How to Determine the Age of a Baby Cottontail Rabbit

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Cottontail rabbits can have three to four litters throughout the spring and summer months, and at times, baby cottontail rabbits may be separated from their mother in the wild. Characteristics such as the size of the rabbit, the eyes and the ears, and the baby rabbit's behavior all offer clues to the baby's age. A cottontail baby bunny age chart can help you determine the age of the wild rabbit so you know whether she needs help or can survive on her own.

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Close-up portrait of cottontail on grassy field
Image Credit: Simon J / 500px/500px/GettyImages

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Newborn cottontail rabbits

Newborn rabbits up to about 3 days old have a dark-colored body and a pale belly and underside. Their eyes are closed, and their ears are closed flat against the baby rabbit's head. Newborns are about 2 inches long, and at this stage of the wild rabbit's age, babies are completely dependent on their mother for survival and will die without milk.

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The first three weeks

When the baby rabbits are 5 days old, their fur has changed to the lighter color that you see in adult rabbits. The rabbits quickly grow to about 3 inches long. Around day 7, the ears start to open, and the baby rabbits are able to hear.

When rabbits are 10 days old, their ears are fully open, and their eyes have opened as well. They now have full use of their senses and are more than 3 inches long. At this age, baby rabbits start to eat grasses, but they still need to nurse to survive.

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Baby rabbits who are 4 to 4 1/2 inches long are about 2 to 3 weeks old. They are strong enough to move around more and may venture a bit further from the nest. Their fur starts to stand out from the body a bit more rather than being slick against the skin.

Leaving the nest

When baby rabbits are around 3 weeks old, they start to wander farther from the nest during the day. However, they are not yet fully independent and still return to the nest at night. At 3 1/2 weeks of age, rabbits are about 4 1/2 to 5 inches long and are the size of a tennis ball. They are fully weaned and can survive on their own.

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By 5 weeks of age, baby rabbits are between 5 and 7 inches long. They look like small versions of adult cottontail rabbits.

Adult wild cottontail rabbits

Wild rabbits are considered adults at 6 weeks of age, although they are not sexually mature and are not able to reproduce until 8 weeks. When they are fully grown, cottontail rabbits are about 12 to 20 inches long. They may not reach their full size until they are 10 to 12 weeks old.

When to rescue baby rabbits

A wild baby rabbit's best chance for survival is with his mother, but there are times when it is best to take the rabbit to a local wildlife rescue. If the baby rabbit is visibly injured, was brought to you by a cat or dog, is covered in fly eggs, or is cold, don't hesitate to take him to a rescue.

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If you determine the rabbit is too young to survive on his own because his eyes or ears are still closed or he isn't fully covered in fur, attempt to find the rabbit's nest. If possible, check on the baby rabbit in about 12 hours and take him to a wildlife rescue center if the mother hasn't returned.

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