Trials and Tribulations of Baby Bunnies

22 Feb

For several years now we have raised rabbits for my daughter for 4-H, this year my son also will begin rabbit showing as a Cloverbud.

Raising baby rabbits sounds easy right? Breed like rabbits gives the connotation that the task occurs frequently without much hesitation doesn’t it?

Except…. when you have a deadline that you need rabbits bred by for fairs or customers who want to buy them. Then a doe will plant her bottom firmly down in the corner of the cage and not give the poor buck the time of day. Or she will be vicious and angry, rip his hair out and attempt to emasculate him. Or he will decide that they are just there to hang out.

Sometimes you will get lucky though and you’ll have a successful breeding and then everything will go smoothly right?

Except when the momma decides that things are not as they should be and she eats the babies. Or she decides that she doesn’t want to have anything to do with those horrible little things and let them die. Or she will refuse to make a nest and have babies on the cage bottom and you’ll end up trying to warm them up and get her to accept them. We’ve even tried (unsuccessfully) to bottle feed babies but not managed to keep them going more than a couple of weeks.

If you get past all of that then you think you’re home free. Until you go out to feed the rabbits and found that a bull snake has slithered into the cage and eaten them all and now he’s too fat to slither out.

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Yes… that lump there would be baby bunnies…

So breeding rabbits and raising babies is harder than it sounds. There are some things you can do to make life a bit easier though. Last year we invested in a barn to house our rabbits and keep out critters like snakes. A barn also allows you to control the climate (yes our rabbits will have air conditioning this summer and my house does not) and the lighting to help promote the “mood” resulting in more successful breedings.

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The new rabbit barn (in this photo we had not finished the flooring and filled in the holes between the barn and the ground yet).

So far in 2015 we’ve had a few successful breedings and we’ve started the baby season today with a little of four large and healthy Californians born to a proven good momma the kids call “Dot”.

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Here is “Dot”, of course she had babies on a cold and snowy day so here she is all fluffy and content hanging out next to the box. Momma rabbits don’t spend much time in the box with the babies so don’t be alarmed this is normal. In the wild spending time with the babies alerts predators to where they are so they just drop in to feed and usually not when you’re around.

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This is a good sign to wake up to. Last night there was just hay in the box but “Dot” was frantically rearranging the hay while we were feeding. During the night she pulled hair from her stomach and made a nice soft nest. After she had the babies she cleaned them and they are all tucked into a nice pile in the middle of the hay in the back there. They keep each other warm and cozy there.

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We always check on the babies once a day. On the first day I’m checking to be sure that there are no dead babies in the box and that all of the babies made to the pile. Sometimes if the next isn’t arranged well you can end up with stray babies lost in the edges of the box and they will get cold. If this is the case I just help make sure there is good hole in the middle and that the babies are all there together. Before I handle them I take out some hair and rub my hands with it so my scent isn’t too obtrusive for momma.

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Here is a day old Californian. These are pretty big rabbits and their babies are large compared to some breeds. “Dot” had four in this litter which is kind of a small litter (we’ve had litters up to 11 babies so far) but these are all a good size and look very healthy. You can see they’ve already got a white sheen and their hair will grow quickly. They will also develop gray ears, noses, tails and feet soon!

Stay tuned to see more pics as they grow! They will keep getting cuter!

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