The Tail of Two Virgins, Part 2

My last blog was about trying to get two virgin rabbits bred to each other by using a next cage over rabbit mating exhibition to show them how making babies is done, and the difference when another virgin doe is bred to an experienced buck. If you missed this post, back up and read it before continuing since this is the results 30 days later!

If anyone ever tells you that breeding rabbits is easy and monotonous, they are liars of the worst sort, the type your grandma warned you about. I was asked at work a few weeks ago how many babies I thought the three does would have. I replied, “Anywhere from two to thirty.” One never knows with rabbits.

This past weekend all three of those does were to kindle, since breeding occurred all on the same day for them, so by Thursday we’d moved all the cages into Winter Quarters. On Friday I gave all the does a fruit Tums tablet in their food in case they needed extra calcium for delivery.

Saturday rolled around and I saw Mossy in pre-labor; she was fussy, so I gave her peace and quiet, a little dried willow for pain, and kept a general kept a low profile while in Winter Quarters. Mossy was pulling hair to the point where it look like another rabbit exploded in the cage, but she’d layered the nest box with bunches of hair. Nice nest, well lined so far, all things are going pretty good for her. Cinderella, the red doe, just sat there looking at me from her cage with a fearful look in her eye, watching Mossy on the tier below her just making a mess of her cage, like a neat sibling who has to share a bedroom with their messy sister.

Cinderella by her nest box
The casual observer to her cousin’s hair pulling antics the tier below.

The day progressed and nothing really happened, but there are a few days of leeway involved, so I figured the hormones had hit and now there was massive housekeeping to be done by Mossy who kept adding hair to the nest box. Cinderella just eyed the whole show and I think Rose, Mossy’s mom, was just laughing her head off at the crazy going on.

As I turned to leave, I noticed one very small clump of 15? 20? hairs by Cinderella’s feeder. I gave Cinderella the eye, looked at the nest box which was unremarkable, and decided to dig my hand into the nest, just in case. Oh my! Tucked away at the bottom of the box was a huge pile of kits!!! Cinderella had her babies and tucked them away so neatly you’d never know they were there! I gave Cinderella a lot of willow, sunflower seeds, and oats as standard postpartum rabbit dinner which she began to inhale. I then took the nest box from Cinderella’s cage to check the babies, determined there was a whole pile of them in there, but wouldn’t disturb them til tomorrow to count them out.

Before I went to work a few hours later, I checked on Mossy again and she was humped up in the nest box looking busy (yay!). Rose had made a nice nest in the straw but hadn’t pulled a single bit of fur, and then I noted that Cinderella had merely moved to the other side of the cage.

Doe in nest box
Mossy in her nest box while in labor.

Late that night/very early Sunday morning when I came home and checked on the rabbits, what I saw broke my heart. Mossy had delivered three babies on the wire, not in the nest, and they were definitely dead. Two broken colored kits and one of indeterminable color. They were big, as kits in a small litter can be, and I think that they’d died before birth, seeing how Mossy was having problems with delivering. The mere fact she’d delivered them on the wire and not in the nest box she set up is indicative of her first time mom status. (That is why it’s really important that multiple does be bred at the same time for fostering needs.) She was very protective of her dead babies, constantly checking on them, and wasn’t very pleased when I removed their remains. I gave her some more willow and sunflower seeds to distract her and cleaned up her cage. Mossy only had two other siblings, so I chalked it up to small litters running on her mother’s side of the family. Cinderella was still huddled in a corner of her cage and Rose was sprawled out like the loose woman she is. All was well enough for 2:30 am on a Sunday morning. I was going to bed.

Twelve hours later after sleep and church, I check on the rabbits again. I pulled Cinderella’s nest box to examine the babies to make sure they’d been fed. Right as I put my hand in the nest, a kit popped up and chomped down on my finger, which is a really bad sign. They hadn’t been fed yet and were coming up on almost a day old. Counting out those kits as they jumped around in hungry desperation was a challenge and there were TEN babies. One of them was really thin and runty and I worried about it since that one really needed to eat, pronto! No wonder Cinderella had a scared look–she’d had her babies spectacularly and camouflaged them expertly, but had no idea she needed to nurse them. Starting to panic, I checked Rose’s nest box since I needed her to potentially expertly foster some kits, and it was still empty. Rabbits only have 8 nipples and 10 kits are too many, particularly with a small weak kit involved.

