Kits covered in urine

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KelleyBee

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We‘ve had a rough couple of days in the rabbitry. I’ve currently two litters, one 11 days old and other litter is 9 days old.

In the 11 day litter, we lost a kit to the cold. We are down into the teens temps (F) right now. This kit apparently ended up out of the nest and onto the cage floor at some point overnight. It was stiff when I found it the next day. I tried the warming method just in case I wasn’t too late. Alas, it was still dead after warming.

However, I am most concerned by what is happening in the 9 day old litter. Yesterday, all appeared fine. One particular kit is significantly smaller than the rest, but seemed to be holding it’s own. I’ve learned to not intervene when there is an apparent “weakling” but to just let things take a natural course and if it is a healthy fighter, it should be fine. This morning I pulled the nest and was immediately concerned. The smallest kit was piled atop everyone else, not covered in nesting material, yet definitely covered in urine (UPDATE: since this writing a couple of hours ago, this particular kit has died). It was also obviously in distress and exhausted. All other kits underneath on cursory inspection seem fine. Something is wrong with the urine covered kit. At first I thought maybe it just needs a good feeding from mom. Mom is my most docile and loving doe. I pulled mom, held her on my lap while on her back and true to her nature, she allowed me to place the kit at her teats without even a twitch of struggle. I have no idea if the kit was able to suckle but it did try. It also sneezed a couple of times and I noticed white, which I thought was milk, in it’s nostrils. I stopped this and put mom back in her cage, made a quick nest in a cardboard box for this kit for isolation (although that’s probably too late), cleaned my hands, built an entirely new nest in a clean nest box and then proceeded to transfer the remaining kits into the fresh nest. But not without first cleaning them up a bit with fragrance free baby wipes. You see, they were doused in a good bit of urine, too.

I admit, this is only my 5th litter of rabbits, but I haven’t experienced a litter of kits urinated on before. Can anyone shed light upon this? Am I dealing with disease or with an unwell kit because it might have aspirated urine? Mom was the same loving rabbit this morning as she always is, and seems as healthy as usual. She was born in June and I did not breed her until December, so I don’t think she is too young, but this is her first litter. There are no cages above her cage and no males on either side of her, so urine is not from an outside source that I know of.

I appreciate your input.
 
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Mini_stead

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That’s concerning for cold weather. I believe the only way urine can be on the kits is either from mom or perhaps a bunny above urinating on top of the nest box? First time moms are majority of the times just inexperienced from what I’ve researched and witnessed. I have three does whom I’ve bred at 6 months. They wouldn’t lift for a while. And when they had their first litters it was a disaster! One doe sat on her kits like they were eggs. Now two have kits that are 3 weeks old and the third doe is ready drop soon. She kindled Sunday night.

I would monitor the rest of them. I was told to let nature take its course. Sounds like she is trying to take care of the kits. Do your bunnies have a designated pee and poop area? Mabye try relocating the nest box?
 

KelleyBee

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That’s concerning for cold weather. I believe the only way urine can be on the kits is either from mom or perhaps a bunny above urinating on top of the nest box? First time moms are majority of the times just inexperienced from what I’ve researched and witnessed. I have three does whom I’ve bred at 6 months. They wouldn’t lift for a while. And when they had their first litters it was a disaster! One doe sat on her kits like they were eggs. Now two have kits that are 3 weeks old and the third doe is ready drop soon. She kindled Sunday night.

I would monitor the rest of them. I was told to let nature take its course. Sounds like she is trying to take care of the kits. Do your bunnies have a designated pee and poop area? Mabye try relocating the nest box?
No rabbits housed above and no males on either side, so urine must be from mom. With the cold weather, I added a burrow box to her cage for her to climb into while the nestbox was still in there. Maybe that has confused her? Overcrowded? As I recall now, a few days back I found her treat dish (metal crock) filled with urine. I've kept the nestbox out of her cage and have decided to due to while it is still so cold, bringing it back to her once each day for nursing. I am doing this with both nests because I really don't want another one falling out and freezing to death.

