Pamela Moore, of Milton Primary School, asks :-

Why do rabbits pluck out their hair?

Kevin Stafford, a veterinarian at Massey University and who has a special interest in animal behaviour, responded.

In late pregnancy mother rabbits dig out a burrow and make a nest in which they will have their babies. The nest is usually underground in a burrow although some rabbits nest in long grass. The nest has to be warm and dry because the baby rabbits are born without hair and are very delicate. The mother rabbit plucks fur off her belly to make a nice snug warm nest. The mother rabbit may spend only a few minutes suckling her babies every day and for the rest of the time the baby rabbits bury into the nest and stay warm by lying close together. Mother rabbits use their fur because it makes a snug nest and will mix it with grass and other plants.

Baby rabbits remain in the nest for about two to three weeks and then come out into the open. For the first week of life they are bald and hair starts to grow at about seven days of age. At seven days their ears start to work and at ten days their eyes open. Young rabbits are very sensitive to cold and dampness and are easily chilled.

Pet rabbits should be given a special box to nest in. The box should have a layer of hay or shredded paper and the mother rabbit will combine these materials with her own fur to make a nest. The baby rabbits must not be handled for a few days because if the nest is dusturbed the mother may eat all the babies!