October 18, 2012

Bloated kits

A doe rabbit will feed her kits (babies) once or twice a day.  Once is sufficient although the kits will complain a bit when they get hungry.  The first few days after kindling (the doe giving birth) are critical in kit growth. Kits that don't get enough milk will fall behind in growth very quickly.

This past week, we had three does kindle for a total of 20 kits.  The first doe to kindle was Rosebud, an American Chincilla, bred to Davidson, a New Zealand/Champagne cross (we think).  She had 8 kits with no runts.  However on day three, I noticed that two of the kits seemed a little bit smaller than the others.  Then yesterday, I was able to tell a significant size difference. The rest of the litter was twice the size of these two.  It appeared that they were being pushed down to the bottom of the nest by their stronger siblings and weren't getting as much milk.  If this continued, they would grow weaker as their littermates grew stronger and they would eventually die.

On the other side of the pasture, one of our Silver Fox does kindled a small litter of four kits.  All looked healthy and well.  On day two, they started looking a little too fat though. 

These kits look bloated.  If you look closely, you can see how their bellies are too fat, protruding on the sides.  They are eating too much.  Because there are only four kits and eight nipples, the doe has too much milk for all these babies.  They don't know to stop eating so they end up gorging themselves. We experienced this earlier in the year with another litter.  At the time, we didn't understand what was happening and ended up losing quite a few kits because of it.

There are two solutions to this problem: 1) Take the nesting box out and only allow the doe to feed the kits once a day until her milk supply settles down and adjusts, or 2) Put the two small kits from the first litter in with these kits.  This will give the small kits a better chance of getting nourishment - less competition from kits the same size as they are with a doe that is producing a lot of milk.  And it will keep the Silver Fox kits from overeating because there will be less milk available to them.

We put the small kits in with the small litter and will check this morning to see if our plan is working.  Fostering kits from one littler to another is always a great option.  When the kits are so young, the doe usually accepts them as her own and doesn't have a problem raising them.

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