There is a runt in every litter. At least, around here there is.
This time he was more than a runt. He was minuscule. I never thought he’d make it. The runts usually don’t.
Mamas reject them. The siblings are stronger, faster and will beat him to all the milk. As the days go by, the runt will get weaker and weaker and sometimes the mamas eat them to end things quickly.
Our last litter had 10 kits in it. This is a huge litter.
A rabbit has only 8 teats, so with 10 kits, someone is missing some meals. Usually, it’s the runt.
I noticed how incredibly tiny and fragile he was the week he was born. He seemed to find himself outside the nest and laying on the wire daily. He and I became sweet friends. He often tagged along during farm-chores in my brazier. This warmed him up and revived him quite a bit. More on how to warm up a baby bunny here.
His littermates got bigger and stronger and all began to grow fur by their 4th day of life. My runt was as bald as ever and didn’t seem to be growing. I could tell by looking at his stomach that he wasn’t getting much to eat.
I was worried.
I am not set up to bottle-feed newborn kits, so I had to come up with another way to get food into my little guy.
I have been known to hold my doe still and slide a couple of struggling kits under her for a snack. My doe is pretty laid back and willing to help me save her babies.
In our last litter, the runt actually survived. Our doe did not reject it (this is common) and he beat the odds. He was 1/4 the size of his litter mates and struggled through the first 2 weeks of life.
Several times a day I would find him isolated, outside the nest and as cold as ice. In addition to him struggling to stay huddled with his siblings, he was not growing at the same pace. While the other 9 kits were spunky and had fat round tummies, the runt was scrawny and lethargic.
I could tell by looking at him that he was not getting the same groceries as the rest of the litter. His stomach was constantly wrinkly like an old person and empty.
Bottle-feeding a newborn kit is not on my list of favorite things to do, so I decided I’d get him fed another way.
Each day I would separate all the other kits so my little runt could have his mama all to himself.
I held her still so he could climb under and fill his little belly. This was my routine for 2 weeks. I noticed a change in his personality after the first 2 days of assisted feedings. He was more active. He was relaxed. His fur came in and he filled out.
I continued to let him have his ‘mommy snack time’ until he was nearly 3 weeks old. Once I saw him munching on pellets I knew he was out of the woods.
When the kits begin to eat pellets it takes much of the stress out of keeping bunnies. Once they are eating solid foods, they can probably survive whether they get milk from mom or not (although it is best for them to get milk).
When the kits begin to eat pellets this also makes life easier for the smallest in the litter because he has more opportunity to get some milk. Everyone is no longer constantly fighting for mom’s teats & the runt can eat in peace.
Our runt is still a quarter of the size of all his brothers and sisters, but he is alive and well. He has started eating pellets and hopping all over the place. We think he is out of the woods and we are celebrating!