Tips for Handraising Kits

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Shara

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I recently had an enlightening experience with a litter. My NZ doe kindled nine days ago. I have an indoor colony, and one of my does killed off my NZ's first litter. She attacked them again, the second litter, and I removed the five surviving kits. I brought my NZ and the kits into the house in the hopes that she would rear them with no issues, now that she was out of that setting. What happened instead, was that she abandoned them. I tried for a day to get her to take them, and she wouldn't.

So I decided to try and raise the litter myself.

Tip #1: Keep those babies warm! A litter full may be able to do it themselves, but check and make sure they are warm to the touch. When mine began dying, the first symptom I noticed was that they could not stay warm. Keeping them warm did not keep them alive, but it is something to look for.

Tip #2: If you can, get a rabbit to feed those kits. Even if you have to flip a doe, the rates of survival in kits fed a formula is abysmal. The milk has everything they need, in the proportions they need it, and has a perfect delivery system. There is no chance that a kit will aspirate if it is nursing, but the risk is pretty high if you are trying to feed it yourself.

If mom dies and you have no other lactating does, or baby just isn't getting what it needs from mom, I found this homemade rabbit formula recipe, which claims better success than KMR. My kit wouldn't take it, so I have no idea how well it works, but there are rabbit raisers who have used it and the kits survived, although they showed signs of having been malnourished as adults. I can't find the link right now, but here is the recipe:

Rabbit Formula Recipe

1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup water
1 egg yolk
1 Tablespoon corn syrup

Mix well, heat to body temp. Feed the formula slowly, as rabbits can aspirate easily. DO NOT force the food in their mouths. If they breathe it in, they will likely get pneumonia and die within a few days.

I did not have a dropper, and still had mom, so I decided to flip mom and allow her kits to nurse.

Tip #3: ALWAYS remember to potty your kits. I didn't realize this was needed, and on day three, four of the five kits died. The remaining kit I was careful to always potty, but it didn't always go, and I believe that was a sign of the kit not getting enough milk. Once the rest of the litter died, I had a much harder time getting milk into the baby, and believe it was a combination of factors, stemming from the fact that the rest were gone.

It is very easy to potty your kits, although it can be frustrating. All you need is warm water, a cotton ball (I just used soft fabric) and to rub the baby's genitals and lower belly gently until they pee. Be caerful! It comes out in a LONG stream. And it doesn't smell pretty either. I never was able to get my kit to poo, but when I watched him, I noticed he was pooing on his own.

Tip #4: I had better success getting my lonely only to feed if I was irritating and annoying him. There will be a video of the process I used. Basically, I tried to simulate a litter full of bunnies kicking and squirming for a nipple. It did seem to make him suck harder and get more milk than he had been.



The morning of day nine, I awoke to a chilled baby, when he had been doing fine with the fur in his nest. I warmed him up and tried to get food into him, but he would not nurse. I put him out of his misery. Sadly, I think that I didn't start the body stimulation early enough, and think that if I had done that from the beginning, he would have been more likely to not have gotten thin in the first place, as once he got thin, he never seemed to have enough strength to nurse until he had a full tummy. His life was short and sad, but it is my hope that my experience can help others who find themselves with a baby to care for.

I would appreciate any other tips and tricks others may have learned in their own rabbit raising experiences!
 

akane

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Goat kid or foal milk replacers work better than kmr with a lot less effort than the recipes out there. Just mix to double concentration and heat. I found slightly beyond my own body temperature worked the best. The kits won't eat it if it cools below body temperature so you will either be running back and forth reheating it constantly or have to use something like a mug warmer. Otherwise it will cool too much before you even get one kit fed. I had nice fat shiny kits until part way through the 2nd week when we started to have some issues getting enough formula in them and keeping them the correct temp. I think we also failed to help one potty enough. After we lost a few it was even harder to regulate their temp and they were less active. We started having a death a day but I don't think it was at all related to what we were using for formula. I'm certain if we could have gotten enough in them and kept them the right temperature they would have thrived. I did feed them honey twice to up their energy when they hadn't eaten enough milk at the last feeding to remain active. We have successfully raised a few orphan cottontails on the double concentration goat kid formula.
 

MaggieJ

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Thank you so much, Shara, for sharing your experience. It will help all of us if we are faced with a similar situation. Even though your kit's story had an unhappy ending, you did an amazing job with him and you have to feel good about your intuitive grasp of what the kit needed. :goodjob:

I'm making this thread a sticky so that it will be handy when it is needed. I hope other people who have to hand-raise kits will add their tips to it.
 

Shara

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I do feel good about it. I fought like the devil for that baby, and when I knew I couldn't keep it alive any longer, I made its death as quick as I knew how. I thought I'd be very tore up about it, but I know I did what I needed for the guy. Thank you for making a sticky for this, Maggie, and to everyone who supported me on the way. I really feel good that that baby's life had a good purpose, and what more can anyone ask from life than to have a purpose, to fill some need? I am feeling very philisophical (sp) right now, and while I was not able to help that baby live, his life was a very purposeful one. I mean, how many things can teach so much in nine short days?
 

curlysue

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I have used that formula for Orphan kittens they did very well on it.I usually aLways breed at least three does at a time soo i can foster if needed.this works well with Netherlands because of the small litter sizes.kittens are way easier too bottle feed.
 

sherryabhy

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This recipe is such a very best but my rabbit don 't like it very much. If there are any other recipe list then better to share with us, it helps me lot.
 

avastavatar

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They may not know what is in the syringe so that could be why they are not taking the syringe drop the milk on their chin it will bug them to where they will lick it offence figuring out that it is milk they will take the syringe...You have to stimulate the babies to relief themselves after nursing. This can be done with a wet, but warm q-tip, cotton ball, or face cloth. Gently rub the genitals and they will eventually relief themselves
 

Miss M

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Shara, I looked up that rabbit formula recipe to use with a couple of runts in our most recent litter. They were getting some milk, but Squeak was tapped out by the time the bigger babies were finished, so when they were finally able to get a place at the dinner table, there were only scraps left. :(

I modified the recipe some. I didn't want to use evaporated milk, because of the concern over the digestibility of cow's milk. So I went looking for goat's milk. The store didn't have any fresh, but I found it canned. It was evaporated, so it was double-strength. I remembered the tips to mix goat formula double-strength for rabbits, so I figured I wouldn't dilute it at all. After all, they have such a tiny space available to fit nutrients in, and I thought that might be why the kits raised on that evaporated milk formula grew up looking malnourished.

