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I was struggling with what to do for D and happened to wonder aloud what I should do. My 13 year old immediately popped up with “Death! Mom, you should talk about how you handle it when a rabbit dies.” I got to thinking it was a pretty good idea, so today we’ll be discussing death regarding raising rabbits.
Happens to everyone
I don’t know of any rabbit breeder who hasn’t experience death in their rabbitry. Now I know, I just finished talking to you about culling. I’m not talking about the deliberate death that you either choose or is needful, I’m speaking to the unexpected death that happens.
Every rabbit breeder, unless they are extremely fortunate, has experienced unexpected death in their rabbitry. It’s part of dealing with prey animals.
What is a prey animal?
The term prey refers to an animal that is sought, captured, and eaten by a predator. Rabbits in the wild are eaten by hawks, foxes, coyotes, weasels, possums, raccoons and more. I’ve even seen a squirrel noshing on an injured rabbit. If often seems like everything wants to enjoy rabbit for lunch.
AND a smart rabbit knows this. They know not to trust a thing around them because lunch happens and they don’t want to be it.They know not to trust a thing around them because lunch happens and they don't want to be it. Click To Tweet
Oh.. why do I bring that up? As prey animals, rabbits hide illness extremely well. If you know what to look for you can tell if your bunny is not okay, but if you don’t know the rabbit, it’s harder to tell.
Unexpected Death Happens
Unexpected death happens for a variety of reasons: Shock, illness, predation, and accidents. Different emotions happen as the result of death. I’ll talk about each of these areas and the end result in my thoughts and emotions.
Shock for rabbit can come due to a move to a new home, sudden unexpected noise in the night, change in the weather, change in environment and even feed changes.
Smart rabbit breeders know that if you buy a rabbit, you want to breed that rabbit, almost right away. You put new bunny into quarantine, and grab whatever bunny you can afford to lose (of the opposite gender) and breed that rabbit immediately, putting it into quarantine as well. That way if new bunny dies unexpectedly (they are prone to do so in the first month) then at least you have the genetics you paid for!
Two summers ago I put a solid roof on the rabbitry. This caused a doe to go off feed and I had to foster out her litter of kits. One would think a new roof wouldn’t be an issue, but for this doe it was something she couldn’t handle. Another doe went from being a sweet kind doe to a skittery one scared of everything. It was a needful change, but these two buns couldn’t cope. It saddens me when something like this mess with bunny heads.
This spring we had a howler of a wind storm come through. Three days of unrelenting wind and noise. It caused a young buck to go off feed, and then I lost seven weanlings in about four days. One after the other they simply stopped eating. It SUCKS big time. Promising young animals stressed out by wind, noise and cold drafts that you do your best to protect them from but it’s hard to predict who will get hit. Two cages out of twenty that most likely had a cold draft hit them. Straw and added boxes not withstanding.. I can’t force them to use what I give them.
With most animals, going slow with feed changes prevents shock or tummy upset. With rabbits they need to develop the gut flora to deal with the change in diet. This is why you NEED to go slowly with rabbits when changing their feed, particularly if it’s big change.
Rabbits are notorious for hinding illness. It’s in their own best interest as a prey animal to not show obvious signs of distress. A rabbit owner needs to educate themselves on signs of illness. Even so, sometimes rabbits die without an obvious signs of illness.
I had a buck once, GORGEOUS animal. Eating, drinking, pooping, peeing, eager to breed. Next day he was dead. I talked to a vet once, and without doing an autopsy, suggested a heart attack. And not to be too surprised if a heart attack is why an apparently healthy animal is suddenly dead.
This is not something you can predict. It just bites you know? When an apparently healthy animal is found dead. It frustratingly sad.
Did you know that I HATE rats? Wild rats. I simply despise them. They nibble off bunny feet, if they get into a cage they will carry off newborns and frighten momma, and they poop and pee on everything causing mould problems. I had a distressing two winters of trying to get rid of them when the horse barn next door was torn down and the rats moved in my shed. Just awful awful awful. Now I see them, I trap them immediately. No second chances.
Next on my list are coons and possums. Both are seasonal, spring and fall. I no longer grow corn as that brings the coons in. If they can reach in and grab a baby… it’s not a pretty sight, and I won’t go into detail. Possums in the spring are youngsters finding their own digs, and in the fall it’s adults fattening up for winter. Removal of offenders is a given. NOTE: if trapping a possum and moving it.. don’t tell anyone, and move them at night, under cover, in an open bed vehicle. They STINK.
It frustrates me when I have the bunnies secured and then some bozo hops the fence and steals one and/or deliberately or possibly accidentally leaves a cage door open and a bunny escapes to be killed by a predator, shock, or on the road. IMMENSELY frustrated to the point of anger. Like HOW DARE THEY! Thieves and idiots.. stay away from my bunnies.
Accidents happen. Both by me and by the bunnies.
A baby popping out of the box and chill to death, leaves me sad and becoming a problem solver. Babies pop out of boxes, ergo now why I shelve my babies in the winter. I don’t want them popping out and freezing.
Leaving a cage door open at night when tired and forgetful and a bunny hops out and injures themselves. That rabbit could have easily killed herself by breaking her back. That makes me angry at myself and vowing not to let that happen again.
The fore-a-mentioned windstorm? One result was a young kit with a broken leg. I assume from momma landing on it in a panic over noise. Fortunately kits heal well. 🙂 But if it was a bad break… it’s a death sentence.
Other posts in this series are:
Letter D Link Up
Each week we will be linking up with the hosts of Blogging Through the Alphabet. Please visit some of these other blogs to get things like book lists, vegan recipes, and wonderful places to visit, just to name the topics I can think of off the top of my head.