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The Language of Raising Rabbits


Raising rabbits is just like any other business. People in the rabbit business have a language devoted to their business. If you're confused when I use words like nestbox, kindling, and palpation, keep reading. I'll describe some of the words of the rabbit trade and tell what they mean. If some of the words in my articles have you confused, keep on reading.Hopefully by the end of this article, you will have a grasp of the language for raising rabbits.

Kindling: The moment a rabbit gives birth to her babies. When a rabbit is due to kindle, this means she is going to give birth to her babies in a matter of days or hours. But a rabbit who is kindling is in the process of giving birth to her babies. A typical rabbit builds a nest before kindling.

Kindling Date: The date on which the rabbit is expected to kindle. This date is usually 30-31 days after the doe is bred to the buck, providing the mating was a successful one. But not every rabbit kindles 30-31 days after being bred to the buck. Some rabbits kindle earlier, while others kindle later. But as a rule most rabbits kindle 30-31 days after being mated to the buck. Which means the nestbox should be put in the hutch three to four days before the kindling date.

Test Mating: A method to determine whether a doe has been bred by placing the doe in a buck's cage. Fifteen to 17 days after mating, the doe is taken back to the buck's hutch to determine if the doe is bred. If she has been bred successfully, you'll likely see one or more of these three signs: One, The doe will not let the buck breed her. Two, The doe growls or makes a lot of noise when the buck comes near her. Three, the doe starts to physically fight with the buck. These types of behavior are the doe's way of telling the buck she is already bred. If the doe growls when you touch her, don't even bother taking her to the buck's hutch. Test mating to prove conception is not always accurate, but it can save time breeding does if the first time doesn't work.

Palpation: A method to determine whether a doe has been bred by feeling the doe's side. A person uses his or her fingers to try to feel the babies inside the rabbit. You gently try to feel for marbles with your fingertips. Don't try this without reading a book that describes how to do this. You may end up doing more damage than good. If you push on the rabbit's side too hard with your fingers, you could end up injuring the babies. Palpation is done 15 to 20 days after the breeding date. If a person gets really experienced at palpation, this can be a really accurate method of telling if a doe is pregnant.

Hay Test: A method to determine whether a doe has been bred by watching whether the doe will carry hay in her mouth. This test is very simple to perform. Throw a clump of hay in the cage with the expectant mother. If she picks a lot of hay up in her mouth and starts carrying it around, it's pretty safe to say she's going to be a mother. The problem with this test, it's only accurate about 4 to 5 days before kindling.

Nestbox: A box that's put in the hutch for a rabbit to kindle in. A nestbox can be made out of wood, metal, or weld wire. For my rabbits, I usually use a weld wire nestbox. In the winter, I use a cardboard nestbox liner to keep the babies warm. Which nestbox is used is up to the owner. Each nestbox has its good points and bad points. There's also a type of nestbox that you can attach to the bottom of the hutch when the doe is close to kindling.

Litter: The number of babies a rabbit gives birth to when she kindles. This number can be as low as one or two or as many as 15 to 20. One spring I had a New Zealand White doe give birth to 19 babies. But an average or ideal litter is one consisting of 8 to 12 babies. Any more than this, and you can run into problems.

Foster Transplanting: I use this method to transfer babies from a very large litter to a very small one. By doing this, I am helping more babies to survive. The best way to do this is to put vanilla extract on the foster mother's nose. By doing this, she won't be able to smell the strange babies from her own. By the time the vanilla extract wears off, all the babies will smell the same to the foster mother. Foster transplanting is best done one to two days after kindling.

Counter: A doe who has the uncanny knack of counting her babies. If you foster transplant babies to her, she will eventually end up with the original babies before the foster transplanting. No matter how hard you try, there is no way to trick this doe.

If you have any questions or comments about rabbits, please e-mail me at rbbtman@catskill.net.

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