Dying Babies/Bad mother?
by Hannah Weeks
(Newborn, GA USA)
I have owned around ten bunnies in my life, and have always loved having rabbits around! I began trying to breed with a single maned Lionhead doe and a single maned Lionhead buck. The doe was more of a rescue, the poor girl was given to me in a rabbit trap that she was forced into. She was so terrified of people, she wouldn't use the bathroom for days. She has improved drastically, but is still rather shy.
I kept her for about two months before attempting a litter with her, so that she could get accustomed to being with me. She had the first litter and all the babies died. It was warm during the summer and they were kept outside, so I am not sure what could have happened.
The next litter she had five kits. Three of them died. It happened the same way every night, I would look at the kits and see that one was much thinner than the others. It worried me, because it had obviously not been fed. So I would make sure it was in the nest and with the others. The next morning, I would find it dead either on the cage floor or on the other side of my room(I kept them inside because I hoped it would help). I don't know what happened to the poor babies, but could it be that mom is just not very attentive? Or could she have physical issues that I can't see? She was thin when I got her, but has put on some weight after good TLC.
I even tried feeding the babies by flipping mom over, but she was so tense and scared, her milk wouldn't drop for the poor little ones. And even trying to place her on top of them, her milk wouldn't drop.
Should I simply stop using this doe? Or is it possible that these babies were just weak and the next litter should make it? ***** Karen Sez *****
These babies were not just weak. The problem is the doe's ability to mother, including providing enough milk for the kits. Nevertheless, I see signs of the doe improving in her abilities. Were this my doe, I think I'd give her one more shot (three strikes and you're out - she's on #2, right?)
Rebreed her when she has regained her pre-litter conditioning (not bony). Feed commercial pellets. Supplement her feed with a teaspoon of whole oats or black oil sunflower seeds every day, starting now.
When she kindles her litter, increase the supplement to 2 teaspoons. The extra oils will greatly improve her milk production. There should be no reason this doe cannot provide enough milk for all her kits. (She's a keeper if no more than 1 kit dies - because not all kit deaths can be blamed on the doe, but if half the litter dies of starvation, that's a maternal problem.)
A possible note of concern: If this doe has personality flaws over and above her past frights, you might find a few of the kits inheriting her skittishness. Hopefully the buck can provide some genetic balance.
If the third litter fails, then this doe is not worth utilizing for breeding. Hopefully your gentle care of her will help keep her pet-worthy.