Our first farm miracles have grown quite a bit in the last ten days. What started out as a batch of tiny pink aliens with no eyes, ears or other distinguishing characteristics has rapidly developed into a clearly discernible litter of not six, not seven, but eight rabbit kits!
In keeping with our learn-as-you-go style, I feverishly hit the internet researching the habits and needs of does and kits as soon as I discovered their appearance. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I had filed a notion that adult rabbits sometimes eat newborns – horrible, I know. You may recall from the previous post, “First Birth on the Farm!” that I immediately removed the buck after discovering that the kits had been born while mama and papa were still housed together? Well, that’s why.
I was not too happy to read that the mother doe might also participate in this highly offensive practice. Apparently, this can happen if the doe is lacking protein in her diet. As a precaution, I immediately began giving our doe a high-protein alfalfa hay daily and observing her and the kits closely for any signs of aberrant behavior.
Good news – Mama has proven to be a wonderful mother! Not only did she protect the kits from their father (who, by the way is sweet and gentle and couldn’t possible eat his own young……yeah, I know, don’t be a sucker), she nurses them dutifully, and keeps them hidden cozily in their nest. And, if necessary, she will fight to keep them safe.
Trying to plan ahead, I had been thinking that since the kits were growing so rapidly, they would soon need more space, and Mama might actually want to get away from them for a few minutes here and there. So, I added a ramp to access the cage above. Now I did realize that there was a small gap between the top of the cage wire and the peak of the hutch roof, but I didn’t really think that the other juvenile rabbits that played in the upper cage next door would breach this opening.
Wrong! While feeding the goats the next morning, I looked over at the rabbit hutch and noticed with alarm that there appeared to be an extra adult in Mama’s cage. I ran over, and to my horror, I had been right. I yanked open the cage door and roughly grabbed the intruder by the back of the neck. I yanked open the cage where he belonged and thrust him inside. Then, I returned to Mama’s cage to inspect for damage.
A quick headcount and some gentle nudging brought great relief – all eight kits were alive and well. Mama had little blood on her side suggesting an injury, but no cuts were found upon closer inspection. What about the blood? Turns out the intruder (who is a the off-spring of none other than our very own Mama and Papa) got a hole bitten in the middle of his ear – way to go, Mama!
Animals are truly amazing. Stayed tuned for further updates from The Rabbit Foot.