New Bunny Mom and Taking Care of Kits
Congratulations! Your rabbit has delivered a wonderful litter of kits. These baby bunnies are completely dependent on her for everything--warmth, food, comfort. You name it! Mom's got the moves.
However, she could use a hand with a few small things. Are you up to the task?
Keeping the Nest Box Clean
Keeping the nest box clean will either be so simple that you need not worry about it... or it will be an absolute disaster area. The vast majority of mother rabbits do not soil their nests. However, every now and then you run into one mom who is absolutely wonderful for her babies but just won't stop pooping in the nest.
If the nesting material gets dirty, give mom a wonderful treat in the other end of her cage. Remove the box and spot clean it if possible. If the material is saturated with urine, you'll have to pull the kits and place them in a warm blanket. I like to line a relatively deep basket (Easter baskets work very well, ironically enough) and settle the kits in some cottonballs while I work.
Clean the nest and save as much of her fur as you can. Replace the nesting material, tuck the kits into her fur and put the nest back. It's unlikely she'll ever notice.
Bunnies grow incredibly quickly. One moment they're naked, pink little wiggling beans. The next, they've sprouted fur and their little ears are twitching at you!
After week 2, most kits are ready to start exploring cages with baby saver wire along the bottom. If you have a solid base for your cage, this is also a perfectly fine age for them to explore. For cages that do not have baby saver wire, please place plastic rabbit rests along the inside of the cage floor. This may not stop all injuries but it certainly cuts down on them. These rests are easily found at your local feed store or at any rabbit supply store online.
Around the same time that they leave the nest they'll begin to consume rabbit pellets. It may only be a nibble here and there for the first few days but alfalfa is addictive! It is recommended that you keep a 20+ oz bowl filled with pellets at all times within the cage, regardless of the size you typically keep. This will make sure that mom and her little ones have plenty to eat.
What Happens If Mom Can't Keep Up?
If your mother rabbit becomes ill, escapes or, sadly, passes away, it is very unlikely that any kits that are not fully weaned will survive. It is simply too easy to drown them or give them pneumonia with typical bottle feeders or syringes. An eyedropper or a soaked sponge corner can be used with kitten milk supplement in an emergency situation but their chance of survival is pretty grim.
If possible, breed more than one rabbit at a time so you have the ability to graft orphaned kits onto the other mother. This way you have a "back-up" for any problems that may happen to turn up in your rabbitry.