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View Full Version : Weaning age of kits - question



JayUK
24-08-2011, 07:00 PM
I was reading a thread that diversed into a debate about how many weeks kits can be safely weaned at. Most people posting seemed to think that a minimum of 8 weeks, preferably 10, and as much as 12 were the acceptable scope for weaning.

When I got my last rescue bun, he was found at 5 weeks old, outside, and given to rescue, where I collected him 6 weeks later. Prior to collecting him, I contacted our exotic specilaist, and asked if there would be any potential problems because 5 weeks was too young to be weaned (or so i thought). He said that if he'd just been released, then he should be absolutely fine, and will be perfectly weaned and ready to go.

I then read in Anne McBride's book 'Rabbits and Hares' that kits are released to live as young rabbits at 24 days and that they become functional in the warren at that point.

I've just spoken to Anne, and mentioned this in passing. She said that 'that should probably be 28 days, not 24' and that kits were ready to survive on their own at a month old. Any time after this serves no purpose to the Kit or Mother.

So my question is this - Where does the information that rabbits are not ready to leave their mothers before at least 8 weeks come from? It seems to be common knowledge, but I can find no evidence to back it up. Would be grateful if someone could help, thanks.

i-love-bunnies
24-08-2011, 07:26 PM
I've had kits before and they've always been weaned at four weeks and although i didn't separate from their mother as i had no need to if i had they would have been perfectly independent and capable.

Sky-O
24-08-2011, 07:32 PM
The 28 days is what nature itnended because that's the time frame that likely mum will allow them to be with them before kicking them out in favour of her next litter coming along.

That said, just because nature intended something to be that way, doesn't necessarily mean it is the healthiest way, it just allowed optimum breeding and survival chance (of the breed, not the individual rabbit) in the wild.

The reason 8 weeks is suggested is due to the stress that moving homes puts on the babies and how their immune system and digestive system is not fully developed enough to cope with this if weaned early. Yes, it can be done, and yes you might get healthy rabbits, but that doesn't mean in the very unnatural world these bunnies are born into, that it's best or works the same way it does in the natural world.

I don't know why 8 weeks was chosen originally, but generally, the older the better; until the boys drop their bits. One would imagine someone has researched into immune systems and survival rate depending on weaning, stuff like that, but I don't know for sure. It may be a random figure plucked from no where specific.

Sky-O
24-08-2011, 07:33 PM
I've had kits before and they've always been weaned at four weeks and although i didn't separate from their mother as i had no need to if i had they would have been perfectly independent and capable.

If they have lived with mum past four weeks, how do you know they were weaned by 4 weeks?

Tamsin
24-08-2011, 07:37 PM
There is a difference between weaned and ready to leave home. Although kits can do without milk from 4 weeks, they may still drink it until 5-6 weeks. Their stomachs are also more sensitive so even if they aren't drinking milk at 6 weeks, if you bundle them into a carrier, and pop them in a pet shop or even a hutch on their own they are more likely to have gut related issues because of the stress.

It also varies with breed, some take longer to develop than other.

So, kits will survive without milk from 4 weeks, but will probably drink it until closer to 6 weeks, and can be rehoused from 8 weeks, should be separated into sexes by 10 weeks... unless they are slow developing breeds in which case you can add 1-2 weeks to the numbers.

That's my understanding anyway :)

amysb86
24-08-2011, 07:46 PM
..

i-love-bunnies
24-08-2011, 07:52 PM
When i say weaned i mean eating pellets and veg and drinking water. I mean if i had separated from mum they would have been fine without her milk. I left them with mum so it depended on how long she allowed them to nurse.

Sky-O
24-08-2011, 07:56 PM
When i say weaned i mean eating pellets and veg and drinking water. I mean if i had separated from mum they would have been fine without her milk. I left them with mum so it depended on how long she allowed them to nurse.

Ah ok, so that's not actually being weaned, which is away from mum and thriving without her. Kits will chew hay from before their eyes open and likely start to chew pellets at around 2-3 weeks when they come out of the nest (the age varies depending on the rabbits and mum). Their gut makes the conversion to an adult gut at around 4 weeks which is the time they can thrive without mum's milk for but most babies, given the choice, will drink for longer; which your likely did. Mine always drunk for as long as they absolutely could.

