I recently came across a post on Facebook of a lady who had a french lop doe deliver 13 babies! Which is quite a lot even for a french lop and she was concerned about all of the babies surviving. The main cause of losses in a litter during the first few days is the kits are not getting fed for one reason or another. I gave her has much info has I could, and I also had others comment on the info saying it was helpful for them as well. So that kind of inspired this post.
Unless you have been raising rabbits for a long time you most likely will not see your does feeding there babies. I have been raising rabbits for the past 13 years and I could count on both hands the times I have seen my does feeding with me standing in the general area. Every once in a while I have had a doe that just does not care and will jump in the nest box with me there but that is not common. Most of the time. if I go out to the caging area while she is feeding, the mother will jump out of the nesting box. Her natural instinct is to run away from her nest to get any kind of danger to follow her and not cause harm to her babies. That is amazing!
I also have the mamma who thinks you brought her out a treat form the house and she is more interested in what you might have for her;)
Reasons why they might not be getting fed.
If the mother is a first timer she may not know what to do. So you might have to help the kits nurse a time or two and after that her instincts should kick in and she should feed on her own. If not you can try to bottle feed the kits, but be prepared that is a lot of work and is not always successful.
Secondly the mother may not be making enough milk or none at all, I will have a few herbs listed that might help this. Lastly, this is the most common reason why you have most of the litter that is doing well but there are a few that do not look like that are growing much and look like this poor guy pictured below. In this situation, you have a few of the stronger ones pushing the weaker ones out of the way. Mamma does not have control over who gets there first. So we have to help the weaker ones get some food so they have fight for them self’s to get food. After about two to three days of helping them feed they should be strong enough to feed on their own.
How to know if the kits are being fed?
Here are a few pictures that will help you have a visual so you know what to look for when you have your next litter.
Notice the lines or wrinkles going from side to side on this little guy. That is showing dehydration. One with this much would probably not make it through the night. I will explain latter some things you can do to help this situation out.
This picture is a good comparison of a babies (on the right) who has missed a feeding. The one of the left has a nice round belly. Yes, it looks like he might explode but this is normal. If you have a baby who looks like the one on the right just wait till that evening to see if you need to help him out. If around dusk the kit looks like he has not been fed then pull mamma out and help him nurse.
How to help a kit nurse?
If you decided you need to help one of the babies nurse here are a few ways to do that. You may need a second pair of hands if they are available to you. If not don’t worry you can do it! Take momma out and place her on a table, either high enough you don’t have to bend over or grab a seat for you to sit on. Before you pull out a kit feel around on the does belly to see if you can feel where there might be more milk then another spot. Her milk runs in what seems like half inch canals along her underside from her behind her front legs all the way back to the front of her hind legs. If she is really full then this should be easy to see. if not you just might have to guess.
Take the baby you want to help feed and hold him up to the does belly close to one of her nipples. Just be sure to hold on to the kit because it will go crazy when it smell/feels her fur touch it. Even if the kit is weak it will surprise you how much that critter can move. If the kit is not getting any milk it will most likely detach and look for another nipple. At that point look at the kits mouth and see if it looks wet. This will tell you that the baby did get something. If the babies belly did not look like if filled up at all try to help it get some more. The kit does not have to be as full as the one pictured above. Even if the belly does not look sunken in will do wonders for the kit.
Of the mother is not producing milk you can try kitten milk re-placer and that should work. In this situation I would recommend feeding every 12 hours.
Borage, Fennel and Dandelion are the three best herbs that will be the easiest to find and will increase the does milk flow. I would recommend giving a doe one or two of these herbs if she delivers a large litter even if none of the kits have shown sings of not being fed.
If this was helpful please comment and let us know. We are also open to new thoughts if you have a tip that worked for you let us know and well may post it on our web page.
A Chick And Her Garden