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Thread: Accidental Litters and Taking on Babies

  1. #1
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    Default Accidental Litters and Taking on Babies

    On the following posts there is information that could help you if you have a genuinely accidental litter, and also if you find yourself taking on a baby bunny for whatever reason.


    PLEASE NOTE: If you are planning to intentionally breed, please read this thread first. 'If you are considering breeding, please read this'.


    In this thread you can find the following information.

    Accidental Litters



    Taking on a Baby Bunny

    Last edited by KarenM; 18-01-2012 at 01:26 PM.


    Please Remember to Advocate for your Rabbit.

    'I have the responsibility to do what I want in a world of others, but so does everyone else and it works best if we take each other into account.' (EVD)

    Please feel free to visit my therapy website and also my Professional Facebook page and Blog. You might find something interesting there!

  2. #2
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    Accidental Litters


    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.


    Before Birth

    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.


    Please Remember to Advocate for your Rabbit.

    'I have the responsibility to do what I want in a world of others, but so does everyone else and it works best if we take each other into account.' (EVD)

    Please feel free to visit my therapy website and also my Professional Facebook page and Blog. You might find something interesting there!

  3. #3
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    Raising the Kittens

    There are things you will need to do, and milestones you will need to watch out for and situations you will need to be aware of if your mummy bunny gives birth to live kits.

    ~While the kittens are in the nest Ė Mummy bunny, by instinct will likely Ďignoreí them. In the wild, the mummy bunny will have her kittens in a burrow especially for them, and will only go in there to feed them. The rest of the time will be spent away from them, so as not to attract predators. This behaviour has stayed with domestic rabbits, so many mums will only go near their kittens to feed them, and appear to ignore them the rest of the time. Some mumís may fuss their babies more, but itís ok if your mum appears to be ignoring her kits.

    ~While the kittens are in the nest - It is a myth that you canít touch them. They need to be checked daily, to ensure that all are alive and to remove any dead ones, and to relocate any escapees. You need to ensure that your hands smell of nothing strong (such as soap or other animals) and then stroke mum. You can also give her a treat, and then you can have a peer in the nest. Some mums are laid back and will let you handle the kittens for a very short time (although it would be advisable to wait until after the babies have been fed to handle them). You will need to judge your bunny as to whether or not she will be bothered by them being handled. Many bunnies will not be.

    ~Days 0-2 Ė Check the babies have all been fed. Mumís milk often doesnít come in until 24-36 hours after birth. When mum feeds she will stand over the nest for only about 5 minutes or so and only once or twice a day (normally at dawn and/or dusk), so you are unlikely to see mum feed, especially when the kits are still in the nest. You need to check that the babies look like they have swallowed ping pong balls.

    If, by the start of day 2, the babies donít look like they have been fed, or any look significantly skinnier than the others you can assist mum. Gently pick mum up and place her over the nest. Then give her treats and stroke her to help relax her while she stands over the nest and hopefully the babies will feed.
    If this does not work, the next thing to try is for one person to hold mum on her back, and another person to, in turn, hold each kitten to a nipple to encourage them to eat that way.

    Some mums are not easy when it comes to encouraging them to feed their babies.

    Another option is to find a foster mum for your babies. This can be done by contacting a rabbit rescue, or also looking for a reputable breeder in your area that you would trust to look after your rabbits. Rabbits can be fostered to mums with similar age kits.

    If mum doesnít feed, with any sort of help, and you canít find a foster mum, or if mum dies, then you may need to try hand rearing.

    Hand rearing is incredibly difficult, and the success rate is exceptionally low, so if you struggle, then bear in mind that rabbits are not designed to easily hand rear.

    You will need tiny teats and tiny syringes. You will need to use a supplement. Currently there is no really good and appropriate supplement for baby rabbits.

    Nothing that is made even comes close to what mum provides, which is why it is so important to try and get mum to feed if at all possible, or to use a foster rabbit.

    After you have fed the baby, you will need to use a warm, damp cloth (or a cotton bud soaked in warm water), and wipe it from head to toe to stimulate the kitten to pass urine and faeces. Keep going until the baby passes both of those.

    ~Days 0-4 - Gradually increase mummy bunnies pellet food until she is being given unlimited pellets. She will need unlimited pellets so that she can produce all the milk that she needs to feed her kittens. If mummy is also used to fresh food, she can have increased amounts of this too, if you know her tummy will tolerate it.

    ~Days 0-10 - Check that no babies have an infected umbilical wound. The babies will have a tiny little wound on their tummy where the umbilical cord was joined to them. It is important to keep an eye on this to ensure it is healing well and is not getting infected.