So, do you think this sick kit is likely sick from aspirating urine?
 

MuddyFarms

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Sorry about the kits you've lost! Sounds like you are doing a good job with managing the issues, though!!

Just a thought: Since the 9-day-old one you lost was the runt and the others are fine, I really wonder if it was something specific to it. Was it very thin? It may have lacked the strength to work its way under the others, and when it got wet from the mom, it got chilled. It kinda sounds like he was already on his way out, especially since he died so soon after you found him. The others may have been able to compensate for the wet bedding by staying together until you found them. Kits get urinated on by each other already, so I don't know that the runt would have aspirated any (although I guess it is possible). What I have read is that the biggest risk to the kits from being urinated on is getting chilled and dying from the wet bedding. But the rest of them being fine seems to point to there being an issue with the runt specifically.
 

KelleyBee

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Sorry about the kits you've lost! Sounds like you are doing a good job with managing the issues, though!!

Just a thought: Since the 9-day-old one you lost was the runt and the others are fine, I really wonder if it was something specific to it. Was it very thin? It may have lacked the strength to work its way under the others, and when it got wet from the mom, it got chilled. It kinda sounds like he was already on his way out, especially since he died so soon after you found him. The others may have been able to compensate for the wet bedding by staying together until you found them. Kits get urinated on by each other already, so I don't know that the runt would have aspirated any (although I guess it is possible). What I have read is that the biggest risk to the kits from being urinated on is getting chilled and dying from the wet bedding. But the rest of them being fine seems to point to there being an issue with the runt specifically.
Thank you for the reassurance.
 

MaggieJ

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KelleyBee, is the nest box placed in the corner of the cage where the doe usually potties? This can confuse her and lead to her urinating on the kits or other unusual places -- like the treat dish. Please do consider this possibility and shift the nest box if needed.

It sounds to me as though when the kits burrow down, the small one was not able to compete and ended up on top. If that happened to a stronger kit, it would work its way back down, minimizing the time it was exposed. A weak kit might not be able to do that. If the doe urinated in the box it would have got the worst of it and exposed to the air would have chilled very fast.

In cold weather, one kit will not be able to keep itself warm until it is fully furred. If you have to separate one, it's better to take it indoors or supply extra heat.

I used to take a wine bottle with a tight screw-top lid, heat it with hot water and then refill with fresh hot water. A sock pulled over the bottle keeps it from burning the kit(s). Place it lengthwise in the nest box on one side. The kit(s) will move closer or farther away according to their need for heat. Covered with bedding, it will keep them warm through the worst of the night. Replace it with a fresh one first thing in the morning.

Some losses are inevitable with rabbits -- all you can do is learn from the circumstances and apply what you've learned to minimize future losses. You are a caring and competent rabbit owner and you will soon be able to spot many troubles before they happen.

~~~~~~~

In the other litter, the kit that was outside the nest box probably held on too tightly to momma's teat and was pulled out when she decided feeding time was over. If its eyes are open, a brick (or something of similar size, weight, and shape) placed against the low end of the nest box may help it to get back in. It's handy for all the kits when they decide to start exploring.

Kit deaths "by misadventure" happen to all of us at one time or another. Don't let it discourage you. You're doing fine.

~ Maggie
 

KelleyBee

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KelleyBee, is the nest box placed in the corner of the cage where the doe usually potties? This can confuse her and lead to her urinating on the kits or other unusual places -- like the treat dish. Please do consider this possibility and shift the nest box if needed.

It sounds to me as though when the kits burrow down, the small one was not able to compete and ended up on top. If that happened to a stronger kit, it would work its way back down, minimizing the time it was exposed. A weak kit might not be able to do that. If the doe urinated in the box it would have got the worst of it and exposed to the air would have chilled very fast.

In cold weather, one kit will not be able to keep itself warm until it is fully furred. If you have to separate one, it's better to take it indoors or supply extra heat.

I used to take a wine bottle with a tight screw-top lid, heat it with hot water and then refill with fresh hot water. A sock pulled over the bottle keeps it from burning the kit(s). Place it lengthwise in the nest box on one side. The kit(s) will move closer or farther away according to their need for heat. Covered with bedding, it will keep them warm through the worst of the night. Replace it with a fresh one first thing in the morning.

Some losses are inevitable with rabbits -- all you can do is learn from the circumstances and apply what you've learned to minimize future losses. You are a caring and competent rabbit owner and you will soon be able to spot many troubles before they happen.

