Thursday, November 13, 2014

Rabbit Life and Loss

A piece of rabbit fur blew out of Mama's cage on Tuesday, and I was really concerned.  Until I realized that she had been really busy pulling her fur and creating a lovely nest.  (Of course, it wasn't in the nest box I put in there, but it was a nest!)

I had really thought she would have had her babies already (she was bred on October 10, and 31 days later would have been Monday the 10th.  But, having never experienced bunny gestation before, I just assumed she was late. Having had two pregnancies last 42 weeks myself, I understand late babies!

A couple of handfuls of grass hay and barley hay were added to her cage so she could plump up her nest even more.  It was amazing watching her grab mouthfuls of it, and go wandering into the back section of her cage.  She went back and forth, back and forth, feathering her nest so to speak.

After watching for a while, I left her alone, expecting that we'd have baby bunnies later that day.

I went out to check on her frequently, and that evening noticed something strange.  In one corner of her cage (not in the nest she had carefully constructed) she had given birth to a tiny baby.  Next to the nest, she had given birth to a huge baby, with different coloring than the other. She also later gave birth to a second, smaller baby with the same dark coloring as the first.

All three babies were dead.  And I was in shock--I really wanted to figure out what in the world happened. My first thought was that they simply froze (it was freezing outside!).  But, all babies were under hay and one was under fur.  So after some further thinking, I decided to investigate further.

So I started researching online.  And learning.  Apparently rabbits can retain fetuses from a previous pregnancy.  I believe this is what happened.  It explains why one was so large, and had the markings of a full American Chinchilla (I had bred Mama to Raf--a dwarf/Rex cross.)  Mama's previous delivery (with her old owner) was to an American Chinchilla.

I believe that she retained a fetus from that delivery.  And it's been inside her ever since.  That caused the delay in birth, which in turn led to the still born other baby.  It also explains the small litter.

Of course, I'll never really know if that's exactly what happened or not, but it's the best guess I could make based on my knowledge.  I am going to wait a while, and then breed her again.  She seems like she'd be such a good mama bunny--she made a great nest!

Life, and loss.  It's part of life on the farm, unfortunately.   I'm hoping that the next two litters we are expecting in early December will have a happier outcome.  And that I'll have pictures of cute baby bunnies to share with you all instead of just an empty nest.

Until then, I'm going to continue reading more about rabbits and increasing my knowledge.  Perhaps I'll be able to help prevent this in the future!

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