Rabbits are known to reproduce quickly, hence the phrase “breed like rabbits.” Even the Pope is familiar with the phrase, as he once made a remark advising Catholics not to breed like rabbits.
And if you think the phrase exaggerates things, you need to dive deep into rabbit reproduction. Let me give you a glimpse; a doe can conceive at three months and deliver 6-10 kits after a month!
Unbelievable, right? That’s not all; she can conceive again within 24 hours of delivery if she has contact with an unneutered buck. Now you understand exactly what “breeding like rabbits” means.
The number of babies in a litter varies depending on a number of things. This article digs deep into rabbit reproduction, particularly how many rabbits are in a litter and other related topics.
But before anything else, let’s first understand what “a litter” means in a rabbit’s world.
Understanding the Meaning of “a litter” of Rabbits
When you hear the phrase “a litter of rabbits,” what should come to mind is a group of baby rabbits. For the record, baby rabbits are those from zero to around six or seven weeks old.
Side note: Baby rabbits are called kittens.
A litter of rabbits is a group of kittens from a single mating. For example, when a doe conceives and gives birth to ten kits, that’s a litter of rabbits.
How Many Rabbits are in a Litter?
Now that you understand the meaning of “a litter” in rabbits’ world, let’s get to the question of the day, ‘how many rabbits are in a litter?’
One litter of rabbits can have 1-14 rabbits. The number varies depending on several factors (discussed below). And though a bunny can give birth to fourteen babies, not all survive. Some are born weak with minimal chances of survival.
Besides, unlike humans, who are instinctively maternal, female rabbits may ignore their young ones, especially if they notice they are weak.
As weird as it sounds, they actually prioritize the stronger kits with higher chances of survival and neglect the weak ones.
Rabbits have innate drives to protect their species and ensure they don’t become extinct. Of course, the strong kits have high chances of surviving and procreating in the future, hence the urge to prioritize them.
Some babies in a litter may be stillborn, reducing the number of surviving rabbits. Interestingly, a rabbit may eat the stillborns together with the placenta so predators can’t track the scent.
What is the Largest Litter of Rabbits?
The largest ever recorded litter of rabbits is 24. Actually, this has happened twice, and in both cases, babies were born to the New Zealand breed.
However, the average large number of babies in a litter is twelve or fourteen. This is the common large size of babies born in a litter.
What Affects the Size of a Rabbit Litter?
While some rabbits will produce one or two kits, others can produce ten or fourteen babies at once. So, what affects the size of rabbits in a litter?
Breed of the rabbit
The largest litter of rabbits was from the New Zealand rabbit. It’s no coincidence that the breed was the same in both instances. This shows that breed affects the size of a rabbit’s litter.
Besides, some breeds are larger than others. Large species can produce up to 14 kits, while small ones may only produce two.
Age of the female bunny
The older the doe, the higher the chance of producing a large litter. A young doe produces a small litter but increases the size as she ages. An aging doe will reproduce at a small size until she can no longer give birth.
Health of the female rabbit
A healthy doe will have less to zero health issues during pregnancy, hence higher chances of producing a large size. Besides, she has a high probability of producing strong babies.
A pregnant doe living in a friendly environment with less stress and enough food is likely to produce a larger litter than one living in a stressful environment full of predators.
Sequential number of litter
The number of kittens in a litter also depends on the sequential number of litter. Generally, the first litter tends to be smaller, and the size increases as the doe reaches maturity.
As the litter ages, the size starts getting smaller until she can no longer reproduce.
How Many Kits Survive Out of a Litter?
I can’t give a specific number since the survival rate depends on several factors. However, the mortality rate of domestic baby rabbits is less than 10%, which is low compared to other animals.
Following the mortality rate, this means only a few kits in a litter don’t survive. But if we are being practical, more than 10% of baby rabbits die young. Some are born weak, and since the mother prioritizes the strong ones, they end up dying as newborns.
It’s not strange to find weak rabbits secluded in a corner and left hungry, as if they have been sentenced to die. The mother has no time for them as her concern is ensuring the strong ones survive.
If you notice this, take care of these vulnerable babies to increase their chances of survival. A doe can also have stillborns if she had complications during her pregnancy. Some of these complications result from harsh environments or health problems.
Sadly, a doe can give birth to twelve kits, but only half survive. It’s also not uncommon for all kits to survive to adulthood.
As a rabbit owner, you play a role in the kittens’ survival rate. Start by taking good care of a pregnant doe, then extend the care to newborn kits. This increases their chance of survival.
The number of rabbits in a litter varies depending on the doe’s size and age, among other things. But on average, a rabbit can have six to ten rabbits in a litter.
A doe can have up to ten liters in a year, considering her gestation period lasts only thirty days.
However, you are advised to allow her time to recover so she can produce healthy babies.