This doe built a lovely nest of hay on Saturday, in preparation for her litter. We were not sure that she was even pregnant however, so when she ate her nest of hay Saturday evening, we just assumed it was a false pregnancy (again, not all that rare). All was well Sunday morning, but sometime during the day she went into labor. She had a nest box, which was empty since she ate the hay, and she did have her babies inside the box, rather than on the wire outside which is so common with first-timers who have no prepared nest. But the poor girl had no idea what to do with the fur she pulled and, rather than line the nest box with it, she scattered it. So, it looked like an explosion of rabbit fur all over her cage. And to top it off, it was damp and cool all day, so with no hay and no fur to keep them warm, the poor kits barely stood a chance. And, as is also common when a new mother freaks out, she didn't know what else to do with them so she began to cannibalize them.
Keep in mind, this all happened in a short amount of time, when no one was around to notice the chaos. Thankfully however, before she could do much more damage, my mom (who owns her) arrived to check on her. One kit had already died from being too cold, but the others were still alive at that point. Two more died soon after, also from getting too cold. I warmed the rest of them up with a heating pad and, as I was checking them over, discovered the bite marks the doe had inflicted. At that point, knowing that this inexperienced doe was too panicked to properly care for them, I called a friend who also keeps rabbits. She had a doe with a 1-day old litter who I was hoping we could convince to foster the survivors.
The good news is, now one day later, the five kits we gave to the foster-mom are doing well so far. The fostering doe is feeding them and her own kits, and she is an experienced doe so she knows how to care for them. We will still have to watch for a few more days before we know if all five of them are likely to survive, but everything looks good so far.
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