Being a farm kid growing up, we had a variety of animals on the farm. One animal we had a variety of times over the years were rabbits. They were a friendly, easy pets that were great for kids to learn the importance of carrying for animals.
Our daughter had a “pet” rabbit in her kindergarten class and we found out that each child would get a weekend to take it home. Boy, were we surprised to find out that the rabbit was only a stuffed animal. The way she talked about it, you would have believed it was real. However, after this class pet, my daughter became fascinated with rabbits.
This past fall we bought our kids two rabbits at a local farm store. We decided to pick two bunnies that were in the same cage (because there were multiple cages available) because we hoped they’d get along long-term better. After the kids decided which ones they wanted, we asked the store employee if they could tell the sex of them. After checking, she stated they are both girls.
“Perfect! We’ll take them!” And we did!
Our daughter named her black and white rabbit Princess Cadance, after a My Little Pony. Our son named his black rabbit… King Fuzzy Gorilla. Yep.
We explained it was a girl, he didn’t care. That was the rabbit’s name.
Initially, rabbits seemed to be so easy. Our bunnies moved into the elevated hatch we had and with it being warmer weather they were quite happy outside. We made sure they had food and water each day, cleaned their hutch weekly and gave them fresh snacks (including anything from lettuce, radishes, carrots, or simply grass clippings).
Our rabbits didn’t overly love being held. They were not held a lot prior to us having them, so while we tried to hold them some, we wanted them to trust us and didn’t rush it.
Generally speaking, life was good. Adding rabbits to our HillTop slice of heaven didn’t rock our world much at all.
Is This Normal?
About the point that we had the bunnies for two, pushing three months, I walked out one evening to lock up the chickens for the night and check on the rabbits. As I approached the hutch I heard a whimpering sound. And that’s when I noticed King Fuzzy Gorilla doing something while on top of Princess Cadance. Imagine my surprise! Lesson learned, sexing at local stores is definitely no always accurate.
I called my rabbit expert, (yep I have one of those), which is thankfully my cousin. She did state that sometimes girls will do this as a sign of dominance, but the odds are not likely. With that, she gave me some great information to help me to determine if Cadance was indeed pregnant in the coming weeks.
My cousin provided me with some of this information, and I’ve since read up in Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits to get more knowledge. If Cadance became really defensive while we put our hands in the hutch or around her it was a good indication, appetite increasing, weight gain, and lastly if she started to pull out her extra hair to line a nest then babies were coming.
Side Note: I can’t recommend enough, when you add animals to your homestead, farm or home for the first time, find someone you know that has had the animal before. If you can’t pull on your own network of people, branch out and see who you can find. I read a lot and I still have questions that a quick reference in the form of a person can help dramatically.
If you don’t know, the gestation of a rabbit is really not that long. Approximately 28-34 days…THAT’S IT.
Here’s the problem, it was heading into winter. Watching for increased appetites and weight gain were difficult. With the rabbits growing already (because they were only 8-10 weeks old when we got them), plus their fur was thickening because the temperatures were dropping. Weight gain was evident, in both rabbits. Cadance never got defensive when we fed her or pet her.
But we missed the mark unfortunately. We checked on the bunnies one morning, and found that Cadance had five babies in the night. The temperature had dropped that night to approximately 15 degrees. The babies did not make it, from what we can tell due to cold and mother rabbits do not sit on the nest to keep the babies warm like a mother hen.
After taking care of the rabbits, I called my rabbit expert, and she asked if I separated Cadance and King Fuzzy. I had not, in fact, since we weren’t sure we were having babies, we didn’t do anything differently. So we didn’t have the housing to separate them.
Well, we learned a another very important lesson that day. Even after giving birth, mother rabbits can get pregnant again, VERY quickly. Next day in fact.
This time, we prepped and planned better.
We moved Cadance inside, because she’d be delivering in the winter again. We also made sure to provide a nesting box for her to utilize. Also made sure the cage was partially covered over the nesting box to provide her a bit of dark, calm, quiet place.
Now There Were Seven
At 28 days, we got to witness Cadance had five more babies. She was a fantastic mom. She did a great job taking care of them and was completely comfortable with us being around them. While we didn’t touch them for almost the first two weeks, once they were fully covered with hair, we started to handle them.
Having baby bunnies was a treat! They were super sweet and too cute not to love. Mom did the most of the work until 2-3 weeks when they started eating food too. After that they continued to nurse but started to venture out of the nesting box and start nibbling on the food and water we supplied. Then it was up to us to make sure there was enough food and water, because they could definitely drain everything quickly.
We were able to find homes for three of the babies by the time they were old enough to leave. The remaining two we took to the same local farm store we got the parents from, so they were able to find homes.
While we plan to keep Princess Cadance and King Fuzzy Gorilla apart currently, we can’t say for certainty that we won’t have any more litters. Only time will tell if our two rabbits will turn into seven again…or more.
This time, we’ll be a bit more prepared to welcome new baby bunnies into our family!