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So, which is the right answer?

Addressing the special needs of the breeding doe and her kits. Includes nutrition, gestation, nest boxes and materials, and tips to ensure survival of the young.
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So, which is the right answer?

Post Number:#1  Unread postby Winterwolf » Thu Jan 12, 2017 3:34 am


Okay, I have a doe that I'm planning to breed at the end of January so I can have some juniors to take to the spring shows. Unfortunately, we moved a few months ago and so now all my rabbits are in outdoor hutches under our carport until I save up enough money (and time!) to convert the garage into a bunny barn. With temperatures staying below freezing even in the daytime, I don't want to risk the newborns freezing, so I figured I would keep the nestbox inside the house and only put it in with the doe twice a day for feeding. But yesterday I was on a rabbit breeder Facebook group and several breeders were saying that I should never separate the kits from the mother like that unless absolutely necessary because it could add stress to the mother as well as to the kits. Plus, the temperature change between being inside the house and outside under the carport could possibly kill the kits.

So, what do you think? Would it be better to leave the nestbox with the doe or bring it inside? Alternatively, I could put the nest box in the garage so it's not as drastic of a temperature change.

Here's a few things that could affect the decision:
She's not a first time mom, although she hasn't been bred since early summer.
She's very shy/skittish/easily spooked. This is another reason I want the kits inside, so I don't have to bother her every time I check on the kits.
Since I would like to show this litter, I figured the kits would get used to being handled better if they were inside with me rather than outside where I'd only be seeing them a few times a day. (It's too cold right now for me to be outdoors for very long.)

So, what do you think? :helpme: :SOSSOS:
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Re: So, which is the right answer?

Post Number:#2  Unread postby Nymphadora » Thu Jan 12, 2017 10:15 am


Would bringing mama inside to feed the kits be an option?

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Re: So, which is the right answer?

Post Number:#3  Unread postby SarniaTricia » Thu Jan 12, 2017 10:44 am


I don't like to move the kits away from the mom.... (this is just my opinion) I want the kits to be raised in the same environment as they will be raised in... a little Darwinism helps the herd.

My winter nest boxes are totally enclosed and all wood.... they hang on the front of the cage over the door opening (they look like big bird houses) the top is hinged so you can check on the kits without bothering mom.
I really recommend them as with enough fur pulled I don't think you would need to worry about the kits at all.
My last litter was born 28Dec2016... we have been well below freezing and as high as 48... all 9 are still growing like weeds and look very healthy... eyes are starting to open and I am very pleased!

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Re: So, which is the right answer?

Post Number:#4  Unread postby Winterwolf » Thu Jan 12, 2017 1:52 pm


Nymphadora wrote:Would bringing mama inside to feed the kits be an option?

Unfortunately, I think that'd stress the doe out even more. She's only been inside the house a few times and she really didn't like it. She's a very nervous rabbit and prefers to stay in her safe, secure hutch. But thanks for the idea. I could try that with Hershey if I decide to breed her this winter as well.

SarniaTricia wrote:I want the kits to be raised in the same environment as they will be raised in... a little Darwinism helps the herd.

They're Angoras so I fortunately don't have to worry about them being bothered by the cold once their wool grows in. :D

SarniaTricia wrote:My winter nest boxes are totally enclosed and all wood.... they hang on the front of the cage over the door opening (they look like big bird houses) the top is hinged so you can check on the kits without bothering mom.

That sounds awesome! :P I know what I'm going to be working on during my next rabbitry upgrade project. ;)

Thank you both for helping. :) I guess I'll leave the nest box with the mother for now and see what happens. If they get too cold, I might try bringing the babies and the mother into the garage.
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Re: So, which is the right answer?

Post Number:#5  Unread postby Dood » Thu Jan 12, 2017 5:04 pm


They are mistaken

Studies done with commercial rabbitries in Europe have shown that it is more stressful for [the doe when] the litter to b is close to the doe

Id bring the box of kits out to nurse once or twice a day

Once the kits are furred enough to keep warm you can leave them out with mom if you'd like

I do agree they can learn a lot from their mother - I try and have my MLops raise my BPetite kits and they are MUCH calmer and easier to handle than those raised by the BP
Last edited by Dood on Fri Jan 13, 2017 12:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: So, which is the right answer?

