Tag Archives: fostering

Fostering Kits

When to foster baby bunnies.

When to foster baby bunnies.

Today we woke up to find our Cinnamon doe, little miss Fancy, hovering over a nest filled with – count them! – 13 babies!


{Let’s have a moment of silence to be thankful that humans don’t have 13 babies at a time. I can only imagine the gray hair I would be sporting if I had multiples…}


We have a few more litters due right now as well, so once I saw the crazy number of babies in Fancy’s nest, I started hoping that another doe would have a small litter so we can foster babies to the other doe. That brought up the idea of fostering and I realized I haven’t blogged about it here yet.


One relatively common practice for rabbit husbandry is fostering kits from one doe to another. There are typically specific reasons why this would be advantageous as a management technique: perhaps the original doe had too many kits for them to thrive, perhaps one doe is exhibiting a distinct lack of maternal instinct, perhaps it makes sense to have a fantastic show rabbit birth the litter but not raise it so there is less wear and tear on her body. There are several rationale for fostering to begin with, so…


How do you actually do it?! The basic premise is to take kits from one litter and place them with another litter. We have had good success with this when we do the fostering within the first 2-3 days of a newborn kit’s life. We will remove both nestboxes from the cage and rearrange as needed. (I usually keep the nestbox away from mama for about an hour so that any scents will have a chance to mingle.) Then I put the nestbox(es) back and let the does do all the dirty work!


Remember to identify the moved kits in some way! Some will tattoo a dot in the moved kit’s ear, another idea is to put nail polish on the kit’s paws or fur. Just remember that all bunnies tend to look remarkably alike when side by side… and to keep your pedigrees straight you’re going to need some type of identification on the newborn kits.


I’ve also heard suggestions of putting a bit of vanilla extract on the foster mama’s nose so she won’t be able to smell the difference between her birthed and adopted kits. This might be a useful tactic for a high strung mother… but it’s not one we’ve yet practiced or even felt like we needed.


When do you know when fostering is needed? Most commercial breed does can very adequately handle 6-8 babies with plenty of milk for them to grow and thrive. When you have more kits than nipples, you might want to consider fostering! So far, the largest litter we’ve had a mama successfully raise is 10. Those kits were healthy but definitely did not have the weight gain and growth we see in a smaller litter. There’s a lot of flexibility in what an individual doe can handle with her milk supply. Regardless, consider putting her on 18% protein feed for as long as she’s nursing her kits.


We’ve only had one complete fostering failure and that was when we tried to put a baby about 10 days old in with a new litter. The foster mama was not pleased with this state of affairs and the kit was dead by the morning, which was a major bummer all the way around.


Only in rabbits can your animals actually claim the “brutha from anotha mutha” phrase! May your nestboxes be full!

%d bloggers like this: