With the increase in popularity of rabbits as pets and as livestock, an increasing number of homesteaders have many questions about raising and breeding them. Naturally many of these queries revolve around baby bunnies.
For some breeders, those adorable little fuzzballs are why they take up breeding in the first place. They are certainly cute, that’s for sure, but baby bunnies are also incredibly delicate creatures.
You may even have heard that rabbits are all born blind. Is it true? Are rabbits born blind?
Yes, rabbits are born blind with their eyes completely closed. Their eyes do not open until they are about two weeks old. This delay in opening their eyes is due to the fact that the rabbit’s eyelids are fused together at birth. By two weeks of age, rabbits have good vision and can see color.
Don’t worry if it takes your bunnies a few days more or less to open those peepers; some variation in the time frame is nothing to worry about unless they are way overdue.
At any rate, you must never attempt to force a bunny’s eyes open for any reason. You’ll need to know that fact and a whole lot more if you want to raise rabbits successfully. Keep reading to learn more.
Why are Rabbits Born Blind?
The primary reason rabbits are born blind is due to their speedy gestation period. A doe’s pregnancy lasts only about 31 days from conception to delivery.
At birth, the bunny’s skull is not yet fully formed, and its eyes have not developed enough to be functional.
The extra time spent in the nest gives their skulls and eyes a chance to develop properly before they venture out into the big wide world.
Can they See Anything at All Upon Birth?
No. They may be able to perceive light and darkness, but they cannot make anything out more than that with their sight.
Baby Bunnies are Totally Helpless at Birth
At birth, baby bunnies are totally helpless. Their eyes are sealed shut, their ears are folded flat against their head, and they’re unable to hop or run.
They don’t even have fur! In fact, they’re so vulnerable that their mother will only nurse them for a few minutes each day to avoid attracting predators.
Instead, she’ll leave them hidden in a nest lined with her fur, where they’ll stay until they’re old enough to fend for themselves.
While they’re waiting for their big debut, baby bunnies will spend most of their time sleeping and growing. By the time they’re eight weeks old, they’ll be fully grown and ready to start exploring the world on their own.
When Will Their Eyes Open?
A bunny’s eyes will open around 2 weeks of age, give or take a day or two. This variation depends somewhat on the breed and somewhat on the individual bunny.
For example, dwarf bunnies tend to open their eyes a few days earlier than larger breeds.
And some baby bunnies are just naturally quick developers and will open their eyes as soon as they’re able, while others take a little longer for no apparent or harmful reasons.
How Will You Know a Rabbit’s Eyes are Ready to Open?
You won’t, really. When they are ready they will just open up! You can track the time since birth on a calendar if you want to zero in more on the big day.
What Do Baby Bunnies See When Their Eyes First Open?
At first, baby bunnies will only be able to see blurry shapes and colors. It’ll take a short while for their vision to fully clear up. Once it does, they’ll be able to see everything around them just as well as an adult rabbit.
What if a Rabbit’s Eyes Don’t Open for Around Two Weeks?
If you are around 16 days old and a bunny has not opened its eyes, you probably have a problem. Bunnies might not open their eyes for a variety of reasons, but the most common one is an infection or genetic defect.
Other reasons a bunny might not open its eyes on schedule are:
- Eye mites. Tiny parasites that live in the tear ducts and eyelids
- Conjunctivitis. An inflammation of the tissue lining the eyelids
- Blocked tear ducts. A condition that prevents tears from draining properly.
- Deformity: A misshapen eye, eyelid, or tear duct
If your bunny’s eyes are not open by day 16, take them to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Some of these conditions may be treated if caught early enough, but they will quickly lead to blindness or potentially death if left untreated.
Never Attempt to Open a Bunny’s Eyelids
No matter what happens, and no matter how overdue your bunnies are to open their eyes, never attempt to open their eyes yourself.
In the best-case scenario, you’ll cause them a lot of discomfort and stress. Worst case scenario, you’ll damage their eyes irreparably or even blind them.
You aren’t wrong for wanting to help them along, but this is not an issue you can help them with in any case.
Again, if your bunnies are overdue to open their eyes take them to a vet for a checkup straightaway.
What Happens After a Rabbit’s Eyes Open?
Once their eyes are open, baby bunnies will start to explore their world and learn about all the new sights around them.
Until then, they’ll just have to be content with cuddling up with their littermates and enjoying the warmth of their mother’s fur.
How Quickly Does a Bunny’s Sight Develop?
Quite quickly. A bunny’s eyesight will be fully developed within about two weeks of its eyes opening. This means they’ll be able to see just as well as an adult rabbit by the time they’re eight weeks old.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.
Find out more about the team here.