Post Number:#6  Unread postby BlueHaven » Thu Jan 12, 2017 5:45 pm


couldn't you just move the whole hutch to the garage and leave them all alone out there? That's what I would do. We actually went to one of those places that sell mini barns and bought one on time. The peace of mind it has brought me is well worth it. As long as they are out of the wind and you give them tons of straw they should be fine. IF she is skittish I would just check them every other day. We have 1 doe like this and I just pet her head and kind of hold her still while I take out the nest box. I do like the sound of the front opening nest boxes though. I would like pics of them. My husband LOVES a project.

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Re: So, which is the right answer?

Post Number:#7  Unread postby SixGun » Thu Jan 12, 2017 8:46 pm


Having just shelved a litter of French Angora, I do not think there is any problem with bringing them in when it is cold and taking them out for feeding time twice a day. They're 6 weeks old and doing quite well.
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Re: So, which is the right answer?

Post Number:#8  Unread postby Zass » Thu Jan 12, 2017 11:46 pm


I agree with Dood. People sometimes forget that wild rabbits hide their kits, and only return to feed. It's not natural for them to be confined in close proximity to them.
Instinctively, it means they could be drawing predators near.
Even as they get older, there is a very stressful time when the kits will chase a doe incessantly, because instinctive feeding time is whenever they see their dam, and in a cage she can't get away.

I have witnessed some very high strung does visibly relax with their nestboxes out of sight. Also, jumpy does or does with hormones temporarily out-of-whack can trample or dig kits out of a nestbox. Sometimes, it's a huge benefit to bring their kits in for a day or so, until they calm down.
I tend to shelf all my winter litters. It prevents the all too common "kit drug out on a teat" scenario. One unnecessary loss is one too many IMO.

I also wouldn't bring one of my does inside to feed. Besides the stress of being moved, and the fact that she may be to uncomfortable to feed in a strange area, the temp differences can cause respiratory distress.

Before the kits leave the nest, it stays warm and humid under the fur even in frozen weather, so kits do not experience temperature or humidity differences the same way that older rabbits do.



To me, someone declaring that rabbits cannot be separated is a sign of inexperience with the idea.
It means that the person is equating rabbits with another species, or anthropomorphizing somewhat.

I don't care how much experience someone on facebook declares they have.. :lol: I take EVERYTHING I read on there with a grain of salt. ;) As Akane has mentioned before, the groups tend to parrot one or two particularly vocal members, and shout down alternative views. I've also noticed, rabbit raising myths tend to be considered hard facts.

I'm in one group where a vocal member declares that playing with kits stresses them and thus reduces growth rates.
Somehow, I suspect this person may have never handled many kits.. Or maybe they experienced the bacterial issues that sometimes occur when people outside the family handles kits? (I've seen this scenario a few times, and equate it when exposing the kits to things their dam isn't already immune to.) Or perhaps their chosen breed was unusually wild?

I just know that my own shelved kits often grow faster then their outside counterparts. Maybe they aren't expending as much energy keeping warm? Or maybe my rabbits are docile enough that the kits do not stress anywhere near as much from routine handling? :shrug:

No way to know for sure, but, on that forum, that person's word is taken as fact.

One thing I love about rabbit talk.
We question everything, and ask for references. :) We open up the studies and look at HOW the studies were preformed along with the conclusions. We occasionally setup tests of our own and report the results. Then, we argue them. :D
After a few years of being on here, talking to individual breeders and getting to know everyone, I have developed a profound respect for RT forum members.

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Re: So, which is the right answer?

Post Number:#9  Unread postby Marinea » Thu Jan 12, 2017 11:53 pm


I have two litters that are two days short of two weeks old. Tonight is the first night I am leaving them outside, as it has warmed up here. I totally agree with Sass as far as the doe relaxing when the nestbox is out of the cage. Scratch and lunge with the box in, come for pets and head rubs when the box is out.
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Re: So, which is the right answer?

