There are many rabbits who come through the shelter where I volunteer that were either abandoned or have no age in their record. They end up being adopted to families without knowledge of their age. My own rabbit, Elusive, was one of these bunnies. I’ve guessed what her age might be, but I’ve never been able to know for sure.
You can use the developmental stages of rabbits to know how old a very young bunny is, but once they are a year old, it’s almost impossible to judge a rabbit’s exact age. You can use some features, such as a rabbit’s teeth, nails, and activity levels to approximate their age, but you won’t be able to know it exactly.
For young rabbits, you can use their developmental stages to know how old they are when they are still less than 6 months. You can also tell if a rabbit is still young and somewhere between the ages of 6 months to a year. After this, it gets a bit more confusing because once rabbits reach maturity, they don’t continue to have major developmental stages. You can, however, learn to tell if your adult rabbit is relatively young, solidly into their adult years, or has reached an elderly age.
How to tell the age of young rabbits (less than 1 year)
If you adopt a rabbit who is under one year of age, then you can get a pretty good idea of how old they are. The first few months will be easiest to tell as the baby rabbits reach new developmental stages, but rabbits will continue to grow and gain their adult weight until they are approximately 1 year old. If you adopt one of these young rabbits, you’ll at least be able to tell they are about a year or a little younger.
It’s important to remember that the exact size and weight of baby rabbits can differ dramatically during all of these stages depending on the breed of the rabbit. Larger rabbits will grow in size much more quickly than smaller rabbits, so these are not good indicators unless you know your rabbit’s breed.
If your rabbit had a surprise pregnancy and the mother hid the babies, you might not know exactly when the baby bunnies were born. However you can get a pretty good estimate of how many days old they are based on the rabbit’s development. Baby rabbits are born with their eyes and ears closed and with no fur. During these first two weeks, they will quickly start to grow a little bit of fuzz, but their eyes won’t open until around 10-12 days.
Once their eyes open, the baby rabbit’s will start to explore a little around the nest and surrounding area. They will still be weak at first and might need help finding their way back to the warmth of the nest. Slowly the baby bunnies will gain strength and fur while also becoming a little more independent and willing to hop around on their own.
By the time baby bunnies reach one month, they will look like the adorable little fluffballs we all recognize. Their baby fur coat, which is much softer and wispier than an adult coat, will be pretty much fully grown in. These baby bunnies will also have a lot more playful energy as they have fun hopping around and exploring.
During the next couple of months, the baby rabbit will continue to grow and become more and more playful and energetic. They can be weaned from their mother at this point and eat solid food. Rabbits at 2-4 months will still have a fluffy and soft baby coat. They will have gained quite a bit of weight during these months. By the time a rabbit reaches 4 months, they are usually almost half of whatever their full grown weight will be.
Most rabbits will reach sexual maturity at around 4-5 months old. This means the rabbits will go through minor physical changes. For the boys, their testicles will drop, while the female rabbits will start to develop a dewlap (the fatty bulge that looks like a double chin).
At this time, baby rabbits will also start to grow a transitional coat. Their fur will start to grow in a way that is not quite as fluffy as their baby coat, but also softer than their adult coat will eventually be. As they grow, they will continue to lose the baby fluff, and have fur that looks more like their adult coat. Sometimes this transitional coat is a little brighter in color than their eventual adult fur.
The behavior of rabbits during this period of time will also change. Most rabbits will start to become more territorial. They may become aggressive or start spraying urine around to mark their territory. Usually getting a rabbit spayed or neutered will correct these behavioral problems. Neutering your rabbit is also a good idea because it will prevent major health problems later in life.
Now that the rabbit has reached adolescence, it’s harder to know exactly how old they are. However, during the 6-12 month age mark, young rabbits will continue to gain weight and fill out. Some rabbits will continue to gain weight until they reach the 18 month mark.
I can usually tell that a rabbit is still in their adolescent phase by looking at their head and eyes. Their head will appear to be just a little bit too big for their body, and their eyes will look a little too big for their head. Younger rabbits will also sometimes still have wispy fur around their head and necks as remnants from their baby coat, and they will have the soft transitional coat. If a female rabbit has not been spayed, she will continue to develop a larger dewlap until she reaches her adult weight.
This way of just looking at a rabbit and seeing that they are still very young comes with some practice. By seeing a lot of young and adult bunnies you start to recognize the look of the rabbit and approximate their age. There have, however, been some adult rabbits with big eyes that fool me into thinking they are young. If there is ever any doubt, just make sure to observe the rabbit over the next couple of months. If they continue to gain healthy weight, then they are, indeed, a young adolescent rabbit.
