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Knowing how to tell if your mother rabbit is feeding her babies will help you have more successful litters.
You will learn how to step in if you see a few baby rabbits not getting fed and eventually have more surviving kits.
Babies not getting fed, I would say, is the most common reason for losses in rabbit litters. Next to the mother stepping on the babies. You can read this post if you are having trouble with that.
First off I want to clarify that just because a baby is not getting fed it’s not that the doe (mother rabbit) means to. Sometimes babies don’t always get to momma quick enough and one sibling will take over all the food.
Let me clarify that I am talking about domestic baby rabbits. Not wild. I have no experience with wild ones and they are VERY different from domestic kits.
How Do I Know If My Mother Rabbit Is Feeding Her Babies?
The short answer is their bellies are round and full. And they will not have any wrinkles across their back. ( You can see an example of this further down.)
But let’s get into some more detail about how to fix it. Because you wouldn’t be googling it if your babies were healthy right?
You Might Not See Your Mother Rabbit Feeding The Babies
Just because you never see the doe with her kits does not mean that she has not fed them. Which is why learning what the kits should look like is very important.
Rabbits will stay in the nest box to feed their rabbits for maybe 5 minutes tops. If all of the babies don’t get their food in that time. They will miss out until next time.
It’s not uncommon to not see your mother rabbit feeding her babies. Seeing the doe feeding her babies underneath her has only happened MAYBE 3 times in the 12 years I’ve been raising french lops. I NEVER saw the Jersey Wooly’s in with their babies which is the breed I raised before that.
Unless you have been raising rabbits for a long time you most likely will not see the does feeding her babies.
Every once in a while I have a doe that just does not care and will jump in the nest box with me there but that is not common.
Most of the time, if I go out to the caging area while she is feeding, the mother will jump out of the nesting box. (If I see her before she jumps out I will come back in a few minutes after she is done feeding.)
Her natural instinct is to run away from her nest to get any kind of danger to follow her and not cause harm to her babies. That is amazing, isn’t it!
Reasons Your Mother Rabbit Might Not Be Feeding Her Babies
There are a few reasons why a rabbit might not feed her babies. Some you can fix and some you can’t. Try to fix what you can and don’t feel bad about what happens.
If the mother is a first-timer she may not know what to do.
A perfect example was a doe I had this summer. She had her first litter and she didn’t try to feed them for a full 24hrs.
I also think it took a while for her milk to come in. But it started slowly and I was able to hand feed the babies until her milk came in.
But once it did she was a pro. She kept all of her babies fed and they are now big and strong.
If your doe has milk you should be able to see milk around her nipples on the underside of the doe.
If she has milk and you think the does isn’t feeding her. You might have to help the kit’s nurse a time or two and after that, her instincts should kick in and she should feed the babies on her own. Keep reading to find out how.
Your Doe Does Not Have Enough Milk
Secondly, the mother may not be making enough milk.
Or she may not have any at all. (Her not having any at all is far less common than just not having enough.)
It’s not easy to tell like a cow or goat. Rabbits will have little puddles around their teets if it is full of milk. If the doe has picked a lot of fur for the nest that will help to see.
If you need to trim the hair around her belly then do that. But just be careful not to cut your doe. Using buzzers like these will be safer than scissors.
With rabbits, it is very hard to make their milk come in. Your rabbits should never be without water but make sure the doe has more than enough.
The does are a lot more energetic and the babies are getting fed more.
Herbs That Can Help A Mother Rabbit Produce More Milk
Borage, Fennel, and Dandelion are the three best herbs that will be the easiest to find and will increase the doe’s milk flow.
The problem with going the herb route is the baby rabbits need to be fed asap by the time you start to notice a problem. The kits likely can’t wait until the herbs kick in.
So consider adding to your normal routine of feeding the does before they deliver regardless. Or having hand feeding supplies on hand so you can feed the kits while you are waiting on mommas milk to come in.
One or two babies are hogging all the food.