    ~Day 7 onwards - You might see the babies Ďtastingí the hay. Itís perfectly normal and ok to see any of the babies appearing to suck on the hay in the nest around them. They are just exploring their surroundings.

    ~Days 10-14 - The babies eyes should open. The babies eyes will likely open on day 11 or 12, but it can be as early as day 10. You might also find that one eye opens on one day, and the other does not open until the next. If either eye, or both eyes, have not opened by day 14 then you can try holding a warm, wet compress onto the eye to see if that will help. If it doesnít, then you will need to take the babies and mum to the vet.

    You also need to watch to ensure that all eyes that have opened, remain opened. If any eyes close again, then you will need to take the babies and mum to the vet. Conjunctivitis is very common while the babies are in the nest so itís very important to keep the nest as clean as possible, whilst retaining its smell, and also to be vigilant with the eyes and act promptly if you notice any changes.

    ~Days 10-14 - Clean the nest for the first time. Itís important when the babies open their eyes, to clean the nest to minimise the risk of conjunctivitis. Itís important to save as much of the nest as possible, especially the fur, so keep anything that is not soiled. Keeping as much of the nest as possible means that both mum and babies will know where the nest is and it will retain its smell.
    There is no set way to clean a nest, you just need to make it as stress free for mummy as possible. Sometimes having a spare shoe box made up into a nest can be useful to put the babies in whilst removing all the soiled nest material from the original nest. After the first time, you can clean the nest whenever you feel it needs it, always saving as much of the nest material as possible.

    ~Days 14-21 - The babies might start to leave the nest. Once the eyes are open you are likely to see the babies start to be more adventurous (with or without mumís blessing). They may start to leave the nest. They may start to share mumís food. This is completely fine and ok. If it is fresh food then they seem to get an immunity for it through mumís milk.

    You might find, at this point, some mums get distressed if they feel their babies have left the nest too early, or they are being harassed by them, or they need time out. Giving mum a place she can get to that the babies canít, can be useful; such as a shelf she can get on.

    It is important to still keep the nest intact though.

    ~Days 25-33 - A rabbitís gut changes. At roughly 4 weeks/28 days, a baby rabbitís gut will change from that of a baby, to that of an adult. This can be a time when the babies may be more likely to have stomach problems, so it is important to be extra vigilant, and any change in behaviour or output or intake needs to be taken seriously. It will become far more acidic which can cause problems.

    ~Days 25-33 - Weaning starts. It is around the time that a babies gut changes to an adult gut, that mum will start to wean her babies and feed less. They will also start to increase their intake of hay and pellets.

    ~Days 25-33 onwards - Mum might react hormonally to her babies. If there is any possibility that mum is pregnant again then she may start to try and drive her babies away in preparation for her next litter. Mum wonít always try and drive them away, but often instinct dictates that they do.

    If this happens, the older babies need to be kept together, kept on exactly the same diet, kept in the same routine and have their stress minimised. It can also be beneficial to move their nest with them, and also to provide heat sources such as SnuggleSafes to help them stay warm and feel snugly. At this age, because their gut has changed to an adult gut, they do not need a supplement so can have a basic adult diet.

    For the new babies you need to go right back to the start and start again.

    If mum is not having another litter and is comfortable with her babies, then they can stay with her. Mum may start to regain her hormones even if she is not pregnant and may be ready for her babies to leave earlier than the recommended 8 weeks, so you will need to watch her behaviour if she is struggling to tolerate them.


    Please Remember to Advocate for your Rabbit.

    'I have the responsibility to do what I want in a world of others, but so does everyone else and it works best if we take each other into account.' (EVD)

    Please feel free to visit my therapy website and also my Professional Facebook page and Blog. You might find something interesting there!

  4. #4
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    Taking on a Baby Bunny


    There are many different situations where someone may take on a baby bunny. A baby bunny, in this instance, would be looked at as any bunny under the age of 16 weeks, although they often do become adolescents before then, but still retain some of the risk factors of babies.

    ~Babies aged 0 days to 12 days- At this point, the baby is very much a baby, and should not have left mum. Sometimes though, sadly, mum may die, leaving her kits, or someone may misguidedly split mum and her litter.

    If the baby has not opened its eyes, then ideally, they could be fostered to a mum feeding rabbits of around the same age. Some rescues might have a rabbit, or a responsible breeder might also be worth a try.

    If not, you will need to handrear them. This is exceptionally complicated and there is currently no decent formula that is actually good enough for rabbits.

    You will also need to make a secure nest for them if they don't currently have a nest. A good way to make a nest is to take an open topped box, line with a bit of newspaper at the bottom, add a load of hay and make a 'dip' in the middle of the nest. Potentially, if you have a rabbit that is moulting, you might want to 'borrow' some fur to add to the nest too. You will need to ensure that you keep the rabbits in a warm place. It would be sensible to put the open topped box in something secure, like an indoor cage, to ensure that there is no risk to the rabbits.