Post Number:#10  Unread postby Nymphadora » Fri Jan 13, 2017 12:36 am


Thank you for explaining that so well, Zass! What you said actually makes perfect sense (especially in regards to the mama being confined near the babies as being "unnatural" ;) ). I had only suggested bringing the doe in because of the OP's concern about kits being unable to cope with the temperature changes, but I'm glad you took the time to explain why that would be detrimental. And yes, I tend to take forum advice with a grain of salt, too... the goldfish forum I was active on for over a year had a few very vocal members, and they tended to disregard any "new" information. I'm so glad this place isn't like that! :P

Thank you to all the more experienced members for helping newbies out. :oops:

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Re: So, which is the right answer?

Post Number:#11  Unread postby Nika » Fri Jan 13, 2017 2:00 am


Dood wrote:Studies done with commercial rabbitries in Europe have shown that it is more stressful for the litter to be close to the doe


Zass wrote:We question everything, and ask for references. :) We open up the studies and look at HOW the studies were preformed along with the conclusions. We occasionally setup tests of our own and report the results.


I would really like to read this studies, since manipulation with results can be a big option. I would understand if the doe would be streesed with her litter near, but how is the litter stressed if the mom is around? I believe that mum is a great role model and it teaches them what is life - which plants are the best to eat, how to eat cecotropes, how to groom itself..

Any opinions if the kits love their mum? Or are they oblivious whether she is there or not?

I would also like to argue to a wild rabbit theory - domestic rabbits are not wild. When I have a doe in an outside enclousre and somekind of a predator goes by (dog,cat..) it hops into the hutch with her litter even when she is near the burrow. If I come and check them, he also hops in to see what am I doing. When I took popples from one doe to carry them to another, the mum attacked me even though she never does that. And when a singleton died, mum was quite sad for a couple of days (not sick, not mastitis..).

Handling little popples causes them stress. They could be warm and cuddly in a nest, sleeping in peace. But, some people like to give them daily weighing, petting, photographing.. It bothers them, especially if we say that rabbits are wild in hearts ;) How does the mum, "the wild thing", handles when predator comes and take her kits? Do we really believe that they have no affection whatsoever towards them? If she has an options, she will go to rest in a group of her kits (not popples) and cuddle with them, she will not sleep away from them.

Diferrence in opinion, I guess :)

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Re: So, which is the right answer?

Post Number:#12  Unread postby Winterwolf » Fri Jan 13, 2017 2:42 am


:thankyou:

Thank you everyone for all the really helpful advice! It's nice to be able to get so many different perspectives, especially since I'm still a relatively newbie compared to a lot of the more experienced breeders on here.

Special thanks to Zass for taking the time to explain all that. It really helped put a lot of my doubts to rest. I will attempt keeping this litter indoors and then compare the results to the litters I had raised outdoors.

One last question: What age should I put the kits back in with the doe? :oops:
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Re: So, which is the right answer?

Post Number:#13  Unread postby akane » Fri Jan 13, 2017 3:15 am


SarniaTricia wrote:I don't like to move the kits away from the mom.... (this is just my opinion) I want the kits to be raised in the same environment as they will be raised in... a little Darwinism helps the herd.


Actually that is not the same environment as mentioned. European wild rabbits where our domestics come from dig a tunnel, stuff it with fur, put in kits, and then stay away. If you watch wild north american rabbits (which do not dig burrows and live near others as much but otherwise are similar) they will be at least 10' from the nest except once or twice a day to feed. If they are even that close it is only to provide a distraction and make a predator run after them instead of finding the nest. Although exceptions have been filmed of does attacking predators that have already found their kits and started to harm them. Usually that's not the case in wild rabbits. They try to distract from the nest and hide it with dirt and such kicked over the entrance which they stay away from. Kits are not raised with their mothers around.

