As you can guess I have been hitting the internet trying to figure out how to take care of baby bunnies. What I have learned is a bit too late. We lost our sweet Charlene last night. She was the last of the ten kits born. We hoped she had a chance since she had made it three weeks but alas, she did not eat so well yesterday and I began to worry. Stomach problems and milk ingested into the lungs plagues you when you fostered baby bunnies.
She had just gotten to be really fun. The last couple days Charlene would bang on her metal door to the cat carrier she slept in to be let out to play. She was so.... tiny but she could really scoot across the room. She had just started to groom herself. I was thinking yea, I won't have to bathe her so often but I'm sure that would not help with the stinky toots. Oh she was a tooter. Yesterday she started this cute thing with her tongue wiping all around her mouth to make sure she had eaten the very last drop of goat milk.
Last night we had gathered the kids around us and were teaching them about the symbols of Christmas, red is for the blood Jesus spilt, green for eternal life, and how the Christmas tree's needles point heavenward just as our thought should always be raised. As I read a Christmas story and we talked, we paused now and then to giggle at Charlene's antics as she scampered and raise up on her back legs to check us out, occasionally falling over because she is only three weeks old and that is a pretty tough stunt. It was a special night.
This morning our six year old grand daughter rushed into the living room near the fire to check out Charlene's cage and found her dead. Oh how the tears flowed.
Doubts creep in and for a few moments I'm questioning if it is all worth it. Pet owners deal with death so seldom. We in the livestock world know death well. This year it came when we had baby chicks, it came when our sweet Jujubee broke her hip and had to be put down, it came many times with the rabbit babies and each time it tugs at my heart. I must say you get better at being able to say goodbye but easy----- NEVER. Today as I write the tears are welling. I'm telling myself if only I knew better. Then I think of the doctors especially of olden times as they sat by time after time with so few tools at their disposal and watched patients die. I am so... thankful for the Internet and those that have gone before me to pave the way.
My skills are being sharpened with each little one I foster no matter what member of the animal kingdom they may hail from. I feel sorry for the ones like Charlene that I bumble along with and I want to tell her I'm so sorry. I really tried! It should make me feel better that pinkies have a zero percent survival rate. It doesn't. I'm determined that little ones can survive if I just keep intelligently trying.
A broken rabbit, a sibling, that passed right before Charlene died of fluid in the lungs. I held the tiny head so I would not snap the neck and used centrifugal force to expel the liquid, then blew into her mouth with a puff of air to make sure the lungs were inflated, and did chest compressions. After quite a bit of effort she began to breathe on her own, her heart having started up again, her lungs clear enough to breathe. She lived two more days and infection must of over come her.
I have now successfully resuscitated a bunny, a foal, lambs, kid goats, and piglets. I don't feel so smart. Some lived on to adults but others it was just a short visit before they left and most of the time I feel like I'm stumbling in the dark. There is a feeling you get whether or not you will be successful when you resuscitate and you know when to quit or keep trying. Some I'm sure is experience but I believe that the Holy Ghost prompts those who are willing to be guided. If the Lord knows when a sparrow falls, he indeed is mindful of sweet Charlene and all those we wrap in our arms and try to save.
I have on order two sizes of squirrel nipples. Yes, they make nipples to save squirrels with. It is to help keep the little ones from so easily ingesting liquid into the lungs. Bunnies are the toughest animal I have ever syringe fed and definitely anything I've bottle fed. I quickly discovered that little pinky rabbit's mouths are too small for a kitten nipple so I used a diabetic's syringe and then a small eye dropper. The eye dropper worked best.
I learned from my studies that probiotic is critical. Keeping the gut in balance is a tuff thing to do on baby rabbits. The Squirrels And More site has four probiotics in a combination that is to help. I will order it next spring as it has expiration dates and will just sit until them. They also recommend it for the mothers. I will also save colostrum from Belle, our girl is to kid sometime soon. I wish I would have kept the date the buck got out last summer on the calendar. I guess baby bunnies need colostrum for the first ten days and you can substitute goat colostrum. Other animals I've raised it is only critical to get a decent doze into them within the first few hours or so. Baby bunnies need it for ten days. I think I will freeze it is an ice cube tray so I can thaw a little at a time.
The best substitute for rabbit milk is fresh goat milk. No surprising there as goat milk is the best for just about everything. Many add cream to the goat milk but our girls are producing more cream than milk right now in their cycle so we are okay in that department. I'm hoping we don't have to raise any baby bunnies next spring but the two does we will use have never kindled before so that isn't likely going to be the case. Meanwhile I'll keep forming a plan and bucking up the courage to do it all over again.