~~~~~~~

In the other litter, the kit that was outside the nest box probably held on too tightly to momma's teat and was pulled out when she decided feeding time was over. If its eyes are open, a brick (or something of similar size, weight, and shape) placed against the low end of the nest box may help it to get back in. It's handy for all the kits when they decide to start exploring.

Kit deaths "by misadventure" happen to all of us at one time or another. Don't let it discourage you. You're doing fine.

~ Maggie
Thank you, Maggie. Yes, I know this occurred because I had overcrowded her cage with the nest box and her burrow box, wanting to be sure she had a place to go in cold windy weather. As a matter of fact, she actually gave me a heads up two days prior to this unfortunate incident by urinating in her treat crock (just as you suggested), something she’d never done before. Alas, another life lost due to breeder error. I am ok with wee lives ending naturally, but I don’t like it when it’s due to my ignorance. Yet, I realize ignorance is different than purposeful neglect. I work hard for all of them daily, so they are surely not neglected.

I like the wine bottle idea. I will make that happen moving forward. For clarification, do you use the wine bottle for when only one kit or for any nest in temps below freezing?

Kelley
 

Mini_stead

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Sorry for your loss. But keep up the good work!
I’ve lost about 20 kits due to inexperience on both ends. (Mine and first time moms). It definitely took a toll on me and also my wife. She wasn’t too happy hearing kits were dying. The warm bottle method MaggieJ mentioned sounds good. And I would definitely try that if you can. I tried something similar to that for one of my does first litter. Instead of a bottle I had some hand warmers that I put into the back of the nesting box over night. The kits still died because the mom kept trampling over them in the box.
I didn’t like the idea of the kits in the nesting box being so vulnerable to wind. Also wanted to make sure I did all I can do to help them stay alive. I had to do something else. Just didn’t feel like they were going to be protected from the cold/wind even tho it’s been proven.
Happened to come across a video on a using a tote as a nesting box. I can honestly say it works. Two out of three of my does have litters three weeks of age. One doe didn’t lose a kit. The other lost two at birth. The third doe I believe had kits last night because she kindled Sunday night and I saw fur this morning! The new born kits are super warm IF the mother covers them with fur. You can put your hand over the fur and feel the heat. The tote also give the mothers shelter from the wind and cold. I have a big tarp covering the sides and back of the cages and totes for wind protection. Monday’s winter storm prompted me to put covering on the front of their cages for added wind/snow protection. You can see the setup in the picture.
 

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KelleyBee

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Sorry for your loss. But keep up the good work!
I’ve lost about 20 kits due to inexperience on both ends. (Mine and first time moms). It definitely took a toll on me and also my wife. She wasn’t too happy hearing kits were dying. The warm bottle method MaggieJ mentioned sounds good. And I would definitely try that if you can. I tried something similar to that for one of my does first litter. Instead of a bottle I had some hand warmers that I put into the back of the nesting box over night. The kits still died because the mom kept trampling over them in the box.
I didn’t like the idea of the kits in the nesting box being so vulnerable to wind. Also wanted to make sure I did all I can do to help them stay alive. I had to do something else. Just didn’t feel like they were going to be protected from the cold/wind even tho it’s been proven.
Happened to come across a video on a using a tote as a nesting box. I can honestly say it works. Two out of three of my does have litters three weeks of age. One doe didn’t lose a kit. The other lost two at birth. The third doe I believe had kits last night because she kindled Sunday night and I saw fur this morning! The new born kits are super warm IF the mother covers them with fur. You can put your hand over the fur and feel the heat. The tote also give the mothers shelter from the wind and cold. I have a big tarp covering the sides and back of the cages and totes for wind protection. Monday’s winter storm prompted me to put covering on the front of their cages for added wind/snow protection. You can see the setup in the picture.
Yes! Hubby and I are seriously considering converting to such a method come this spring. I think the place we got the idea was from the youtube channel: The Rabbitry Center. Is that where you got your idea? Are your totes sitting on the ground and partially buried?
 

