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Breeding - Please be responsible with your breeding! If you are not ready for babies do not put bucks and does together even if you think they won't do anything, or if you've heard things such as 'heat makes the buck temporarily sterile so they cannot breed in the summer' (only true in extreme heat) etc. Rabbits are extremely prolific and you will end up with babies if you put a buck and doe together. What age are they ready? That depends on the breed and the size of your rabbit. Although they sexually mature around 4 months, average wait time is 6 months. They can have babies every 30 days, will get pregnant again on the same day they had babies (if with a buck), and can be pregnant with 2 litters at the same time. Bucks mature slower than the does on average and may 'shoot blanks' for a while.. NOTE: We make sure the buck is similar in size or smaller than the doe - especially with first time mothers. If we have a proven doe who has had several litters we will consider breeding to a larger buck if we need to. Rabbits breed best at mornings and evenings. Take the doe to the bucks cage. This way the buck is not distracted by new surroundings. Sometimes the doe will attack the buck if he is brought to her cage. Sometimes the does will run around the cage first. This is OK. If she's ready, she will quickly stretch out and put her tail up. Sometimes the buck (especially if he is young) will jump on the wrong end of the doe. He may sit on her face or on her side. Eventually he'll get it right. If you have a new buck and a proven doe she will usually rearrange herself to be in the correct position. Once they are 'lined up' correctly it only takes a few seconds. The buck will usually squeak loudly and will fall off to the side. Leave them in for a few minutes more to see if they will breed again. This can increase your litter size and your chances in general. Once she is finished with him (after 2 or 3 times) she will likely become hostile. She will put her butt squarely on the bottom of the cage and may even attack the buck if he bothers her. At that point separate them.
and Simple Colors and Genetics
of Doe - after a doe is bred she will become extremely moody. The
timing varies. Sometimes it is immediate and sometimes she doesn't become
moody until a week or so before.
Births a couple days apart
alarmed if many of the babies are dead at birth if this is the doe's
first litter. First time mothers can be easily confused especially
if they had the babies on the wire rather than in a nest box. But
most of the time, if you catch them soon enough and put them in a
nest box (even a shoebox will work) the mother will pull her fur and
make a nest. This is a good sign that she's starting to understand
what she needs to be doing. Usually if they do this they will be ok.
On rare occasions they do abandoned the babies. NOTE: don't
be alarmed if you don't see her feeding the babies. Rabbits only
need to be fed a few times for a few minutes a day. Also, most feedings
are done early morning or evening when you may not be around. A way
to tell if they are being fed is if they have 'frog' bellies. See
the pictures below of some well fed babies. Rather than just having
a straight body or having stomachs that are shrunk in after their
rib cage, the babies will have a round belly - protruding out to the
sides like a toad - when they have been fed. You can also check their
nose to see if you see tiny bits of dried milk from when they drink.
If the babies have are warm to the touch then they are likely being
fed. If they feel cool then they probably aren't . Unless the mother
is killing the babies, don't remove them from the mother's cage.
heating pad on LOW and put it about 2-3 inches away from the bottom
of the nest box. (see picture below). This can be done by stacking
books and laying the box in between etc. DO NOT lay the whole nest
box directly on the heating pad (except on the edges of the box if you
need to). They only need a tiny bit of constant warmth in order to stay
warm. Make sure the nest box has some fur from the mother or something
to keep the babies covered. Blankets and cloth are not the best because
the babies usually end up separated from each other around the blanket.
