Sunday, October 10, 2010

Caring for a pregnant rabbit

How Do I Know If My Rabbit Is Pregnant

Many people don't realize their rabbit is pregnant until she begins to have babies.  But there are a few signs to look for that might give you an idea before then:
    • your rabbit begins to gather hay in her mouth
    • your rabbit puts on a lot of weight in the abdomen
    • your rabbit starts to dig in her feed bowl
    • you see movement in your rabbit's abdomen
    • your rabbit starts to pluck fur from her legs, abdomen, and sometimes back
None of these is sufficient to diagnose pregnancy.  Rabbits do have false pregnancies, gain weight, and dig in the bowls for other reasons.  And, conversely, many pregnant does show no signs of pregnancies until a few minutes before they are ready to kindle.
About 11 to 15 days after breeding, an experienced breeder can palpate a doe and often determine whether she is pregnant.  It's definitely possible to miss the small fetuses or to detect fetuses that fail to mature. 
By about day 27 or 28, it is possible to feel the fetuses once more in the abdomen.  It takes much less skill at this point to feel the babies, but it does help you if you know what an non-pregnant doe feels like.

What To Do

Unless your doe is underfed, there is no need to increase her feed during pregnancy, though some breeders will increase it during the last week.  The exception is for very large breeds that produce huge litters.  I do not increase the feed for my Hollands when they are pregnant.
If you know when your doe was bred, place a kindling box into her cage on day 28.  She is due on day 31.  Yes, it is just 31 days from breeding to kindling!
If you don't know when or whether she was bred, place the kindling box into her cage now.  Be sure to keep an eye on her because does will use the nest box as a litter box if it is placed too soon.  You will need to clean the hay as needed.
You can fill the box with hay or straw.  Or, you can place the hay or straw into her cage and she will make the nest herself. 
You can make your own nest boxes  Or, you can order them from an on-line rabbit supply company such as Bash equipment company.
You can read more about caring for newborn at The Nature Trail Rabbitry.

False Alarm

Once you are sure that your doe has not been with a male for at least 35 days, you can assume that the pregnancy was a false alarm.