How to approximate the age of adult rabbits
Once a rabbit reaches their full adult weight, it’s impossible to know exactly how old they are. There are no easy indicators on their teeth (like for horses) or body that can give you this information. However, you can usually tell if your rabbit is young or old based on the quality of their nails, feet, coat, and teeth along with the rabbit’s overall energy levels.
These qualities should always be taken with a grain of salt. For example, some elderly rabbits won’t start to show signs of aging until they are 10 years old, while others will start to slow down much earlier. The best you can do is use these indicators to guess the age of your rabbit, but have the understanding that you could potentially be very wrong about their age.
Young adult rabbits
Young adult rabbits have reached full adult weight, but they still usually have young bunny energy. Usually I would put rabbits who are 1-3 years old in this group. By using these indicators, you can be reasonably sure that the rabbit you adopted is relatively young.
- Teeth: Usually younger rabbits have healthier and whiter teeth. This isn’t always the case, since many times younger rabbits who previously had a bad diet, will now have developed bad teeth early. Some rabbits also just have bad genetics that cause them to have tooth problems.
- Nails: Young rabbits have softer and thinner nails. They are usually much easier to clip through and don’t flake off very much. The quality of their claws also depends on the breed, however. Smaller rabbits tend to have thinner and more delicate nails.
- Energy levels: Young rabbits still have a lot of energy. They are more likely to zoom around the room and give multiple binkies. They are also usually less willing to settle down while you pet them, and are more easily distracted.
- Coat: Young rabbits that are around a year old will often still have their softer transitional coat. This will slowly grow into their adult coat, usually by the time they are 18 months to 2 years old. After this, your rabbit will start to have seasonal heavy shedding.
- Hocks: hocks are the heel on the bottom of a rabbit’s foot. They put a lot of pressure on this area as they are sitting and hopping around. When rabbits are still young, the hocks are usually very healthy with little to no redness, calluses, or inflammation.
I consider middle aged rabbits to be approximately 4-6 years old. They are still very healthy and active, but not so full of energy as a younger rabbit. You might still see occasional binkies and zooming, but they are more likely to enjoy calmly playing with their usual toys. You’ll probably also see these rabbits sleeping a lot, especially during the day, and they’re more willing to settle down with you on the couch while you pet them.
- Teeth: Unless they have had a bad diet, middle aged rabbits usually still have healthy teeth. They may not be quite as white as a typical young rabbit.
- Nails: The nails of a middle aged rabbit will become a little tougher and thicker (you’ll notice this when you clip their nails), and they might flake a little bit.
- Energy levels: Middle aged rabbits will still have a healthy level of energy, especially around high activity periods early in the morning and in the evening. However, they will also be happy to settle down and nap for long periods of time.
- Coat: Middle aged rabbits have their full adult coat and go through regular seasonal shedding. They should be able to keep their coat clean on their own, but may require frequent brushing, especially for longer haired breeds.
- Hocks: You might start to notice a little redness or some calluses on the bottom of your rabbit’s heels. As long as these don’t develop into sores, then this is a normal occurrence.
Elderly rabbits are starting to feel their age. They’re not very energetic and tend to move slowly and carefully. They may also struggle with balance and hopping up onto high surfaces. Most of the time I consider rabbits to be elderly when they reach about 6 years old, but many rabbits won’t show signs of aging until they are 8+ years. In general, larger rabbits will show signs of age earlier than smaller rabbits, but it always varies based on the individual rabbit.
- Teeth: Senior rabbits are more likely to develop tooth problems, such as tooth decay. They are also more likely to have yellowed teeth.
- Nails: Elderly rabbit nails can be very thick and difficult to clip through. They can also seem to be almost scaly in appearance.
- Energy levels: Senior rabbits have low energy levels. They will still be happy to move around, but often prefer to nap most of the time.
- Coat: You may notice your elderly rabbit’s coat get thinner, especially in places around the ears and eyes. As long as there is no redness or sores, then this is nothing to worry about.
- Hocks: The bottom of a senior rabbit’s heels will often have large red calluses. They may also develop into cuts on the bottom of the rabbit’s feet, especially if they are kept on wire flooring. If this happens, then you’ll want to get your veterinarian advice for first aid and give your rabbit softer flooring to sit on.
- Muscle mass: As rabbits age they start to lose muscle mass and become weaker. They’ll be less able to hop on top of high surfaces and over high edges. Sometimes this means your rabbit will start to appear skinnier, but they might also gain weight because they are moving around less.
- Health conditions: Elderly rabbits have a greater chance of developing numerous health conditions such as arthritis, cataracts, heart disease, and other conditions that arise with age.