Second best fostering method - you can hold the mother on her back (gently and making sure she is comfortable) and 'hook' the babies up - twice a day until they have had their fill. The key to this is making sure the mother is relaxed. If she is not relaxed, her body will not let the milk down and the babies will not receive nourishment. This whole process is much easier if you have 2 people. One person holding the doe and one person managing the babies. First we usually let the mom sit normally on our lap and we gently massage underneath her body around the nipples to stimulate the milk 'drop' (see picture 1). Next we make sure the person holding the doe is in a very comfortable position. You don't have to have to move in the middle of a feeding. Sit on the floor and put your back straight up against a wall. Put a towel across your legs to give the doe uniform support and to catch babies if they fall off her. Gently flip her on her back. (see picture 2) One hand is between her front legs and the other is holding her bottom and her tail securely (but not hurting her) in order to keep her from kicking the babies if she gets upset . We tuck her eyes and ears under my arm/armpit in order to keep her more calm (see picture 3). If the mother is extremely unhappy she will likely kick with her back feet. If that is the case you can hold her 2 back feet together with one hand, instead of holding her butt and tail. Then we gently rub her stomach a little to get her to relax. Next we put as many babies (usually about 3 or 4) on her at once. More babies seem to stimulate the milk more and it makes the process quicker. The quicker the better because this is very stressful to the mom and usually they hate it. The longer it takes the more stressed she will get. The babies will be somewhat frantic at the beginning. Gently move them to the nipples and keep them on her body. If they fall asleep on her, gently rub them with a finger to ge them to eat more. If they continue to fall asleep remove them and add a different baby. At that point they are usually full, or too weak to continue. If the mother starts to kick out or try to flip over remove the babies immediately and release the mother. Let her calm down. Then you can decide if the babies have gotten some nourishment or if you want to try again. If the babies have gotten some it is best to put the mom away so she doesn't get overly annoyed. Feed with this method 3 times a day if the babies are very skinny or cold. Feed only 2 times a day if the babies are looking OK. This will reduce stress to the mom and they are already getting plenty of nourishment.
In the first few days it may take 1/2 an hour or more for babies to get any nourishment. This method can be EXTREMELY time consuming and the milk may not 'come down' right away. That's ok. Let them eat as long as the doe is laying still and the babies are trying. After about 4 days the doe should increase milk production by quite a bit and this should be much easier and faster. Make sure you rotate the order in which you feed the babies.
If the babies are first up in the morning, rotate them to the last on in the evening. This will make sure everyone gets equal nourishment. Once the milk starts to flow (it can take a while and unfortunately the babies can get week while they wait) you will see an almost instant filling of the babie's stomachs. All of a sudden within about 30 seconds to a minute the babies will be very round and bright pink. After they have eaten their fill the babies will almost immediately fall asleep. At that time remove them and put a new baby rabbit in its place. If the milk starts to flow you usually have a very short time to get all the babies fed before the milk 'shuts off' again. So if possible, always have 2-4 babies on the mother at a time so once the milk is flowing you can feed as many babies as possible at a time. Having multiple babies on the doe also helps get the milk flowing. 1 baby rabbit will not usually get the milk going.
often do you feed rabbit babies? Try
to feed 3 times a day. Morning, noon and late night. If you can't make
the noon feeding then try to feed them right after you get home from
work and then again late night. Remember to rotate the babies.
Those who are smallest or who look thinnest should eat first. BUT
if they are weak - put the stronger babies on until you know that
the milk is flowing. As soon as you see the strong babies are getting
milk (bellies are getting round and pink) then add the weak babies
on to feed. If possible have 1 person holding and one working with
the babies to make sure they are on the nipples. You should have
3 to 4 babies on the mom at a time because once the milk starts
flowing you need as many babies to get access as quickly as possible.
Nose Clearing: After a few days you may notice some of them eating less and becoming cool to the touch. The baby rabbit also may seem indiferent to nursing even though they obviously need food. AND they will be holding their faces up in the air rather than looking for a nipple. These are not getting enough milk. Check their noses to see if they are visibly clogged with a yellowish crust. They cannot nurse if their nose holes are not clear. Get a warm we paper town and gently hold the tip of the wet paper towl to the crust. You don't want to get their body wet or get water in their nose - but you need to use the warm water to loosen the hard crust. Be patient because it may take a little while. Once the crust is a little softer you can take a needle or pin and GENTLY remove the crust from the nose. It should come right off in one little glob. Now you can put them back on the mom to nurse. You should see an immediate difference in their interest to nurse. They will be pretty frantic but they will be weak so it may not last long. The key with these babies is to catch the problem right away.
