Does killing/eating babies

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Skyz84

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Let me start out by saying I've been breeding rabbits on and off for 10 years. I'm well aware of new mom's not caring for kits but these 3 bunnies have me stumped.
This happened to me last summer so I think the summer heat may have something to do with it. Then maybe the food I'm feeding? However, I was hoping to get a few opinions.

We live in S. Texas and my bunnies are kept in an outdoor shaded area. I've been feeding Wendlands Rabbit Pellets. It's not my choice pellets (Manna Pro) but Wendlands is $13/50lbs vs Manna Pro's $18/50lbs. I feed pellets free choice. Pregnancy momma's & mom's with babies also have access to coastal hay and all bunnies get a tiny handful for Timothy Hay daily.

Momma #1: failed to raise her 1st 2 litters. She nested so heavily it almost looked like she smothered them. Pulls more hair then I have ever seen. Babies were not eaten. Just purple and squished under all the hair. Finally on her 3rd litter she had 1 live. She raised it up to just shy of 4 weeks old. I was so happy. It was a beautifully marked Tri Mini Rex (what I'm working on). I never touched the baby in fear of new momma rejecting it. I was planning to pull it out at 5 weeks old. However, just before it turned 4 weeks old, I came out to it missing... only it's head remained. :x :(

Momma #2: 2nd Time momma. Raised her 1st litter. OK. Not great. She didn't pull fur. A few didn't survive but overall she managed to raise a couple of her 1st babies. Now 2nd litter she did perfect. Pulled fur. Had 8 babies. All were doing GREAT until eyes opened. Barely 3 weeks old. I came out to carnage. She had killed 2 and eaten feet off of all but 3. They were all over the cage. I don't know if she pulled them out or if they had hopped out. The only one uninjured was still in the next box. Now I left 3 of these babies with her (2 are missing a few toes). She has been great since this incident and raising the babies. They will be weaned soon.

Momma #3: 2nd Time momma. 1st litter was only 2 babies but she did great. No problems. 2nd litter of 7. 4 days old. I heard squealing this morning. This is a long awaited litter from my new show quality buck. I was SO excited. She had just eaten the feet & ears off of most of the babies :( Only 2 are untouched. I have not touched these babies. I had not even checked on the rabbits this morning when I heard the squealing.. I know they were happy last night. I could see them all unharmed and wiggling around the nest. I've brought the babies inside for today. I have a doe about to kindle I'm hoping I can foster the 2 uninjured babies over to her tonight... the others I will put back and hope momma figures it out. :/

ALL of these momma's had food, hay & water. Not anything out of the norm.... I can't find any reason for them to do this... Other then they are "newer" mom's. This has all happened in the last few weeks. WHILE this was going on I had 2 experienced/older moms raising litters flawlessly.

Did I just have a run of bad luck or am I missing something? It is summer and very hot. I know that can stress them and my litters are usually smaller. Babes dehydrate quickly and all.... but eating/killing healthy babies? I've switched to Wendlands food over the winter and so far all the rabbits have been doing well with it...

Ideas?
 

Zass

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Your first doe might have been in the habit of sleeping in the nestbox and crushing the kits.
As to the eaten kits:

However, just before it turned 4 weeks old, I came out to it missing... only it's head remained.
The only one uninjured was still in the next box.

The first thing that comes to mind is a predator that can attack them through the cage wire. Or maybe either-or-also something that can enter the cages, like rats perhaps. It might be coincidence or location that has prevented attacks on your more experienced does.

I have seen it before where something has eaten a kit through floor wire bit-by-bit and left just the head.

Touching babies doesn't cause most does to go after them anyway. I handle all my kits from day one, even with first timers.


Do you have a way to remove the nestboxes and keep them inside, only taking them out twice per day to nurse? It won't solve a predator problem but it will keep the kits safer from both predators and the does.

Doe # 3 whom you actually saw attacking the kits might just need to be removed from the breeding program, but the presence of a predator could also be what motivated her to attack her own babies. So that possibility needs to be resolved first.
 

