Tag Archives: baby bunnies

Extended Labor in Rabbits

We blew it. Except we didn’t know we were blowing it.

 

Here’s the story – we put the nestbox in with our doe. We waited. She pulled fur and had one baby. All evidence pointed to the fact that this was a singleton litter and our temperatures are still below freezing many nights, so we fostered the little loner in with another litter to better its odds of survival, then removed the nestbox from mama.

 

And walked out the next morning to six more babies on the wire of mama’s cage, frozen solid.

 

What the….?!

 

All of our rabbit husbandry experience has taught us that rabbits give birth within a span of about 15 minutes. But in this case, I can say absolutely without question, that there was at least a 36 hour break between that first little bunny being born and the other six!

 

I don’t know how often this is, and without having personally experienced it we would have pooh-poohed the possibility of rabbits giving birth at different spaces. However, it does make me wonder about the few times we have counted babies, then a week later discovered our count was wrong and there is another baby in the box. Did the mama have another while we weren’t looking?

 

The only explanation I can figure for this behavior is if both of the uterine horns were impregnated. Since we occasionally leave our rabbits in with the bucks overnight (in the winter they typically don’t want to breed immediately so we’ve found making them roommates for a time works better) perhaps the doe was impregnated in different uterine horns, hours apart, and that caused a different delivery schedule?

 

Who knows, but I was shocked enough I felt it was worth noting on the blog that it can happen.

 

And we’re so bummed about the babies who didn’t make it because we blew it.

When do Rabbits Give Birth?

Babies bunnies are just as unpredictable as human babies in their arrival times!

Babies bunnies are just as unpredictable as human babies in their arrival times!

It’s day 31 and we’re waiting on four litters to be born. And, of course, there’s a storm front moving in, which makes checking for new babies an hourly event!

 

All of this baby-waiting brought a question to mind, “How do we know when a mama rabbit is going to pop?!”

 

The easy but unsatisfying answer is that we just don’t know. Rabbits in general will have a month-long gestation period. I have noticed that our larger breed rabbits will frequently have a 34 day gestation period (which is totally normal for them but completely irritating to us, as we’re anxious to meet those new babies!)

 

We’ve come to terms with the realization that it might be anywhere from 31-35 days of gestation and still be considered normal, but I’ve become a little bit bitter over the fact that I can almost guarantee if there is a storm or cold weather that could endanger the lives of newborn, naked kits… those mamas will give birth around 2 am!

 

There are a few clues we’ve noticed in our rabbits regarding their birthing tendencies:

 

  • Over the past several years I’ve made note of what time of day the initial breeding takes place. We have a fairly consistent pattern that our mama will give birth two-to–four hours after the initial breeding. It could be coincidence, but we typically breed our rabbits in the afternoon and almost always have babies born around dusk.
  • Our mamas will usually go off food in the 24 hours prior to giving birth.
  • If a doe poops in her nestbox she usually isn’t pregnant.
  • When our does are in labor they usually hold their ears at a slightly different angle and their eyes are unfocused. If they were humans I’d describe it as a look that says, “I’m a little concerned about this… and I’m concentrating on my body right now… and I’m doing what I know I’m meant to do.”
  • The vast majority of our does don’t start pulling hair until less than an hour before they give birth.

 

All of this is unproven and based on our observations, but our experience is that baby rabbits are almost never born in the middle of the day. Perhaps because they are more active at night, maybe because we tend to breed in the afternoons, but it seems that the rabbits will give birth at dusk or dawn. (The “earthy” part of me wonders if this has anything to do with the gravitational pull of the moon… but I honestly have no idea and haven’t kept strong enough records to be able to back this suspicion up scientifically.)

 

Most of our does are very predictable and pull tons of hair from their dewlaps and tummies; we can trust them to take excellent care of their babies outside even when the temperatures drop to the high teens. Between the shared body warmth of the litter and the insulating factor of the rabbit hair and hay, they can have quite a cozy little nest with temperatures in the 80s in the hole!

 

However, our first time mamas don’t get any free passes! If we have an unproven doe about to give birth and we have freezing weather we check the cages about every hour all night long to make sure those babies aren’t frozen just in case they’re born on the wire.

 

Now, back to baby watch… hoping for some new little munchkins by tomorrow morning!

A Rabbit With No Ears

It’s not a movie, even though there’s a movie by that name. (Rabbits Without Ears.) It’s also not a response to a nuclear disaster, as people fear is the reason behind a rabbit born with no ears after Fukushima meltdown in Japan.

