Being Proactive with the Runt of the Litter

The babies are at the stage where they are all jumping out of the nesting box to try to get more milk from Phoebe, so of course she is jumping in the nesting box to get away from them. With them all huddled up together like this, it is very obvious to see how much smaller the runt is than her siblings. It does worry me, so I decided to help nature along a little bit today.

I have read about force nursing, which I really didn’t want to do, because it involves holding the mother rabbit immobile on her back while attaching a kit to her to nurse. In a desperate situation I can see doing that, but this wasn’t desperate yet. So today while she was at the feeder, the runt made a valiant effort to get to her and nurse. She kept running away after a few seconds of nursing. Rabbits hate to nurse and only nurse for a few minutes a day, once in the morning and once at night. Although some just nurse once a day. If a kit isn’t quick enough or feisty enough to get to her for their share, they can go without.

I decided to put my hand in and put it on her back, just to keep her from running around, and that allowed the runt a little extra time to nurse. I wasn’t really holding her down, just sort of keeping her calmly in place so she couldn’t run away. We let the little one nurse this way for 2 minutes and then she was done and went right back to the nesting box, milk dripping from her chin, which one of her siblings promptly licked off.

I think we will do this with her once a day, to see if we can’t get her caught up a bit closer to her litter mates and more able to push for her share. Phoebe wasn’t really upset about it, though she would have moved away without the hand on her back. She is a good mother and a calm rabbit and I think she knows we are just trying to do what is best for the kit. In another week, they’ll be eating pellets more often and I’ll worry a little less.

The kits had drained the small water bottle (16 oz) that I attached at their level yesterday, so I traded it out for a 32 oz one tonight. We’ll see how much they drink overnight.

8 days and counting for Piper’s and Sweetie Belle’s due dates. That means a major cage scrub out for both of them in the next day or two. And getting the nesting boxes filled with their shavings, straw, and hay combo and ready to go in on Tuesday. 3 more days until we breed Lola/Starbuck and Serenity/Leo. It’s amazing how fast the time goes by. Phoebe will be ready to be bred again in 3 1/2 weeks. I may give her an extra week though and keep the runt with her that extra week depending on the growth. We’ll have to see.

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