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Baby Bunnies That Just Fade Away
What are “faders”? I hear you all asking, so now I’ll try to describe them to you based on my own experience. As the name suggests, the bunny who is “Fader” literally fades into nothingness until he runs out of energy and dies. We, along with many other breeders, have tried several methods in an attempt to save these little guys, who only have a small percentage when they are three weeks old. You will first notice “Fader” when the babies come out of the nest at about 2 weeks of age.
This is the stage where babies start nibbling on anything they see their mother munching on. ‘Fader’ seems to just crouch as close to his mother or other siblings as possible, ears pressed against his head and fur fluffy to conserve as much energy as possible. You won’t see them trying to nibble on something, running around the cage full of energy, or lunging for feed with their siblings while their mother feeds them. Also, their eyes seem to open later than usual, around day 11) and usually have to be bathed in warm water to release them, not just once, but for days at a time.
We have tried several strategies ourselves and documented the treatment used. When the next fader arrives, we will use parts of previous treatments that seemed to have a positive effect on the ‘Faders’ and liven them up a bit. We are very lucky to have only had six ‘Faders’ since we started raising rabbits almost five years ago. We found that the most important things to ensure a positive outcome for Fader were warmth and sunshine, keeping them with the family instead of isolating them as this only hastened their death, and adding extra vitamins Penta-vite® was added to their formula. We also noticed that these little guys couldn’t suckle like their siblings, but they were able to pick up warm formula when it was placed on their tongues. So when Ellie gifted us two of these little guys, we were sure to do our best to save them.
As soon as they came out of the nest and it was obvious they were “faders” we immediately started supplementing them with the modified formula, putting heating pads under their bedding (we put heated wheat bags under our cooler frames so it wouldn’t fit). won’t be a tasty snack for mom and other siblings) and made sure they got a few hours of sun (vitamin D) every day by placing them facing the window so they were in direct sunlight, but they were kept. warm and draft-free. We weighed them both before and after feeding using very accurate scales and found that they initially consumed 4 grams of food per feed and eventually 12 to 15 grams when they were weaned four weeks later. The little Siamese Smoke baby weighed only 82 grams, while his sister REW weighed 94 grams. Their sibling (a sooty yellow), who was a normal healthy baby, weighed 146 grams, so we used him as a reference. It has taken almost two weeks of three feedings a day and constant monitoring to see a positive change.
By the time they were four weeks old, these two little guys started to behave normally and are really improving. REW is now a healthy 142 grams and little Siamese Smoke now weighs 129 grams. Their sooty-haired brother weighs 190 grams. When they see me coming, they get really excited, as if to say, “Mommy’s two legs are coming, yay”. Their mother, Ellie, still cleans them and takes care of them so we don’t have to worry about that side of things, and their little ears are starting to tingle now. Keep in mind that their sooty, yellow brother is also still perking up.
So it looks like we’ve hit on a winning treatment to turn these little guys around. How lucky are we? As you can imagine, we feel great and it’s just wonderful to sit back and watch the little guys run around. We will be monitoring REW Doe to see how she is progressing and also doing further research on the track (eg if she is giving birth to normal babies or fading, if her health is affected on the track etc.) and we will also be keeping an eye on the little Siamese Smoke to see how he is developing. We hope this information is helpful for those of you raising bunnies.
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