If most of the litter is doing well but there are a few baby rabbits that don’t look like
Their bellies will be flat and will have lines across their back like you see in the image below.
You likely have a few (or one in particular) of the stronger babies pushing the weaker ones out of the way. Mamma does not have control over who gets there first.
Solution: In this case, you have to help the weaker ones get some food so they can get enough strength to fend for themselves. After about two to three days of helping them
Example: Here is a perfect example of one baby being a total food hog. She was double the size of the babies until she left. The owner touched base with me after she was over a year old and she is still huge.
How To Help The Kit Nurse If The Mother Rabbit Is Not Feeding Her Babies
If you decided you need to help one of the baby rabbits nurse here are a few ways to do that. You may need a second pair of hands if they are available to you. If not don’t worry you can do it!
- Take momma out of her cage and place her on a table high enough you don’t have to bend over. Or you can grab a seat for yourself to sit on.
- Feel around on the does belly to see if you can feel where there might be more milk than another spot. Her milk runs along her underside from her behind her front legs all the way back to the front of her hind legs. If she is full of milk you will feel little puddles around her nipples.
If she is really full then this should be easy to feel. If not you just might have to guess or clip some fur to make it easier to see.
If you really don’t see any then you might have to hand feed a baby until she produces milk. Or consider fostering the kits to another doe.
When you are ready to help the baby feed. Take the baby you want out and hold him up to the does belly close to one of her nipples.
Just be sure to hold on to the kit well because it will go crazy when it smells mama or feels her fur touch it. Even if the kit is weak it will surprise you how much that critter can move.
If the kit is not getting any milk it will most likely detach and look for another nipple.
If the baby’s belly does not look like it is filling up at all try to help it get some more. If you get the belly to the point it does not look sunken in that will do wonders for the kit.
If you are not having any success with helping a baby rabbit nurse then you will need to try hand feeding.
Supplies To Hand Feed A Baby Rabbit
I keep milk replacer on hand I LOVE this type of whiskies cat milk. It has a sweet taste and is thicker than other milk replacers I’ve seen.
It can also stay un-refrigerated for quite a while if not opened. The small container makes it great for using a little bit for one litter rather than throwing out a whole carton of goat’s milk after you’re done. Check this kitten milk out on amazon.
The droppers and AMAZING and help feeding the babies really well.
Hold the baby as shown below. Place the dropper (or syringe) in the side of the baby’s mouth just enough to get it to open. I like to go from the side of the baby’s mouth so you are not damaging the teeth.
It’s also easier to get them to open their mouth that way. They should be more willing to suck with the feeder out in front of them. Just test it out to see what works.
Then drop a bit of the milk in. It might take a little trying to get the baby to feed. Once they realize it is food they tend to be more willing.
Don’t worry about overfeeding. The babies who get fed well from mom have huge bellies so try to get them to eat at least 2ml or 2 flent droppers full.
If they stop wanting to swallow they often are tired and are dozing off. Just come back and do some more later.
Supplies You’reyou’ll need
Kitten Milk: LOVE this stuff! it comes ready to go and in small “ish” containers so you can just use one pack at a time. (always refrigerate after opening) This will stay good enough for a week or so but after that, I would throw it out. Also, let it sit on the counter to warm up if you feel the need but don’t microwave it. You will run the risk of spoiling it.
Flient Droppers: These are perfect for getting it into a small baby’s mouth and supper cheap. I would not keep them after using more than 3 different cases of having to feed a baby rabbit.
When babies start to go south they need to be fed quickly. Keep supplies on hand so you can fix the problem anytime you need to. I have to feed babies in almost every litter.
This image below is of a recent litter where one baby fought for his food and quickly outgrew the others. Two of the 5 it was raised with probably would not have made it if I had not hand-fed them until they got strong enough to feed on their own.
Once I learned how to start feeding the babies and spotting the ones that needed it everything changed. I started having far more kits survive and ultimately more income.
Start learning how to feed them just enough to give them a boost. You can do it. Promise cross my heart.
FAQs about baby rabbits not getting fed
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