So I was now in a really precarious position–I had one first time mother who done 95% of everything right but too many babies and didn’t know about nursing. I had another first time mother who’d done great making nests and pulling fur, but who’d lost all her babies and was still confused as to where her kits were and what to do next. My professional mother was running a day or so behind the others in kindling. So, divide and conquer was going to be the plan, with an eye on Rose in hopes that when she kindled, I could save some of these living kits from these first time moms.

I put five of the babies in a blanket on my lap and placed Cinderella over them, holding her gently and petting her in a relaxing way. I could tell the moment kits latched on because her eyes widened in surprise, but she let down her milk really quick and began to drowse on my lap. Those babies figured out nursing and chugged away, relieving Cinderella from what was a definite case of overfull boobies. I pulled the kits from under her, checking that they had full bellies (and the ones that didn’t got put back under her), and when they did, I transferred them to a secondary holding nest box.

With five more mouths to feed, I grabbed up Mossy, who I figured would have had her milk come in by then, and put her over the babies in the lap blanket. She was rather bewildered by these wriggly things under her, but three of the kits latched on and got a good feeding. Of the other two, one got an okay dinner, not as much as it’s siblings. The small weak one didn’t hardly get any after 30 more minutes of me trying all the ways I know to get a kit to nurse. That left just one option–extra formula feedings until it got it’s strength back. However, the clock showed I needed to leave for work in 15 minutes by then.

I salvaged what clean fur I could from Mossy’s cage and her prodigiously lined nest and put those last five babies in it, placing it in Mossy’s cage. Perhaps her mom’s brain would kick in when she saw wriggly live babies in her carefully prepared nest. She did go over and check the nest out, so that was a positive sign. I double checked Cinderella’s nest box and the five kit in there as I started to return it to her cage–and that’s when I noticed she hadn’t pulled hardly any fur for her nest and those first five babies weren’t going to be warm enough to digest the first dinner they’d just gotten.

It was enough to make me cry right there and I almost did. Except I didn’t because that would have gotten some fur in my eyes and I don’t cry and I don’t quit and THANK GOD I’D SAVED ALL THAT FUR THE RABBITS HAD BLOWN RIGHT BEFORE THEIR LAST SHOW IN OCTOBER (which I had gotten points docked for their bad coats). I had a pretzel bucket half full of red and black rabbit fur for just a scenario I now found myself in. I liberally applied this fur to the nest, covered the babies in it, and left Cinderella staring into that crazy multi-colored baby bed. I hoped she wouldn’t tear it (and the babies) apart while I was gone since that had liberal amounts of Mini Rex buck fur in it. I had to leave since work pays the rabbit feed bill and whatever happened would happen.

When I came back from work five hours later at 2:30am Monday morning, I saw dead babies lying on the wire of Mossy’s cage. Had she accidentally killed the foster babies? Taking a closer look, I see it is NOT the fosters from Cinderella, but two more dead kits that had been retained by Mossy. One was a large red kit and I think the other was a broken red. I am upset since I no longer have Coppertop, the virgin buck I bred her to last month, so that rabbit genetics experiment failed. I am relieved, since I’m sure that the hormones from nursing the kits earlier in the day had helped expel the last remaining stuck kits. Mossy could have died of sepsis from retained kits or become sterile, neither situation I want. She was much calmer and ate her willow and sunflower seeds with gusto, only slightly boxing at me when I remove the dead kits from her cage and clean it for the second time in 24 hours. Everything looked alright, I was very tired from work, anything else could wait til the morning. Rose has still not delivered any kits, so there goes my fostering plan with her.

This blog post is going to end soon, right? Not yet. It’s only Monday afternoon, 48 hours after the kits started to arrive.

