Mom rejected baby

Discussion in 'Other Pets & Livestock' started by Duckchick2011, Jul 30, 2013.

  1. Duckchick2011

    Duckchick2011 Songster

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    Hey guys,

    I was out feeding my rabbits this morning and noticed one of the kits from my Flemish's liter was missing. Turns out the sneaky little guy had somehow managed to squeeze into the pen next door. Thankfully Doe over there hadn't hurt him but he seemed very relieved to see me when I opened the door and practically hopped into my arms. I tried to put him back thinking it would be a happy reunion but the mother started making honking noises and lunged at him. She went a little crazy after that and ran around the pen lunging at her other kits before realizing they were hers.
    No one hurt, thankfully, but now I don't know what to do. : /

    Any one ever run into a situation like this???

    He is about 4 or 5 weeks old, so technically he could live on his own now, but I would much rather find a way to put him back with his family without risking someone getting hurt.
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2013

  2. Bunnylady

    Bunnylady POOF Goes the Pooka

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    The kit had the neighboring doe's scent on him, so the mother didn't recognize him as hers. If you have another cage with nobody's scent on it, I'd put the mother in there for a few hours. Put the kit back with his siblings in the home cage, and leave them together. By the time you put the doe back, the strange smell should have worn off, and the mother should be fine with all of the kits. Of course, a lot of people wean at this age, so if the doe isn't OK with the situation, you could put the kit and maybe a couple of his siblings in a separate cage.
     
  3. Duckchick2011

    Duckchick2011 Songster

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    I rubbed the scent of his brothers and sisters on him and put him back, she still acted a little crazy but then seemed to calm down so I thought everything would be okay. I went back to check on him this evening and thought everything was fine until I saw a big gash in his side. Had to put the poor little guy down, and now I just want to smack that stupid mother rabbit. It's my fault too though, I should have kept him out and just weaned him but I never would have dreamed she was going to kill her own baby, I thought he was better off in there. I thought everything was going to right itself, it just doesn't make sense. [​IMG]

    I'm going to remove the other kits now, I don't want this happening again.

    ...should I keep this rabbit? She has always been a good mother until now, has large liters, always cares for them, but I don't think I'm ever going to forget this. Would any doe have reacted this way??? Or is she just crazy or something...I don't know.
     
  4. ChocolateMouse

    ChocolateMouse Crowing

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    I know this is hard, but the doe did EVERYTHING RIGHT and you need to not blame her for it. She's following her instincts, instincts we kept in our rabbits because it makes them good moms. The instincts that caused her to attack the kit cause her to make a good nest, pull fur, chase away predators, nurse her young, and take good care of them through day and night. She's not a bad doe unless this becomes a regular event. Everything that makes her a good mom makes her protective of her offspring. She was driving away a rival rabbit.

    Most does with high hormones and strong instincts are protective. And most of them would have attacked what they saw, or smelled, as a "strange kit". The kit was gone for hours, and rabbits aren't people. They don't "see" relatives like we do. They don't count their kits and they don't understand it the way we do. That kit wasn't hers, she had her litter right there with her. In another few months or so, ALL her kits will just be more rival rabbits to her and she won't recognize them from a wild rabbit. She'll attack them to defend her new litter and they would threaten her litter even though they're siblings. By that point they would be weaned and removed from the cage so you'd never see it but it would happen if they weren't.
    All rabbits have this instinct and cannibalism of young in rabbits (and other species) is extremely common. Most rabbit breeders end up with half-eaten babies at one point or another from one doe or another from one mistake or another. In this case the baby was just an older one. It happens, but it's part of nature.

    Remember that rabbits have an extremely powerful sense of smell, and a little bit of his siblings "perfume" wasn't going to hide hours of being in another rabbit's cage. It'd be like rubbing some mint on a wet dog. It's a minty wet dog now but it still smells like a wet dog.