MaggieJ

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I like the wine bottle idea. I will make that happen moving forward. For clarification, do you use the wine bottle for when only one kit or for any nest in temps below freezing?

Kelley
Definitely for four or fewer kits -- they don't have enough body mass collectively to keep themselves warm in cold weather. A larger litter with plenty of pulled fur will normally be okay. A lot depends on the doe. Some are fanatics about pulling fur and covering the kits after nursing. Others, not so much.

When a doe pulls more fur than needed in warm weather, harvest some of the extra and keep for times when a doe doesn't pull enough or the weather is intensely cold. Sheep's wool, feathers from a pillow, teased cotton batting, and even dryer lint (unscented) also work.

When I had rabbits in cages, I did not breed in winter. From the beginning of December to the end of February here in Ontario we can get severe cold snaps. Later, when I had the rabbits in the colony in a shed with nest tunnels, I could just let the rabbits choose there own breeding schedule. For me, that worked a lot better.
 

Mini_stead

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Yes! Hubby and I are seriously considering converting to such a method come this spring. I think the place we got the idea was from the youtube channel: The Rabbitry Center. Is that where you got your idea? Are your totes sitting on the ground and partially buried?
Yes. The Rabbitry Center is where I got it from. The totes are above ground on a shelf I built. I don’t have the land to make a long tunnel to the ground. Don’t think I would go that deep into it if I did.
The totes are level with the cage.
The “tunnel” is about 15 inches long. 2 inches going into the cage. 4 inches going into the tote. Which will leave 9 inches between cage and tote. I cut the hole high as close to the handle as possible without messing up the handle so that the doe can “drop down” into the tote. The bigger/taller the tote the better. Only thing you will need a step up for the kits to get in and out if the title is really deep.I used what I had to make the tunnel which was 1/2 inch x 1/2 inch wire formed into a 8 inch circle held together with j clips. Also j clipped it to the cage for added strength.
I didn’t use any foam inside the tote. Just filled it like you would a nesting box. I used absorbent bedding as first layer, straw for second then a bunch of hay on top. Moms will take care of the rest.Drilled holes around the top edge of the tote for ventilation.
Same idea but just a few things different
 

Mini_stead

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I think the totes work great for cold weather breeding. But think it may be too warm during the heat of the summer using the totes.
 

KelleyBee

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Yes. The Rabbitry Center is where I got it from. The totes are above ground on a shelf I built. I don’t have the land to make a long tunnel to the ground. Don’t think I would go that deep into it if I did.
The totes are level with the cage.
The “tunnel” is about 15 inches long. 2 inches going into the cage. 4 inches going into the tote. Which will leave 9 inches between cage and tote. I cut the hole high as close to the handle as possible without messing up the handle so that the doe can “drop down” into the tote. The bigger/taller the tote the better. Only thing you will need a step up for the kits to get in and out if the title is really deep.I used what I had to make the tunnel which was 1/2 inch x 1/2 inch wire formed into a 8 inch circle held together with j clips. Also j clipped it to the cage for added strength.
I didn’t use any foam inside the tote. Just filled it like you would a nesting box. I used absorbent bedding as first layer, straw for second then a bunch of hay on top. Moms will take care of the rest.Drilled holes around the top edge of the tote for ventilation.
Same idea but just a few things different
That's all awesome info. Thanks.
 

