Can I Save These Babies???

by Crystin

Two of my Californian does (Clover and Dandelion) kindled for the first time 7 days ago. I check on them daily and all were fine until yesterday, Clover had eaten all her babies.

Dandelion still had all hers so I decided to check more often.

This morning when I went to check, Dandelion had started eating babies too and only had three left. I promptly removed them, made a nest for them in a bucket and brought them inside.

I am raising these rabbits for meat and I cannot afford formula for them, I was wondering if it would be possible to hold Dandelion for them to nurse once or twice a day and keep them away from her the rest of the time. Will her milk dry up if there are no babies in her cage? Please answer quickly, we had 14 kits three days ago and now we're down to 3. I don't want to lose these too. Thank you.

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

So sorry to hear that your babies are disappearing. Are you SURE the does are doing the eating?

I wonder if something else is preying on your kits? Once it (or they) polished off one litter, it started in on the next litter? I wonder, because rabbit does typically cannibalize their litter only during or shortly after kindling, and only if the circumstances surrounding the kindle threaten the doe's sense of security.

It is probably not impossible that the does harmed their own litters after the kits were already 6 days old, I just have not heard of such a thing, and it has certainly never happened in my own barn.

Your solution is a good one - remove the kits from the doe, and take them to her twice a day for nursing. She'll probably be glad to nurse them. If you have any questions about getting the doe to nurse, the book, Rabbit Raising Problem Solver, will guide you through the process and will offer lots of tips.

Let us know if you have seen one or both of these does in the act of eating their kits, by leaving a comment to this post, okay?

Or, have there been any sudden disruptive (to a rabbit) events lately? Any intrusive pet dogs or cats near the rabbits that might be alarming them? Any loud, stray, or feral animals? Any coyotes yammering nearby? Any fireworks shows lately? Have you seen any rats or rat droppings near the rabbit cages?

If you haven't actually seen your does in the act of harming their litters, and if all has been quiet around the rabbitry, then consider carefully whether or not you have a predator in the area, a rat for example, that can gain access to the cage and raid the nest box.

Best of luck with everything going forward!

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Jul 01, 2015
by: Crystin

The three baby bunnies survived well being brought to mom to nurse. Her milk dried up a little early but they were already eating grass so it was OK. They all found nice homes and they are happy, fat little rabbits! Thank you very much for your help and opinions!

May 25, 2015
Still not quite sure...
by: Crystin

I agree with your suggestion on breeding the does again and culling mothers who destroy their babies. However the possibility of a rat is a good one. Clover's babies went first and her cage would have been the only access point. Dandelion's cage would only be accessible from Clover's cage. I will fill a shallow tray with mud and put it under the hole. If it was a rat it will come back and I will be able to ID the tracks. I'll report my results in the morning.

Thank you very much for your time and support; the thought that it could be a rat had not even occurred to me and it would be a shame to replace does that I spent a whole year raising for something they may not have done. Thanks again!

***** Karen Sez *****
Yep, that's why we're brainstorming to eliminate other causes before assuming the does are at fault and euthanizing them. (Even so, you'd want to give them a second, or even a third chance to get it right.) You're doing a stellar job of working to figure it all out. Thanks for sharing it with Raising-Rabbits.

I'll look forward to hearing what the final verdict is.


May 25, 2015
More Information
by: Crystin

Thank you very much for your prompt response!

I examined the remains before disposing of them and the teeth marks rule out cats, raccoons or any other sharp toothed predator. They are each in their own cage and the cages are very secure so I am sure that nothing of larger size could have possibly gotten to them.

The only thing that could be possible is a rat (there is a 1 1/2 inch gap at the very top of the inside wall between cages that I left for ventilation, I will be putting wire over it now). I have not seen any droppings and I am pretty sure it was not a rat because all that was left of Clovers kits were a few heads and there was blood on her chest and food dish. I live in a small trailer park in the country and we live very close to state game land so we do have stray cats and raccoons, and we do often hear coyotes but I do not believe that they come into the park and I haven't seen any tracks.

I bought these rabbits as two-month-olds and they have lived here their whole life so I thought they would be accustomed to the local wildlife, I have a ground feeder that they lived in for a long time and they come to the wire and sniff noses with my cats and the neighbor's dog, seeming interested and not afraid. They were put in new cages that I built for them for kindling and winter and the cages are quite secure. Sorry I'm a little long winded but I want to provide as much info as possible.

P.S. I decided that the three that are left are lucky to be alive after what happened to their siblings and cousins. I have had several people ask me for pet rabbits and if they survive these three will become pets. I can always have more later. :)

***** Karen Sez *****
Thanks for checking back Crystin. Your additional info certainly does incriminate the does. Your excellent sleuthing will be as helpful to others who read this as it has been for me.

So, assuming your does DID brutalize their litters, the question still remains: WHY? You are right - the does should indeed be comfortable in their environment. At what point did you move them into their cages? What if you rebreed the does soon and leave them in the cages now and going forward, acclimating them to their cages?

If this happens a second time, I would question their suitability as breeding stock, as long as you continue to be able to rule out life disruptions and predation.

Best regards....

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