    My advice is keep the doe and leave the kits in (unless you already took them out?). If she's been a good doe, nothing about her behavior has changed that. Next time a kit gets into another rabbit's cage, use vanilla. Put pure vanilla extract all over the mom's nose and mouth, and then on all the kits fur and some of the rest of the cage. Take mom out and put the wayward kit in, vanilla everything up and then put mom back post being vanilla'd herself. By the time mom can smell anything other than vanilla, chances are the kits will have all eaten a meal and smell like her and her milk again and there's no problems. This is how baby kits are fostered onto moms.

    Good luck!
     
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  5. UnlabeledMama

    UnlabeledMama Chirping

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    Exactly. This is a good mama who was protecting her litter against a strange rabbit.
     
  6. Bunnylady

    Bunnylady POOF Goes the Pooka

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    The only problem I have with ChocolateMouse's post is something that is implied, though not exactly stated - the idea that this sort of behavior is just to be expected from good mothers. IME, that is not the case.

    I have been breeding rabbits for almost 30 years. When I started, I'd heard all the business about how you couldn't touch the babies or the mother would reject them; how you had to be so careful because even strange sounds or smells near the rabbitry could cause a doe to eat her young. I remember the first time I saw someone say that they kept their nest boxes in the house, and only took them out to the does once or twice a day. My reaction was, "You can't do that!" Well, I can tell you that you can do that; I've been doing it myself for - oh - 15 years or so. I have learned that does can be much more tolerant than I ever thought. Of the hundreds of does that I have worked with, I have had exactly one that deliberately savaged her litter, and maybe one or two that rejected theirs, in spite of what I consider enormous amounts of interference from me.

    Some people will tell you that rabbits are friendly animals that like the company of their own kind. Some people will tell you that rabbits are solitary and will fight with any other rabbits. I think the truth lies somewhere between the two.

    In their natural environment, the European wild rabbit that is our domestic rabbits' direct ancestor is often found in warrens or colonies, and some take this as indicating that they are social by nature. Actually, as adults, they are like other kinds of rabbits and are more solitary, it's just that human development and local geology crowd them together. In areas where conditions favoring rabbits are more widespread, the rabbits themselves spread out more.

    Baby rabbits are instinctively gregarious - without the shared warmth of their siblings, they chill and die. As wild rabbits mature, the tendency to seek others to snuggle with is outgrown. But we humans like to snuggle our pets, so we prefer rabbits that are friendly and gregarious by nature. I think that by choosing rabbits that make good pets, we are selecting for rabbits that are naturally more tolerant in a lot of ways.

    I sell a lot of rabbits for pets, and I've noticed that a certain amount of personality is inheritable. I have heard (and lived!) way too many horror stories of mean rabbits, so a docile personality is one of my criteria when choosing breeding animals. I know a lot of other rabbit breeders that do the same. I think this has resulted in a much more laid-back animal, one that will tolerate a lot more interference from us and reacts more favorably to other rabbits, too.

    For example, I handle my babies as soon as they are born, and I put babies into other does' nest boxes all the time. I have even put them in as a doe was nursing her litter, and not had a problem. I have never used vanilla or anything else on my does' noses or their babies. I have had babies from several litters together for several hours, put them back with their mothers, and had no problems at all. I watch for negative reactions, of course, because I have seen them in the past, but it's been a long time since I've seen anything even approaching what happened with the OP's rabbits.

    I am very glad to say that this has not come at the sacrifice of what I consider good mothering behavior. I was told that you mustn't do anything that could upset the doe close to the time of kindling. Many times, I have taken does that are due to kindle, and put them and their nest boxes in a small cage in my hall closet. I have had lots of does that build a nest, pull fur, give birth to the babies in the box, and nurse them, just as if nothing unusual has happened. Oh, yes, I have first-time moms that make a mess of things, but most adjust to the way I do things with no problems at all.