This is what I am using (half recipe -- I don't need to mix a lot at once, it'll go bad):

1/2 Cup evaporated goat's milk
1 egg yolk (kinda hard to cut in half, so...)
1/2 Tablespoon corn syrup

I get it nice and warm, a little warmer than they want it, because by the time I stir it well, sit down with it, and fill the dropper, it's cooled to just about right. I am feeding it with an eye dropper, about half a drop to a whole drop at a time. Takes a while, but I don't want them to aspirate it.

The reactions I get to it range from "YUCK!! What is that?!?" to "Hey, this is pretty good!" The one who thinks it's yucky at first warms up to it pretty quickly... I think his main reaction is to the hard glass dropper tip. So far I get about two droppers' worth in there (about half full) before they call it quits and zonk out. They get filled out, but not like they swallowed a marble. This is okay, because I'm not trying to replace their mom, just supplement.

Last night, we discovered that one of Squeak's ten (about 4-5 days old) was missing. After looking as well as we could on the chutes and around in the dark, we called it quits and hoped he had burrowed into a pile of dropped hay we had let grow too large. So today, we started pulling the hay out slowly, and, sure enough, he was in there, alive and frantic! He was pretty warm, thanks to all the hay and the fact that this litter managed to fur out early. He was hard to hold, he was so desperately searching for food! So we gave him a formula feeding, too.

On a side note, ILoveBunnies commented that the formula looks like egg nog. I started thinking... double-strength milk, egg yolk, sugar... it basically IS egg nog! :lol: Guess I'd better hold the nutmeg, though.
 
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Have you tried giving the momma calf manna? It helps increase her milk production and you might be able to give a small amount to the babies at that... two blue eyed jersey kits that are from a first time mother. She wasn't feeding them and lost 5 others. I have saved these by turning her over.
 

Anthony00814

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You accept to activate the babies to abatement themselves afterwards nursing. This can be done with a wet, but balmy q-tip, affection ball, or face cloth. Gently rub the genitals and they will eventually abatement themselves.
 

Artios

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Excellent tips! Hopefully I'll never need them but I'm jotting down notes just in case.

Can a brooder be used for babies when they're not being fed? I've got a few that I've had great success raising day one parrot chicks in, and the occasional raptor - glass aquarium with a radiant heat panel that sits on top and has temp controls. I could go as far as modifying humidity if they require certain levels, etc. Anyone have some numbers as far as optimal temps?

And a tip for handfeeding I'd like to share. Like I said, my experience is mainly with birds but they do seem to have a lot in common with rabbits sometimes and hopefully this will help someone. I feed using disposable plastic pipettes. I fill a coffee mug with water that's a few degrees warmer than I want my formula to be, fill my pipettes with formula, and then place them bulb down into the mug of water. I use a different pipette for each baby so that I can measure and keep track of how much was eaten, and no germs are spread. It's awesome for keeping everyone else's grub warm as you make the rounds, so no cold dinner for the last little guy in line.
 

Miss M

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That's a neat tip, Artios!

I have had to re-warm formula in the middle of feeding several babies. Right now, I'm feeding only one, so it isn't an issue. But it is when you're feeding 4 or 5! Thanks!
 

AnnClaire

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I have a question for Shara ... when you brought the doe and the kits in, how did you know that the doe was abandoning them? Did you consider that she was maybe too stressed from the attack, the capture, and the move inside to feel safe enough to feed? Did you try a dark cage with no disturbance?

Once you thought she had abandonded the kits, did you try holding her in the nestbox over the kits to let them try nursing? Or flipping her and placing the kits on her belly?

I feel so bad that you two have lost kits! I had 11 born just before christmas and because I was bringing them in and weighing each day, I was able to supplement 2 runts and saved them. With the smallest, it was touch and go there for a couple of days! I also found that the doe would refuse to let her milk down if she was stressed or upset over something, so if you flip your doe, spend a minute or two stroking her forehead to hypnotize her before placing the kit. And placing more than one kit at a time certainly stimulates them to nurse! When I put two kits on the doe's belly, I also had a towel under the doe and placed her between my legs with the towel over my legs to help keep the babies from slipping off ... this worked best on the floor instead of on the couch or in an easy chair :lol:

There are so many things different about raising prey animals compared to predator babies :lol: I have also found that my meat rabbit doe had her kits weaned by 3 weeks!
 

yankee'n'moxie

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Thanks for this! I haven't bred my doe yet, but this is definitely helpful info! Especially on a first litter!
 

AngelsGirl

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Thank you for the help! I have a doe with 8 kits we have to bottle feed now! D:
 

karenl

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you canbuy long life goats milk in 1l cardboard boxes full cream we use it for our children good alternative if you cant get the fresh stuff and it lasts longer. <br /><br /> -- Wed Apr 23, 2014 9:57 am -- <br /><br /> you canbuy long life goats milk in 1l cardboard boxes full cream we use it for our children good alternative if you cant get the fresh stuff and it lasts longer.
 
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