Lala’s first litter of kits are doing great. She has turned out to be a great mommy, and amazingly, has even become extra social and friendly toward us. Although she still doesn’t like to be picked up, she is suddenly eager for pets, scratches, and if we sit, she will climb all over us. Considering how she wanted nothing to do with us prior to the birth, it is odd, but the kids are just loving it! A little too much perhaps…..but more about that later. First, here are some updates on the baby bunnies…
They are about 10 days old now, and doing great. As it turns out, there were 8 kits, and so far, all are growing beautifully. There seems to be 1 slightly larger than the others, and 1 slightly smaller, and all the rest are identical. The difficulty is that they are all the same color too, so it is so far impossible to tell one apart from another! I have always had a fascination with genetics in animals, and was curious what kind of colors I would get out of our purebred California buck and purebred American Chinchilla doe.
So far, though, it looks like all the babies will look similiar to mom. Right on schedule, we saw today that the kits’ eyes are starting to open. With their long faces, they really do look their mom!
Because this was Lala’s first litter, I have really been cautious around her and the babies until she showed what kind of a mother she would be. As a general rule though, I like to handle babies minimally during the first 10 days anyway. Then, once the eyes open, I start interacting with and handling them a bit more. JR and M are thrilled that we have finally reached that point. I don’t think I will have any shortage of volunteers to socialize these babies!
So, earlier I mentioned how the kids were loving Lala’s new friendly nature. Well, I had this great plan for Lala. Since she is our only doe right now, I wanted to find a good balance, for her health’s sake, in terms of a breeding and meat harvesting schedule. I am also very limited on space for the rabbits, as we only have 2 cages (one for buck, one for doe), thus I had planned to leave the kits with mom until harvest–around 3 months, and then re-introduce her to the buck. While she could be re-bred sooner, I figured with 7 kits (1 has already been promised to a friend), we would have plenty of meat until the next harvest, plus the fact we are scheduled to leave on vacation just before harvest, so I didn’t want to have worry about new litters during that time. This plan was solidified after the delivery of this current litter, when I realized that, for some reason, Lala had lost too much weight. As soon as I noticed this, she was put on a weight-gain diet, both for her health, and the health of the kits. As far as I knew, everything was running along smoothly. Until….
3 days ago, M was in the garage with the rabbits. I had given her permission to exercise Moses, so she had let him out to play. She decided, after a while, to put him away, and let Lala out for some attention. This is something we do very commonly, and generally the kids are very careful. Somehow, though, on this particular day, she apparently did not fasten Moses’ cage door properly, and he got back out. By the time I got out there, Moses and Lala had already, and very obviously, re-introduced themselves! After ensuring the bunnies were all put away and cages properly closed, I ran for the calendar. So much for my plan!
I certainly had a delimma. Lala was definitely bred, and it is highly possible she got pregnant again. Her kits were only 7 days old at the time, and she is already under-weight. So, I began researching. Based on what I found, she was immediately put an even higher-calorie, organic, daily diet of about 2 oz. raw cow’s milk, 1/4 cup unsalted sunflower seeds, a small carrot, an organic rabbit blend containing lots of oats, seeds, and vegetables, free-choice alfalfa hay, and her regular pellets. It sounds like a lot, but I spread it throughout the day, and amazingly, she cleans up the majority of it! While I am trying to be careful she doesn’t gain too much too fast, I have also noticed that with the increased calories, her milk output has increased tremendously, which can only be good for the kits. I have to assume she is pregnant at this point, for her sake, so I am feeding her for weight gain, plus milk production for 8 kits, plus the potential kits growing inside her. Certainly NOT an ideal situation! I also gave her a couple of tablespoons of diatomaceous earth over several days, in the event the weight loss was due to any intestinal parasites.
Now that I have had more time to think and research, my new plan is to continue closely monitoring Lala. If she proves to NOT be pregnant, I will gradually reduce her feed intake as her weight increases, and all plans remain the same. In the event she proves to BE pregnant, things will be more complicated. I already went out and got a new cage thanks to a deal off Craigslist, so I am ready. Starting about 4 1/2 weeks old, I will have to wean the kits off her, taking a few more each day, so her milk dries up more easily, and so all kits are out by 5 weeks. My goal is to give her 3-4 days minimum to dry up, rest up, prepare her new nest, gain a bit of weight, and refresh a bit prior to the next delivery. In the mean time, I am going to try to get some raw goat’s milk (kits can’t have cow’s milk, even though the doe can have small amounts) to supplement them for a few more weeks. I will also switch Lala over to the goat’s milk if I can get it, as it is better for her than cow’s milk. So that’s my plan. Oh, yeah, and now, the kits are due just before we head back to the farm, so we may be taking a few baby bunnies with us or paying a lot more than planned to the petsitter! I can only hope she didn’t get pregnant, but if she did, I am going to have everything prepared, and hope for the best.