5. Care of Newborn Angora Rabbit Kits

After the doe kindles, I will prepare a small cardboard box with hay and wool. I put the newborn kits into this box, and I keep the kits in my chest of drawers in the house. This way, the mother cannot stomp or smother the babies. They are safe from predators (unless you have a cat in your house!!!) and safe from chilling or overheating.

I take the kits to the dam for nursing once a day. I drop the kits into the nestbox, and the dam usually jumps into the box and nurses them within 5 minutes or so. If one or two kits is smaller than the others, I will give them a head start of one minute, but not more. Mother rabbits finish nursing very quickly! After nursing is finished, I put the kits back into the box and take them back to the house.

Rabbits do not lie with their kits the way cats and dogs do! Mother rabbits usually nurse their kits only once each 24 hours, and the nursing takes only a couple of minutes to be completed. Then she leaves the nest and may behave as if she is totally unaware that she has a family, until time to nurse again. However, please be cautious, as some does may be protective and may bite when you stick your hand into the cage. It is unlikely that an English Angora doe will be this aggressive, but it can happen.

If one or two kits is very much underfed, I will go back several hours later, and sit down to hold the dam on my lap unside down with her ears between my knees. I will take the weak kits and allow them to nurse again. After two or three days, they have caught up with the others and don’t need the extra nursing anymore. Be careful so the mother does not kick while in your lap, and send babies flying!

Something else we do that works well for us is to take a piece of 1/2 by 1 inch welded cage floor wire, and cut it to fit inside the nestbox. Next, we bend this piece into an arc that we can place over the little kits in the nestbox. This serves to keep the mother from stomping her kits to death during the night, should she decide to jump into and out of the nestbox. Every morning, we remove this little sheet of welded wire so the mother can get into the nestbox and nurse the kits. We stay and watch, so that if she carries a kit out of the nextbox still attached to a nipple, we can promptly retrieve the kit, put it back into the nestbox, and replace the welded wire guard. After the kits are old enough not to freeze to death, should they pop out of the nest and not be able to climb back in, (about 10-14 days of age, depending on the weather) we will leave the welded wire guard off.

Some of our cages have dropped nestboxes, where the nextbox is built into the floor of the cage. The advantage of such a nestbox is that if the doe has a tendency to kindle on the floor instead of in the nestbox, she will probably have them in the dropped nestbox like she is supposed to. The disadvantage is that, in our experience, the doe is more likely to stomp or smother her kits with a dropped nestbox. So, we will use the welded wire kit protector until the kits are at least 10 days old and nice and sturdy.

Sometimes, we will put the kits into a nest which is made for them in a rabbit carrier. Then, instead of taking the kits to the doe for nursing, we bring the doe to the kits and place her into the carrier to nurse them.

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