It was a seasonably warm fall day on October 8th, 2015, as I anxiously awaited the arrival of our first two litters of Holland Lop kits. Both nest boxes were chocked full of fluffy hay pillows and carefully lined with soft shredded paper. I provided the moms (one first-timer and a seasoned pro) with cold filtered water, fresh timothy hay, a dish full of pellets sprinkled with a bit of raw oats, and garnished with just-snipped-from-the-garden parsley. Wait a minute, we're talking about rabbits, right? I KNOW, I went a hare overboard, but I was one nervous bunny-breeding-rookie.
Suddenly, just after lunch, my husband casually mentioned, "That white rabbit is sitting in the nest box." WHAT THE WHAT?! First of all, she is a broken chestnut (though now is not the time to split hairs), and secondly, she's in the nest box?! I grabbed my camera and reached Clementine just in time to catch her last kit being born:
She had 5 kits in all; four solids and a broken that appeared to be a peanut (a rabbit with two dwarf genes, which is unfortunately fatal...this peanut lived for three days). Three of her solid kits were dark, and the other was completely pink, which I thought might be a ruby-eyed white. It didn't really matter though - I was so excited to finally have baby bunnies and incredibly relieved that Clementine had done this successfully before and should know how to take care of her babies.
That left the other doe, Cocoa, a solid chocolate normal (a rabbit that does not have the dwarf gene and is larger than a typical dwarf Holland Lop) who hadn't ever had kits before. It wasn't until after we returned from my son's soccer practice that evening that we saw she had her kits, and there were 6! For a first time mom to have six kits is unexpected, but it is likely due to the fact that she's a large girl ...or as she prefers, "big-boned."
All of her kits were solids since the sire was also a solid, and as expected, there was quite a mix of hues. Three looked blue-ish and oddly resembled baby hippos. It seemed to take her milk a while to come in, so I diligently held Clementine on her back to feed some of Cocoa's thinner kits. At one point while trying not to nod off during the monotonous feeding, I noticed that she had eight nipples. Strange, I thought, because I know I read that Hollands only have six. Perhaps I counted incorrectly...or maybe Clementine is a freak of nature, but now we're just getting off-track.
Take a look at both litters at three days old and then at two weeks:
As I write this, the babies are now just over four weeks old, and I never tire of opening their cages and being greeted with their soft kisses and nibbles or bringing them inside to have chaotic playdates. Of course, it isn't all fun and games, as there is a lot of work keeping cages clean, dishes filled (with expensive food), worrying about the babies, and dealing with the loss of the peanut and one of Cocoa's kits at three weeks old...and then there's the bubble-burster of having to sell most of the babies. It's all part of the game called bunny breeding, but watching the bunnies grow and working on improving the type of colorful Holland Lops so far, is worth it.
I want to give a special shout-out to Wendy from Hickory Ridge Hollands for being my mentor throughout this process. I'm sure she's uttered a few choice words when seeing yet another email from me appear, but her wise advice is greatly appreciated!
UPDATE: Clementine just recently had her second litter since being in my care, and I happened to catch it on video also. Take a look:
Hook's Hollands is a small hobby rabbitry on our Ohio farm and is operated by me (Diane) with the help of my family. We have a small herd of Holland Lop rabbits and focus on raising colorful bunnies with the best type and temperament possible.
This blog serves to spotlight various bunny care topics and share a bit about my experiences raising bunnies.