Rabbits are sociable animals and live in colonies in burrow systems known as warrens.

Breeding

"Breed like rabbits" is a common expression and rabbits are indeed prolific breeders! In one year, a doe can produce more than 20 offspring and many of these will breed themselves when only 4 months old. Spring and summer are the main reproductive periods, but breeding can start in January.

The babies (kits) are born in special nests made by the doe which is in a dead end burrow, often separate from the main warren. The doe makes a nest from grass or straw and lines it with fur plucked from her chest. After a gestation period (time between mating and birth) of 28 - 31 days, a litter of 3 - 8 babies is born. At birth they are blind, deaf, hairless and hardly able to move for their first week. Their mother visits them for only a few minutes every 24 hours to suckle them and then she seals off the nesting chamber with soil.

By the eighth day, the young are covered with fur and two days later their eyes open. By the sixteenth day, they have ventured out of the burrow and started to eat solid food. They are weaned and independent at 30 days. Their mother will already have mated and be expecting another litter.

This prolific breeding is normally balanced by many deaths caused by predators, road traffic, shooting and trapping. Apart from humans, rabbits' predators include foxes, badgers, stoats, weasels, buzzards and cats.

Read More: Rabbits and humans

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