Picture this: It’s a bright day and you’re out for a walk with your dog. While walking, you hear a soft mewling nearby, which your dog quickly picks up and looks for in the bushes. You follow, find a small clearing between the leaves, and lo and behold… it’s a rabbit nest!
And what’s more, there is a litter of babies inside. You go “aww” for the adorable little animals before feeling a pang of worry.
Are the baby bunnies safe? If you and your dog found them, then surely other animals can? And what do you do with the nest anyway?
This article will teach you all about the wild rabbit nest and what to do if you ever find one.
What does a Wild Rabbit Nest Look Like?
If it seems like you’re seeing more rabbits these days, then you’re not alone. The Cottontail rabbit’s (the most common type of wild rabbit in the US) mating season runs from March up until September, meaning that there are probably nests filled with baby rabbits these days.
Cottontail rabbit kits typically stay in the nest until their 3rd or 4th week, so, likely, many of them are still not fully weaned.
Usually, a rabbit nest is shallow and look like piles of kicked-up turf. They’re also often lined with grass, leaves, and the fur of the mother rabbit.
While nests are common in the wild, you can also find them in your backyard, as rabbits like building them in open, grassy areas for protection.
Often, it’s common to find nests in yards, parks, playgrounds, and even office parks, as predators barely go into places like this.
What to Do if you Discover a Rabbit’s Nest
While finding a rabbit nest during this time of the year can be expected, many people don’t always know how to proceed. And the truth is, the answer is a bit more complicated.
To help you, here’s a step-by-step guide:
1. Leave the Nest as it is
If you happen to find a rabbit nest and didn’t disturb it, then it’s best to leave it.
While it may seem like the rabbits are abandoned, the mother is probably just out foraging for food. Rabbit mothers also typically visit the nest early in the morning or late at night, so it’s unlikely that you’ll catch them there.
In such cases, it’s best to leave the rabbits as you found them and go about your day.
2. Check the Bunnies for Signs of Injury
This is important if your dog was the one who first found the nest. While dogs are generally gentle and just curious, a well-meaning pooch can accidentally harm tiny animals.
Before doing anything else, take a minute to check for:
- Wounds (bleeding or not)
- Twisted limbs
- Frequent crying or whining
If the babies are calm and nothing seems amiss, then you can go ahead and fix the nest. If not, the next best thing is to call an expert for some professional help.
3. Fix the Rabbit Nest
If you have accidentally disturbed the nest, you should take some time to try and fix it.
If the babies have been picked up and handled, then gently put them back inside the nest. Next, cover them with either some grass or the fur drape that initially hid them. Either way, what you’re doing here is camouflaging up the babies.
Don’t hang around the nest any longer than you need to as well. Walk away and continue with your day to avoid leaving a scent or encouraging other animals to disturb the nest.
Make sure you wash your hands after handling rabbits.
4. Mark the Nest
In all honesty, once you check the nest and make sure that all the baby rabbits are unharmed, then you can be done and leave the nest. But if you haven’t seen the mother and want to make sure the kits survive, you can mark the nest.
To do this, sprinkle a small circle of unscented baking soda around the nest. Next, take some unscented dental floss and lay them in an “X” position over the nest.
Come the following day, check to see if the dental floss and baking soda have been disturbed. If it has, then that means that the mother rabbit visited and the babies are fine. If not, then something might be wrong.
5. Take Action
While rabbits rarely abandon their babies, there are just some instances when that’s what happens. And if the babies are still dependent, they won’t survive without their mother.
Signs that mean you need to take action include:
- Weak and lethargic babies
- The floss and baking soda remain undisturbed for a day or two
- Visibly injured (or dead) kits
- Baby rabbits with empty, sunken bellies
- Dehydrated babies (do the skin-pinch test to check)
If you see two or more of these signs, it’s likely the kits need human intervention to survive.
If the nest is ruined, you can gently take the babies inside a box for some warmth. Make sure to include the nest material as much as you can.
6. Contact an Expert or Professional
Unless you’re experienced in taking care of rabbits or a trained professional, I don’t recommend taking care of the kits yourself.
Not only are they notoriously hard to rehabilitate, but they’re wild animals that require more supervision. Even expert care doesn’t guarantee that they’ll survive.
But if the baby rabbits are orphaned or abandoned, and you want to give them the best chance at survival, immediately call animal control or an expert rabbit rescuer.
With luck, they should be able to survive and go back into the wild within a couple of weeks.
There’s no doubt that baby rabbits are cute, and you may want to care for them yourself, especially if you come across a rabbit nest.
But please resist the urge to do this! Most times, the best thing to do is to keep your distance and not disturb them.
And if you want a pet rabbit yourself, then there are plenty of domesticated ones you can get from a trusted pet store, or you can even adopt one from a shelter.