So Greg and I went out to count the bunnies. I wish I had known about the babies sooner, but I didn’t. However this was day-old bunnies for Purina and 2-3 day old bunnies for Tasty. So it could have been worse.
We started with Purina. This was my first bunny count so I was pretty nervous but Purina was very polite about the whole thing. However, I know that sometimes disturbing the nest can lead to a rejection fo the site… One the other hand these are ultra-domesticated rabbits and not prone to doing that. However the risks are still there.
So why count the rabbits? There’s lots of reasons. The first being to know how many there are. In winter rabbits produce far less than in other months and you want an accurate record of how many bunnies and when. Then comes the more serious concerns. If the litter is small or not being cared for properly it may become necessary to foster kits from one litter to another. And worse, some kits may be still born or die after birth. This is ESPECIALLY common in dwarf rabbits… Which luckily I am not breeding. A dead kit left in the nest can be a death sentence for the rest of the litter. So counting your kits once they’ve hatched is important.
We did take precautions. First Greg and I washed our hands. Then we grabbed a bottle of vanilla extract and went downstairs. In the basement is a towel over Purina’s cage which went into the dryer for several minutes… Just long enough to warm it up. Then I took the vanilla bottle and shook a drop on my hands and rubbed it also on Greg’s and the towel. The another bit went over Purina’s nose. This masks your scent. To the momma bunny EVERYTHING smells like vanilla for hours. After that it doesn’t matter as much. But just in case I also rubbed my hands in some of her dry littered hay to make my hands smell like her. Then a bit of loose fur went onto the towel as Greg held it for baby counting.
I crawled into her cage on my elbows and peered inside the rustling nestbox.I started moving away hay and fur and finally found the babies. Out came one… Two… Three… Each one went into the towel and began cheeping and kicking with some very impressive motor skills for day-old rabbits. And then I heard more but couldn’t find them. Then I felt it. The hole. Our nest box was made of cardboard for several reasons. One it’s a GREAT insulator, two it’s easy to work with, three it’s disposable, four it was the perfect size and shape, five it’s edible and six it’s what I had. Purina had dug THROUGH the bottom of the box and into her layer of bedding below, nearly down to the floor beyond that. So I tilted up the nest box to count two more wriggling babies.
Five out of Purina. Not bad for a winter litter!
Next came Tasty. This was nerve-wrenching because the garage is cold. Freezing in fact. But boy am I glad I did it! I was nervous because the nest was not as warm as I expected it to be with a litter of rabbits. So again a towel went in the dryer, this time coming out to be wrapped around two hot water bottles that had been dried on a different towel. Into the towel went a handfull of fur and into the nest went my hands. Deep under the litter was a single baby bunny. Just one, tucked in a corner of it’s box and colder than the 99-101 degrees baby rabbits should be. At that point it should feel toasty and this felt luke-warm, so I guess it was maybe low eighties. Into the warm towel went the baby bunny and I proceeded to search the nest, layer by layer, for signs of anything else, even corpses. Nothing.
I do not know if the other bunnies died and/or were eaten or if there weren’t any at all (though I suspect the last) but one baby bunny cannot survive on it’s own. It’s not just a matter of heat either, although it takes three babies to keep a nest warm in the cold. With only one baby, Tasty could easilly not produce any milk to feed her young. Just one baby suckling is not normally enough to stimulate the milk to flow. With this in mind I ripped out Tasty’s nest and put down fresh hay. We were going to have to foster this rabbit to Purina.
So out came the vanilla again as we hurried the baby inside in a bundle of fur. Onto the baby went the vanilla and a blue sharpie mark. Onto Purina went the vanilla. Onto the other kits went the vanilla. And in with the other kits went this one colder one.
Now it seems that Purina is fine with her new foster. There was no signs of rejection or even concern when I slipped the baby in. Purina and I have been getting closer lately and this solidifies that in my mind. This is my rabbit and I feel safe around her now.
Which leaves Tasty. This is early enough in her kit’s life that there should be litte to no risk of mastitis. But it’s still a concern. Basically Mastitis is when the milk in the teats is not drank so it builds up and mixes with bacteria and causes a nasty infection. It’s rare, but it happens. However, at such a young age for the kit (and there only being one) she should be fine since she wouldn’t be producing much milk at all yet. However, she is still being deprived of pellets and only fed hay for a bit.
Also, normally such low-production does do not stay in a herd. But this is only Tasty’s second litter ever. So I figure I will give her one or two more litters to raise and try to improve before trading her in for a better model. In the meantime her lack of kits will allow her to breed again sooner rather than later. Still, we’re waiting a month or so with her.
At this point it is getting time to breed the next bunny for our three-month cycle… Which is Evo. Not sure how or when this will happen with Purina still in my breeding crate in the basement. But it’ll happen somehow. For now I will enjoy watching the six wriggling forms I have already, one with a big blue marker stripe on it’s head. In about a week that one should have it’s eyes open and in the days following the other babies will follow suit. I am looking forward to it!