Skyz84

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Well I didn't think about predators...

All hutches are about 2 feet off the ground. The single baby was in the middle cage of a 3 cage hutch. Back & top is solid plywood. Side and bottom are 1/2" wire. If something managed to dissect a nearly 4 week old baby that could have run up to a solid wood top shelf ... I'd be shocked. Baby was old enough to get up there. Rabbits on both sides of her are one's she was familiar with and both were the experienced mom's with litters that lived.

Litter of missing feet was 2 feet off the ground. With 1/2" wire on all sides. Plausable that something was nibbling feet through the wire.. I don't know.

We did get a Live Stock Guardian puppy about 7 weeks ago. Maybe that is stressing the bunnies. She doesn't go in the bunny barn and we have 4 other dogs. So the rabbits are use to dogs running around... maybe the scent of a new dog in the wind has stressed the momma's.
 

Zass

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It's really, really rare for a doe to eat a 4 week old kit.

Actually, I've even seen chickens eat the feet off of newborns that were born out of box right through the wire. :x
 

ek.blair

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My first thought was predator too... I would try some various traps for vermin that are known in your area and see what you get, or try a game camera set up so that it wouldn't get the bunnies, but would catch something maybe angled down so it is looking under the cages or up high angled down if they have a solid top. :?: It's hard to blame a momma for eating her kits unless you catch them in the act.
 

MaggieJ

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Do you use J-feeders? Unless a J-feeder has a secure lid, it is an open invitation to smaller predators like rats. Check the cage doors too, to make sure that they fit tightly. Rats can slip through the smallest gaps.
 

MamaSheepdog

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I have a friend that is a longtime rabbit breeder, and she believes that a mineral imbalance can cause does to eat their kits. I would recommend giving them chunks of the red mineral blocks used for livestock.

I buy the 50lb blocks and just knock chunks off with a hammer.

I'm very sorry about the lost kits. :(
 

Skyz84

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MaggieJ":3ngiji54 said:
Do you use J-feeders? Unless a J-feeder has a secure lid, it is an open invitation to smaller predators like rats. Check the cage doors too, to make sure that they fit tightly. Rats can slip through the smallest gaps.

No J-Feeders. The cage where I lost the 4 week old is very new. 1/2" wire that's on there good and solid thick plywood. HEAVY & tight fitting lid.

I'll keep an eye out for predators...

MamaSheepdog":3ngiji54 said:
I have a friend that is a longtime rabbit breeder, and she believes that a mineral imbalance can cause does to eat their kits. I would recommend giving them chunks of the red mineral blocks used for livestock.

I buy the 50lb blocks and just knock chunks off with a hammer.
Very good idea. I will pick some up today.

I plan that not every baby will survive from new moms and in the temp extremes of summer/winter.. but loosing these last 3 litters (or ending up with mutilated kits) is just depressing!! Especially when it appears the momma is the one doing it! :(
 

Mary Ann's Rabbitry

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I think it is the mothers that are doing it.. I had this done .... and I also had a mom that would attack her babies at 4 weeks old when she had enough of them .. Some rabbits will live with there babies for a long time and others will wean really early. And 4 weeks sound about right.. I have had toes eaten off and ears eaten off .. I have had a mother that eat all of the babies and not have anything left in the cage.. those mothers are in the freezer.. and I never had that problem again.
 

Skyz84

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Mary Ann's Rabbitry":2yab7yhh said:
I think it is the mothers that are doing it.. I had this done .... and I also had a mom that would attack her babies at 4 weeks old when she had enough of them .. Some rabbits will live with there babies for a long time and others will wean really early. And 4 weeks sound about right.. I have had toes eaten off and ears eaten off .. I have had a mother that eat all of the babies and not have anything left in the cage.. those mothers are in the freezer.. and I never had that problem again.

