Well, in bunnyland, things are not as they always seem. Though educational, my daughter's first attempt at bunny breeding was a flop. It was very entertaining and funny to watch, you haven't lived until you have seen bunny business...let me tell ya! But, our buck was unable to get the job done...I think he was still a little too small.
The second attempt was much more successful, the doe was bred 2x's both 12 hours apart by taking her to the buck's cage for a fun little romp. (again, hysterical to watch...the buck repeatedly stomped his foot at her as if to say "quit running in circles and sit still!) I palpatated the doe's abdomen at day 14 which is when you are supposed to be able to feel "marbles" or "grapes" in the doe's abdomen... nothing. We were both disappointed, though she did feel a bit "heavier".
By about 4 days before the doe was due for kits I picked her up and felt tiny movements in her abdomen...yay!!! We knew we were in for some cute and fun bunny love very soon! To say that both my daughter and I were ecstatic would be an understatement. We checked on that poor doe incessantly just to see what she was up to..still nothing.
By day #29 there was a change, my husband checked on her around 6am, nothing...I went out around 9am and there was a nesting box full of fur and some of the wiggliest, naked-est little pink creatures.
#1. The old adage that you should never touch newborn animals does not apply to rabbits...or at least not to Dwarf rabbits.
#3. Bunnies do not sit in the nest to warm their babies and will only nurse 1-2 times in a 12 hour period...and the nursing sessions can be as little as 5 minutes.
#2. The animal kingdom has neglectful mamas too.
#3. Kits can "come back" to life.
#4. Kits are VERY fragile and though their parents can be cold hearty, even a 50 degree cold snap is too much for naked babies.
This is where the story unfolds to a very sad ending. I learned most of these facts, after it was too late. When we saw the babies around 9 am I took the picture you see above, when I returned around 11 am to check again, there was no movement in the pile of fur...I decided to chance a quick touch and found the babies were cold. I learned that often new mama bunnies (ours is pretty young) don't know how to properly line their nests and cover their babies which leads to tragedy.
As I cupped a baby kit in my hand and called one of the breeders we had gotten bunnies from I found that after a few minutes the baby kit started to move a bit, it went from ice cold to slight movements...this is the coming back to life part, just like with puppies sometimes bunnies can "come back." It was short lived though we tried everything, we lost all 3 kits. The breeders I spoke with said it was likely due to mama doe being a bit neglectful in her nest making.
I also learned that what I could have done differently was to actually stick my hands in the nest when I found the bunny babies as pictured and cover them up. I also could have taken the nestbox inside my house and returned every 12 hours to let mama bunny nurse, keeping the bunnies inside the house for the first 2 weeks until they got their fur. Finally, I learned that this is pretty common and that every breeder that I spoke with has experienced this type of situation.
Sad as it was, we learned A LOT in a few short hours. My daughter took it hard but was able to get over the loss and still relish in her beautiful bunnies that she still has to play with and cuddle. Lesson learned.