Rabbit Rhythms December 2017: Nesting FAQs and an easy variation on the rabbit nest box in the two-chamber rabbit hutch. Plus get ready now for flies.
Believe it or not, the dead of winter is when rabbit instincts begin kicking in with a vengeance. By the time December rolls around in the Northern Hemisphere, you may find your rabbits seriously interested in the opposite sex. (In OZ, rabbits have been happily procreating for 6 months already!)
Take a peak into the domestic rabbit nest above!
Here's what I see:
First: If those aren't just the cutest lil bunnies ever...?!
Second: The pile of fur that typically covers a newborn litter has been completely churned into the bedding materials.
Third: Their eyes are open. That, and other clues such as length of fur and size of body indicate that they are probably close to 2 weeks old and nearly ready to leave the nest.
What we can't see well in this photo is that the box is entirely enclosed on 4 sides, with the lowest side providing a 5-inch "wall" against the outside world. See several more photos at https://www.raising-rabbits.com/rabbit-nest-box.html.
In the wild, rabbits tunnel into the ground and give birth in a nest off the main tunnel. The kits are completely enclosed and the nest entry is plugged by the doe. As the kits grow to 2-3 weeks of age (slightly older than those pictured above), they find their way up to the bright outdoor world.
A wooden or metal nest box mimics that underground nest, and is important for keeping your bunnies corralled and warmly snuggled with its littermates until they have enough fur and awareness to thrive outside the nest on their own.
A great many pet rabbit owners house their rabbits in hutches that have two compartments: the main hutch is very ample, has a screened front (at least), and possibly wire sides and/or floor. The same hutch may also have a second compartment with a doorway from the main area. This section is sometimes called the bedroom because with a solid door it is much more private.
All of these two-compartment hutches are excellent options if you've discovered your rabbit is pregnant!
Many pet rabbit owners also like to allow their female rabbits to have a litter or two.
And sometimes, those litters are accidental or unintended, especially if two rabbits living in the same cage have not been sexed correctly.
It is very easy to turn that little bedroom area into a temporary nestbox, though some modification would be ideal. If possible, block the bottom 5 inches of the bedroom entrance. Use plywood or a 1x6 board, which can be temporarily clamped to the opening. Another option might be a heavy concrete paver or bricks which will likely stay put without any help due to the weight. (Ensure though that the entire width of the doorway is blocked - no spaces for tiny kits to squeeze through.)
If you need to, enlarge the height of the opening so the mother rabbit can easily hop over the 5" barrier and go in and out. By doing so, you've essentially created a very good rabbit nestbox that will secure the kits INSIDE the bedroom space until they are big enough to no longer need restraint.
And because the hutch bedroom is probably a bit larger than is necessary, you can stuff the space with more nesting materials than needed. The doe will create her own tunnel into the nesting materials, kindle her babies there, and cover them with her fur. They should thrive within the hutch and makeshift nest box.
Once the babies are weaned and off to their new homes, you can remove the temporary blockage in the doorway, and the hutch will be back to its original design.
Need more help with additional aspects of breeding and raising rabbits? We've written an entire e-book on breeding rabbits, from mating to weaning and more: Rabbit Reproduction.
Nesting Box Materials: Pine Shavings, Hay, Straw
On November 30, 2017, Kaleena from Ohio asked:
"I have 2 does that are housed together. Both are expecting. Do they need separated when they have their kits?"
This frequently asked question is answered in our book, Rabbit Raising Problem Solver. Briefly, the answer depends on the individual rabbits. (Hormones can do funny things to rabbit does!) If one of your does decides she cannot tolerate her situation, she may become combative towards you, her hutch-mate or both. She may also end up rejecting her litter.
Nevertheless, we've heard from many other rabbit owners who describe does sharing the same nest for both litters, and others that take turns feeding all kits.
The thing is: I cannot promise that your own two pregnant does will get along perfectly once the kits arrive just because they've happily lived together forever.
This is why I recommend that you either separate pregnant does before they kindle, if at all possible, or provide them a very large living space (whether a cage or enclosure) so that one of them can withdraw to safety if necessary.
As temperatures heat up in Spring, so will your rabbitry's manure piles.
Swarms of houseflies don't show up immediately; it takes a month or two for their numbers to explode.
Rabbit owners who live in warmer areas, such as Southern California, Arizona, Texas and most of the southern USA, should ideally get the drop on flies starting in February or early March. Those who live in northern areas such as Washington State, the Dakotas, and New England, should consider fly abatement measures beginning in May or June.
I personally love using Fly Predators from Spalding Labs to naturally and safely decimate the barn's fly population. Fly predators are tiny insects active only at night that eat the fly larvae (maggots) in the soil and droppings. Other than opening a package once a month to release the tiny flies, you won't need to give the problem a second thought.
Follow the link for more details, or click on the Spalding Labs link below.
By adding fly predators to your environment every month (they are priced very reasonably), the maggots don't stand a chance.
Rabbit owners with one or more outdoor rabbits will be very happy with the marked decrease in the fly population.
Maybe your friends would too...
Your friends at Raising-Rabbits.com wish you a wonderful December 2017 and happy holidays.
Enjoy your rabbits!
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