are ready to leave the nest after about two weeks.  They are still very small, about half the size of a dollar bill, when they venture out into the world and will often freeze in place instead of running away if they feel threatened.

     Mother rabbits do not stay in the nest with the young, so, chances are, if you accidentally uncover a nest, you won’t find mom. She stays away so that her scent doesn’t attract predators.  A doe also only nurses her kits once every 12-24 hours. Many people mistake unattended rabbit nests for being abandoned, but this is not the case. If you accidentally uncover a rabbit’s nest, simply re-cover it and leave it alone.  Baby bunnies that have gone astray can also be placed back in the nest without being rejected by mama. 

           In most cases, the best advice is to leave wild babies alone.  More than likely, mom is nearby and the baby is probably NOT abandoned.  You should NOT try to keep an injured baby and nurse it or keep an orphaned baby as a pet.  ALL wildlife in Pennsylvania are protected by state and federal laws and it is ILLEGAL to care for injured or abandoned wildlife without a PA Game Commission License.  Please leave the care of wild species to their animal parents whenever possible or contact a licensed rehabilitator so the animal gets the care it needs and can hopefully be released back into the wild where it belongs. Resist the urge to interfere! Remember, babies will be alone for periods of time. Your job is to keep cats, dogs, or kids away and allow nature to take its course.

            However, rabbits don’t always pick good places for their nests.  If a rabbit nest is in an area where it may be in danger of being run over by a lawn mower or raided by the family pet, according to the Indiana House Rabbit Society, “Nests can be moved to a safer place up to 10 feet away from the original site and can be reconstructed if necessary. To make a new nest, dig a shallow hole about 3 inches deep and put into it as much of the original material as you can recover, including the mother's fur. Add dried grass as needed, and put the young back. To determine if the mother is returning, create a tic-tac-toe pattern over the nest with twigs. Wait 24 hours to see if the twigs have been removed. If they have, then the mother is coming back.”

            If you do find an injured or truly abandoned baby rabbit, contact Emily Garrigan in Etters, PA at 717-268-9574 or check the PA Association of Wildlife Rehabilitators website:

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Schedule an appointment with our team of veterinarians today at (717) 246-3611!