Why I Wean Rabbits at Six Weeks

kits 5 wks

These are five week old kits, still a week away from weaning

Nothing annoys me more than people selling young animals before they are ready to leave their mothers. I have personal experience with cats and kittens and I think knowing what I do now, I wouldn’t let a kitten go to a new home before 14 weeks of age. I find that at this age, they gain a lot of confidence and start seeking their independence, so are much more at ease adapting to a new environment. I would never, ever wean a poor little kitten at six weeks, and I think this is a very cruel thing. I know the litter of kittens that I recently raised were still nursing well into 16 weeks and getting a lot of comfort from it. (Note: I do not breed cats and I do not ever plan to. There are enough unwanted cats in the world. I’m talking about an abandoned litter I took in last summer.)

The second most annoying thing is people who think that rabbits cannot be weaned and sent to new homes at six weeks of age.

Rabbits are not cats, they are prey animals. In the wild, a baby rabbit would be lucky to get three weeks with their moms, for various natural reasons. I know from personal experience breeding rabbits, that mother buns dislike nursing and will generally refuse to nurse at about the four week point. By this time the kits are all happily eating everything mom does, and generally have been for at least a week. They need no further tutelage in how to be a rabbit. They do not gain comfort from their annoying siblings bouncing around in their faces. They are fully ready to go out and claim their new rabbit territory. Rabbit survival instructions: See something scary? Run!

I have never had an issue separating babies from moms at six weeks. I don’t have any problems with them going to new homes at this age, and I have zero problems with so-called “sensitive stomach” issues that people seem to associate so often with young rabbits.

I raise my rabbits to not have sensitive stomach issues. My rabbits are always fed a variety of fresh greens from the time their mothers are pregnant, up until the day they are sold or butchered. They eat safe greens like grass, dandelions, plantain and blackberry bramble. You cannot give them too much of these. They also have all the rabbit pellets they can put away and unlimited fresh water.

I used to offer a bag of transition food with my buns, but I don’t find it’s really required. Unless you’re not very informed about rabbit nutrition and you choose to feed a diet of candy-colored seeds, banana chips, carrots and raisins, the rabbit you purchase from me will be just fine. The proper diet for a rabbit is boring old rabbit pellets, grass, hay and weeds. Vegetables or fruits, unless the rabbit is used to them, should be an occasional treat. Grains like oats, black oil sunflower seed, barley or whole corn can also be fed sparingly; or you can go with a fresh fodder system.

Another reason to wean at six weeks, especially if going to a pet home, is that this gives you added opportunity to bond and make friends with your new baby. You will find they will warm up to you very quickly at this age.

I know a lot of people have very strong bonds with their pet rabbits. I also know that coddling rabbits will give them issues just as surely as dirty living conditions will. If your little bunny eats a perfectly measured out, washed, organic salad four times a day for his whole life, that rabbit’s system and gut bacteria have been trained to deal with this routine. If one day he gets into the garden and eats himself silly, he may end up with very bad stomach problems. The same goes for a breeder who feeds nothing but one kind of rabbit pellet and nothing else. Of course a rabbit raised like this needs to be acclimated slowly to greens or different pellets, just for safety’s sake.

I have been given a lot of advice pertaining to raising rabbits, and I followed much of it without knowing why. Things like providing transition food and medicating every three months for coccidia. Then I began doing things my own way. And it worked a whole lot better. My rabbits do not get coccidia or parasites, they do not get heat stress, they do not get sore hocks, they do not get upset stomachs and die, they do not keel over from heart attacks when the dogs run by and they do not randomly turn up dead.

One provider of much useless advice was a local rabbit breeder who I had freely given a pair of Silver Marten kits to, to thank her for loaning me a pair of her rabbits. A few months later when I inquired how they were doing, I was told they had both died. What? All their siblings were doing just fine. They weren’t the first rabbits in her care to mysteriously die… According to her, sometimes waves of illness would sweep through her rabbitry, obliterating entire breeds. She blamed the feed store and the breeds. Odd. No wonder she was medicating every three months. I haven’t medicated my rabbits in a year and a half.

So there you have it. Buy a baby rabbit from me and you have the healthiest, most robust bunny that I can possibly provide you. Bunnies doesn’t need to be with their mom for eight weeks any more than a mouse does. How you feed and take care of your bunny after you get it home is now completely up to you. Do some research and keep your bunny in the same great health they arrived in.

Thanks for reading!

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