Monday early afternoon. I pull both boxes and check on the kits–Cinderella has fed her babies hours ago and covered them over, marking the end of needing to guide her way into motherhood. Mossy’s nest box has hungry, unfed kits in it. Switching it up again, I put these hungry kits in the blanket on my lap and use Cinderella to feed them, since her milk has come in. They feed in a few minutes, except for two of the smallest kits, even after flipping the doe. That means I need to make kit formula up when I go in the house. Cinderella’s fed kits I put to Mossy, whose milk amount is just so-so, but that is okay since those kits ate earlier in the day and they are professional eaters at this point! Nursing takes less time than on Sunday. When they are finished, I take the two hungriest kits into the house with me and make up the goat’s milk formula, which I managed to spill half of during preparation, and am truly grateful that my husband found the spare bag of frozen goat milk cubes in the freezer. (Love you, honey! Can you tell it’s been a crazy rabbit weekend?) Formula finally concocted and warmed up, my daughter and I sit down to feed the two kits, which the stronger of the two chugs. I can barely get any down the starving one, so I don’t think it’ll survive another day, but I leave it with Cinderella since she’s actually feeding her kits. Give life a chance, right? After that I went to my herb garden and harvested fresh growing parsley, which promotes milk production, and give it to all does, including Rose, who hasn’t kindled yet. Time to go to work.

Tuesday, November 21. Cinderella’s brood doing ok, everyone is still living. She has added freshly pulled fur to her nest to accommodate the colder night. Mossy’s bunch need to eat, but when I blanket nurse those kits, their bellies are HUGE. The parsley has done its job.

Wednesday, November 22. Spent the day with the kids and checked on the rabbits late in the eve. The small hungry one, left with Cinderella in hopes of attaining life, has died. That leaves nine kits between the two moms and Rose is not pregnant at all.

So what could have been 30 or more kits from three different bucks has turned into 9 kits from one buck. Since Mossy is being a surrogate mom to her half-siblings, I won’t re-breed her, but may breed Rose back to Hammer. I’ve been inquiring from the local 30 year Red breeder for a new buck for the next generation, and eventually it will be Mossy’s beaux. I had pinned so many hopes on this trifecta of does and now I must re-figure my plans and priorities for the spring.

For those who are breeding rabbits for their homestead or farm, be aware that you may be needed to manage inexperienced does (and bucks)! is a great website with tons of information regarding all that can and does go awry in a breeding operation with plenty of active members to assist with questions. Your planned kits do not have to be inadvertant fatal statistics!

Ah, those rabbits! I don’t think I’d do this if it were boring!!!

Failure to Thrive

The passing of young rabbits.


Sometimes there is no answer. Sometimes that little one in the litter just doesn’t grow. Why are all it’s littermates twice the size? Why is it so weak, so docile? It’s eating and drinking, what’s the matter?

We had our first kit die this weekend from failure to thrive. It had the same access to all the same resources as it’s siblings, and yet, it didn’t grow. There have been recent growth spurts from the rest of the litter, so now the one that seemed to be a “little behind” was now definitely behind. On Saturday all the five week olds went into the grass growout cage and the little one ate the veritable feast below it’s feet and drank from the water bowl, resting at the sides of the cage. The next morning my daughter found the little kit dead. She buried the little kit in our rabbit cemetery, near one who had died two months ago in a cage accident.

Failure to thrive is exactly what that sounds like. Generally, kits who are afflicted with FTT have something genetically wrong with it, somewhere in it’s DNA. Possibly this kit was damaged at birth, perhaps stuck too long behind the kit who died at birth, while it’s mother struggled to give birth. Maybe there was a DNA coding error, a protein not manufactured in appropriate amounts. Maybe there was just a fatal flaw somewhere in it’s biologic design that couldn’t cope with growth. I don’t know.

All the rabbits that are born into Soaring Goose are cared for from the moment of birth to the moment they go wherever their destiny takes them. It’s frustrating to see a potential life wither away and there is nothing I can do about it. No medicinal plant, no amount of probiotics, nothing I do can make a FTT kit be the kit it should have been. It makes me sad. It makes my daughter sad too. I hope she knows that I feel sad too. And that I am thankful for her tender care of those who have passed beyond the realm of the living and safely ensconcing them into their earthen graves.

She has a big heart and it shows; she is thriving where some of her charges have not.

I am so proud of her.



Easter Rabbits–Impulse Buys 

The story of Easter Rabbits is short and pagan, having it’s origins in the religions of ancient Middle East. Look it up in Wikipedia if you don’t believe me.

Today’s blog is about the poor rabbits who are bought at Easter time specifically to cater to the belief that the family’s 3-year old is ready for a cute (and ultimately temporary) pet to celebrate Easter. Would you entrust a puppy to a 3 year old?

