What a blizzard…. We were hit with quite the blizzard this weekend….

norrisville maryland

The three does had very healthy litters last week.  There were no dead kits, and each mom had a perfect nest, and were caring well for them.  However, Erynn found two orphaned kits from Dolly last night.  Sometimes this happens.  They were kicked out of the nest.  It’s strange to see, but these two were not thriving – they were smaller than the rest even though they all started out the same.  If you look at the gray/blue one, you can see a shrunken wrinkled belly.  This indicates that he/she was not being fed enough.  None of the other five in this litter look like this.

ophraned-rabbitsThe only thing we can think of is that Dolly is not producing enough milk for all seven.  The other litters are fat and healthy.  Erynn took the two orphans and flipped Dolly over and forced her to nurse.  They nursed frantically, but not enough to fill them.  They were not satisfied and continued to be restless.  Because Khaleesi’s litter is super fat and healthy, Erynn flipped Khaleesi over and had her nurse the orphans.  They were nice and full.  Erynn will continue to do this until they are ready for solid food.

Why don’t you just put them in with another litter?  We could.  However, they only have 8 nipples.  We could put one of the orphans in with Khaleesi and one with Blue Girl – but, they are so much smaller, we are afraid they won’t be able to vie for that last spot.  We can also insure that they are being fed several times a day if we do it our way, and help them catch up to all the others.

So put them in with another litter when they catch up?  By the time they do catch up, we are risking the others rejecting as they may be too old for an easy transition.  So what will we do?  Erynn will just be handling them separately and in our house.  Currently, she is carrying them around in a pouch to keep them cozy and warm.  They are doing really well.  Very active.

runt-rabbitBut look at the size difference between another one in the same litter.   They all began the same size.

Now  we know that we will never breed Dolly without another rabbit also bred.  When Dolly has more than five kits, we will probably move some to another litter since Blue Girl and Khaleesi do not seem to have a problem with larger litters.  Or, we will just be vigilant and intervene when necessary.

Why not bottlefeed?  Bottle feeding baby rabbits is not a good idea unless it is last resort.  I have personally tried to raise a few wild litters and was very careful about feeding, etc., and still lost all but one.  When there is mother’s milk available, it is better to utilize it.

We handle our babies a lot, but one perk of now hand-raising these orphans is that they will be handled even more than the others.


Check out the video of “force nursing” with Dolly.   Have you ever seen a rabbit nurse?  I haven’t!  Not until now anyway.

Not sure Dolly is thrilled to be forced to nurse

A video posted by Jodie Holstein Otte (@jodieotte) on

Khaleesi is being pretty patient and allowing these two to nurse on her.  I don’t think she’s happy about it, but at least she is letting it happen.

I have to give a little shout out to my daughter.  As soon as Erynn found the two orphans outside the nest, she immediately took Dolly and flipped her – she didn’t bother consulting me, but she didn’t need to – this girl has already researched scenarios such as these and knew exactly what to do.  I’m a very proud momma!  🙂

Erynn has Khaleesi being a part time wet nurse for Dolly’s two orphans.

A video posted by Jodie Holstein Otte (@jodieotte) on