It’s ugly and strange, but it’s happened to us. We have some earless bunnies.

The vast majority of the rabbits in our rabbitry are excellent mothers, even our first-timers. But then, occasionally, just like in real life, there are…

The ones.

You know. The ones you don’t really like to take out in public because you aren’t quite sure what will happen. Kind of like that one family member who might get rowdy at a holiday dinner and be the star of a story told for generations?

Yeah. We have one of those.

Let it be freely said, I adore our Cinnamons. They are beautiful rabbits, friendly, and easy to hold and cuddle. They’re fabulous!

But then, there’s the one.

One Cinnamon doe had her litter a few weeks ago. I’m not completely bitter she had it at about 1 am and I stayed up to make sure she did alright so the babies wouldn’t freeze to death. (Alright, I’m a little bitter.) (I’m also glad I stayed up because she made a nest of hay out of the nestbox!)

I’m bitter because the darn rabbit did such a fabulous job of cleaning her newborns up that she ate the ears right off of them! Out of six babies, only two have been left untouched, one poor baby lost half of its head as well!

An overzealous mama took the ears clean off these babies at birth while cleaning them up.

An overzealous mama took the ears clean off these babies at birth while cleaning them up.

Darn doe.

We weren’t sure if the babies would survive their injuries, after all, losing a large flap of skin at birth seems to put a damper on the whole, “Welcome to life!” philosophy. Particularly in the case of the scalped baby, we didn’t know if it would be a more humane choice to put it down immediately.

But when we felt the hurt babies they didn’t seem to be in pain, so we let them go for 24 hours. A day later everyone was fat and the ears were scabbed. And 24 hours after that those babies were thriving.

So now we have some disfigured rabbits. What do we do with them?!

Well, first and foremost, we give their mama another chance. The rule of thumb is to give a brand new mom a chance at three strikes before you removed her from your breeding program. I will also say that even though she stinks at cleaning her kits up at birth this particular doe has been a great mom, nurses well, and has even fostered a few kits for us.

Mama's been feeding this baby Cinnamon WELL!

Mama’s been feeding this baby Cinnamon WELL!

Second, we wait to see how the babies develop. Because they don’t have anything genetically wrong with them, if they have killer body types they could still be an asset to a breeding program. That is a question only time and growth will answer.

Finally, if they don’t have a body type we’d like to incorporate into our breeding program, they are still useful as sustenance for our family.

We’ll see how these little ones develop, but I’m comforted that it’s not the end of the world that we have some earless wonders!

Blanc de Hotot Babies!

I posted these photos on our facebook page, so I really don’t have to post them here… but they’re so darn cute I can’t help it! It’s exciting to have Blanc de Hotot babies around!

 

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This is Carol’s classic “whatchoo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?!” look. She’s been an awesome mama and is fostering 3 kits from other does.

 

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Every time we turn a nestbox on its side the moms find their own way to get away from the babies! Velma is safe… for now!

 

Cuteness!

Cuteness!

 

Is there anything sweeter than those cute, pink ears?!

Is there anything sweeter than those cute, pink ears?!

 

Can You Feel The Love Tonight?

ilco / stock.xchng

ilco / stock.xchng

As silly as it may seem, sometimes rabbits don’t… breed like rabbits.

I often hear complaints about a doe that won’t lift or is otherwise reluctant to breed. This is not necessarily uncommon and can be a factor of age, weather, or general temperament. Most often a buck is more than willing to oblige but occasionally you run into troubles with your mister refusing to be a “kisser.”

There are some fairly standard recommendations for getting your rabbits “in the mood”:

  • Add Apple Cider Vinegar to their water or wheat germ to their feed;
  • Make sure they have at least 16 hours of daylight each day;
  • Put the doe and the buck in one another’s cages for 24 hours;
  • Table breeding;
  • Breeding by moon calendar.

But just this month we came across a totally new (to us) method – breeding by moonlight.

Since rabbits are fairly nocturnal it’s not a surprise that they are more active at night. In warm weather we sometimes sleep with our windows open and the noise the rabbits make playing with their toys and thumping around can be quite noticeable. (They’re no match for an antsy barking dog or a cat in heat, but for a rabbit they’re loud!)

Rabbits are lively at night!

Just this month we got home late and remembered that we needed to breed a few rabbits in order to plan their due dates around some travel plans next month. So, even though it was fully dark, we decided to head out to the rabbitry and see if we could get some dirty business started.