    This link may be useful for these instances http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare/orphan.html


    ~Babies aged 12 days to 28 days- The babies will have likely opened their eyes and have more awareness.

    The babies will still need supplementing and careful handrearing, however, as soon as they open their eyes it would be sensible to ensure that they can access pellet food and water if they choose. Depending on what kind of open topped box you have, it might be sensible to move the nest into the corner on an indoor cage. You can then have the water bowl as far away as possible, and also provide a bowl or two of pellet food. As soon as the babies start wandering around, they will start tasting the foods, and this can happen from 14 days onwards.


    ~Babies aged 28 days (4 weeks) to 56 days (8 weeks)

    Babies of this age still ideally should be with their mum, however their gut will have converted to an adult gut. If they find themselves without mum then they need to not have a supplement. A supplement can make things much worse for them, such as giving them gas, having their gut react to the lactose and other problems.

    If someone is trying to sell you a baby of this age, then that is irresponsible, and the baby should still be with mum.

    What is most important for these kits, if they can not be with mum, is
    ~To have minimal stress- So minimal moving around and make sure all kits stay together.
    ~To stay on exactly the same diet they are used to- Some diets may be undesirable, however, it would be advisable to wait until the rabbits are over 8 weeks before starting to change food- the only exception is if you don't know what pellets they have been used to, and in that case, all pellet food needs to be introduced at the slowest of all slow paces. If you introduce the rabbit to food, then this can be a junior food or an adult food, the preference is yours and yours alone. The only major difference is that junior food has higher levels of protein in, so can be good for growing rabbits. At this age the rabbits, once fully onto a pellet, can be fed unlimited pellets.
    ~To not be introduced to any new fresh foods- A baby of this age has an exceptionally sensitive gut and introducing any fresh foods will likely destabilise the gut.
    ~To have a heat source- This can give the rabbits something to snuggle on and can simulate the warmth of mum or other litter mates (if there are not many babies surviving in the litter).
    ~To have, like adults, unlimited hay- Having unlimited hay is just as important for babies as it is for adults.
    ~To be kept super clean- Babies that are without mum before they should be often experience excess caecotrophs, and these will need to be cleaned very regularly. The babies are also likely to not be reliable with toileting habits (although they can be at this age if mum has taught them well) so will need very regular cleaning.

    In addition to all that babies can be given a tiny amount of rolled oats (note, rolled, not quick, or instant, or flavoured). They are very kind on the stomach and can help keep a stomach settled.

    A probiotic, such as Bio-lapis, can be used in the water to try and keep their gut stable. It would be advisable to use a water bowl because babies often find it easier to drink from a bowl.

    Also, a cuddly toy can be provided to a single bunny to give him/her something to snuggle with. Make sure that the cuddly toy has no bits (such as eyes) that are sewn on that can be chewed off and keep a close eye for any signs of the baby chewing the toy generally.


    Please Remember to Advocate for your Rabbit.

    'I have the responsibility to do what I want in a world of others, but so does everyone else and it works best if we take each other into account.' (EVD)

    Please feel free to visit my therapy website and also my Professional Facebook page and Blog. You might find something interesting there!

  5. #5
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    ~Babies aged 8 weeks to 10 weeks- this is the earliest age that any kit should be rehomed.

    Babies have an 'ok' chance of surviving and maintaining health, if rehomed at this age.

    What is most important for babies of this age is
    ~To have minimal stress- So minimal moving around, minimal handling, not coming into contact with anything that may stress them out (such as another bunny not from their litter, or a predator).
    ~To stay on exactly the same diet they are used to- Some diets may be undesirable, however, it would be advisable to wait until the rabbit has been with you for at least two weeks before starting to change food. If you have bought/adopted the rabbit then you will know what pellet food is on. However, if the rabbit is being rescued and you don't know what pellet it has been on, then any pellet food would need to be introduced very, very slowly. If you introduce the rabbit to food, then this can be a junior food or an adult food, the preference is yours and yours alone. The only major difference is that junior food has higher levels of protein in, so can be good for growing rabbits. At this age the rabbits, once fully onto a pellet, can be fed unlimited pellets.
    ~To have a heat source- This can give the rabbits something to snuggle on and can simulate the warmth of mum or other litter mates (if there are not many babies surviving in the litter).
    ~To have, like adults, unlimited hay- Having unlimited hay is just as important for babies as it is for adults.
    ~To be kept super clean- Babies that are without mum before they should be often experience excess caecotrophs, and these will need to be cleaned very regularly. The babies are also likely to not be reliable with toileting habits (although they can be at this age if mum has taught them well) so will need very regular cleaning. You can start working on litter training though because some do pick it up pretty quickly.
    ~To not be introduced to any new fresh foods- A baby of this age has an exceptionally sensitive gut and introducing any fresh foods will likely destabilise the gut.
    ~To separate bunnies into genders and possibly separate very hormonal boys- This prevents any accidental litters and eradicates the risk of fights.