MuddyFarms

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I think the totes work great for cold weather breeding. But think it may be too warm during the heat of the summer using the totes.

Eric and Callene Rapp use totes for nests in their meat rabbit business (Rare Hare Barn). They recently came out with a book where they explain what they do for nests. They have the totes upside down in the cages with the lid as the floor. They use 10-gallon totes, but I don't think that would fit though the average cage door (their cages are 24-inches tall). In the summer they use totes that have 1-inch holes drilled all over them with a paddle bit. That allows a lot more ventilation (it's a ton of holes). The nest box floors (the lids) have small holes drilled in them to allow drainage. They put a 1-inch piece of untreated wood on the bottom of the opening cut in the end of the tote, since the does like to chew the plastic opening.
 

MuddyFarms

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I didn’t like the idea of the kits in the nesting box being so vulnerable to wind. Also wanted to make sure I did all I can do to help them stay alive. I had to do something else. Just didn’t feel like they were going to be protected from the cold/wind even tho it’s been proven.
Happened to come across a video on a using a tote as a nesting box. I can honestly say it works. Two out of three of my does have litters three weeks of age. One doe didn’t lose a kit. The other lost two at birth. The third doe I believe had kits last night because she kindled Sunday night and I saw fur this morning! The new born kits are super warm IF the mother covers them with fur. You can put your hand over the fur and feel the heat. The tote also give the mothers shelter from the wind and cold. I have a big tarp covering the sides and back of the cages and totes for wind protection. Monday’s winter storm prompted me to put covering on the front of their cages for added wind/snow protection. You can see the setup in the picture.

Yes, it is very important to give the kits protection from the wind. Cold is one thing, but the wind can both tear out the fur from the nest and get down into the nest and chill the kits badly through convection. Sadly, the fur does little-to-nothing when there is wind and moisture, since it has to be able to trap the kits' heat in.
Glad you changed your boxes! Sometimes you gotta go with your gut on things, eh?
 
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northernnevadahollandlops

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I use plastic totes too. I like that they are easy to clean and I can open the lid for easy access. In the 10 gallon totes, I used a jigsaw to cut the opening and a small drill bit for the ventilation/ emergency drainage holes in the bottom. But I just got a set of four from Walmart that are a great size and already have an opening. All my buns love them for hidey holes too. I have had any winter litters yet, though we just bred one of our does yesterday and I'll breed another next week.

Robot or human? (Not sure why it says that, but it's a link to the totes)
 

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KelleyBee

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I use plastic totes too. I like that they are easy to clean and I can open the lid for easy access. In the 10 gallon totes, I used a jigsaw to cut the opening and a small drill bit for the ventilation/ emergency drainage holes in the bottom. But I just got a set of four from Walmart that are a great size and already have an opening. All my buns love them for hidey holes too. I have had any winter litters yet, though we just bred one of our does yesterday and I'll breed another next week.

Robot or human? (Not sure why it says that, but it's a link to the totes)
Are you using these inside their cages?
 

KelleyBee

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Eric and Callene Rapp use totes for nests in their meat rabbit business (Rare Hare Barn). They recently came out with a book where they explain what they do for nests. They have the totes upside down in the cages with the lid as the floor. They use 10-gallon totes, but I don't think that would fit though the average cage door (their cages are 24-inches tall). In the summer they use totes that have 1-inch holes drilled all over them with a paddle bit. That allows a lot more ventilation (it's a ton of holes). The nest box floors (the lids) have small holes drilled in them to allow drainage. They put a 1-inch piece of untreated wood on the bottom of the opening cut in the end of the tote, since the does like to chew the plastic opening.
Chewing the plastic is always what comes to my mind. I never put anything plastic in the cages for this very reason. The totes accessed through a tunnel system seems to reduce this if smartly done. I just haven't completely resolved the tunnel connection to the tote to avoid chewable plastic edges, but wood trim does seem to be the answer.
 
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