Losing Rabbit Kits... :(

by JCrowder
(Huntsville, TX)

We bred our beautiful, black Flemish giant pair in December. Right on time, came 5 (I believe 5?-can't remember for sure how many now) adorable kits. Within 24 hours, all had died. I was sad, but my husband was absolutely heart broken. I blamed myself, it was cold out and maybe the heat lamp wasn't close enough. It was also her first litter.

We rebred them back. Right on time again, we had a litter of 10 arrive on Monday. It's now Wednesday and we have 3 left...

This is killing us. We gave her a nesting box prepared with shavings and hay, but she emptied it. I assumed she would repack it herself, but instead, we woke up to the babies in two separate nests on the ground. We set the better nest with all the babies in the box under the lamp.

We have been losing babies one at a time since then. Of the dead, one of them had a hole chewed into its side. For fear of a rat, my husband wrapped her cage with additional wire. Of our 3 living babies, one is chunkier, two are thin, so we held her upside down to make sure the thin ones had a chance to nurse today. What are we missing? Is this bad parenting?

***** Karen Sez *****

Sorry to hear about the problems.

My immediate impression is to lose that heat lamp. Rabbits love cold; they're wearing lovely fur coats.

Plus, God was no dummy when He arranged for kits to be born furless. When the doe kindles, she pulls a bunch of her own fur, so the rabbit kits will remain toasty warm even if it is 30F outside.

I suspect your doe dismantled the nest box and then kindled outside the box because it was too hot in there. Without having been there I of course can't be positive about this, but it is certainly an educated guess.

So, your job is to supply the doe with the nest box and materials, and it sounds like you did great on that score. If you're concerned about temps, then make the layer of shavings 2-3 inches deep, and fill the rest of the nest box loosely with half hay and then half straw. (see www.raising-rabbits.com/rabbit-nest-box.html)

If you're still nervous about how the doe will do at kindling time, you can keep a close but surreptitious eye on her. When she's done kindling, just check that she has pulled enough fur to cover the kits.

Now, if she pulls the same stunts with no heat lamp, you'll have to ask whether or not she has sufficient maternal instincts.

But frankly, I'm guessing that all will be well without the heat lamp. Let us know!

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