Learning how to prepare a rabbit nest box is critical for success when rabbit breeding. If a doe doesn’t have the right setup to give birth, the kit’s survival rate drastically decreases. Finding a nest box, filling it with the right materials, and adding it to the cage at the correct time is crucial for the kindling process. Additionally, preparing for kindling and cleaning the nest box will help the kits get a positive start to life.
Finding or Building the Nest Box
While researching how to prepare a rabbit nest box, your first step will be finding or building a box. Many commercial options can be found, typically in wood and metal varieties. Metal is preferred since it is easily and effectively sanitized between litters. It is more difficult to sanitize wood, and disease and sickness could remain in the wood and be transferred to the next rabbits.
Building your own box is also an option. Nest boxes can often be made from a scrap wood pile. Just remember the biosecurity risk. You should be extra adamant when cleaning wood boxes.
You can readily find free nest box plans with a simple search. There are many shapes and sizes when it comes to nest boxes. The size will be determined based on the size of the rabbit that will be using it. On the contrary, the shape is based on your preference.
Nest Box Material Options
When learning how to prepare a nest box you will need to decide on a nesting material. Straw and hay are common options that both have their positives and negatives.
One of the biggest benefits of straw is that it stays dry longer than hay does. Moisture in the nest can quickly chill and kill kits. Straw is a very common choice among rabbit breeders due to its ability to stay dry. It also isn’t as tempting for the doe to eat while she is waiting for her kits to arrive.
Hay is another common nesting material choice. It allows the kits to start nibbling on hard food as soon as possible. But, it can also be a snack for the doe and some does may clean their nest box out before kindling, putting the kits at risk. Hay also has more moisture originally and holds moisture better than straw. Nest boxes filled with hay will need to be cleaned more often.
When to Add the Nest Box
Nest boxes should be added on day 27 or 28. After you have learned how to prepare a rabbit nest box, the next step is giving it to the doe to use.
Giving the doe the box too early can lead to her using it as a litter box rather than a nest box. This is a habit you do not want your rabbits to pick up. If you have a rabbit going to the bathroom in the nest box you should try moving the box to a different part of the cage. If a doe urinates on her kits they can easily become cold.
On day 27 or 28 the doe should be about ready to start building her nest. Don’t worry too much if she doesn’t build a nest though. Some does are procrastinators and build their nests as they’re kindling.
Preparing for Kindling
You may notice the doe pulling fur to line the nest with. Does usually start pulling fur within 12 hours of kindling, and some pull fur after kindling. If your doe is a first timer, or just a bad mom, she might not pull fur.
Sheep’s wool, other rabbits’ fur (collected when they pull more than enough), and small pieces of fleece blankets can be used to replace fur if your doe doesn’t pull any. You can also gently pull fur from her belly.
Cleaning the Next Box After Kindling
It is very important to keep moisture out of the nest box. Wet kits get cold fast and both of those things can kill the kits. You should keep a close eye on the nest and replace the nesting materials if they get too soiled. Having a mesh floor on your nest boxes will help the nests breathe and release moisture.
There are many parts to learning how to prepare a rabbit nest box. Your kit’s survival is greatly impacted by the doe’s availability to a clean and dry nest. This is where the kits will spend the first few weeks of their life until they begin adventuring out of the box. Finding the right box and filling it with the correct materials will be helpful for your does. Keeping the nest clean and warm after the kits arrive will be crucial for the kits.