Me too.. and Freezer is where they would normally go... except 2 of these mom's are young and the very best Tri's I have ever produced. I've been working hard to get my Tri's closer to show quality. Had both bred to a NICE buck too. *UH*

Guess I'll be re-breeding them again. Next time I'll make sure to have an experienced momma due at the same time. So I can foster the Tri Babies if needed.

You know.. if these were just run of the mill mutts that I'm selling as pets.. all the babies would be OK. It's the one's I've spent a lot of money and time on that have to do this. :x

I will add minerals and if anyone else has ideas or suggestions I'd love to hear them...

Has anyone ever heard that adding raw bacon would prevent the mom's from eating the babies. Sounds like a bad idea to me.. raw meat for a rabbit... bacteria and such would be very bad... however I've now had more then 1 old time rabbit breeder tell me to try it... Nope not interested in trying it! But thought I'd ask if anyone has?
 

MamaSheepdog

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Skyz84":t6ml3ahg said:
Has anyone ever heard that adding raw bacon would prevent the mom's from eating the babies.

Yes, I have heard of it, but I think with hotdogs, not bacon. :? As with all things from the "oldtimers" there is bound to be some truth to it- that lack of protein is the problem- but I would use plant based sources of protein, not meat.

What is the protein level of your Wendland's pellets? Would it be affordable for you to feed your actively working does the Manna Pro? Or at least supplement them with it? If you factor in the cost of the lost kits you probably aren't really "saving" much if anything...
 

Skyz84

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MamaSheepdog":2d4n28mc said:
If you factor in the cost of the lost kits you probably aren't really "saving" much if anything...

Yep! I totally agree! I haven't had an issue until now.
Wendlands is 18% protein.
I fed Manna Pro for years and LOVED it. Rabbits did great... just at $5 more per bag and I buy 6-10 bags at a time.

So far Wendlands has been OK. I wouldn't call it stealer but acceptable.

I gave everyone some loose goat minerals . (Never made it out of the house today to get a block to break up). They ALL went for it right away. They smelled the air as I was pouring it and made a dash for the mineral dishes. New momma who just messed up her litter kept going back to the dish over and over again.

Hopefully this will help! It is really hot and I haven't put mineral blocks in the cages for a while... (They rarely ever used them before.)

Good news is a I had a new doe kindle today. She's a Mini Satin & this is her first litter for me. (However, she's an older experienced momma) She only had 2 so I put the 2 uninjured Mini Rex Babies over with her. She seemed ok with them and already fed them. Gave the other momma her injured babies back. (The ones that have a chance of a normal life) ... Will see how she does now with minerals ...
 

MamaSheepdog

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Skyz84":2dsuw3ml said:
I gave everyone some loose goat minerals . (Never made it out of the house today to get a block to break up). They ALL went for it right away. They smelled the air as I was pouring it and made a dash for the mineral dishes. New momma who just messed up her litter kept going back to the dish over and over again.

Wow! Do the goat minerals have any grain or anything mixed in? When I had goats they just got the big livestock blocks.

Skyz84":2dsuw3ml said:
I haven't put mineral blocks in the cages for a while... (They rarely ever used them before.)

Yeah, they use them intermittently. I figure if they need it, they will use it, and if not, it is just another item of cage decor. ;)

I also give mine oyster shell (the type at Tractor Supply Company is processed now into little pebbles, not just the loose shells I am used to) and sometimes they have a buildup in the feeders, and then one day it is just gone!
 

Skyz84

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MamaSheepdog":tq3pzkzu said:
Wow! Do the goat minerals have any grain or anything mixed in? When I had goats they just got the big livestock blocks.

No, just a loose mineral. They are easier for the goats to consume then licking on a block all day. Thinking I will make a habit of a keeping a small bowl in the bunnies cages. If they are easier for the goats to consume... they would be easier for the bunnies too.
 

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Did the mineral help? I am wonderin if minerals were part of some problems i had a while back. Mine never touched the mineral wheels either. This time around i am gonna put calfmanna or mineral. <br /><br /> -- Tue Aug 19, 2014 8:34 pm -- <br /><br /> Did the mineral help? I am wonderin if minerals were part of some problems i had a while back. Mine never touched the mineral wheels either. This time around i am gonna put calfmanna or mineral.
 