Only once they stop drinking and are thriving away from mum are they weaned. The process of removing the milk is the 'weaning' so their mum will wean them gradually, at her own pace, until humans (in the domestic setting) or hormones or the arrival of babies (in the wild setting) dictate what happenss.

i-love-bunnies
24-08-2011, 08:03 PM
They're still together now four months down the line :)

Pepsi is mum
Bella and Jasmine
Willow, Winnie, and Bradley x

JayUK
24-08-2011, 08:09 PM
Thanks for such considered responses. I completely get the stress of moving from say a breeder to a pet shop, possibly with another place in between, and then potentially into a new home within a day or two, and appreciate that this is something that wouldn't happen in a warren. In this respect, it's difficult to make a true comparison between wild and domestic kits, however, if the kits are fully functional at 4 weeks, then I'm still interested to learn where the info about the impact of this stress is, and the effects of it. It makes complete sense, but at the same time, is it proven and therefore fact?

Sorry if I seem like I'm being a bit picky, but like you all, I want to get info right that's given out to people.

Sky-O, when I asked Anne why it put at 8 weeks, she said that she thought it was because that was the time given to dogs back in the day. I don't know if that still stands (for dogs).

Tamsin, I take your points, and see that the situations are different, but in the wild a mum would stop feeding the 4 week old brood, deliver the next, and then start feeding her newborns. I appreciate that this is less likley to happen in a domestic situation, although I'm sure it still does, and I can see the benefits of the extra time, nutrients etc. I also wonder if it's possible that this extra time feeding is not actually good for them, and may result in tummy issues later in life?

Thank you :)

Tamsin
24-08-2011, 08:37 PM
It is difficult to compare wild and pets in this area because it's the one area that domestic breeding has specifically targeted to change. Domestic rabbits were originally bred to develop to adult size quickly and grow big, which mucks about with reproduction and nursing.

Although rabbits can breed with a 4 week turn around, wild ones generally don't. They have 2-3 litter max over the spring/summer period and that's it for the year. For the same reason it's not a good idea to breed pets back to back I guess. Their bodies can't cope with the strain particularly when they aren't being topped up with high protein pellets.

I'm sure I've read some articles on it, so I'll check what sciency facts I've got lying around. I'm meant to working atm though so bump it up tomorrow :)

Elena
24-08-2011, 09:07 PM
I'm sure I read too that the longer time with Mum helps them behaviourally. (may be wrong)

JayUK
25-08-2011, 12:45 PM
It is difficult to compare wild and pets in this area because it's the one area that domestic breeding has specifically targeted to change. Domestic rabbits were originally bred to develop to adult size quickly and grow big, which mucks about with reproduction and nursing.

Although rabbits can breed with a 4 week turn around, wild ones generally don't. They have 2-3 litter max over the spring/summer period and that's it for the year. For the same reason it's not a good idea to breed pets back to back I guess. Their bodies can't cope with the strain particularly when they aren't being topped up with high protein pellets.

I'm sure I've read some articles on it, so I'll check what sciency facts I've got lying around. I'm meant to working atm though so bump it up tomorrow :)

That all makes sense Tamsin. I'd appreciate the sciency facts if you can find them :)

I've just spoken with Anne about this again, and put all your points forward. She said that
1) All evidence points to socilaising skills and behaviour skills in wild and domestic buns being attained and fixed by around 11 days old.

2) Whilst there's no distinction between wild and domestic rabbits in the respect of delivery, weaning etc, the stresses that we put baby domestic rabbits through by moving them from breeder to pet shop to home (for example) could be a deciding factor in early mortality rates, although she knows of no evidence to support that, but does aknowledge that a kit at 4 weeks is more vulnerable/less robust than one at 6/8 weeks old. At 4 weeks, the guts are fully formed and functioning, and the social/behavioural skills and aspects have been acquired.
Her personal opinion in this respect is that at 6 weeks, a kit should be ready for sale/rehome, however, she is going to make further enquiries to give me a more definitive answer.

fionaw
25-08-2011, 06:06 PM
I'm sure that I have read somewhere that at 6-7 weeks old the baby rabbit digestive system changes because the pH drops from around neutral to 1-2?

So this of course is a time for consistent feeding and minimising stress, which is likely to be a problem if they are moving off to pet shops, new homes, new sights, sounds and smells plus often a change of diet at six weeks of age. Can't find the source but know I have heard this a few times.