Q:

What are the stages of a rabbit's life cycle?

A:

Rabbits begin life as helpless babies. In four to five weeks, they are self-sufficient. Within two to three months, they are already sexually mature and able to breed and initiate the cycle again. Their lifespan is typically nine to 12 years.

Depending on the species, rabbits give birth in burrows or in shallow ground nests. The babies, known as kittens, are born blind and naked. The mortality rate is high, with only about 15 percent of a litter surviving. Their mothers ignore the babies most of the time, often nursing them just once a day for only a few minutes. Rabbit milk is so nutritious, however, that for the strongest kittens, this is sufficient. Within a month, most of the young are weaned. Male rabbits, known as bucks, do not help the females in raising the babies.

Rabbits have the ability to reproduce at a very high rate. Females often have litters of up to seven kittens four to five times a year. Instead of the regular yearly cycle of ovulation of most mammal species, rabbits ovulate upon copulation. A female is able to conceive again right after she has given birth to a litter. In areas with abundant resources rabbit populations are able to grow with great rapidity. However, when resources are scarce, the reproduction rate is curtailed.


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