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Friday, July 15, 2011

How to Care for Pregnant and Baby Rabbits

How do you know if your pet rabbits is a pregnant? Rabbits pregnancy and pregnant rabbits is one of common question asked by many female pet rabbits owner who owns two rabbits. We discourage pet rabbit owners to allow their rabbits to procreate. There are already enough rabbits population in the world and if you would like to have some additional rabbit, we encourage that you get them from rabbit shelters.

Caring for newborn rabbits can be a big responsibility too. Many pet rabbit owners had few successes in raising baby rabbits. The mortality rate of newborn baby rabbits are high but there are things that pet rabbit owners could do to improve the survival chances of the newborn baby rabbits.
Before we discuss further into the topics of rabbit breedings, pregnancy and baby rabbits, let’s get the terminology right. A female rabbit is called a doe. A male is called a buck. The doe will give birth to bunnies called the kits. All the bunnies are called a litter.

Nesting refers to the preparation of a nest for the doe to give birth. Gestation period refers to the period between the time that a rabbit had successfully conceive to the time she gave birth. When a doe gives birth, it is called kindling. Weaning refers to taking away the young rabbits from the doe.

Female rabbits may hide their pregnancy quite well. Hence, even experienced vet sometimes made mistakes in assessing if a female rabbit is pregnant. A female rabbit that is pregnant do not change its behaviour much. Some however, gets a bit aggressive when they are pregnant. Some other pregnant rabbits may still be as active as if she has not been pregnant, including jumping on furnitures or doing the binkie.

You may also not notice any considerable increase in food intake of the pregnant rabbits. As rabbits are at the bottom of the food chain, it is natural for rabbits to procreate as often as possible to ensure their survival and perpetuating of the rabbits.

When a female rabbit is sexually matured and is ready to bear babies, they are willing to the procreation process with their male counterpart. Depending on the breed of the rabbit, a female rabbit is sexually matured at the age of 6 months. Some rabbit breed are sexually matured at 9 months.

One of the more reliable way to check if your female rabbit is pregnant is that she may start rejecting advances made the male rabbit. The gestation period of the rabbit is around 31 days. At day 21, if your female rabbit is pregnant, you should be able to feel the foetus in her abdomen. The foetus in the female rabbit’s abdomen feels like marbles.

At about 28 days into gestation, female rabbits will start pulling out its fur to make a nest in preparation of kindling. Female rabbits may also look for suitable places such as inside well hidden card-boxes. If you see your female rabbits actively gathering hay and started lining them in some places, including inside the cage, you know that the time is near. Be cautioned though, female rabbits may only display these behaviour as late as one day before delivering the baby bunnies.

The whole kindling process may take 10 minutes. The female rabbit may deliver a litter of 7 to 13 kits. Unlike cats or dogs, the doe may leave the kits immediately after kindling. This is related to how they would behave when they are in the wild. They reckon that the best way for the litter to avoid detected by predator is when the female rabbit is not around. Adult rabbits has a scent which will attract predator animals, baby rabbits do not.

There is also a common misunderstanding that female rabbit will cannibalise on their young. A female rabbit will usually only cannibalise on stillborn, a natural way for them to “hide their mistakes.”

It is common that female rabbit stay at a distance from their youngs. Feeding time is usually limited to two times a day and each feeding time is limited to 5 minutes at the most. Unlike some other mammals that abandon their young if they smell human scent on their newly born, rabbits will not. Hence, it is alright to touch and check on the newly born baby rabbits.

The first thing to check on the kits to ensure their survival is to check if the litter of baby rabbits are warm. Newly born baby rabbits do not have fur on their bodies and their eyes are closed. They are also deaf.

If you need to keep the baby warm, use bottles that contain warm water but not hot. Lay a towel over the warm bottles. Place the newly born baby rabbits on the towel. If the doe has not create a suitable nest for her baby rabbits, you may create one using paper cardboard box.

Cut out one end of the box as an entrance opening. The bottom side of the entrance should be higher by about two inches to prevent the baby rabbits from crawling out of the box. Line the inside of the box with grasses of hays and gather the doe’s fur that she had shed. This will be able to keep the baby rabbits warm. Ensure that you replace the hay every other day. Hays that had urine will get mouldy and is bad for the baby rabbits.

The buck (the male rabbit) should be separated from the both the doe and the newly born baby rabbits. It is not likely that he will injure the rabbit but it will increase the survival chances of the baby rabbits. The buck may almost immediately tried to procreate with the doe again, and this should be avoided. If you intend to spay the buck, now is the best time.

The doe will usually feed the newly born baby rabbits during dusk or at night. She will feed them only when she feels that it is safe. It is important to allow the doe the time to be alone with her baby rabbits during feeding time. If humans are present, the doe may feel stressed and she may not nurse the baby rabbits.

How do you know if the doe has been feeding her litter? If you notice that the baby rabbits have plump tummies and are warm, then likely they have been getting sufficient nutrition from the doe’s milk.

If you are worried that the baby rabbits have not been getting sufficient nutrition, you may feed them with milk. Some doe that were too young when they do delivered the baby rabbit will abandon them and will not nurse them. In this case, you will need to play the roles of the surrogate parents. Suitable milk for baby rabbits include formulated cat milk. The KMR kitten milk replacer is one such product that you can consider. You should be able to purchase these from pet shop or from your vet.

When feeding the baby rabbits, you can forget about buying feeding bottle. There are just to big for the baby rabbit's tiny mouth and they do not know how to suckle. The most efficient feeding tool is feeding syringe or medicine dispenser that is used to administer medicine orally.  The milk should be made warm to be similar to the doe’s milk. Feed them twice a day. As the baby rabbits are very young, they are not good at suckling milk from the bottle. They may even reject the milk. The feeding duration for the litter of baby rabbits may take one hour initially. As you gain experience, it should take less than half an hour to complete the whole feeding process.

The baby rabbits will open their eyes and take in sound at approximately 10 days old. Some of the kits will be slower in opening their eyes and some will be faster. Fur will start growing on their bodies as early as 3 days old. They may develop the strength to crawl very short distance.

When they are 1 month old, the baby rabbits are beginning to get active and are curious to experience adult rabbits food. You may feed them the leaf of hays. However, the baby rabbits should continue to get the nursing required from the doe. Weaning should only take place when the baby rabbits are 10 weeks old and are consistently feeding on solid food.

The buck may be introduced to the rabbit family after he has been spayed. He may play with the baby rabbits. The doe may be neutered after weaning.

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