First post and did not see an intro section so Hi everyone. Travis. 31. Wife and 2 children on a 5 acre homestead in Mountain Home, AR. I say homestead cause I pay homestead tax. We have a 16x80 trailer with electric, well, septic, and a phone line.
Now thats out of the way time to get on topic. BBQ rabbit is the best. I popped a wild rabbit not long before the ticks came out and it was not near as good as the caged rabbit I had last year. Have 3 rabbits that includes one buck. Between the two females we have had 4 litters and they all die. Looking for some tips on how to keep them from doing that.
All three of them are living in the same cage outside. I figure that is a big issue?
Also nesting boxes. I tried it and they just use it for a litter box. Part of the reason I bring that up is since they probably get too cold at night and die off. Then mom eats them. Tried taking a mom and the litter and putting them in the house but that did not work. So I thought I should try that one more time with a heat lamp?
I want more rabbit and I have seen my fill die off left and right. Please help.
One of the reasons that you noticed a difference in caged rabbit versus wild is the fact they are actually different species. "caged" are a domesticated European species bread specifically for meat and the wild ones are just that, wild. They actually can't even breed together if given the chance. The other reason is of course that the wild hare lived in the wild running for it's life and eating whatever foods it could find, as opposed to the caged rabbit who sat in a cage and ate alfalfa.
For your experiment in rabbit as livestock - It sounds like you are having a number of issues. First off, if you are going to go the caged route (not a bad route) then you should have a separate cage for each breading rabbit. That means does and bucks. Move the doe to the bucks cage for breeding, as soon as they are done remove them. once 29 days pass watch her closely. she should start looking anxious glancing back and forth and generally acting like she's got somewhere important to be. Only now is when you should add the nest box and then a bunch of straw or hay in the cage. if all is well, she will start taking the straw and packing it in the nest box within an hour or so. It's good to leave her alone at this point. In case you miss this step somehow and she kindles on the cage, immediately put a nestbox in the cage with bedding and place the newborn kits into the box. She'll figure out what to do next.
There are two reasons for kit eating in my experience. One, is that you have a crazed cannibal doe - which warrants a trip to the freezer. But the more likely case is that the kits have already died for one reason or another. Most animals will not let fresh protein go to waste, and even more importantly wont let their be a rotting corpse in their confined space.
I recommend you consider doing a bit more research before you go further. There is an incredible amount of information online that can be found with a simple google search. If you want the real deal information on rabbits, I recommend purchasing a copy of Rabbit Production.
Urban Asheville, NC - Zone 7A - 2,200 Ft elevation
If at all possible look around for an experienced rabbit raiser in your area who would be willing to teach you. That isn't as easy as it used to be. The HSUS and House Rabbit people have declared war on rabbit raisers so many rabbit raisers are keeping a low profile these days but once convinced you are not just scouting them out they can be very helpful. Most rabbit raisers are more than willing to teach what they know to newbies.
It could also be that the kits are being drug out of the nesting box when nursing, or that they get sick because other rabbits are using the nesting box as a litter box. I had one doe that did that to a litter and killed 6 of the 8 rabbits. I'd say you might want to try separating the nursing does from the rest of the rabbits for starters, and working on a nesting box that is better at containing the kits. Also, I don't put the nesting box in the cage with the pregnant doe until she is about 4 or 5 days from kindling. When I put it in, they typically run over and start investigating it for nest making. If it were in all the time they would end up just hanging out in it and making a mess.
Also you may find that the deaths are not just the result of exposure, but the buck is likely killing them. Rabbits don't go through heat, but rather release an egg AFTER coitus, and while nursing they do not want to mate. The buck will often kill the babies to dry up the mom and put her back in breeding mode.