Peeing: If the mother is not taking care of them, the babies will sometimes need to be cleaned and assisted to pee. The cleaning part is usually as they get a week or 2 old. You can gently wipe their body with a warm paper towel and then dry. Make sure they don't get cold and don't soak them. Newborns usually don't need to be cleaned. But the newborns sometimes need assistance to pee. The mother rabbit usually takes care of this by grooming the babies as they nurse. It doesn't have to be done by you constantly, and doesn't have to be done to everyone. If you see a baby that always seems fat BEFORE each feeding but you know it hasn't eaten, then it may need to pee. You can take a wet paper towel and gently use the tiny tip of the towel to touch around the rabbit genital area. This will stimulate them to pee. It will usually only be 1 or 2 tiny drops. You don't need to rub them and don't use a cloth towel. Just the teeny end of a wet paper towel. Once they have their eyes open you will no longer need to do this.
Cannibalism: This can happen for many reasons. If the doe is a first time mother, if she is confused, if she is upset, more often during the winter and colder months, if she has a baby on the wire, if she does not have a nest box available, etc. Don't be discouraged. Although it is shocking and sad, it is not completely unusual. This can even happen with experienced does in the colder months or if the doe is bred in quick succession. Basically she is upset or is unready for the litter. If she is a first time mom, usually the second litter will be much better. If she is an experienced mom she will usually do better the next time if the nest box is correct and if the weather is in the summer or early fall.
Foster Method #3 - Finally as a last resort, you can try to feed the babies yourself. This is very difficult and we have had very limited success with this method. You can give them warmed kitten milk (found at pet stores), goats milk, and un-flavored pedialyte. Mix that with a drop of symethicone (baby gas-x) and a tiny bit of acidopholus powder (found at any drug store usually in pill form). Kitten nipples are way to big. You will need very tiny zoological nipples on a syringe or small 2oz bottle. You can find them at Petco/Petsmart or at http://www.thesquirrelstore.com/moreinfo.cfm?Product_ID=54 . Hold the babies so they are comfortable - DO NOT FEED THEM WHILE THEY ARE ON THEIR BACK or they will aspirate and die. Gently hold them upright in your hand with their head between your circled thumb and fingers. Put a drop of liquid on the side of their 'cheek' next to the mouth. That way it will run into their mouth and they can lick it up. - make sure it does not go in their nose and make sure you do not feed them too quickly so that they inhale the liquid, this will kill them. They really only need a few drops (few cc's) for newborns before they will be full. Make sure you don't continue to feed the baby rabbit more than they need or they will start to inhale it. They should fall asleep either while you are feeding them or very quickly after. This will let you know that they have eaten.
Peanuts - The picture to the right is of a Holland Lop peanut. Peanuts are caused by 2 dwarf genes (1 from each parent) being passed to the baby. They are somewhat common in the dwarf breeds (dwarfs / hollands). The baby cannot live and is usually visibly deformed at birth. The baby usually dies within a few hours but can sometimes live even a couple weeks. The ears are a good indicator of a peanut - they will be much much smaller than usual. Also the head is usually disproportionately large to the body, and the limbs are small and deformed.
Babies growing up - the kits are born bald, blind and deaf. They can get cold extremely easy and therefore must be fully covered by their mother's nest hair and straw. Their mother will bathe them and feed them a few times a day. They will get tiny baby 'fuzz' all over their bodies within a day or so (see left picture). Usually with first time mothers I leave the babies alone for 2 days and then I will start to handle them. With an experience mother we gently pick up the babies almost from day one. Their ears will come up at about 1 1/2 weeks which is also when they will open their eyes. We continued to handle them as they grow in order to keep them friendly. They will hop out of the nest box around 2 1/2 weeks. At that point remove the nest box, sterilize it and let it completely dry in the sun. The babies will start to sample food at about 3 weeks. They will also quickly learn to use the water bottle from watching their mother. Netherlands and the smaller breed mature more quickly than the larger rabbits. Typically ours are weaned at around 5 weeks although they may try to sneak a drink from mom if they can manage it. By then they are eating and drinking and eating hay. You can leave the babies together for quite a while if you need to. Rabbits sexually mature around 4 months so you will need to separate them by then. The bucks may have started fighting already by that time. If you see the baby bucks starting to fight then you need to separate them. Eventually they may kill each other if left alone. Does raised together from a young age usually continue to get along. Older bucks or older does that are introduced to each other will typically fight. So if you are getting 2 rabbits (and don't want babies) then make sure you get 2 does that were raised together or that are together when they are young.