Mar 21, 2014

The Waiting Game

Nest 30 days after breeding.
Every rabbit breeder has experienced "the waiting game".  Since rabbit gestation can be so varied--I've seen litters as early as 25 days after breeding, and some people have documented as many as 40 days after breeding--you really can't be sure just when you'll get to see those little wigglers.  Even at the narrowest expectations, the kits could be born on day 30, 31, or 32.

Chesna pulled fur 30 days after breeding.
On the 30th day after breeding, I made my rounds at 8 a.m.  Everything was the same as it had been the night before.  At noon, I decided to go check on the rabbits again (no idea what made me do it).  Chesna, the New Zealand doe, had pulled quite a bit of fur.  Some of it was even flying out of her cage, she had pulled so much.  However, there were no babies in the nest.  Of course, this set me into checking on her nest every few hours to see if she had finally kindled.  Time after time, nothing was changing.  Neither of the other does were doing anything to their nests, either.  Needless to say, I didn't get a whole lot of sleep that night.

Birthing blood in nest.
Finally, the next evening (32 hours after discovering the pulled fur), something changed again.  Some of the hay in Chesna's box had blood on it!  This can alarm many people, but it wasn't a serious amount, and just told me that she had probably at least started giving birth.  (Birth in any mammal species is actually a fairly bloody ordeal.)

Undeveloped kit delivered with litter.
Of course, the first thing that I see in the nest is actually an undeveloped kit, about the diameter of a quarter.  It's not terribly unusual, but disheartening to see.  Something had to have happened to that kit to make it stop developing.  It could have been stress, bad diet, too many other kits in the womb, or any number of things.

Four newborn New Zealand kits.
Nestled in, a little further back, there were four little kits, snuggled in together, under the fur.  They weren't as lively as I'd have liked to see, and one of them was awfully cold (and darker than the others, most likely indicating hypothermia).  The cold one seemed to still be open to curling up with its siblings (which were plenty warm), so I left it with them.