    ~Babies aged 10 weeks to 16 weeks (4 months)- this is when your 'baby' will become an adolescent and grow out of 'babydom'.

    What is most important for rabbits of this age is
    ~If you start to change the diet, do so gradually- Some diets may be undesirable, however, it would be advisable to wait until the rabbit has been with you for at least two weeks before starting to change food. If you have bought/adopted the rabbit then you will know what pellet food is on. However, if the rabbit is being rescued and you don't know what pellet it has been on, then any pellet food would need to be introduced very, very slowly. If you introduce the rabbit to food, then this can be a junior food or an adult food, the preference is yours and yours alone. The only major difference is that junior food has higher levels of protein in, so can be good for growing rabbits. At this age the rabbits, once fully onto a pellet, can be fed unlimited pellets.
    ~To have, like adults, unlimited hay- Having unlimited hay is just as important for babies as it is for adults.
    ~To start to limit pellets- At this age your rabbit will still be growing, so need more pellets than an adult, but the pellets can start to be limited to encourage good hay eating and good hay habits. Ideally, at this age, you should be looking to give the maximum amount of pellets that they need without over feeding them. That's very ambiguous but as a rabbit has a growth spurt, s/he will eat faster and need more than at times when s/he is not growing so much. Essentially you're probably looking at providing two meals a day, where the bunny clears the bowl each time, and so therefore isn't left with pellets thrugh the day (although for a more ponderous eater, that wouldn't work).
    ~Siblings will need to be split by 10 weeks at the latest- The boys can then be neutered and allowed to recover and it also prevents any risk of accidental litters. For more information please visit 'The Importance of Spaying and Neutering' and 'Having an Operation'. If siblings are neutered ASAP then there is potential to keep them together, however this does carry risks.
    ~After 12 weeks start to slowly introduce fresh foods if you wish- A rabbit's gut starts to be able to better tolerate fresh foods at around 12 weeks onwards. The best foods to start with are more natural foods, like dandelion leaves, bramble leaves, etc, and introduce them so slowly. Other options are fresh, leafy greens or herbs, again to be introduced exceptionally slowly. It would be sensible to avoid fruits and the gassy vegetables (like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage) until the rabbit is fully grown.


    ~Babies aged 4 months to 6 months- this is when your 'baby' will become an adolescent and grow out of 'babydom' and move towards adulthood.

    What is most important for rabbits of this age is
    ~ To Transition the pellets- If your rabbit is on junior pellets, and has normal short hair, then it's at this point you will need to start to make a slow transition to adult pellets (unless there is a health reason to do otherwise).
    ~To have, like adults, unlimited hay- Having unlimited hay is just as important for babies as it is for adults.
    ~To start to limit pellets to the amount an adult rabbit would have- At this age your rabbit will be coming towards the end of growing (although not yet fully grown) so the amount of pellets they have can be decreased to the amount that an adult would be fed (which would be roughly an eggcup a day, however, each rabbit has individual needs and what works for one doesn't work for another, so you will need to be sensitive to your bunny and his/her needs)
    ~Girls can now be spayed- The boys can be neutered much younger, and by this point the girls are old enough to be spayed (but each vet has his/her own requirements for spaying, so this will need to be discussed with your vet). For more information please visit 'The Importance of Spaying and Neutering' and 'Having an Operation'. If siblings are neutered ASAP then there is potential to keep them together, however this does carry risks.
    ~Rabbits can be bonded/rebonded- 6-8 weeks after a spay or neuter, the rabbit can be bonded to another rabbit, or rebonded back with his/her siblings. For more information on this, please visit 'Bonding and Bonded Bunnies'.
    ~There is more 'scope' for introducing fresh foods- A rabbit's gut starts to be able to better tolerate fresh foods at this age. The best foods to start with are more natural foods, like dandelion leaves, bramble leaves, etc, and introduce them so slowly. Other options are fresh, leafy greens or herbs, again to be introduced exceptionally slowly. It would be sensible to avoid fruits and the gassy vegetables (like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage) until the rabbit is fully grown.


    Please Remember to Advocate for your Rabbit.

    'I have the responsibility to do what I want in a world of others, but so does everyone else and it works best if we take each other into account.' (EVD)

    Please feel free to visit my therapy website and also my Professional Facebook page and Blog. You might find something interesting there!

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