What’s normal for baby rabbits?
Cottontail rabbit nests consist of a shallow depression in the ground, often no more than a few inches deep, covered with dried grass and fur. Only the mother rabbit cares for the young. If you don’t see her near the nest, don’t panic! She returns to the nest to feed her babies only a few times a day.
Rabbits are most active at dusk and dawn, but mothers will wait to visit their young when it seems safe to do so. When she visits the nest, the mother rabbit moves the covering to nurse her young, covers the nest back up, and quickly disappears again. It is not at all unusual for a mother rabbit to raise and wean her young in a busy backyard and never be seen by people!
What to do if you uncover a rabbit nest
If you accidentally uncover a nest of baby rabbits in your yard, leave the babies in the nest and replace the covering of dried grass and fur. Don’t pick up the babies – they become very stressed by human contact and mother rabbits are sensitive to foreign scents. If the babies hop out when you uncover the nest, wear some garden gloves (rub the gloves in grass first to get rid of your scent) to scoop the babies back into the nest and replace the covering material. (If the babies have already been handled it does not necessarily mean they will be rejected by their mother, simply stop handling them directly and place back in the nest).
Test to make sure the mother rabbit is visiting her nest
To make sure the mother is still caring for her babies, try this simple test. If there are any injured or dead babies in the nest, or if the mother does not return by the next morning, contact a wildlife rehabilitator.