New babies - big problems

Discussion in 'Rabbits' started by cowboy joe, Feb 20, 2004.

  1. cowboy joe

    cowboy joe Hired Hand

    Messages:
    1,613
    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2003
    Location:
    western New York
    My favorite doe was due yesterday. Set a nest box in place two days ago which she had not touched nibble on the straw. She never pulled any fur either. I was starting to think that this was a false pregnancy. Went home last night to find that the doe had started to give birth. That was as good as the news got last night. There was only one kit which was laying cannibalized on the floor of the hutch. I gave the hutch and the surrounding area the once over to make sure there were no others, cleaned the remains from the hutch, and went to do chores. I came back an hour later to find a second kit, slightly mangled, which she had tossed out of the hutch. I warmed the little one up but it only survived an hour.

    I checked on the doe every few hours but no further activity was seen. Went to check around 1 am and found four more kits, 1 cannibalized, two on the floor and one in the corner. I gathered up the survivors and warmed each of them with the indirect heat from a brooding lamp. I was hesitant to put them back with the doe so I covered them with an old washcloth and set the nest box in a small brooder which I recently cleaned and set the heat for 70-75F...warm enough to keep them from getting chilled but cool enough, hopefully, not to dehydrate them.

    Upon checking the hutch this morning I found yet another kit on the floor. After I warmed the little one up, I set the nest box back in the hutch with the doe and watched for 15 minutes or so hoping she would nurse them. No such luck. I gave them some formula, for what it was worth, knowing that they would dehydrate and die if they didn't get any fluid. They didn't take much, maybe a quarter teaspoon each. I checked the doe but it doesn't appear that her milk has come in yet (trust me when I say I'm no expert her) so pulled some fur from her mammary area for the nest box, then placed the box back in the brooder.

    She's a first timer and I can understand that she may be nervous but I don't trust her behavior enough to leave the kits in the hutch with her alone. I always breed two does at a time in case something like this happens but the doe's breeding buddy refused service was not breed until almost two weeks later.

    I've never hand feed kits before and haven't heard of many who have had much success doing so. I plan to put the nest box back in the hutch this afternoon when I get home to see if the doe will nurse. The kits were responsive and appeared to be adequately hydrated when I left for work so finger's crossed that they are strong enough to endure this storm.

    Nature's the best provider and I'll only step in when I absolutely have to. Covering lots of new ground here as I've never had to intercede on this level with the rabbits before. Any suggestions are sincerely appreciated.
     
  2. Corky

    Corky Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,700
    Joined:
    May 11, 2002
    Location:
    Missouri
    I am not an expert on rabbits even though I raised them for a while.
    Did It storm or was there anything that could have frightened the doe?
    I bred four does to deliver at the same time. We had a storm and two of them had them on the wire because of fear.
    What sometimes happens with a first timer is that when she chews off the cord she gets carried away out of panic and chews to close. The kit bleeds and she panics and tries harder to fix it, thus eating into the kit.
    Once she does this to the first one she will panic with each one, and do them all in trying to save them.
    Sometimes the maternal instincts just are not there.

    The bad news is that the little ones probably won't survive if you can't feed them at least every 4 hours and probably every two at first. Just like a real baby.

    Also, the mom probably will not take them back.

    I would say that if this was her first time I would give her one more chance.
    If she kills her litter again, rabbit pot pie is very good!!!
     

  3. cowboy joe

    cowboy joe Hired Hand

    Messages:
    1,613
    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2003
    Location:
    western New York
    Corky,

    No storms last night but I do remember seeing a stray cat wandering around near the barn the past few days. Suppose it might have made it’s way in under the door and into the barn. I never gave it much thought. I tend to leave the strays be unless they become a problem because the take care of the field mice. Could be the doe was nervous because there was a predator around.

    In the past I’ve limited myself to moving live kits from the wire to the nest and culling the deceased from the box. It was a tough choice to remove the kits last night, one that took many hours to make, but I believed that they were in harm’s way…kind of a Catch 22…dang if I did, danged if I didn’t. Once burned, twice shy. A previous litter by a different doe was lost earlier this winter as the doe pulled all of the kits out of the box after the wire born babies were warmed and placed in the nest. I had left the doe unattended and went to the house to clean and fill water bottles. I returned 30 minutes later to find the cold, lifeless bodies once again on the wire. They were beyond saving at this point as they froze quickly in the unheated hutch. Could be that they were dead when she pulled them out but I'll never know.

    Unfortunately, I sense a grim scene awaits me upon my return home; a reminder of what happens when one interferes with the natural process. If the kits die, I suppose it should be by nature’s hand and not man’s. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.
     
