Wednesday, 5 August 2009

.... Some Info on caring for Baby Rabbits... nest making, feeding and handling

Baby rabbits are called kittens. They are born approx 6 weeks after conception. The male rabbit is called a buck and the female is called a doe.

A female rabbit's litter produces on average between 4 to 8 babies.

The "kittens" are born naked and their eyes are shut. Within a few days they grow a little fuzz though and after about 2 weeks their eyes open.

The female rabbit must be given a lot of nest material before she gives birth. The doe will often "practice" nest building a few days before she gives birth. These "practice" nests will not have fur in them.
When she builds the nest she will use she will line it with her own soft insulating fur.

After the babies are born it may seem like the doe is not feeding them too often. Don't panic or force the doe to feed, nature works best when left to it's own accord. Rest assured that she will be feeding her babies adequately. A doe often feeds her young when she knows that no one is around anyway, so give her a little space for the first couple of days. Also don't handle her too much unless she needs veterinary attention. She will be full of milk and will want to rest for long spells.
The only problem I have encountered during the first couple of weeks is that the stronger "kittens" tend not to let go of their latch and can be dragged into the main part of the hutch where they can become cold very quickly. Simply check every couple of hours to make sure this hasn't happened. If you find a cold kitten warm it in your hands at first, rub it's chest very lightly with your finger, when it starts to pick up it's movements place it back with it's brothers and sisters. Being close to it's siblings will revive it completely.

Help the doe build up her milk supply by feeding her cut milk thistle stalks, dandelion leaves and groundsel both during her pregnancy and post partum along with carrots, plenty of water and her usual dry, fortified mix.
These herbs can be found growing naturally in meadows, fields, pasture land, grassy verges and the more unkempt parts of your garden ;)

After about 3 to 4 weeks the babies can spend some short spells in a well insulated and hay filled run, (this obviously depends on the weather). They can also be handled and played with gently depending on how trusting and happy the doe is with them being held. You may find that your usually pleasant and placid little female rabbit suddenly takes on all the attributes of a defensive mother over the next few weeks. Worry not, she will be back to her old self soon, she is just being a good and protective mum.

Baby rabbits are so much fun for children. If you are not used to rabbits or have never had one before but are thinking to get one I recommend you begin with the dwarf breeds.
They are much easier to keep clean and are small enough for children to handle.

We have three dwarf lop rabbits.... Peter, Poppy and Cottontail, they are wonderful pets that the children love to play with and look after.