Shelving Kits 101

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What is shelving?

Separating the kits from the momma doe at all times except for feeding.

How often to feed?

We feed twice daily, shooting for 12 hours apart. For us, 9:00AM and 9:00PM  works the best. Choose a 12 hour timespan that works best for your schedule.

Why should I shelf my kits?

Shelving prevents death of the kits by the doe or cold snaps/heatwaves.  Sometimes the momma bunny will bite or even eat her kits.  Other times the kits can get squished.  Sometimes kits will still be latched onto a nipple when the doe jumps out of the nest box resulting in the kit being left on the cold wire. We shelf kits to avoid all of these unfortunate circumstances.

What other benefits come from shelving?

We have noticed that shelving kits makes for much friendlier rabbits.  We've also had zero cases of nest box eye. We have shelved 8 litters through to the full 8 week mark with zero kit deaths. That is over 50 healthy thriving babies!

Commitment & Is Shelving Right For You?

The first 4-5 weeks of the kit's lives you can expect to be working with them for approximately 15-30 minutes, twice daily, for 1-2 litters. Schedule cleaning once a week. The last 5-8 weeks will include once a day feedings, grooming and cage cleaning. It may not sound like much now but after a long day of work it may be the last thing you want to do.  Those tiny helpless babies will be relying on you to bring them their food source and provide a safe, clean environment from you around the clock. Vacations and weekend getaways? Maybe you can find a trusted pet sitter or family member but we ended up traveling with our entire shelving set up of 4 does and 30+ babies. The shelving process takes commitment. If you start the litter off by shelving you will have the most success seeing it through to the end.

 

Other tips

If you have a momma that is prone to biting/eating or crushing the kits, you can hold them by the head gently to prevent them from biting, or control where they sit to nurse

We use paper bedding as it is more insulating than hay, more absorbent than hay, and helps to prevent nest box eye from developing.  Keep the bedding clean to ensure healthy kits throughout the process.

If you have any other questions, please find us on Facebook.  

Timeline

Prior to birth

  •  Place 4-5 inches of paper bedding into small animal carrier

After Birth

  • Pull kits from nest box and place in the animal carrier.

  • Attempt the first nursing session  at the 12 hour mark of your choosing. If they are born in the morning but they look full and healthy then begin the nursing schedule at the evening time you have set for them. 9:00PM work for us. The second feeding will come at 9:00AM and repeat feedings every 12 hours.

  • The momma bunny may not get her milk in for a full 24 hours. Don't freak out! This is totally normal. To get her milk to come in faster, do not miss a single feeding. Keeping a very consistent schedule will be your best friend. 

  • Handle the babies as little as possible during their first few days on earth. They generate heat by wiggling around in a cluster with their siblings. Pulling them out several times a day (other than for feedings) will make them burn calories a lot faster as they try to stay warm. This will give them a weak start to life and we want them to be strong!

RABBITRY & CAVIARY

Week 1 

  • Feed kits twice daily for 10 minutes each, roughly 12 hours apart. Lean your ear down to the nest box. You should hear the kits suckling!

    • Remove kits from the carrier and place in a nest box​

    • Add the dam(momma doe) to the nest box

    • After 10 minutes the kits should have very full bellies. If you hold the kit on its back with your left hand you should see a milk spot near your ring finger in the belly. Use this method of making sure the kit ate with smaller babies that aren't getting the obvious beach ball shape.

    • Put the dam back in her cage and place kits back in the carrier

Week 2 

  • Change out bedding

  • Continue the same feeding habits, but begin to introduce hay to the animal carrier. 

    • You should notice the kits begin to take interest in the hay.

  • The kits will being to urinate more heavily, so change bedding as needed.  Typically every 3-5 days

  • Eyes will begin to open!!!

  • Ear canals have opened around the beginning of week 2!!!

Week 3 -6 - *Varies on size and breed*

  • If you didn't change the bedding out last week, change it out at the beginning of week 3

  • Continue the same feeding habits, but add more hay

  • Change bedding as needed.  Clean bedding means healthy kits!

  • As the kits begin to grow, you will need to move them to a larger cage. 

    • Do this at your discretion. We typically make the transition during week 3

    • Kits should have eyes open, and be active. 

  • We like to use small rabbit cages to grow them out

    • Fill the cage with a few inches of fresh paper bedding and introduce water and pellets along with unlimited hay

    • We use porcelain bowls for water and pellets, but also add a hay feeder and water bottle​​

Week 7 

  • The kits should now be eating the pellets and hay, and drinking the water.  Be sure to keep everything topped off.

  • We move our kits to a wire bottom cage at the beginning of this week

  • Begin to ween the kits by feeding once daily.  

    • It is important to watch the kits weight during this process.  If any of the kits are struggling to maintain a healthy weight, change the nursing schedule to 2 feedings every other day, with 1 feeding on the days in between.​

  • Change bedding to keep clean​

Week 8

  • The kits should be weened!  YAY!  

  •  If you made it this far, congrats on successfully shelving your first litter!

Supplies needed