When Your Rabbit Won’t Use a Nestbox

We stuffed the rabbit cages full of hay (like this) and let the mama build a nest.

We stuffed the rabbit cages full of hay (like this) and let the mama build a nest.

We’ve been busy this week at Mad Hatter Rabbits! Lots of new babies to first-time mamas.

 

Though we’ve had some great success stories, it hasn’t been without its stress. In particular I had two first-time mamas who were absolutely determined to build their nests outside of the nest box.

 

I sanitized the boxes in case they smelled like another rabbit and turned my mamas off, lined them with fresh hay, had a serious sit down talk with the rabbits and explained that in this weather, with temperatures dipping down into the teens at night, having babies outside the box simply won’t do. They’ll freeze!

 

My mamas didn’t care. They did not want to build their nest in the box.

 

Short of setting up a 24 hour watch outside their cage I wasn’t sure what to do about it. I consulted my Facebook group experts and decided to stuff the entire cages full of hay. This resulted in a big ‘ol mess but also a layer about 4 inches thick that the were able to us as burrows.

 

In my financial mind, an entire 3 string bale of hay is less than the price of one of those baby rabbits if we sold it. The mess is not fun to clean up in any way, but at least I’d have a little window of opportunity to catch the babies before they froze.

 

Mama rabbits were pleased as punch at the addition in their cages! They built their nests and I began my 45-minute interval check ups. (Switched to 20-minutes once I saw the mamas pulling hair.)

 

The first babies were born after midnight. The last doe delivered at 2 a.m.

 

Of course.

 

I do love my coffee for a reason!

 

Once they were born I plucked those little ones up and tucked them with their mama’s fur up into their nestboxes and brought them inside.

 

(Bringing the nestboxes inside is a controversial move. Some breeders say the shock between inside temperature and outside temperature is not safe for the babies. We’ve left babies outside and we’ve brought them back and forth. Can’t say which method we prefer yet.)

 

The next morning I took the nestboxes out to their mamas for feeding. The ones who had their babies in the nestboxes to begin with hopped right inside and fed those babies. The mamas who were determined to have their babies outside the nestbox… stayed outside.

 

Hungry babies.

 

Repeat at dusk.

 

I was beginning to get worried and wondered if I needed to foster the kits from the litters with mamas who wouldn’t feed. Since mama rabbits only feed once or twice a day and it can take as long as a day for their milk to come in, I knew we had sometime to play with… but not too much time. By 36 hours post-birth those babies needed a meal or a foster mom.

 

This morning I took the nestboxes outside again. And the same situation unfolded. Suddenly, a lightbulb went off…

 

If Mohammed won’t come to the mountain, the mountain must go to Mohammed.

 

I scooped those  babies out of the nestbox and put them in the holes their mamas delivered them in, in the hay outside the nestbox.

 

Mama rabbits immediately headed over to the babies and nursed and cleaned them! One of the does even covered them up and pulled more hair. After the mamas finished, scooped the babies up, put them in the nestboxes which are now acting as an RV, and carried them inside.

 

I feel quite brilliant right now. It only took me two days to figure it out!

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