As you may remember, the very first post for this blog detailed our ongoing difficulties in getting our new Blue American rabbits successfully bred and delivered. I even put a little ticker on the bottom of the blog, counting off the days until our girls were (at least THEORETICALLY) due to kindle. Well, the countdown is at 4 days, now. Kits are due to be born Sunday night, and we’re still questioning:
Are these rabbits pregnant, or not?
Even though we raised rabbits for meat when I was a kid, I don’t remember this part of the process AT ALL. I suspect that my parents thought rabbit sex was an unfit subject for young girls. So baby rabbits just sort of happened, with easy regularity. I was in charge of feeding and exercising the little ones (often with a circle of fascinated neighbor kids), and it seems to me that there was nearly always a litter growing out, but how they got there was a mystery.
A brief aside: many people say that rabbit tastes like chicken. It’s actually leaner and all white meat, but it is mild and takes on the flavors of whatever you season it with, like chicken. This is good because my sister TOTALLY REFUSED to eat ‘the bunnies’. She knew they were being slaughtered in the backyard, but made it entirely clear that she would have no part in their consumption.
So we ate a TON of 4-legged chicken when I was a kid. Seriously. My mom just said it was chicken, and despite the fact that in a family of 3 kids, there was a leg for everyone, my sister never caught on. Perhaps basic anatomy just wasn’t part of her dinnertable analysis, but I always thought it was hysterical. I actually mentioned this to her in our 30s, and she was totally shocked (and a little pissed).
Anyway. Back to rabbit sex.
There’s only one way to know for certain that your rabbits are pregnant: palpitation. Between days 10-14 of the pregnancy, you feel their abdomen for something that is supposed to feel like strings of squishy grapes. It has been thoroughly established that we are NOT GOOD at palpitation. I think maybe I feel something when there’s nothing there, and for our one (somewhat) successful breeding, I was sure Grace hadn’t caught. So this is a no-go.
Between a few books on rabbit raising AND obsessive internet research, here are the other signs that your rabbit might be pregnant (none of which are conclusive):
Many sources suggest that you try and rebreed the rabbit 2 weeks after the first one. If she’s pregnant, she will PROBABLY growl or hiss at the male and refuse to be mounted. She might also totally let the breeding occur. It’s a crap shoot. Many other sources say to NEVER ever do this, since rabbits can get pregnant in each lobe of their bicornate uterus, leading to a rabbit bearing two litters, 2 weeks apart.
Last time, we chose not to do this. But this time, on the advice of Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits, we gave it a go. Rhetta TOTALLY hissed and growled, so we took her out. On the other hand, Grace had three rollicking rounds of rabbit sex.
Changes in appetite:
Many sources say that your rabbits will go off their feed a few days before kindling. This has totally happened, more noticeably for Rhetta than Grace. She’s eating about half what she usually does.
Again, those same sources say that your rabbit might get grouchy, particular about her space, or have other changes in behavior at any time during pregnancy. I would say Rhetta’s a bit less cuddly than usual, but it’s hard to really tell. No big change, with either of them.
Trying to dig in their cage:
A rabbit that’s getting ready to kindle has a strong nest building instinct, and will start to dig at the floor of her cage. This totally happened this morning: even though we’re not scheduled to put boxes in until tomorrow night, I went ahead and gave Rhetta one. She’s been in and out of it all morning.
Apparently rabbits about to kindle will carry around mouthfuls of hay, which looks like a rabbit mustache. There has been no evidence of this behavior, but I promise to get a picture if it happens.
Once they start building nests, the rabbits SHOULD pull lots of fur from their bellies to line the nest. Of course, this could happen a week in advance, or the night the rabbit kindles, or even after the kits are born. No sign of this yet either, but I’ve got a bunch of clean alpaca fur ready to go if there are kits born without enough nest insulation.
So that’s where we are. I am TOTALLY CERTAIN that Rhetta is pregnant, and I think Grace is too. Of course, I was certain before. I don’t think we’ll know until Monday morning. Truthfully, I have no idea.
Until next time,
9 hours later: we TOTALLY have haystache! Yay!
(I’ll update this post over the next few days, if they start showing any more conclusive signs.)
This post submitted to Homesteading Blog Hop #23! Thanks for visiting.