2 Lessons Learned While Raising Rabbits

I’m probably at about Lesson #1000 by now, but a few stick with you.

1.  Always check the ground for kits after a birth, the day of and the next day.

I found out this morning that Big Mama actually had 10 babies total.  1 DoA.  The other one, well – on a day a rabbit gives birth, inspect the whole area – ground included, for stray kits.  She must have had one on the wire, and it crawled out of the hutch.  By the time I saw it, it was too late.   In retrospect, I’m lucky Little Mama didn’t have all of her kits on the cage floor (some new does do that).  I checked the cage for extra kits, but never looked around the ground.   For the next litters, I’ll be putting up a litter-saver border around, which will stop them from being able to crawl through the side of the cage.  Lesson learned.

2.  Rabbits reproduce like, well, rabbits.  It’s a very appropriate saying.

Before I embarked on this endeavor, I literally spent about 4-5 months researching, tearing my way through a book, and visualizing/planning.  Somewhere, in all of that, I completely missed one crucial thing – Fully understanding how quickly rabbits can reproduce, and some key rabbit behavior.  In fairness, I thought I would leave the litters in with the mother until they were close to 3 months, then butcher.  (Somehow, I figured she’d keep feeding them, and all I would need to do is feed her.)  Hah, fool.  I had an ideal picture of a rabbit lounging, nursing her young like a dog or pig would.  Apparently, rabbits freaking hate nursing.  Once the litter is out of the box,  Mom’s new mission in life is to avoid her kits’ appetites.  So, essentially, the kits chow down on pellets and hay regardless.   Which also means there isn’t a whole lot of reason to leave them in with Mom past 6-8 weeks.

Somewhat too late I also discovered that rabbits can  easily have a litter every 2 months (re-discovered, really.  I had read the whole book, but I didn’t commit this to memory the first time through)- and in fact, it’s best to breed them again while the kits are still with Mom. (Less internal fat, easier for her to conceive)   The economics caught up with me too – if I’m feeding 3 seniors, more kits help balance out the feed costs.   I had PLANNED on 5-6 breeding adults with hutches, and 2 cages for growing out kits.  Well that’s right out the freaking window.   Right now I have a bank of 6 smaller hutches (Which aren’t really ideal for growing out rabbits), and 2 big hutches.   I’m pretty much set on the fact I’ll need to give up some of the already limited space in there – and put in at least 2 more growing out cages.  Even so, this means I may not have any extra room to keep a promising junior or two.  Ultimately, I will probably have to stop at about 3 breeding does.  I don’t want to put up another greenhouse/building yet, so for now – I just have to adapt my plans and decide between butchering/selling every kit, or dedicating a little space to keeping some promising rabbits.  Someday we’ll move out to a lot of land, preferably with an out-building or two, and I won’t worry about space!

On a happier note, Big Mama’s new kits are doing very well.  They have insanely plump little bellies (to the point there’s some color difference from how distended they are), and the 8 I knew about are all fed and moving.   (Champion fur-puller)

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Rabbit Litters Day….Oh, Who the Heck Knows?

Well, I’ve lost track.  Too many babies!

The new litter is about 14-15 days old, and doing great.  Despite the unfortunate peeing incident, they’ve done well.  They’re definitely about to be out of the nest box, their ears are up and they’re a lot more awake than usual.  (And they’re starting to hit that stupidly adorable phase)

Big Mama should be expecting soon.  In fact, tonight, I was debating as to whether or not to put her nest box in. (Approximately day 26 or day 27).  Well, I went out after deciding to put in the nest box, and this is what I saw:

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Big Mama with her “haystache”.  In retrospect, I had wondered why she was digging at the bottom of the cage this morning.  I feel silly now for not realizing why! (For anyone who doesn’t know, carrying around a mouthful of hay is a very good sign of pregnancy)

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And, within a minute or so..all you can see is a little bit of rabbit tush.

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My father-in-law made some lovely catch pans for us. 🙂  They’re going to work splendidly, and look SO much better!

I’m also working on a website…it’ll be up and running shortly!  Hoping it will help with marketing in time.

 

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A few photos of fluffball adorableness. 🙂

Litter (#2!)- Day 0!

Great news!  We now have “Mama Rabbit #2”.  She had 7 kits, and in the photos below are literally hours old.  They’re all dried off, she made a nest and lined it with fur.  She didn’t do quite as well as Mama #1 (I really need to pick proper names for them) – but it is her very first litter.  7 kits for a first litter is good enough for me!   Thankfully we have very nice weather coming up, so even if she didn’t pull a ton of fur, it’s not supposed to be very cold at all. (Bottoming out around 55 tonight).  I made a point to cover them back up as best as possible.  Normally rabbits kindle (give birth) at night, she opted to go sometime in the middle of the day.  Always an adventure!

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The nestbox – now with kits!

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The instinct to get back in the nest makes taking a picture very hard.  So here are two shots of super newborn rabbits. (Only out for a few seconds to count and make sure they’re all alive)

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Proud Mama rabbit #2.  (She got lots of green hay and oats today!)

Litter – Day 17 (aka Eviction Day)

I went in the Greenhouse last night, and three of the bunnies were out of the box harassing Momma.  So, I gave them their 10 hour eviction notice – as frankly it was dark, cold, and I decided to just mess with it the next day.  Truth be told, it’s not so much a “True” eviction as it more one of “leaving the door open”.   I just turned the nest box on its side (and zip-tied it to the sides of the cage to hold it still) – so now they’ll have a much easier time getting in and out.  If you read an earlier post, with our unusually cold spring I’m probably going to leave it in until 4 weeks.  In a manner of speaking, it also gives Momma some place to get away from the babies.  (Who are always hungry, and have 24/7 access to her!)

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The litter this morning.  Definitely ready to move around more!

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Om nom nom pellets!

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The nest box on its side now – and remember what I said about finding out that rabbits can be climbers?   I couldn’t believe it, he scaled right up the side!  (And later the corner of the cage, to boot)

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There are advantages to this for Momma too.  Wonder who’s been after her for milk ever since it left the nest?  (After a good 15 minutes out hopping around the hutch, they decided it was definitely time for a nap.  All but one, that is!)

Litter – Day 5

Day 5 now!  Their tummies are still nice and round (so Mom is definitely feeding them), they’re getting bigger, and definitely starting to get some more fur.   In only another 5 – 7 days, their eyes will start to  open.   Our other doe has her nest box in now (In case you’re wondering, dimensions are 18″ long, 10″ wide, 10″ tall with one side cut shorter for her to jump in).  Mama Bunny is eating like crazy, she’d get a scoop and a half (with a little bit of oats) before – and would always have some left over.  Now she’s getting 2.5 scoops plus oats, carrots, spinach, and other little green bits – (and of course all-they-can-eat hay), and definitely demolishing it.  Of course she is feeding 8 other bunnies, so I’d probably feel the same way.

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The full litter this morning.

 

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One of the kits.  They’re super squirmy when they’re woken up (probably think there’s milk to be had!), so I always have fun taking about 5 pictures of them at all different angles.  Haha!

 

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This is the other doe.  I got the nest box in last night, if she’s due she should have them Wednesday night or so.  If she’s not, she just got a free month off and a box full of hay to play in!