This section is specifically for those people who end up with genuinely accidental litters. It does not explain how to Ďmate upí rabbits in the safest way for the rabbits.
To do your best to prevent accidental litters, it is important to
~Ensure you know the gender of your rabbits. If you are unsure, keep getting vet checks, vet nurse checks and keep checking them yourself too.
~Ensure that babies of opposite sexes are kept completely separate as soon as you start to see any hormonal behaviour (such as spraying, mounting, marking, tail up). Specifically, they need to be apart once the boys testicles descend, which can be any age from 7 weeks onwards, but is more common around 10 weeks or so.
~Ensure your rabbits are secure in their accommodation and can not escape (particularly by digging or jumping out).
~Ensure that if you are bonding a neutered male with an unspayed female, that the male has been neutered at least 6 weeks previously.
If you do end up with a genuinely accidental litter then there is information you will need to know about the various important parts and times and different things you need to do.
Some people realise before the rabbit gives birth, that there is a potential for pregnancy (such as if an unneutered and unspayed female have somehow ended up together, such as a mis-sexing).
~Any unneutered and unspayed rabbits living together need to be separated as soon as the mistake is realised. Female rabbits are most receptive to being mated within the first 72 hours after giving birth. This is very unhealthy for the mum and the kits from both litters, so itís important that the risk of this is minimised. This can only be done by keeping them completely separate (which means also no play dates or shared time out) once you realise the error.
~A rabbitís gestation period is anything from 28-33 days, but normally a rabbit will kindle (give birth) on day 30-31. Day 1 would be considered the day after conception. If you know there is a risk of pregnancy, then count 35 days on from when the rabbits met and by the time those 35 days are up you will know there are no babies coming. If you know they have potentially been together, but donít know when, then count 35 days on from when the rabbits were separated, and that will also give you the all clear by the time you get to 35 days after separation.
~Give mum plenty of hay from day 21 onwards until the babies leave the nest. Giving mum plenty of hay is important, because it allows her to build what will hopefully be a lovely nest. Mummy bunny may start nest building from a week or so before kindling, or she may wait until the day she kindles, or even after she has kindled. She will hopefully add fur to the nest too- which will likely be added at last minute.
~On day 28 a nest box can be given. A nest box needs to be open at the top, be big enough for mum to turn around in, have shallow enough sides for mum to jump in and out, but have high enough sides for no babies to wriggle out. Something like a shoe box can be good for smaller rabbits. This should be placed in the bed area, or another appropriate area for mum to have her babies. Itís important to use lots of hay, but the hope is that mummy bunny will add to it and make her nest in there, which will help keep the babies safe. Mummy bunnies donít always use their nest boxes though.
~Keep mummy bunny on the diet she is used to. You need to ensure that mum has no diet changes until after she kindles. At this point you will need to adjust the amount of food that she has (this will be covered in the later section).
~Keep all water sources well away from the nest. Itís not unheard of for babies to get dragged out of a nest or go wandering off and end up drowning in the water bowl, so however your mummy bunny accesses her water, it needs to be as far as possible away from the nest.
During Birth (and shortly after birth)
Kindling (giving birth) can be very hard on mummy bunny. Itís important to be ready and prepared.
~You need to have the emergency vets number available at all times, easily to hand. You also need to be able to get to the vets at any point.
~If you know when mum is likely to have her kittens, it is important to check her regularly to ensure she has not gotten into any trouble. Do not be invasive, or stress her out, but check her regularly, including overnight.
~Kindling, from start to finish, should take no more than 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, you need to seek immediate veterinary attention. Your rabbit may have a stuck kit, or a foetal giant, or just not be strong enough to deliver whatever is inside her.
~Mum will stand up whilst kindling, hopefully over the nest and have the babies in the nest. If mum has her babies outside the nest, then when she has finished kindling you need to move the baby to the nest. You do this by ensuring you have no strong smells on your hands (such as soap or another animal) stroking mum, and then swiftly moving the kitten (which is a baby rabbit) into the nest.
~A baby is not dead unless itís warm and dead. Often babies get cold and still if they are born outside the nest, and can look dead when actually they are just hanging onto life. Itís important to warm up any still babies to body temperature, and if they remain still, and warm, then you can conclude they have died.
~Mum should eat all the placentas. This means there should be none around in the area, although you will need to check for them.
~Mum should return to normal relatively quickly, if everything has gone smoothly. This means she will start eating and drinking as normal and behaving relatively normal too, although she may behave in a hormonal manner, such as being territorial.
~The babies will be born with their eyes closed and with no fur. The colour of the baby depends on the genes and the colour fur that will eventually grow. You may notice spots, or large patches of darker or pinker skin. This is all normal.
~Female rabbits have two uterine horns which can mean itís not uncommon to find your mum has had some babies and then had additional babies the next day.
~Ensure that if this was not expected and mum and dad are still living together, that you separate dad (once you have worked out which one is dad) as a matter of urgency. If you leave dad with mum then there is a very real risk of dad attacking the kits, dad attacking mum and mum attacked dad. Also, mum will be most receptive to getting pregnant up to 72 hours after she gave birth, so chances are she will already be pregnant again, but the sooner you separate them, the lesser the risk of this.