Sunday, August 9, 2015

Adventures in Raising Angora Rabbits Part 3 - Breeding

What is cuter than a baby bunny?  Not much is the answer.  When we got our breeding pair, we knew we would be breeding them later in the year.  But as I mentioned in the first post, they sped that timeline up quite a bit (or we did with having a not-so-secure barrier between the two rabbits.)  We were thrown into getting ready for babies, and let's just say, both Penny and I were not ready.  We didn't know our stuff.

I hadn't been sure that she was pregnant until I was doing our 3 month full trim.  She did seem a bit heavier, but not that much.  But there were the nipples, quite prominent and it seemed that there were small lumps in the belly.  "Oh, crap."  I said to Ric.  I ran to the calendar and checked dates of when they first escaped to be together.  "Oh, crap...." I said again.  I hurriedly read up more on what to do when you are expecting, and threw together a nesting box.  The resources I found said that the mom would likely start pulling out her hair for the nesting box to help keep the babies warm, since they are born with no fur.  I thought, "Ok, maybe I have a bit more time..."

Penny just after being trimmed and moving out from the babies.

That night I could not sleep.  At about 4am I went out to check on her and she had pulled out a bunch of hair.  Another "oh, crap" left my lips, and I tried to calm myself back to bed.  In the morning I ran out, and lo and behold, there were 8 babies.  But none of which were in the nesting box.  They all looked cold and dead.  I rushed them inside with mom, placing them all in the bathtub with a hot water bottle and heating pad.  Two started breathing. But what now?  I watched and tried to be calm, but a few hours later they were all gone.  It was a rough morning. 

I read a lot more, and found that the first litter can often be still born and/or the mother, also being inexperienced, may leave them to die. While it made me feel a little better, it made me realize that this was not nearly as easy as everyone makes breeding rabbits sound.

We let Penny recoup for a couple months, all the while I did more research.  In the meantime, Rory seemed to be such a sad guy.  I felt like he really missed Penny.  They were finally reunited and we were so much more prepared for this go round.  We had a special hutch for Penny to have the babies in, and she started nesting much earlier.  Gestation for a larger rabbit is anywhere from 28-32 days, and right at 30 days she gave birth to 10 babies.

The 10 little pinkies.
I also learned in the meantime that because of how rich rabbits' milk is, they will only feed the babies once or maybe twice a day, usually at night, and that their instincts are to leave the babies alone most of the time so as not to draw attention to them from predators.  Because of this, it is hard to know if they are taking care of the babies.  Everyday I would go out and give them a quick and gentle inspection, to make sure they seems like they were gaining weight and to remove any dead.  Unfortunately, we slowly lost babies until we ended up with 4.  It is hard to know for sure why we lost so many, other than the fact that Penny was still a new mom and 10 babies does seem like an awful lot to feed.

Look at all that fluff at just 6 weeks!

Getting so big!  About 8 weeks here...

Bunny pile! we might want a bigger home soon...
At about 5 weeks it was time to ween them already.  They had started eating hay at about 3 weeks and then started nibbling at the pellets at 4.  But 5 they were eating no problem and Penny with the babies were certainly outgrowing their space.  Penny seemed quite ready to take a break.  

Penny and Rory often lay 'together' in their cages.
As I mentioned in our first post on the rabbits, it was during this time that we had set up the new lodging for the rabbits.  We gave Penny and Rory their own spaces, but adjoining cages so they could see each other and hang out.  They both seem much happier now.

The male babies we plan on getting neutered, as we will not be planning on breeding them.  We will keep the females in tact, though.  We are working this week on the new living quarters for the babies, now a little over 2 months old, where they can have more space to move around.  As you can see, these are larger rabbits, in the 8-10 pound range, so they need more space than most other domestics.

Whew!  That was a long post, and I feel like I could say even more, but it is the general gist of the fun of breeding.  Hope our little mini series on raising Angoras has been helpful or interesting!  We would love to hear your thoughts!  Leave us a comment!


No comments:

Post a Comment