Having Winter Babies
by Dwayne Neal, NY
After such a long, hot, and dry summer here in the Northeast, where we had trouble keeping our rabbits comfortable from the extreme heat, it is hard to think about winter. But, now that the shows are over, it's "full production" time for whatever your reason, whether for show or sell. Here are some tips for everyone!
Minimize the cold drafts - It isn't so much the cold that the rabbits can't take, as it is the wind. Anything that you can do to minimize direct cold drafts will help immensely (of course, you do not want to completely seal your rabbitry with no venting at all).
Utilize heaters - For those of us who do not have state-of-the-art buildings, or have our rabbits in our houses, chances are you are dealing with a small shed or barn. I often recommend using heaters. However, in many ways it is more for my comfort than theirs, since I do not want to be cold when out there, and do not want to have to deal with frozen water! Electric or kerosene work equally as well and the effort to keep the animals protected from the extremes of the cold will only keep them healthier, happier, and less stressed.
Remove nest boxes from the cold - If/when the weather is particularly brutal, you may want to bring the nest boxes with the babies inside your house during the day and night. This requires that you implement a controlled feeding program with them, bringing them out to their mother twice a day for her to feed both once in the morning and once at night.
Save excess fur - I cannot tell you how many times I was glad to have a supply of excess fur for emergencies. In the winter the demand is at it's greatest especially when dealing with first-time mothers who often do not pull enough fur to even cover their offspring and/or complete mess in the nest box to the extent that the entire nest needs replacing. I recommend that you save good, clean, excess fur from those does that "love to pull" when you have the opportunity, and save it for a rainy (freezing) day!
Heat lamps and/or pads - I tent to tell folks to try to shy away from these kinds of things, as they tend to create another level of the artificial environment that rabbits shouldn't really need. Yes, they are nice to have for the occasional emergency of the "must save" litter, but generally you should not need this level of life support for your animals.
Remember - Lastly, be easy on yourself, and most of all be patient. If you do happen to lose some babies once in a while, just remember what my friend Dan always says... "IGW".. It's God's Will... just try again!
The Hollander / Spring Issue - April 2000