It seems my teachers were right. There will always be a use for math in my adult life. When you raise rabbits, there's a lot of multiplication happening, that's for sure! But this past week has been filled with addition and subtraction making sure everyone is where they need to be. Let's look at the numbers...
Typically, we hope for our does to produce seven to nine kits per litter. That's the ideal litter size for us. Because a doe only has eight nipples, excessive numbers of kits means that you have to watch closely for any kits falling behind in feedings. Even litters of ten give me cause for concern during that first week of life. I check the kits several times a day to make sure they are being fed. RabbitTalk.com has some great photos to help you discern if your kits are eating or not.
Silverado is an eleven month old Am Chin x NZ Champagne mix doe. She's a meat mutt. She is an excellent producer and wonderful mother. She just kindled her fourth litter this past week - an amazing litter of fourteen kits. Yes, fourteen! There are many people who would jump up and down with joy at such a large litter. Based on the numbers, that's basically two breedings and pregnancies in one litter. I'm not too thrilled about it though.
Larger litters mean smaller birth size, slower growth, more possibility of loss, difficulties keeping all the kits fed until they are weaned.
There's no way that this nest of kits can all keep fed if we left them all in the nestbox together. This many kits means there will always be weaker kits shoved to the bottom of the pile. Those kits are more likely to suffocate or never make it up to the doe to eat when she comes in to feed them. The solution? The nestbox swap.
Seven kits were put in a different nesting box. Does feed their litters twice a day. Kits can survive on only one feeding a day. Two is better, but one can suffice. At night before bed, Greg takes out the one box (those kits received the evening feeding) and puts in the other box. The second box of kits will receive the morning feeding. Then he swaps them back again during the day to start the cycle over again.
This ensures that all fourteen kits are eating well and growing. It also gives us added incentive to check them several times a day to make sure they are doing well. In the wild or without any intervention, most of these kits would die. If we were pure naturalists, we'd let nature take its course. But I can't. I know that with some additional effort on our part, we can raise fourteen rabbits. Hopefully the fast growing genes from the sire will help compensate for the smaller birth size of these kits and they'll come to butchering weight right on schedule.
When I started counting the kits in that nesting box, I thought for sure they were tumbling back into the nest and I was recounting the same kits over and over and over. It was like a never ending clown car!