Struggling With Heavy Losses

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Rabbits By DK

Raising rabbits for meat and pelts since Feb. '23
Joined
Jan 26, 2024
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Lately I’ve been struggling a lot with my rabbit business.

I’ve had 18 dead rabbits in under a week.
All of the deceased were under a 2 days old, a total of three litters gone with no survivors. (1 litter of 10, 2 litters of 4.)

Does anyone have an idea of why this happened? I know one of the mamas was proven bad, and I plan to cull her, but the other two normally do just fine. I don't know what the problem is.

Looking for guidance, hoping for your input.
 
Sorry to hear that. I think we need more information to help.

What is the housing situation? Outside hutches, cages inside, cages in three sided building,...

Has there been any changes recently? New treats? Feed change? Same brand but new bag of feed? Hay change?Change of activity around where the rabbits are? Like a new cat/dog or had people visiting?

Sounds like it was all the babies in the litters. At 2 days old alot of it is just up to mom feeding them and nothing wrong internally.
Are the rabbits related?
Were the babies being fed?
What was the condition of the dead kits? Like.. Squished flat from mom sitting in the nest on them? Visually fine, just dead? Chewed on?
 
why litters fail is hard to determine. Generally speaking, if kits are fed and furred and they die it's most often due to predator or fear issues. If the kits aren't fed it can be that moms are just not up to caring for kits, something is stressing them, or it's an off season for that (or those) particular does. OR they could be new moms who just aren't hitting the learning curve very well. Older does sometimes have an off litter and why that happens? No one knows.

Does it totally suck particularly when you have them right in a row? YES. But sometimes it's just hard raising rabbits. It really does.

Last night I had something go through the rabbitry and a young doe freaked out, peed on her kits and now I'm struggling to get her to care for her kits. Will I potentially lose them all? potentially. I'm really really hoping that they will get enough to eat that I can save six of the eight kits when two does I have due kindle (hopefully tonight or tomorrow WITHOUT any midnight visitors). Either way it weighs on my heart as I don't want to lose any more of them. I really don't... and it's been 20+ years raising buns....
 
So sorry to hear of your losses, it's always heartbreaking, no matter how many years you've been doing this. A few questions--can you describe the condition of the dead kits? Were they flattened, like they had been stomped on? Chewed on? Out of the nestbox and chilled? Looking thin and wrinkly? Does mama look like her nipples have been used?

Flattened kits in the nestbox often means that there were predators either in or near the pen. Rats can go through a hole the size of a quarter, so the usual 1" x 2" sidewall and roof wire is no barrier at all. Raccoon and other predators can be outside the cage stalking, making the doe anxious. She will often bravely go into the nestbox to protect her young, emphatically stomping her foot to ward off the intruder(s). Sadly, all that stomping often kills the kits.

Rats can chew on the kits from inside the pen, while raccoon and barn cats usually try to fish kits out from the bottom or sides. On another note, rabbits are able to survive amazingly low temperatures safely snuggled in a warm nest of rabbit hair. But, if the doe has peed on the babies, they can quickly chill. Same if she doesn't pull enough wool to keep them warm, or they end up outside the protective nestbox. Does that spend all their time in the nestbox are usually the worst offenders for losing litters, oddly enough. A good doe only goes into the box a few times a day, leaving the babies to snuggle in safely.

If the kits weren't being fed, they will look wrinkly and thin. Well fed babies have very rounded tummies. Nursing does have usually pulled much of the hair out around the nipples, so the babies can be warm in the nestbox as well as nurse easier. Is mama eating and drinking? If mama is off feed, she may not have any milk to give the babies. Is she peeing normally, or is it dark brown (or none at all), which is a sign of dehydration.
 
We had our first thunderstorm yesterday...i thought nothing of it. Went out a few hours later to find a normally steller and seasoned mama peed all over 11 kits and they were wet and chilled.

I got them in time, warmed and dried and shelved for the night. But waiting now to see if she'll resume as normal or if she's going to be a derp.

Why yes. I did spend an entire evening with 11 rabbits in my bra. That's normal right? 😆
 
Thank you all for your support and insight. I appreciate it. I think they may not have been fed properly...? I'm still troubleshooting. I know for sure that I'm culling one of the mothers, she has a bad track record. I plan on trying again with the two others.
 
Why yes. I did spend an entire evening with 11 rabbits in my bra. That's normal right?
My mentor taught me this trick over forty years ago, and it still works! Sure is hard to sit quietly while they warm up, but it so amazing to feel those cold, sad lumps start to make the first movements. You'd swear those cold bodies were dead, especially when they were born out on the wire instead of the nestbox, but my mentor always gave them a chance. So amazing when it works. My husband puts them under his shirt, and sits quietly while they warm on his chest. Not as convenient as a bra. . .but it works, too.
 
I always say breeding animals isnt for the faint of heart. It will make you doubt everything. Especially when multiple losses come in a row. Or you think somethings getting better then it gets worse. Worst of all is those lessons you have to learn the hard way, that you never quite forgive yourself for not knowing how to prevent them earlier. But I believe it's worth it. Raising rabbits for meat is worthwhile. Healthy for your family and very economical. No better feeling than producing your own food. Raising pets is rewarding too as you get to see them find families and spread how awesome rabbits are. Bringing someone a friend they will have for years. And you have to remember it goes well more often than it goes bad. Sometimes you just get a lot of bad in a row and it feels unbalanced. Keep your head up, get perspective, ,and count your blessings.
 
I am in the process of losing a litter, momma isn't very interested in kits. They are in cages in an 8 x 20 shed, lots of open windows covered in hardware cloth. No predator can get in but lots of predators live here. Would predators prowling around the shed cause bunny distress?
 
I am in the process of losing a litter, momma isn't very interested in kits. They are in cages in an 8 x 20 shed, lots of open windows covered in hardware cloth. No predator can get in but lots of predators live here. Would predators prowling around the shed cause bunny distress?
It can definitely throw the mom off and distract her from the kits especially if shes particularly sensitive or a new mom. Have you noticed any behavior changes in her? Is she showing no interest in the babies at all? I would consider fostering if possible. If you cant foster and the mom isnt caring for them unfortunately you may lose them all. I've never had luck with hand rearing kits.
 
It can definitely throw the mom off and distract her from the kits especially if shes particularly sensitive or a new mom. Have you noticed any behavior changes in her? Is she showing no interest in the babies at all? I would consider fostering if possible. If you cant foster and the mom isnt caring for them unfortunately you may lose them all. I've never had luck with hand rearing kits.
They were all dead this morning. I'll give her 1 more chance in 6 weeks to breed. If that doesn't work I got an American Blue doe to replace her. It's easy to get caught up in this. I like rare breeds of livestock and I believe I'll wind up with purebred Silver Fox ad American Blue
 
My mentor taught me this trick over forty years ago, and it still works! Sure is hard to sit quietly while they warm up, but it so amazing to feel those cold, sad lumps start to make the first movements. You'd swear those cold bodies were dead, especially when they were born out on the wire instead of the nestbox, but my mentor always gave them a chance. So amazing when it works. My husband puts them under his shirt, and sits quietly while they warm on his chest. Not as convenient as a bra. . .but it works, too.
The over-the-shoulder-bould....ooops.....bunny holder:)
 
They were all dead this morning. I'll give her 1 more chance in 6 weeks to breed. If that doesn't work I got an American Blue doe to replace her. It's easy to get caught up in this. I like rare breeds of livestock and I believe I'll wind up with purebred Silver Fox ad American Blue
Some does just arent cut out for it. It's always good to see people working on keeping up the more rare breeds, good work!
 

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