Kits born healthy, but didn't make it through the night.

by Momma Moyes
(Nyssa, OR)

Last night, my son's 4-H doe gave birth to three active healthy kits. She is a first time momma (DOB 5/22/12). She had made a beautiful nest in the box, that we had give her straw and some natural bedding fiber and she had pulled more than enough fur. We saw her just after giving birth and she was cleaning them and staying inside the box. About two hours later, just before bedtime, we lifted the lid and we were able to see three kits who were moving around and we could hear them breathing and "mewing" so we thought all was well.

The hutch was on a covered patio, two sides and the bottom were protected by the walls and by the wooden shelf the hutch was on. In addition, we covered the entire wire hutch with old towels; the temperature outside was right at 32 degrees.

This morning, all three of the kits were dead, one had been pushed outside of the nest box and even out of the cage. The other two kits were inside the nesting box, underneath of the mother; none of the kits appeared to have rounded bellies indicating that she fed them at all.

So do I have a doe who just didn't know what to do with babies or did she not have any milk? Her tits do not even appear to be swollen at all, making me wonder if in fact she didn't have any milk to give them? We have been feeding her a very good quality pellet from a farm supply store that has at least 16% protein as well as timothy hay. She is however, a picky eater and even before she was pregnant would not eat her pellets, during the pregnancy, she never finished even half of the amount given and we were feeding her twice a day, 2-3 oz at a time (she weighs about 4 lbs.)

We have another doe due to kindle in about two days, she has had kits before, she is very fat and eats well. If she had kindled first, I could have put the kits from the new momma in with other momma which is what I will consider doing next time. How soon should we try to rebreed the new doe, or given the results this time, would it be a waste of time??

Thank you!!!!

***** Karen sez *****
That's a disappointment! Hard to say what's up with the first-time doe. When mine are picky eaters I suspect the freshness of the feed, which means even though the feed is good quality, it might no longer be adequate due to age and oxidation of nutrients. A feed issue can be at the root of a doe that doesn't mother, and that doesn't have enough milk. (The doe with the better appetite gets enough nourishment to compensate, I guess.)

In my barn, I'd give this doe another chance. If she is up to weight for her breed and standard, rebreed her any time. Plus, supplement her feed with oil seeds - 1/2 tsp of whole oats or black oil sunflower seeds or a mix, every day (1 tsp for a 6+ lb doe). Upon kindling, increase that to 1/2 tablespoon per day (1 tbsp for a 6+ lb doe).

The oil seeds are full of fresh nutrients. They are also high in fats (8% fat in whole oats). I am convinced our commercial rabbit feed is too low in oil generally, and especially for lactating does. How do I know? Supplement the does, and their milk production markedly improves. Such an easy fix.

For all the rest, you did a stellar job. The temp was no issue I don't think.

I have hopes your doe will do much better the second time around. Of course, if she's a terminal airhead, she'll repeat her failures, but you won't know until you give her a second or third chance.

Good luck, and Raising-Rabbits sends an electronic hug to your son. :-)

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