 

Oh. My. Goodness.

What a shock! Those girls were so ready it was as though their backsides were attached to rockets! We had such immediate success by moonlight fraternization we even attempted to breed a few of our most reluctant ladies — and they were quite happy to oblige!

 

This was such a blatant change of pace that it’s another trick we’ll be adding to the options for what to do when your doe isn’t interested. After all, everybody loves a little late night romance, right?!

 

*We will continue to use the moon calendar for our breeding programs. Here’s the link to a 2014 moon breeding calendar!*

How Do Rabbits Mate?

It’s going to be a little talk on the birds and the bees right now. Hopefully it won’t get too X-rated for you.

In order to get this:

It's a baby bunny.

It’s a baby bunny.

You really need to have this:

Bunnies mating. Artistically.

Bunnies mating. Artistically.

But before you get that, you should make sure you have one each of this:

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Once that’s all taken care of you might find something like this going on:

And, if you’re really, really lucky you might get a chance to giggle at live version of this:

All clear?

 

(Thanks to Google, Dad Can’t Count Rabbitry, Sky Island Livestock, and Jason and Crystal Mabb for the visuals for this post!)

 

(May all your breedings be productive!)

Funny Things Rabbit People Say

zettmedia / stock.xchng

zettmedia / stock.xchng

One of the very best things we’ve done as people who will be taking rabbit breeding seriously is join the American Rabbit Breeders Association, Inc., or ARBA. One of the supports offered by this organization is a Facebook group where breeders gather to compare stories, share remedies, and communicate best practices.

 

I’ve learned an amazing amount from reading through past posts… but one thread tickled me more than any other! For the rabbit newcomer, there are many aspects about the care and nurture of our four-legged friends that might be confusing. Other breeders shared some of the funny questions and statements they’ve gotten from rabbit innocents:

“My female rabbit keeps pulling fur and putting in the corner of our sofa.”

Friend’s reply, “Are there any other rabbits in the house?”

“Yes.”

Friend’s reply, “IS the other rabbit a male?”

“Yes.”

Friend’s reply, “Then your female is making a nest to have babies.”

“But they’re brother and sister. They wouldn’t do that!.” (courtesy of N. Anderson) (Rabbits have no regard for anything except gender!)

“How far can my rabbit swim?” (courtesy of S.H. Brown) (Rabbits don’t do well with water at all)

“I judge 4H rabbit kids & sometimes you get some very funny answers. My favorite: I asked a young man senior showman (very experienced) What is smut? He lowered is head, face blushing & answered very quietly, “My momma won’t let me look at that stuff.” It was hard not to laugh but I continued with the judging. Later that day the young man came up to me and asked about the question. I showed him in the book & explained it to him. We had a good laugh together. Gotta love those 4H kids!” (courtesy of B. McCall) (Smut is a reference to poor coloring)

“I once had a FFA mom call me in a panic because she was bunny-sitting her daughters rabbit and while playing with it noticed a large tumor on its end. I asked her to go get the rabbit and bring it back with her to the phone. She did and I asked her to turn it over which she did and started screaming! She was so freaked out because now there were two growths on the rabbit! After I stopped laughing I told her, “Congratulations you have a boy!” (courtesy of B. Rowan)

“Can I breed this 3 lbs. mini Rex doe with that 11 lbs. Satin buck?” they asked me. To which I replied, “All things may be possible but common sense says that’s not prudent.” (courtesy of J. Veale)

“I was on one group and and one woman told everyone else that rabbits store MILK in their dewlap…I was like, “Really now???” (courtesy of K. Southall) (The dewlap is an extra amount of hair used by mama rabbits to pull and line their nests)

“At our local fair last year people kept asking us “What’s wrong with all the rabbits that they are broken?” (courtesy of K. Krejci-Giminiani) (“Broken” is a coloring description. It means the color is broken instead of solid)

“I have to admit I was confused with the “legs” a rabbit has when we were new. I told L. there was no way I’d pay for a three-legged rabbit that she couldn’t even show! But we figured it out!”(courtesy of M.S. Guidry) (When a rabbit wins at a show it is awarded a “leg.” After earning three legs, it is eligible to be given the honor of Grand Champion, which is quite desirable.)

 

I hope this has given you a bit of a chuckle, as I got a chuckle while reading! Thank you to all the people who posted on the FB page… and I’d love to hear of any funny questions you’ve gotten in the comments!

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