Problems from the Doe

“Unbreedable Doe”
The most common culprit here is lack of sunlight. If she’s in the dark all the time she won’t be interested in breeding. We use a timer on our lights year round so the rabbits get 14hrs of light a day. You also need to make sure the doe is healthy enough to be bred. If her skin is loose or she has signs of illness, she shouldn’t breed. Some does need a more experienced buck and should not be placed with first timers. You can also try table breeding (instead of letting the buck get tired out by chasing the doe around his cage.) Hold them in place and if needed prop the does’ butt up to allow the buck access. I mostly table breed mine and after one success, allow them to go back to the buck’s cage for a few more times.

“Impregnable Doe”
Does are able to care for young at 5 months old for small breeds, and up to 10 months old in larger ones. I would say a doe only has about 3-4 years of breeding if she is strictly a brood doe. All does should be bred before the age of one year. Waiting too long could mean difficulty in getting pregnant later. Some does will also continue to produce babies beyond 4yrs but you might see smaller litter sizes or a lot more missed breedings. If she has proper nutrition, lots of light and is free of disease she could be sterile. Does who present like this are given 3 chances in my barn before petted out or sold to another breeder with a full history to let them try.

This is a caked breast. All or one may have it. Signs are death of kits despite having full tummies. Kits may die suddenly and rapidly. The breast will be hard and painful, and the teat will be hot. This can occur from an injury, or if a previous litter was weaned too early and the mother couldn’t rid herself of all that milk. It also happens if a litter was killed very early before they could be weaned. The best thing to do, would be foster the kits to a different mother, or hand raise them. You will have to give the mother a dose of penicillin to cure this, and you may have to milk the teats for her if necessary. Also make sure the doe is in good health before breeding her, and make sure she gets the right amount of nutrients from her feed.

Young Doe Death Syndrome
This is does that suddenly die 1-2 weeks after kindling, it’s usually young does that are on their first litter. Does who die before they kindle have Ketosis. Ketosis happens when the doe is overweight. It is associated with Enterotoxemia. The only prevention (which is hit or miss) is to restrict feed 24-48 hours before kindling to increase the total feed intake after she kindles.

Overdue does
Either the doe was never pregnant, or you have a bigger problem. You’ll have to get oxytocin from a vet to encourage contractions in an obviously pregnant doe. In a pinch, raspberries (leaves too) can be fed to a doe to encourage labor. If the babies do not pass for whatever reason, the doe could die. Sometimes a large baby will remain inside and the mom will survive. I have felt babies mummified inside a then sterile mom. These does should never be bred again. Surgery can remove the mass if needed. Most of the time though, an overdue doe just means she was never pregnant at all and you just have to try again. Sometimes does have spontaneous abortions by week two and reabsorb the babies (or pass them early.

Fetal Gigantism is another problem the doe could have. The signs are a difficult birth, the doe seems to be straining because of a large fetus, or it may be visibly stuck in her vaginal opening. She may sit in the nest box and be 3-4 days overdue. There may be blood on her vulva. This usually happens more in does who have small litters (1-2 kits) or are overweight or are extremely narrow in hindquarters. Seek professional help if a baby is stuck in the birth canal.

Cold Kits
If the kits aren’t warm in the nest box, you’re gonna have to try to get more fur in there and make sure they stay together for body warmth. This can result from a poor nest, bad mom or just bad luck. Some female breeders swear by popping cold babies inside their bra to warm them up with their own body heat. This is the only way I’d recommend warming up cold or frozen babies.

This is more common in babies who are about a week to 2 weeks old who have been nesting in their own feces and urine. The best thing to do is to keep the nestbox clean and make sure the mother isn’t soiling it. Babies should be out of the nest box, no later than 2 weeks of age.

Mothers often do this accidentally while trying to clean the babies off during delivery. Some mothers get scared from predators and eat the babies out of fear. This usually happens shortly after kindling. Mom’s who have had poor nutrition or lack of water during the pregnancy or delivery may also do this. Does who do it to babies older than one week old should be culled.

Aglacta (failure to milk)
Signs: Kits don’t gain weight, dehydrate and are listless. This can happen from birth to 3 weeks of age. Babies who are well fed will have round fat bellies (milk can often be seen in the belly through the skin) and a milk line that runs vertically down the belly.

Many years ago I had a chocolate Mini Rex who birthed 6 babies in her first litter. I noticed they weren’t thriving so I checked her for milk production. To my surprise she was completely flat and didn’t even have nipples. She would jump in the box and attempt to feed her babies, she had the instinct to do so, but nothing was there for them to even latch onto. Thankfully I caught this and fostered them to another mom and I never rebred the doe. In 20 years I have never seen this genetic flaw again (even her babies that were does had nipples but I sold them as pets, not wanting to risk the genetic flaw showing up again.) This was my most memorable genetic flaw that I’ve ever seen.

Scattering & Orphaned kits
This happens when the doe doesn’t make a good enough nest and the kits wander all over the box. They could get away from each other and freeze easily so the best thing to do would be foster them to another mom, or try to fix the nest up for her if she’s been a good mom in the past. Kits can also be born on the cage floor and die rather quickly, so make sure to put them in with the rest if it’s alive. Warm it up, if the kit is cold first. If this doe doesn’t care for the kits, she is not a proper mother and shouldn’t be bred at all anymore unless you have a mother to foster them off to.

Kits can survive up to 72 hours without milk. Mothers usually feed once a day, if the babies aren’t getting any food at all, they will need to be fostered or hand raised. This can also happen if the doe dies after having them.

Vent Disease/Rabbit Syphilis
The vulva or penis will have a scaly inflammation with red and yellow scabs. This may lead to “scabby nose” if untreated. This is contracted by sexual contact and should be cured before bred to another animal. Penicillin ointment to the genitals is a good treatment. Others use a shot of penicillin till it is gone. It can be cured overnight if caught early. It’s also important to note that in severe cases, or cases that have gone on for a very long time, the rabbit may be permanently sterile from this disease.