Memphis Backyard Farmer

March 30 Rabbit Update
March 31, 2012, 6:19 am
Filed under: Livestock, Memphis, Rabbits, Urban Ag | Tags: , ,

We’ve been overrun by rabbits. As of Monday we were up to 11. At least today we’re back down to nine. But nine equals success. The two we lost, by the way, were two  adult females given to us by some friends. They are now living the country life at my brother’s.

The kits are now over five weeks old. I’ve learned quite a bit about birthing and caring for rabbits through this ordeal, but I’m not sure if I’ve learned the right lessons.

First of all, when you look for information on rabbit breeding in the most reliable source – the Internet – you find a lot of really scary stuff. Evidently infant mortality among rabbits is high. I’ve heard tales about does canibalizing their kits and about terrible digestive disorders among babies. I’ve heard that you have to be very picky what your kits eat and at what time they should start solid food and when they should be weaned.

In our case, all that was pretty much crap.

This has been easy. Our New Zealand doe is a terrific mom. Easy birth (six kits in about a minute and a half – seriously). Not too protective (though at first she would nip at you when you put your hands in the box). And in a testament to how great she is, last week we had a friend call with a rescue: a tiny baby cottontail had been found in their yard when her nest was destroyed due to spring yard work. We picked her up and put her in a new box with Ruby (our doe) for three nights, and Ruby assumed the nursing mother position once more.

And the kits have been awesome. They’re as healthy as can be. The transition to pellets came quickly and easily. It happened quicker than we thought. At three weeks we caught them eating Ruby’s food pellets, and even the green “treats” we slipped her. We also walked in to discover them stretching and straining their little bodies up the side of the cage so that they could reach the water bottle. At first I was freaked out about the babes eating greens (though I didn’t care so much about the pellets). I’ve read horror stories about how greens can destroy a kit’s gut. So we were careful about only giving greens to Ruby. But what the heck – rabbits eat grass, right? So slowly we began introducing more and more clover, henbit, and wild violet into their diet. Now, each time we clean a different part of the garden or yard, we bring big handfuls of fresh “weeds” to the cage and drop it in. They devour it. No dreaded diarrhea.

I haven’t seen the kits nurse in about a week. I would say they are successfully weaned. We’ll try to sex them tomorrow and separate the males and females. That shouldn’t be too hard since some of the boys are already putting the moves on their sisters. Ewww.

After that, it’s a matter of growing them out and – well the bloody business. I’m looking forward to some rabbit in the freezer and a big, fur Russian hat. But I’m not looking forward to the look on the kids’ faces.

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