Rabbits live as long as 10+ years. Most rabbits are purchased in the baby stage (8 weeks) and new owners are unprepared when their cuddly Bun-bun turns into a teenager a month later. Bun-bun’s personality starts to change, may start to be sulky and throw temper-trantrums, much like a human teenager.

Rabbits, probably the ultimate prey of the animal world, come equipped for defense too. Sharp claws that can leave long scar marks (making you look like a cutter) and teeth that can inflict major damage should they choose to (deep bites and potentially removing a finger). DEPENDING ON THE ANIMAL’S TEMPERMENT AND HOW IT IS TREATED BY IT’S OWNERS, THESE WEAPONS MAY COME INTO PLAY DURING TEENAGER-HOOD.

This does not make your rabbit a bad rabbit–truly aggressive animals will be aggressive even as babies (and should have never been sold to the public in the first place) and IMO should be put down. “There are too many nice rabbits in the world to put up with mean ones,” says two rabbit breeder friends of mine. So be prepared that your Easter Bun-bun will undergo hormones and some personality change starting at 3 months old and ending typically at 6 months old.

By the time Bun-bun is six months old and done with his teenagerness, most people are tired of their impulse Easter purchase. Three months of dealing with a teenager rabbit has soured them to the nice adult rabbit that Bun-bun has become and slowly Bun-bun is ignored by the family. Nail trimming is left off for months (now Bun-bun has sore feet). The cage isn’t cleaned out often enough (Bun-bun is now starting to change colors as feces and urine stain his fur and the stench makes his eyes water and run). Food comes at irregular intervals (Bun-bun is so hungry that he lunges at whomever is putting food in his cage, scaring the person into thinking “bad bunny”). Water is neglected to be filled or the bowl/water is scummy or fouled (Bun-bun is desperately thirsty, he can’t digest his food without water). People avoid hungry, thirsty, dirty, foot-pained desperate Bun-bun because they’re too busy with family vacation plans or Fourth of July parties. The Easter bunny of the house is looked on with pity and then posted to Kiji, Hoobly, or Craigslist with all the other unwanted Easter impulse bunnies because NOBODY THOUGHT ABOUT THE LONG TERM WELFARE  OF BUN-BUN. Nobody thought that their Easter rabbit would suffer because of their own ignorant, heartless hands. And then they wonder why rabbits die at a year or two old, never thinking that the person in the mirror is likely the reason.

So if you’re thinking of getting a rabbit this month, I hope that you’ve been thinking about it for awhile. Educate yourself first — is a great resource!

Easter purchases are usually a deadly idea for the rabbit and merely an inconvenience to the impulse-purchase family.

Why Rabbits? Why not Cats, Kids, or Travel?

It’s really my DD fault that I got into rabbits. I had been happy with my Cocker Spaniels, the family genealogy, raising two kids, working at my job, managing a household. DD asked DH for a rabbit a few years back and he hemmed and hawed about it. Spring rolled around and a sign went up at work “Free Rabbit to Good Home”.

We are a good home. Just ask any of our pets that have passed through our doors. You come into our house and leave only when your time has passed on this planet. In the meantime you get the best of care and adventures and kids to play with. So we qualify as a Good Home.

I obtained the rabbit, Lexi, and DD fell in love. Over the course of that spring and summer, so did I. DD told me to get my own rabbit so I would stop taking over hers!! When December rolled around, I bought a Mini Rex buck, Stormtrooper. With January snows came my first New Zealand Red, Fiona. I wasn’t certain if I liked how big she was. She wasn’t particularly the type of rabbit who likes to be handled or picked up. I fretted, then sold her to my sister. Until I could get her to my sister’s place, I bred Fiona to Trooper, and they had nine lovely kits. Kits and Fiona went to my sister’s and next thing I knew, I wanted a New Zealand Red again. That’s how I started with Reds.

As far as cats–I’m a dog person. Kids? I have two–DD and DS. Travel? I’ve done lots of that too and plan on doing more. Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, Netherlands, Canada, some of the Caribbean Islands, and Puerto Rico have all been checked off my itinerary lists. This summer I’ll check off Nassau and Freeport.

Right now, though, I’m travelling with Reds. New Zealand Reds.