Why did our rabbit not make nest for her babies?

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We have a Red Flemish that was given to us a few weeks ago, along with her two previous litters. I put a nest box in with her two days ago and she just kept pulling all the straw out of it and would flatten it all down. Yesterday she was laying around panting (not hot here) so I put more straw in the nest box. I looked in the barn last night as I was closing up the doors and she had turned the nest box over and there were three baby rabbits laying on a heap of straw. I left her alone as I figured she was not done yet and knew what she was doing as she has had at least three litters before. This morning I found five dead babies and three live ones scattered around the cage. No nest, she never pulled out any fur for one either and she was just kind of roaming around the cage. I put more straw in the box and she would pull it out and lay it here and there but not really make a nest. Finally I made a small nest in the box, put a little vanilla on my fingers and her nose and picked the little ones up in some straw and put them in the nest I had made because they felt cold. She did finally get in the box with them. She was bred back a lot sooner than I have read you should. Her previous litter was only a week old when she was bred this last time. Could this have something to do with her behavior? Could those five dead rabbits have all been stillborn? That seems like a lot to me. Just guessing here, so I would appreciate any answers from all those that have worked with rabbits for a while. Thanks.

-- Terry - NW Ohio (aunt_tm@hotmail.com), May 04, 2001


Where did you read that a week was too soon??? Rabbits can be rebred (providing they are on good feed and fed free choice) as soon as 48 hours. In the wild, rabbits always rebreed within the first 48 hours of birth. With proper management, domestics should be fine.

I have done this with several does (though not on a regular basis... usually two litters and a month off). It isn't your fault!!! Its something with the doe and this particular litter.

There are many reasons the doe could have done this. The most common reason a doe will kill off one or more of her litter is because of illness or abnormality in the kits. Is she too hot? Too cold? Stressed? Not enough light? Also, for some unknown reason, my does (three of them at this point) prefer shredded newspaper to straw, and will find ways to destroy the entire area with straw when I put it in.

Is the nest box too big??? Put in too early (they will use it for a litter box, and then not be willing to build a nest). I never put in a box until they begin to pull hair (usually the day the kindle, or the evening before). Though you are SUPPOSED to do it three to four days before the birth, I have problems with does tossing things out sometimes. At most, 24 hours before I figure they are due... Sometimes I get surprised and have to wait a few days, but not normally.

The only other possible reason I could think of is something lacking in her diet... If you feed any kind of pellets, that shouldn't be a problem. What do you feed?

Hope I've been of some help... If I've raised more questions, feel free to ask!

-- Sue Diederich (willow666@rocketmail.com), May 04, 2001.

Sue, thank you for all the suggestions. I had read in Raising Rabbits by Ann Kanable that the doe may be rebred when the other litter is six weeks old. I had also read in an article from Countryside (Nov/Dec., 1995) that wild rabbits will rebreed less than three days after kindling but that they don't do that year around. It said that a doe should be rebred at least by the time her privious litter is weaned or by eight weeks old, resulting in four litters a year for the homesteader but that a more reasonable goal would be six litters a year rebreeding about 30 days after kindling. I supose that last idea would be about the same as the way you do it with two litters and a month off.

Thanks for telling me about the nest box being used as a litter box. My doe did do this so that might be why she didn't want it for her little ones. She is leaving them in the new nest box I supplied her with this morning. The trouble was that if I had waited to put it in until she started pulling hair, there wouldn't have been one in there last night anyway because she never pulled hair out, still hasn't. That's a puzzle to me.

Our temperatures here have been up to 80 degrees during the day and down to 60 degrees at night. Is it just warm enough that she feels the straw is enough? Straw is what the previous owner used in her cage.

-- Terry -NW Ohio (aun_tm@hotmail.com), May 04, 2001.

I think that this was caused by the move. Did you by any chace get to bring her nest box she was used to (the smell). We reuse the same nest box in with the same does all the time. Rebreed her back, give her lots of attention and she will be much calmer and take care of her babies. I would keep the nestbox in with her for awhile, perhaps upsidedown so it smells like her when you want to put it back in. There could be a stray smell on this nest box so perhaps cleaning it spotlessly first. Just some other ideas as Sue always has really good answers! Vicki

-- Vicki McGaugh TX (vickilonesomedoe@hotmail.com), May 04, 2001.

dont over breed its hard on the doe, give them a chance to re condiction between litters.I think the drop nest boxs are the best way to go [ installed into floor of cage,] then the babys can crawl around and fall into nest if they get draged out.with temps in the 80s she might have been trying to cool them [how much straw are you using?]unfortanitly babys on the wire have a tendecy to get stomped.

-- kathy h (ckhart55@earthlink.net), May 04, 2001.

Kathy h,

Yes, as a matter of fact several of the babies looked as if she had squashed them. She is in an all wire cage at this time. I checked on them again about three hours ago and another one is dead. It looked as if it were a bit smashed also but was in the nest box. This is so disappointing as this was the first time we ever experienced a litter of rabbits.

-- Terry - NW Ohio (aunt_tm@hotmail.com), May 04, 2001.

Terry, Iam sorry to here the babys arnt making it, Bass carrys the drop nest boxs 1-800-798-0150 for catalog they also have a suport line for people having troubles. I think the nest boxs run 16 dollars and install on the floor [ it sits under neath, and has a door in front to get into nest with out upsetting the doe].I took one of my cages and made it a permenent maternity cage with one.my husband came up with of drop nests years ago [ we did a artical on it for country side once]wish we had marketed it, but the bass one is better designed then ours was anyway.Hope the next litter is better.

-- kathy h (ckhart55@earthlink.net), May 07, 2001.

As all the others have said there are various reasons that a doe will not accept some bunnies and why some die. Raiseing rabbits is not an exact science. There are things that we all learn with time. The temperment of the rabbit also is important.

I place my nest box in the cage 4 days before she is due. I look in the drop tray to see where she "goes" and try to place the box away from that area. (Rabbits usually "go" in the same location. This is why they can be "cat box" trained.) If my doe has a litter that dies for whatever reason, I breed her back the next day. Does are very receptive right after haveing a litter. If any bunnies survive I breed her again at 6 weeks. The bunnies are removed from her at 8 weeks. There are various breeding plans. You can get good information from the ARBA. (American Rabbit Breeders Association - they have a web site.) Also another place is "rabbitweb.net".

Also I have never put vanilla on my hands. (It must make them smell good.) I have found that if I touch the bunnies I need to also tough the doe on the head and around the nose. Geting my scent on her helps.

I hope this information helps.

-- Tom S. (trdsshepard@yahoo.com), May 10, 2001.

my rabbit had 9 babies last night 26/8/01 and i went 2 feed her this morning and there was something moving i thought it was a rat but i lifted the fur up and there was 9 tiny babies


-- james holloway (jamseholloway@hotmail.com), August 26, 2001.

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