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How To Care For Baby Bunnies

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How To Care For Baby BunniesThere are few things cool as BABY BUNNIES!!!!  Our very first litter was eight little babies all healthy and warm.  I noticed a week earlier one rabbit was pulling fur in the litter box so I added a nest box.  A week went by and they started using it as a potty so I pulled it out.  Then the next day my husband noticed fur again in the litter box.  When I went out to put the box back I found BABIES!  Their mama, Shota, was just finishing cleaning herself up when I got there. She looked pretty tired and was grateful for a frozen water bottle (it’s a little warm today) and a handful of kale.  Daddy rabbit Zeddicus was unimpressed with the babies and wanted to know if I brought treats.

If you are expecting baby bunnies on your homestead, make sure you are prepared!  You don’t need to do much, but it’s nice to be able to jump in if there’s a problem and to know when it’s okay to step back and let the rabbits handle it all.

How To Care For Baby Bunnies

Once you’ve bred your rabbits it’s time to wait and see if your female is pregnant.  There are a few clues that may help you know, but usually about 30 days after breeding she will kindle (have babies).  If you have a rabbit colony you may want to remove your buck before her due date, but this is dependent on your rabbits and particular set up.

Supply a Nest Box

By day 28 make sure you give your rabbit a nest box full of hay.  You can use a new plastic cat litter box or make your own wooden nest box.  The mother should pull fur to line the box.  She may not do this until the babies arrive, so don’t worry if you don’t see her pulling fur ahead of time.  It’s a good idea to have some rabbit fur in a bag just in case you have a new doe that doesn’t pull enough fur.  Sometimes rabbits will pull too much, or if you have a rabbit with a false pregnancy, use the fur that she pulls.

Check for Cold Bunnies

The baby bunnies should arrive by day 32.  Between day 28 and their arrival you should check her frequently.  Sometimes the babies become scattered, or she may have a stray one or two out of the box.  If they get too cold they may die.  You can warm up baby rabbits, even if you think they are already dead.  If they’re not stiff, there still may be chance!  Remove any dead babies from the nest, and give your mother rabbit a treat.  She’s worked hard!  My rabbits like parsley or red raspberry leafs.

Keep an Eye on the Nest

Once the babies arrive the mother rabbit should take care of everything.  Your job will mostly be to check the nest a few times a day.  Remove any that have died, and check to see if their tummies are full.  If they aren’t getting enough to eat, try putting some babies in the nest of another doe with a similar aged litter.  It’s a good idea to breed two does around the same time so you can foster them if needed, or split up a larger litter.  If you aren’t able to foster the baby bunnies onto another doe you may be able to care for them yourself, although chances are slim that they will survive.

If it is too hot or too cold you can also bring the entire nest box inside.  Rabbits feed their young twice a day at dusk and dawn, so if you bring the box out to the doe she should hop in and feed the babies.

Wean and Rebreed

If the nest is soiled you can replace it with fresh hay.  Some people remove the babies from their mother at four weeks old, but others worry about weaning enteritis and leave them until 8 weeks.  Don’t wait until much longer than this, or you could have some surprise breedings.   Some breeders recommend removing a few babies each day so that your doe doesn’t get mastitis.  Others mimic nature by removing the mother rabbit to a new pen, which causes her milk supply to dry off quickly,  This is especially useful if she has already been rebred.  If the babies are younger than eight weeks you can leave the males and females for a few more days to reduce stress and the risk of deadly diarrhea.

What if something goes wrong?

The best resource I have come across for troubleshooting problems with rabbits is the Meat Rabbit Yahoo Group.  There are some many awesome people there with decades of experience willing to share what they know.  Even reading through posts is a great way to learn more details about and how to solve problems.

Thankfully, good rabbits mothers do an excellent job of taking care of their babies.  They usually only need minimal intervention from us humans! 



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