A little over a month ago, Bear (our one male rabbit) had a happy day.
We’d been trying to breed our females one by one, but none of them were getting pregnant. We weren’t sure if it was that the females were not fertile, or if Bear was the problem.
Finally, Stephan decided just to let Bear have the run of the colony. One evening, he let Bear out to play amongst the females. He left the buck there until the next day.
And we waited a month.
We have baby bunnies! Nine were born, and two died. Another two aren’t looking so good, especially one little blond one whose ribs are far too obvious. We expect to be down to eight or seven in the next couple of days.
We know that Bear is still able to produce. But we aren’t sure who the mama is. Do we have two litters or one? They are all in the same nest box, even though we had two boxes available, so that might lead one to believe that it’s just one litter. However, rabbits pull their fur when they are ready to kindle, and there is both light fur and dark fur in the nest box, which might lead one to believe that there are two litters – one from a dark rabbit and one from a light rabbit.
I suspect Solo and maybe Snickers are the mothers, because when I have been in the barn, they seem the most interested in the babies. But I haven’t seen either of them actually in the nest box with the kits.
Now that we know our buck is still okay, we are discussing the possibilities for breeding if we keep our females in a colony set-up. One idea is to breed a different rabbit every two weeks. Based on due dates, it would be obvious who kindled and who didn’t. Another idea is to keep them in the colony when they haven’t been bred, but separate each doe shortly after breeding her. Not only are we having the issue of knowing parentage, but also we have found that the does are eating So. Much. Food. For the nursing mother(s), that’s okay. But I’m afraid the others are just taking advantage of the situation and just getting fat, while we foot the bill for grain.
One more problem with keeping the does in a colony is that they are not very easy to tell apart. We have two blond rabbits and two black rabbits. Solo is still a little smaller than Tiny, and Snickers is still a little smaller than Licorice, but they are looking more and more alike the more they eat and the fatter they grow. We have discussed tattooing their ears, but we have not yet invested in that equipment.
Once these babies are grown, I think I’d like to keep one male. We don’t have any idea how old Bear and Licorice are, so we don’t know how much longer they will be successful breeders. I’m satisfied with four females, but I do want to determine which ones are breeding well and which ones aren’t.
I also wonder about keeping better records. All the books you might read on rabbitry stress that proper record-keeping is critical. Since we aren’t breeding for show and we don’t have a large operation, it doesn’t seem quite so important. However, now that records are so much trickier with the colony, I think I may need to do a better job. Part of that may include keeping some of the females separate some of the time.
In the mean time, we’ll keep an eye on the kits and hope they all survive.