As breeders, we have all had the odd baby that clings to mum after it leaves the nest and doesn't seem to thrive until death finally claims it. If you have ever had one of these little fellows then you may have a 'Fader' baby.
What are 'Faders'? I can hear you all asking, so now I will attempt to describe them to you from my own experience. As the name implies, a bunny which is a 'Fader' literally just fades away to nothing until it has no energy left at all and dies. We, along with many other breeders have tried numerous methods in an attempt to save these little guys with only a small percentage if any making it past three weeks.
You first notice a 'Fader' when the babies come out of the nest at around 2 weeks of age. This is the stage when the babies start nibbling on everything they see their mum munching on. The 'Fader' just seems to crouch as close as possible to either mum or other siblings with ears flattened against the head and fur fluffed up to conserve as much energy as possible. You won't see them attempting to nibble on anything, race around the cage full of energy or tuck into a feed with its siblings when the mum feeds them. Also their eyes seem to open later than normal around day 11) and usually have to be bathed in warm water to free them up, not just once, but several days in a row.
We have tried numerous strategies ourselves and documented the treatments used. When the next fader comes along we use the parts of previous treatments that seemed to have had a positive effect on the 'Faders' and perked them up a bit. We have been very lucky to have had only six 'Faders' since we started breeding rabbits nearly five years now. We found that the most important things to ensure a positive outcome for the 'Fader' was warmth and sunshine, keeping them with their family instead of isolating them as this only made them die more quickly, and the addition of extra vitamins in the form of Penta-vite® added to their formula. We also noticed that these little guys couldn't suckle like their siblings but they could lap up the warm formula when it was placed on their tongue. So when Ellie gave us two of these little guys we were determined that we would give them our best care in an endeavour to save them.
As soon as they came out of the nest and it was seen that they were 'Faders' we immediately started supplementing them with the modified formula, put heat pads underneath their bedding (we placed heated wheat bags underneath our cooler frames so that it didn't become a tasty snack for mum and the other siblings) and made sure that they were given a sunbath every day for a couple of hours (vitamin D) by placing them inside facing the window so that they were in direct sunlight, but were kept warm and free from drafts. We weighed them both before and after their feed using very accurate scales and found that they consumed 4gms of food per feed at the start and ended up consuming 12 o 15gms by the time they were weened four weeks later. The little Siamese Smoke baby who is a buck weighed a mere 82gms whilst his sister a REW weighed 94gms. Their sibling (a sooty fawn) who was a normal healthy baby weighed 146gms so we used him as a benchmark. It has taken nearly two weeks of three feeds a day and constant monitoring to see a positive change.
When they were four weeks old these two little guys started behaving normally and are well and truly on the mend. The REW is now a healthy 142gms and the little Siamese Smoke now weighs 129gms. Their sooty fawn brother weighs 190gms. When they see me coming they get very excited as if to say, 'Mummy two legs is coming, yay'. Their mum, Ellie still cleans them and looks after them so we don't have to worry about that side of things and their little ears are now starting to lop.Mind you, their sooty fawn brother is only just lopping his ears as well.
So we seem to have hit on a winning treatment to turn these little guys around. How happy are we? As you can imagine, we feel great and it is just wonderful sitting there watching the little guys run around. We will be keeping the REW Doe to see how she develops and also carry out further studies down the track (like will she produce normal babies or faders, will her health be affected down the track etc) and we will also be keeping tabs on the little Siamese Smoke to see how he develops. We hope that this information helps those of you who are breeding bunnies