Today I began making preparations for 3 litters that are scheduled to be born on January 17th. In doing so, I wanted to share what we do to get ready for that much anticipated day.
We begin by preparing the nestbox itself. While there are many different options when choosing a nestbox, from plastic buckets and cardboard boxes to the store bought options from your local feed store on online shop, we choose to build our own boxes. We use 3/4" plywood for our boxes and they are put together with screws. We keep several on-hand but we also have precut patterns should we find ourselves in a bind and have to build one pretty quick. Trust me, at some point you will forget to do the bunny math and find yourself a box short so it is best to plan ahead. Some folks frown on using wooden boxes but I feel that as long as they are cleaned and disinfected after each use they are perfectly fine. Cleanliness should always be a top priority regardless of what type of box you use.
The bottom of our box is lined with cardboard for easy cleaning when it is time to remove the box and if mom happens to chew it up it is no biggie. We then place 1 to 2 inches of pine shavings on top of that for added cushion and to help keep heat in the box. That is followed up by a layer of hay. We also place a substantial amount of hay in the cage with mom for her to use as she sees fit. If she begins to use it for the box it is a sure bet she is definitely ready to kindle.
When placing the nestbox in the cage be sure to consider where best to put it. Do not place it on the side that mom has chosen for her bathroom as this may lead to a very dirty box well before the kits are scheduled to arrive.
I also try to position the box in such a way that I can "observe" activity inside the box without having to get too hands-on. Remember, that we see with our eyes and not with our hands. The most I will do once the kits have delivered and mom is out of the box is to do a quick count just by feeling around in the box. As tempted as I am to want to see the color, I usually wait at least one day before further invading mom's space, especially if she is a first-time mom. She does not know what to expect from me and I do not know what to expect from her. I am a little more confident with my experienced moms but I tend to give first-timers their space.
At any rate try to keep mom as comfortable and as calm as possible. She is about to work very hard for you and you should do everything you can to make sure is treated very well.
That is all for now. See ya in about 3 days...