As for domestics I see the same if given the space. I had a doe in 12x24' colony who would bury a nest box 3-4' deep in shavings and straw over winter and then you would never see her as close to it as she would be in a cage. Even my 12' wide stalls were probably closer than in the wild. You also could never find the hole she used to get to the kits. Yet if you dug down in there you'd find kits and I just started leaving them. At about 4 weeks old they'd start to appear in the colony and the doe would be ready for the next litter. Another time I had a mini rex tear through the floor barrier and the compacted crushed limestone layer to dig a tunnel over an arm's length deep. She then filled in the entrance and never went near it. Weeks later we had kits. The problem was making her stop because she'd be putting new kits in the tunnel while there were still kits hiding in there from the previous litter so without digging into the floor so you could reach them you could never get them all out. It took months to be sure we caught them all even after removing the buck so she wouldn't keep producing. You never saw the doe down the hole though. She never hid there to get away from us like the kits.

-- Fri Jan 13, 2017 2:15 am --

Nika wrote:I would also like to argue to a wild rabbit theory - domestic rabbits are not wild. When I have a doe in an outside enclousre and somekind of a predator goes by (dog,cat..) it hops into the hutch with her litter even when she is near the burrow. If I come and check them, he also hops in to see what am I doing. When I took popples from one doe to carry them to another, the mum attacked me even though she never does that. And when a singleton died, mum was quite sad for a couple of days (not sick, not mastitis..).


Rabbits raised in cages get used to having to hide with or defend their kits. In my experience if you get 3-4generations away from being cage raised in a big enclosure the caged domestic methods become less effective and trying to replicate wild rabbit behaviors becomes more effective. Even a "big" enclosure though you probably get more aggression than you would in the wild. They still have limited area to run. They can't zip across an entire field to lead something away. Most people don't go more than 20-30' in any 1 direction and I know mine consider 12' to still be dangerous, they might find my nest and kits, territory so many leap to defense more. I still do not see them get on or in the nest box itself though. I had 3' long tunnel boxes with a hinged lid and open front with a lip. The does would head me off 2-3' from their nest and then circle as I blocked with a feed scoop and checked. The ones I mentioned who buried their kits did not display any need to protect the area like the box raised ones.
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Re: So, which is the right answer?

Post Number:#14  Unread postby AnnClaire » Fri Jan 13, 2017 7:14 am


Hi WinterWolf, I am in NW Okla waiting on the ice storm to get here :P

I have all my rabbits in outdoor cages in open sheds. They all do just fine with just a nest box or cardboard box to block the wind. I even have a pair of bucks that make do with a flake of hay :lol:

As it is, I regularly bring the nest boxes inside overnight. It is so much easier on me to do the health checks inside where it is warm :P

As I pull the babies from the nest box, I smooch it on the nose to acclimate them to people smell. The handling also helps when their eyes open and it seems that EVERYTHING makes them jump!

I also wean at 4 weeks and continue to handle the kits ... yet, I will still get a kit that is a spazoid occasionally :x

You will find a marked difference in the sociability of the kits you handled/removed from mom compared to those you don't handle as much. By the time their eyes are open, I call them by asking "who's ready to go see mom" and they are standing up looking to me. A tall cardboard box lined with an opened feed bag makes a nice indoor corral for them :lol:

I also find that does appreciate me keeping the babies inside ... I come out after removing the kits and find the does all stretched out in their cage which is something they cannot do when the kits are with them!!

Like my grandfather used to say, handle the babies like you want them to act. So, if you want to handle the babies, then pull the nest box and take it out of mom's sight and everybody will be happier, but do handle the kits to socialize them!
cheers - AnnClaire

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Re: So, which is the right answer?

Post Number:#15  Unread postby SarniaTricia » Fri Jan 13, 2017 11:09 am


BlueHaven wrote:couldn't you just move the whole hutch to the garage and leave them all alone out there? That's what I would do. We actually went to one of those places that sell mini barns and bought one on time. The peace of mind it has brought me is well worth it. As long as they are out of the wind and you give them tons of straw they should be fine. IF she is skittish I would just check them every other day. We have 1 doe like this and I just pet her head and kind of hold her still while I take out the nest box. I do like the sound of the front opening nest boxes though. I would like pics of them. My husband LOVES a project.


I will try and get some photos of the boxes tonight.... as long as your "J" feeder isn't mounted on the door (or you have an alternative way of feeding) I thing these nest boxes are the "bomb" for winter litters... The does seem to like them too.
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