I’m going to go ahead and put this out here – as these are simple life facts. If you are new to rabbits or are interested in the entire breeding process, you may find this an informative read….
I apologize for the graphic words – I am not showing graphic imagery though, rest assured……
Rabbit breeders have to deal with dead baby rabbits – it’s a fact. It is not uncommon to have a few dead babies in a litter. In fact, it is more common for first-time mother does to have dead babies and/or lose them all in some way. I guess it is nature’s way of dealing with overpopulation. Rabbits can have a lot of babies in one litter, and so many babies over a lifetime, that it’s actually a blessing, although we don’t like to admit it, that nature takes care of some of them in this way.
In the two litters this past fall, Dolly and Khaleesi had their first litter each. Dolly had four, and they all were perfect. Khaleesi had six, and one was found dead and pushed out of the nest – no deformity or obvious defect. This is quite common. Rabbit breeders see new litters and check in a day or two and clear out the dead ones. That’s just a fact that we deal with. Khaleesi’s five remaining beauties grew and flourished normally.
Normal gestation is 28-31 days. Khaleesi and Dolly gave birth on days 29 and 30 respectively.
Bite marks on premature rabbits
The First Litter
I checked on the four does super early this morning and found The Mighty Boosh had her first litter this morning – a litter of seven! Wow!!! The gestation was 27-1/2 days. That’s a little alarming, mixed with the fact that seven babies on her first go! They were ice cold, despite the fact that we have a heater running in the bunny house, and it was relatively warm last night in comparison to other days…. Boosh had done what she was supposed to (although not to the degree that the others do, so her inexperience definitely was showing). She had pulled her hair (not enough) and had the babies in the nesting box, but something had gone wrong.
I picked them all up. They didn’t feel quite right. Their skin and bodies felt premature to me. Three were still moving. While Erynn took the three into the house to warm up, I held the other four in front of the heater, and performed “bunny CPR”… eh, it didn’t work, as expected, but we tried.
All seven of them had bite marks and scratches. We are going to assume for now that Boosh was doing her duties and realizing that they were not quite right, she was going to dispose of them herself. This is a natural instinct as animals like this do not want the smell to bring in predators, so they do it in order to save themselves and/or the colony. This is also a reason they consume their placentas (she had consumed all seven of hers) As an aside – when we had Pixie, our baby horse, I had to save the placenta and look it over to make sure it appeared normal (that is an amazing piece of work, I’m telling you…. simply amazing to see what is keeping an animal alive inside the womb). When I had to pull it out of the bucket/bag that we had it in, Pixie’s mom would smell it from across the room and whinny – out of concern that the smell would bring a predator to harm her baby.
Force Nursing or Foster?
Erynn stayed home from school and monitored the three. Our plans were to turn Boosh over tonight and let the babies nurse if they were strong enough, or, if another rabbit had a litter, we would put them in with that litter (they don’t need to nurse the first day, and rabbits only nurse once a day – crazy, right? but that’s what they do – one of the reasons it is so difficult to bottle feed rabbits, wild or tame, because the mom’s milk is so rich that they only need to be fed once a day, and their digestive systems are so very sensitive that anything can go wrong, even just the “mix” of formula).
Unfortunately, none of the other three made it. Rabbit breeders know this is always a possibility, so we understand this well. The important part is, we tried.
The other three litters should be born this weekend – which would be great since they will pass the 28-day mark and have a much better chance. As a precaution, we are going to keep the bunny house extra heated, and check on them often to make sure all is going well. We expect Dolly and Khaleesi are old pros and will do fine. We will keep an extra watch on Blue Girl since this is her first litter as well.
Since Boosh didn’t…. ummm… “massacre” the babies, we are assuming she did bite them to “try them out” to see if she could dispose of them for being premature. (We are assuming she did not attack them). We will let her rest for a few weeks and work on getting her bred again. We would like to see her have a normally gestated litter soon, so she can gain her “good momma” confidence.