Winter Nest Box Tips
May you all have healthy & full nest boxes!
I like to ensure the doe is sheared just before breeding. When she is kidding 30 days later, the doe’s wool will be about 1” long. The wool will be just the right length for nest building. Keep extra 2nds & 3rds from your previous shearings too. This can come in handy if your doe doesn’t pull enough wool on her own when it’s time.
Ensure your Angora trimmings are not more than 1” long. Longer wool can wrap around the baby's neck or limbs.
Lighting is key! Installing light timers has been one of my biggest game changers. In my bunny barn the lights come on at 6 am and shut off at 10 pm.
The nursery section of the barn should be draft free, dry, & above freezing temperature.
I do my planned breedings first thing in the day, then I do my rabbit chores. In about 30-60 minutes later, I will repeat the breedings. The 2nd go around is usually very successful. If time allows, I will do a 3rd go around later that same day. Then immediately mark your calendar.
If the doe is still unresponsive, I will sometimes switch cages with her and the buck. Another alternative is to put the buck and the doe in cages that are side by side for a day or so.
Nest box size; Should be 2’’- 4” longer and wider than your rabbit.
Put in the nest box 1-2 days before the kindling date, usually 28 days. My Giants kindle in 30-31 days. I still put in the nest box on days 26-27. Be aware, if you put in the nest box too early, the doe might use the nest box as her new pee box, and she’ll eat the hay Vs making a nest with it. Although, I have found putting the nest box in a bit early is much better than being late.
I replaced my removable wooden bottoms on all my nest boxes & with cage wire cut to fit. I line the bottom with newspaper or cardboard, then fill with fresh straw or hay as usual. The wire bottoms are much easier to sanitize and clean.
After kidding, keep nest boxes clean. Every 3-4 days, change out bedding if necessary. Keeping your 3rds from your previous shearings are great for nest box refreshers. Line the nest box with fresh hay or straw, do your best to duplicate the Angora lined burrow.
If kits are accidently born on the wire and found dead, you can try to warm them up. I pronounce them dead, when they are warm & dead. Many times I can save them by gently warming them up. I use a heating pad in a shoe box for about 20 minutes.
Keep plenty of clean water available. I often add a 2nd crock to make sure the doe has plenty of water.
Lots of fresh food. I free feed my moms, from the breeding date through weaning the kits. Depending on their condition, I may free feed the moms a bit longer. We don’t want them fat, but we do want them healthy & happy.
Keep plenty of fresh hay available for everyone; mom and kits.
When kits are 2-3 weeks old, you can remove the next box. Keeping the nest box in too long can turn it into an unsanitary poop collection box in a hurry.
When it is really cold I put in a small kitty litter pan at this time. Drill about 10 -15 holes in the bottom, and fill it with hay. The holes allow the pee to flow through and not collect in the pan. The kits and mom can sit on the hay to stay warm & chomp down. I empty the tray every other day and fill it with fresh hay. You can also tip your nest box on it’s side. The main thing is to keep the cages and nest boxes clean and filled with plenty of straw or hay.
(I also use the kitty litter pans for freshly sheared bunnies in the winter)
When possible, plan your RHDV2 vaccinations. Keep you and your bunnies safe, healthy, & happy.
Check on your mom’s frequently. Sometimes a kit can latch to a doe’s nipple, and stay latched on as she leaves the nest box. The does do not have the ability to carry them back to the warm nest. I will shine a flashlight around all the sides of the cage and nest box to look for stray kits.
December 29, 2021