    What the OP's doe did was within the range of "normal" rabbit behavior, but whether it's the kind of behavior the OP wants to put up with is for the OP to decide. It's kind of like the doe that attacks you if you put your hand in her cage - territoriality is normal behavior, but if it's too much of a nuisance, you can choose to work with rabbits that don't exhibit it.
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2013
  7. ChocolateMouse

    ChocolateMouse Crowing

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    I also handle my babies the day they are born without vanilla. I would never put a strange kit in my doe's nest without vanilla, especially if the doe was not used to her kits being removed or re introduced regularly. It's like this;
    You've had lots of babies and it always goes the same way. Kits in the nest box, they leave when their ready etc. Then one day a strange kit that smells funny shows up in your cage while you have a litter. Doe is gonna FREAK.
    You're a doe that has her kits removed from her every time and only brought back for feedings? Having strange kits put in your cage is the NORM and you're not gonna care so much if a kit smells a little off.

    You trained your does into a very different routine from day 1. You can't possibly expect this doe to act any differently than she did given the conditions. She did exactly what her instinct and upbringing taught her to do. Perhaps if she'd been raised like your rabbits where her kits were removed daily it'd be different. But you can't suddenly switch everything up on a rabbit an expect it to come out OK. She did the only thing she could do given her situation; she defended her litter. You can have the sweetest, calmest rabbit in the world, but if someone does something crazy and strange to that rabbit, they're gonna flip out. And that's not going to end in your favor no matter how much you breed for temperament. You can't just foist a change on her and expect a good outcome. It takes time, and she never had that time. So you can't blame the doe. Without a different background this would have turned out this way for the majority of does and should be taken in stride given her situation.

    I'd be far more impressed if you told me you took adult does with a normal in-cage nesting habit and tried doing the kits the way you do and had such grand success. I bet you the majority of "sweet" does will attack and kill their fosters under those conditions.

    The same with things like rabbits attacking your hands. You can have the sweetest "inherited" temperament in the world from rabbits handled from day 1, but if you never ever reach into the kit's cage, reaching into the cage will likely be seen as an attack, and they will defend themselves. Simple as that. Behavior is inherited... But training and routine has a far greater impact. With no reference point for an outsider being harmless the doe did what does do and are meant to do.
     

  8. Duckchick2011

    Duckchick2011 Songster

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    Hey guys,

    Thank you everyone for all the thought out replies. The mother rabbit is still with her kits and taking good care of them, no more incidences, but I will be weaning the kits soon anyway.

    @Bunnylady: I also remember reading all that when I first started out and have not found it to be true in normal mother rabbits. Most just don't seem to care how their babies smell when they are still in the nest or how many times you visit them. Although, I did have one crazy doe who seemed a little high spirited but otherwise normal before she had babies but became super nervous after having them and ran circles when I came to the cage stepping on kits in the process and nipping at my hands when I reached in. I lost a few that liter and she even canabalized one. After she got used to me all over again she stopped running circles and raised 4 of her kits to weaning age, she started out with 7. I sold this doe because I would rather breed a doe who is level headed. Two of her son's seem to have inherited her nervous temper, but the other two seemed more like the father, calm and friendly.

    I have fostered bunnies to mothers a few times since I have started and have never had an issue with it as long as the babies were still nestlings. The mother of the killed kit was housed with an unrelated doe before having her babies and has fostered another rabbits nestlings before so she hasn't been raised to expect isolation from other rabbits but then I shouldn't have been as careless as I was and it is my fault, not her's.Like Chocolatemouse said, she was just doing what her instincts where guiding her to do, I don't believe she would have killed that kit is she had known it was hers.

    When I first saw how violently she re-acted to the "strange" smelling kit I should have taken the hint and made sure every bit of the other rabbits scent was off of him. I kept him in the house for about 30 minutes trying to figure out what to do, did some research and when I couldn't find a concrete answer did the next best thing I knew to do. I didn't get to read Bunnylady's reply until after it was all over and done [​IMG] I wish I had, might have made all the difference . But then my mom suggested I bathe him, THAT is something else I could have done. But I didn't, I thought that his own natural smells along with his siblings scent would be enough to convince her he was still hers, but it wasn't. I should have taken the situation more seriously.

    Now I know that this rabbit in particular is very serious about which kits are hers and which aren't once they are no longer nestlings and I will have take that into mind from now on. Live and learn, it is all I can do. [​IMG]
     
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