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Skyz84":1suz0yoh said:
Mary Ann's Rabbitry":1suz0yoh said:
I think it is the mothers that are doing it.. I had this done .... and I also had a mom that would attack her babies at 4 weeks old when she had enough of them .. Some rabbits will live with there babies for a long time and others will wean really early. And 4 weeks sound about right.. I have had toes eaten off and ears eaten off .. I have had a mother that eat all of the babies and not have anything left in the cage.. those mothers are in the freezer.. and I never had that problem again.

Me too.. and Freezer is where they would normally go... except 2 of these mom's are young and the very best Tri's I have ever produced. I've been working hard to get my Tri's closer to show quality. Had both bred to a NICE buck too. *UH*

Guess I'll be re-breeding them again. Next time I'll make sure to have an experienced momma due at the same time. So I can foster the Tri Babies if needed.

You know.. if these were just run of the mill mutts that I'm selling as pets.. all the babies would be OK. It's the one's I've spent a lot of money and time on that have to do this. :x

I will add minerals and if anyone else has ideas or suggestions I'd love to hear them...

Has anyone ever heard that adding raw bacon would prevent the mom's from eating the babies. Sounds like a bad idea to me.. raw meat for a rabbit... bacteria and such would be very bad... however I've now had more then 1 old time rabbit breeder tell me to try it... Nope not interested in trying it! But thought I'd ask if anyone has?
Rabbits are not strictly herbivores [contrary to popular opinion] and adding some meat products to their diet often will help them overcome nutrient deficiencies. I feed all of the table scraps to rabbits, [in a dish separate from the other feeds]
--there is rarely anything at all left in the dish, and even large turkey bones are picked totally clean, and sometimes partly eaten, [even with free access to good hay and pellets]
 

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I don't have much experience, as I am new to rabbits, but thought I'd add that when I purchased my cali doe the breeder said that she had "eaten" a baby from her 2nd litter (whether she saw this or it was a predator and assumed I don't know) but she gave her bacon with her last kindle and all babies were fine. I heeded caution, because this was my first attempt at breeding, but I didn't have any bacon! So, I gave her bologna--she loved it and the 2 babies she had are 11 days old and thriving! I think she would have been ok, but I didn't want to take any chances. :bunnyhop:
 

jeannie

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Processed meats, like those mentioned are high in nitrates. Maybe they were needing that? Be careful though, too much, imho, can cause problems.
If nitrates were needed you can feed fresh veggies like spinach or collard greens. I feed fresh veggies (kale, leafy lettuce, corn leaves, sunflower leaves, and elm twigs) every morning, but use spinach or collard greens only once a month or so.

I am sorry for your loss.

On a side note, I give my chickens hot dogs once in a great while ~ they love them (talk about chicken fights in the yard, lol), but again, only as a treat. Nitrates form nitrosamines ~ not good for anyone or their pets. Vitamin C inhibits the formation of nitrosamines ~ so maybe feeding something high in Vit C with the processed meats?
 

Mary Ann's Rabbitry

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wow.. this is the first time I have read rabbits eating meat . .. I know chickens will.. but rabbits... :p
I will never give any meat to my rabbits.. Are you sure it isn't more of the fat content over the protein in the process meats being use??? As goes for the loose minerals ,, yes , you can get them.. I have checked.. but expensive.. and I would get the ones for horses over goat..
 

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Mary Ann's Rabbitry":1hsv46t6 said:
wow.. this is the first time I have read rabbits eating meat . .. I know chickens will.. but rabbits... :p
I will never give any meat to my rabbits.. Are you sure it isn't more of the fat content over the protein in the process meats being use??? As goes for the loose minerals ,, yes , you can get them.. I have checked.. but expensive.. and I would get the ones for horses over goat..

rabbits clean up all the fat in the left-overs dish also, esp. nursing does.
 

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