  4. Denise K.

    Denise K. Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    415
    Joined:
    May 10, 2002
    Location:
    Eastern Washington
    Joe, Don't be afraid to give the doe another chance. First timers are not always reliable with their kits. Sound like her birthing was drawn out, I find when this happens often something wrong with the doe ie: contractions of the uterus weak, or doe to fat. When labor is drawn out they seem confused (hard to explain) Many times they will get to vigourous washing the kits off and eat them. But generally when I find partially eaten kits I start looking for rats, mice, or cats.
    I have also found breeding the first timers in the spring when their natural instincts tells them to breed helps. Also I have taken kits and warmed them up. Fix the nest if needed. Pull some fur from the belly area of the doe if you need more. The fur pulls easily as the hormones produced by a birthing doe help to loosen it. Kits can go up to 24 hours with out eating, though I usually like does to feed them shortly after they are born. Many times you will not see the does nurse, they will hop in and only stay for a few minutes (they actually only nurse for 2-5 minutes, milk lets down quickly when kits latch on). Some does especially first timers will not get their milk in for 24 hours or so, but when they feel the pressure they will want to nurse. I hope this helps, don't be afraid to try again. Sometimes there is a learning curve for the does. Good Luck.
    Denise
     
  5. cowboy joe

    cowboy joe Hired Hand

    Messages:
    1,613
    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2003
    Location:
    western New York
    Well, there must be a guardian angel for homesteaders. I arrived home to four wrinkly, hungry, but alive, nonetheless, kits. I pulled back the washcloth which covered the kits and placed the nest box in the mother's hutch. The doe sniffed and chewed on the box then sat in the corner with apparent indifference to the vocal babies. I gave her 15 minutes of so then I moved her to the next box. I held her in place while the babies latched on one by one to nurse. The doe wiggled some at first but eventually settled down as the kits continued to nurse. Bellies full, the little ones returned to the nest to sleep. I was surprised to see how quickly the wrinkles disappeared as they ate.

    I gave the doe a piece of carrot as a treat, then set out to clean up the kits with some warm water and a cotton ball. I remember ready somewhere that the kits are unable to deficate on their own and will die if the waste products are not passed. The mother typically washes them after they nurse which stimulates their bowels and allows them to go. Sure enough, a little washing was all it took to get them going. Not my idea of a good time but you do what you have to...

    Happy to report that the doe nursed the kits on her own sometime during the night. I checked on them around 5 AM and found four pudgy little kits all nestled together in the nest box. Well, somedays are better than others...glad to say that this one is starting out on the right foot. Many thanks Corky and Denise for your support...
     
  6. Corky

    Corky Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,700
    Joined:
    May 11, 2002
    Location:
    Missouri
    Yea!!! I am sure glad I was wrong about this one. I told you I didn't know all that much. I also was pretty sure you would get some one to help you that knew what to do.

    Thats why I quit raising rabbits. I had lots of bad luck, even though we got more kits than we needed for the freezer.
    I found them to be too much work for me.
    If you have the right setup for them they wouldn't be but we didn't have a way to get water to them except in bottles that froze quickly in the winter.
    The rabbits got too hot in the summer, so we were afraid to leave them for very long. We decided we needed a little time off once in a while so we sold them.

    Now if you happen to own an old farm that has a milking parlor close to the house that is well insulated and has electric, that would make a perfect rabbit house. Easy to keep warm in winter and cool in summer. You could set up automatic waters and feeders and they would not be too time consuming.

    I like rabbits. Just not all the work involved to raise them here in the woods.
    CONGRATULATIONS AGAIN!!! :)
     
  7. Denise K.

    Denise K. Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    415
    Joined:
    May 10, 2002
    Location:
    Eastern Washington
    Glad to hear that your remaining kits are doing well. I actually find of the different stock we have had, rabbits are easy to raise. I have culled my herd for does that are reliable breeders and good caretakers. They also need to tolerate us handling the kits anytime we want to. At this moment we were discussing a doe......she better kindle today or she will be on the list for the next butcher day. This is her 3 time being bred with out any kits produced! You can also breed for temperment general rule here at our place DO NOT BITE!! or we get the last bite. Good Luck with the babies.
    Denise
     
  8. SueD

    SueD Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    144
    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2002
    Your kits are lucky... I have never done this no matter the circumstances. And, I've always left things go until they were finished. Meaning, that if there was a cannibalized kit, it would stay till Mama was done birthing.

    I'm really not a mean person - I just believe that the animals have been doing this a lot longer than I have.

    Rabbits are strange creatures. Most (not all...) will not cannibalize a healthy kit unless they are frightened, or that kit is not viable. Even first time does. Going in so often has probably put more at risk than otherwise would have been the case. Plus... it can also 'train' her to do this.

    If you reach in and are 'emotional' about it, each and every time she delivers - and sometimes just watching can be a problem - she will do this every time. Plus - a rabbit WILL NOT nurse ANY kits until they are all born. If she is nervous she will wait until she clams. SO - if you're still in there all the time, she ain't going to nurse until you leave her alone anyway.

    Most times, if she's delivering on the wire even with a box in the cage, it is either because there is too little room, or its too warm in the box for her. Normally, even a first timer will manage to get any viable kits into the box before they freeze.

    For a first-time doe, there could be myriad reasons why those kits would not survive in the first place. She could have been saving you a lot of heartaches...

    It is always good to know when buying your breeding stock, if there has ever been a problem like this with the parents. I bought my first does from a niece, who had kept careful records of the birthing and behaviors of all of her stock. Only once did I ever have a problem like this, and not a single one of the kits I took survived more than 36 hours anyway.

    Is the area they are kept in heated??