Care and Management of Rabbits/Chapter 13
FEEDING NURSING DOES
FEEDING NURSING DOES
The feeding of nursing does does not differ materially from the feeding of other rabbits, except as to the quantity and time of feeding. There is also a noon feeding of stale bread and milk included which is not necessary in the case of other adult rabbits.
The care of the nursing doe should not commence when her litter arrives, but should commence from the day that she is bred. By this we mean that during the time the litter is being produced and before birth, the doe must be given the proper elements in her ration to produce these young if she is to bring forth a good litter of healthy youngsters.
Too often the loss of young stock is due to lack of proper feeding during the pregnancy of the doe. This and improper breeding are about ninety per cent of the reasons why young rabbits seem to turn up their feet and die for no apparent reason.
While most adult stock is limited in the amount fed, there should be no limit to the amount fed the pregnant doe. By this we mean that she should have all that she will eat. Do not be foolish and allow her to gorge herself, but if you will watch her carefully you will notice that as the time of delivery approaches she will eat more and more. Let her have what she wants and all that she seems to have an appetite for.
Failing in this you may suffer the sad experience of having the doe eat her young as soon as they arrive. This may be caused by the doe being too fat at the time she is bred, but in the majority of cases it is due to under nourishment and inability to get something to eat as soon as she has delivered her young.
As soon as the doe has been bred, put her in a clean hutch where she will be quiet and free from annoyance during her thirty-day period of pregnancy. Feed her regularly as recommended for adult stock, but be sure to give her a little green food to eat every day. If you do this you will find that the green food will agree better with the youngsters, later, than if you start in after the doe has commenced to nurse them.
Do not feed a ration of too much concentrates such as grain. Be sure that she has plenty of roughage in the form of hay and plenty of bulk in the form of wheat bran and alfalfa meal. She needs this bulky matter to balance the concentrates and to give frame and bone to the developing youngsters.
Three or four days before the youngsters arrive, commence to feed her stale bread and milk at noon. This is to be sure that she will have plenty of milk when the time of nursing starts. If the doe has a large litter of five or six she will need this help throughout the nursing period as the average doe, even though she be a good milker, does not have enough to adequately supply a large litter.
The balance of the feeding should be as recommended for adult stock with the exception that a doe with litter must have a constantly increasing amount of mash and hay in order to keep herself and litter in good condition. The little fellows will come out of the nest box in about two weeks and commence to nibble at things and want to eat everything they can find, so it will be necessary, then, to increase the amount of the mash. During the third and fourth weeks after delivery the nursing doe and litter will need fourteen ounces of mash every morning and all the hay they will eat at night. During the second month they will need twenty-eight ounces of mash and more hay, and during the third month you will have to feed even more than this. If at this time you are feeding them for market, proceed as recommended in the preceding chapter.
If you wish to develop them for breeding stock, feed them as you do during the second month, that is, all they will clean up quickly at each feeding. It will not be necessary to give the noon feeding of bread and milk, although where it is possible it is highly desirable.
In the matter of hay, let them have all that they will clean up. A hay rack is better for the feeding of young stock and you can keep it full at all times. Otherwise they may not have enough at times and suffer for want of what they need.
The nursing doe, if handled intelligently, will be back in pretty good condition at the end of a week's rest after weaning her stock and she may be bred again. If she has been underfed during the nursing period she will be poor and scrawny and in poor condition to breed. Breeding her when she is run down will have only one result, namely, poor offspring, youngsters that will droop and die by the wayside from no apparent cause whatever. It pays to take care of your breeding does. They are the producers in your herd.