Despite having bunnies moved somewhat systematically and keeping a log of mating and expected kindling (birthing) dates for the bunnies, they are bunnies, and what they say about rabbits breeding like, well, rabbits, is true and sometimes things happen unexpectedly.
The unexpected are always small, slightly fuzzy, and depending on who mom is, they squeak a bit more than anticipated.
On New Year’s Reese, our (we think) Flemish Giant female gave birth to a solid dozen babies. One was stillborn and one ended up not making it, but the other 10 are thriving, not to mention massive. We have her other 8 babies still, growing steadily and surpassing their dad in size to catch up with mom. Three days after Reese kindled, Peach, very unexpectedly gave birth to 7 babies. She had in the past had a litter when she didn’t appear to be pregnant. Hubs checks her, but it seems she is harder to determine than the other rabbits. Her last litter didn’t make it, and we had originally thought they had been injured, but we now think she just ignored them like she did this litter. She seemed entirely oblivious to the fact that she’s had babies, and definitely wasn’t interested in nesting or nursing. No fur was pulled and when we put the nesting box in for the babies, she ignored it. We decided to give them overnight and check in the morning so see if they had been nursed since rabbits nurse only once or twice a day, early in the morning or late at night.
Come morning the babies were warm, but from each other and they all still had sad, hungry little bellies. We knew that our doe Paula was expecting in the next 48 hours or so and we had just the day before taken her last baby from her who was mostly weaned but occasionally nursed. Hoping that Paula would take them up as her own and adopt them in to her coming litter of 3 (or so we anticipated), we put the 7 abandoned kits in her nesting box and covered them with her Paula-scented bedding.
The reason we believed that Paula would have a litter of 3 is because in the entire time we have had her, that is all she has had. Litters of 3. The babies haven’t always made it, but they’ve always been very sweet, quite large, and there have always been 3 of them to start with.
Being the awesome Southern lady that she is, Paula adopted the babies. I imagine her seeing movement in the nest and saying something like, “Oh my! I don’t know who you are or how you got here, but come now children! Stay warm! Mustn’t get a chill now!” and pulling her fur to place around them as she did. So Paula adopted them, their bellies swelled with warm bunny milk, and two days later I saw a bit of blood in the back of the nesting box, indicating Paula had her own litter.
“Nate, Nate! Come look!”
I pulled the nesting box out of the cage while Paula nibbled on some greens so that we could check on the babies and count how many she had. As I pulled back the fur, I didn’t know what to think. I couldn’t count the babies. We had to move some bedding into a fold of my shirt and move the babies to count them, because she definitely had more than 3. Paula, our three baby wonder, kindled 7 babies of her own. A nest of 14 was a bit much.
Thankfully, we had another mystery mom, a young rabbit who wasn’t even supposed to be mated, but apparently matured faster than we were counting on. A little black bunny, now named Mary by my niece (I’m sure my sister-in-law would be honored), gave birth to 2 of her own, and was more than happy to take on 4 more to even out the massive litter a bit.
Unfortunately a few of the babies didn’t make it, but at least 3 of the abandoned babies that would have starved otherwise managed to get new moms. The kits are somewhat distinguishable by their sizes and Peaches bunnies for whatever reason were all albino (this is odd to me only because she isn’t, but apparently that gene is strong in her), so we can tell which ones were hers. Regardless of whose babies they started as, they are home with their present moms and all eyes open ready to explore their world, and the garden when we can supervise in the patches of greens.