Question - rabbit kits are dying

by Donna

I have been raising rabbits for about a year with the intention to sell for meat. When I first started breeding (last year at this time), I lost several litters from one doe and none from the other. Since it was all I had at the time I kept the one and she began to produce and retain litters, until October, now both does are not retaining the litters. Within 4 days all the kits die. With this last litter and our better doe, it was obvious she had no milk.

Why does this happen? She is an experienced doe. We live in California, the rabbits are sheltered but outside. Conditions in our back yard have not changed over the course of the year. There has been a company change in feed but the nutritional part is the same. Its driving me nuts. All I get are 'could be's.' The last person told us maybe no milk, we checked and we are pretty sure that is the problem...but why?

Thanks, Donna

Comments for Question - rabbit kits are dying

Average Rating starstarstarstarstar

Click here to add your own comments

Jan 28, 2011
by: Anonymous

It may be because ur breeding her too much cause sometimes they will lose their milk if u breed them litter after litter so try giving them a month or two to recuperate and they might get their milk back.

rabbit breeder

Nov 03, 2010
7 reasons why bunnies could be dying
by: Karen

Hi Donna,
So sorry for the dying kits!

I'll say right up front that I don't think we can offer you more than 'could be's.' But here are quite a few guesses, and we'd love to hear back from you when you figure out the problem.

1) The death of the litters at 4 days is indeed indicative of no milk. Sometimes does get sore teats and refuse to nurse. But, if your doe is experienced, why would she stop with the nursing and milk production? Perhaps the conditioning is off, or they both have low-grade infections somewhere, an abscess, perhaps... Go to King Feed and obtain their Cheeke's YQ Supplement - this stuff is amazing for boosting the immune system with consistent usage over time.

2) What about mothering instincts? Sometimes domestic animals don't inherit enough mothering instincts. If they are poor, the only solution is to purchase new animals from breeders whose animals demonstrate strong mothering instincts and excellent milk production.

3) Sometimes the kits are weak - they don't have the strength to nurse. This goes back to genetics and possibly feed.

4) Your back yard conditions sound fine, but how about a fright in the rabbitry? i.e. racoons, coyotes, or stray dogs or cats or even rats and snakes visiting at night?? Perhaps they smell the birthing blood, come visiting, and the doe then abandons the litter. This might be a possibility, however I would have expected the doe to harm the kits if she took a fright... If necessary, throw a strong fence around the area where the cages are, put motion lights, and otherwise secure the area from predators (and untrustworthy pets).

5) What about feed and water? It needs to be fresh (less than 45 days old), and a minimum 17% protein. Old feed loses nutrients, and this could conceivably affect the ability to produce milk. A lactating doe needs LOTS of water at all times order to produce sufficient milk.

6) Have the rabbits been eating feed containing genetically modified organisms (GMO) for several generations? It has been reported in hamsters and rats that the 2nd generation of animals raised on GMO experiences a 56% decline in survival of the offspring, and that 3rd generation animals are unable to reproduce. I have heard NO reports like this in rabbits, but it is a thought, at least....

7) Lastly, the weather - were the does themselves physically stressed from summer and fall heat? Anything that stresses the doe can adversely affect her maternal behavior.

These are all 'could be's,' I know. Find a warm-blooded experienced rabbit breeder and coax him or her out to your barn and get an eyes-on opinion. In the meantime:
--Go through the above list (and any other suggestions you've collected)
--Ensure that your management practices are good
--Make any tweaks you feel are necessary (fencing, for example, if applicable)
--Try again.
--Or, replace the does with rabbits from a proven herd - drastic, but sometimes the best answer in the long run.

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Comments.

Protected by Copyscape Plagiarism Check Software