SURPRISE! Lila's New Litter
Updated: Apr 5
Monday morning was just like any other morning here at the farm. Alfonso started his morning crow around 4:00am - right on time. At 4:30 am another alarm in the house goes off, followed by a third one at 5:00 am. The boys are now up and I can hear their footsteps as they stroll across the floor, gradually waking up to their everyday routine.
By 5:30 am they are headed out to the chicken coop to feed and water the animals. It wasn't long before I heard the back door fly open and an excited 10 year old's voice yelling, "Mom! Mom! You gotta come see this! Lila had her babies!"
I'm still waking up myself and part of me thought this was just a dream.
"Wait, what?" I asked.
"LILA HAD HER BABIES!" His voice was louder now, and I could hear the excitement mixed with a little bit of panic.
Lila. Lila the rabbit. Wait. Lila the rabbit? She's not even pregnant.
But that didn't matter because she had her babies in the chicken coop this morning.
I quickly rush outside. I can see a light on in the chicken coop. When I reached the door, Adam, my oldest son, had a litter box and was carefully retrieving these tiny little hippos off of the coop floor and placing them into a makeshift nest.
He's smart. A quick thinker.
There they were, these precious little wrinkly bodies, scurrying around to find comfort and warmth. We witnessed a miracle, Mother Nature at her finest hour, has blessed us with these fragile little beings. I was beside myself.
Later that morning, once the light saturated the earth, I went out to check on them. Inside that nesting box was 2 ice cold babies and 6 very warm and snuggly ones. These 2 little ones had wondered away from the warmth of their siblings and now were at risk of hypothermia.
Cold baby rabbits put the others in the nest at risk for hypothermia, since they depend on each other for warmth. You never want to leave a cold baby in a nest. I quickly scooped up the ice rabbits and placed them in the front pocket of my hoodie while I checked on the others. Everyone else was doing great.
Rewarming a body isn't easy. You can't warm it too quickly. Too much heat and you will kill the baby, not enough heat will give you the same result. It's a delicate process. I choose skin to skin contact for rewarming. This may be a bit unconventional, but there is some logic to it.
Research has proven that human newborn babies REQUIRE human contact and snuggling in order to survive. If you want an animal baby to survive, you provide that same comfort. It is as much psychological as it is physical. So rewarming baby rabbits by placing them directly on my belly under my hoodie provides both warmth and comfort. They will wiggle around, which is good. It's also ticklish. But in 45 minutes, you will have an insanely happy warm baby bunny to reunite with it's siblings. His chances of survival, in my opinion, are greater.
I brought everyone inside so I could keep a watchful eye on Lila and her new litter. She is a first time mom, so she's inexperienced with babies, which means she hasn't proven herself as a good mom rabbit. Sometimes, rabbits make great mothers, while other rabbits don't. You want to cull your breeding stock of the ones that are not good mothers to their babies. It is a lot less work on your part this way.
It takes time to build your breeding stock. It also takes patience. New rabbit moms will come and go, some will be excellent and some will do what Lila did.
Over the next 4 days, Lila has spilled her babies countless times out of the nest box by flipping it over. She has also decided to use the nest box as a litter box, urinating all over those poor little babies. She has dragged them out during feedings and finally, on Day 5, she decided enough was enough. She attempted to stomp them to death.
These babies have been rewarmed each time she spilled them all over the cage. They have been cleaned up each time she urinated all over them. And now they rest peacefully in a makeshift baby rabbit nursery in my living room - far away from their confused and crazy mother.
Here, they are safe.
Baby rabbits need their mom's rabbit milk. It is perfectly formulated for their little bodies. There is no substitute for that, but if you are in a pickle like this one, we have to explore options.
The original plan was to breed Lila alongside an experienced proven doe that could foster her kits in the event something like this happened. Mother Nature, in all of her infinite wisdom, has her own plans and doesn't take yours into consideration. So now we have to adapt. Somehow.
I don't have another doe to foster kits to right now. I have one pregnant doe due April 15 and one doe that just completed weening. So neither of these two will have milk available.
If you look on Amazon, you can find Rabbit Formula for young kits available. This is the last resort, but out of fear that we would come to that, I ordered it. I also ordered some syringes and nipples to feed them. Until it arrives, our plan is to hold Lila down and let her babies nurse off of her.
The first feeding, she struggled with, but with each feeding after that, she grew calmer and calmer. She also received an apple slice immediately after nursing each time for positive reinforcement. So far she has not shown us any aggression with this process. She's remained calm and willing to allow it to happen.
I'm not sure at what point Lila can have her babies back, or if that is a possibility, but for now, this is what it is. Baby rabbits are born with their eyes and ears sealed shut until around Day 10 when they open. At Day 10 they begin to wander and explore and nibble on solid food. By Day 14 they are jumping in and out of the nest box.
We are on Day 6 right now.
Only time will tell.
We'll be sure to post updates here if you are following Lila's Surprise Litter Story.
UPDATE #1 - Day 7
All of Lila’s kits are growing fast - except one of them that we call stripe. Stripe is the runt of the litter. We let Stripe feed first on Lila before we add the siblings. That way there is no competition and Stripe can get a full belly of milk.