Although we've had her for almost two years, Hunny has never had a litter before.
We tried, lord how we've tried.
There was the first time, when I met a Velveteen Lop breeder in the parking lot of a rabbit show 2+ hours away and she had her first "date" with a sweet orange-colored Velveteen boy in the back of my Envoy XUV.
There was some action.
27 days later, she nested, but no babies came.
[Nesting is when a rabbit doe builds a soft nest in the hay of a nest box and lines it with fur pulled from her own belly.]
And then there were several attempts with our own buck, sometimes bringing her to him every day for a week before she would accept his advances.
More nesting, more empty nests at day 31.
I thought perhaps she was infertile.
An infertile rabbit? Is there even such a thing?
And so it was with some trepidation that I asked a friend of mine if we could borrow their Mini Rex buck for a few weeks.
Enough of this dating stuff - they were going to live together, and I would find out once and for all if she was infertile or just highly particular about her dates.
She seemed to like the Rex almost immediately.
And by that I mean she didn't beat him up or run away and cry like all her other dates.
They were getting along!
I even saw him attempt to breed her - albeit on her head.
I left them with some privacy and crossed my fingers they would figure it all out.
I also marked the calendar. 27 days - put in a nest box. 30 days - start checking for babies.
A couple of weeks into the cohabitation she started vocalizing. Rabbits don't make much noise, one of the benefits to raising them. I have never hear Hunny make noise unless she is crying and running away from a date.
This was new, and weird.
Also her dewlap grew. On some does this will happen either if they gain too much weight or during pregnancy. They store their extra fat there. She had not done this with any of her false pregnancies before.
On day 27 she nested. The other pens still had all the big nest boxes, so we swapped out her little one for one of the bigger, nicer ones.
I checked her box for the next 3 days - she did not rebuild her nest.
I figured she must be infertile after all.
On day 31 I checked her nest box - no nesting, no babies. Then I moved her mobile pen to a fresh new patch of grass.
And then I saw it - a tiny grey baby on the ground.
She had laid it "on the wire," which means birthing a baby outside of her nest box.
I quickly scooped it up thinking it would be dead. A solitary baby lying on the cold grass would not live more than a few minutes.
It was chilly but not dead, and in fact was pretty active considering its dire straits. I had arrived just in the nick of time.
I held under my sweater against my warm belly and rushed into the house where I continued to hold it against my skin as I set up a kennel and heating pad and soft towel.
Once it had warmed and I felt it was OK to leave it in the kennel for a few minutes, I rushed around getting the nest box into the house and moving Hunny inside, too.
If a mama lays one baby "on the wire," they often lay the rest that way. This is not uncommon for first time moms, and she was an older, first-time mom.
At least in the bathroom I could check on her frequently and if more babies came, get them into the nest box right away.
As soon as I set her in the bathroom into the nest box she got right to work delivering 6 more babies and covering them with her belly fur. I placed the now-warmed up first baby into the nest as well.
After she left them I checked on the litter - one big dark one was not moving around as much as normal, healthy babies move around. Not a good sign, and indeed, it died within a couple of hours. Again, not uncommon to lose a weak one or two shortly after kindling (birth).
But the rest were alive and wiggly.
Hunny is a soft grey with an almost peach undertone. Her Mini Rex boyfriend was a silver grey. I figured all the babies would be light grey.
The skin will show some color but you can't really tell until the fur comes in a few days later what colors they will really be.
So far it seems the babies are shades of grey to black with a few light grey like mama, one slightly darker grey and two very dark greys.
I am beyond thrilled.
Out of this litter we hope to keep one female to be her ever-after buddy, and sell the rest as pets.
Rabbits are after all very social creatures - but they are quite particular about who they want to socialize with.
Mamas and daughters make nice companions. The male offspring need to be removed by 11 weeks of age to prevent breeding back to their mamas, but male and female kits even of different litters have gotten along quite nicely in our colony in the barn during the winter until they are of breeding age.
I am so excited to see how these babies look as they grow up.
Will they have lop ears or the little upright Rex ears? Will they have the super soft coat of their mama?
Only time will tell.
But if you are in the market for a Velveteen Lop Mini Rex baby come mid-November, look us up. We should have five weaned babies ready for sale.