By day three the kits are growing fast – they are double the size of when they were born. They have started “popping” when disturbed. They leap up as high as they can try to get to their mothers teat first. They are still blind so they react to the influx of air as if to their mother. It is highly competitive in the nestbox at this age. The mother only feeds them once or twice a day for a few minutes so they have to eat fast or lose a meal.
The kit on the left missed out during the last feeding. 24 hours ago he was the same size as the kit on the right but without food he will not grow. Since he is now weaker than the rest of his littermates he will have even less chance of nursing at the next mealtime. If this litter was born to a wild rabbit he would likely die – only the strongest kits can beat the competition for a teat. Since he was born in a rabbitry, I can intervene. I have had very limited luck with using bottles – I have not yet found a nipple that the babies can easily latch on to. Maybe one in ten will nurse from the bottle and that one will not remember how at its next feeding. I have had a lot more success fostering kits out to another mother. This kit needs a meal soon or it will die so I am placing it with a mother who is probably going to feed her kits soon to give it another chance to eat. It is hard to tell in the picture but the white kit is significantly larger than the rest of the littermates and is obviously getting more than his fair share of the milk. It is better to match kits by size to ensure a fair competition. I am going to foster him out to a litter of similarly robust kits to give his littermates a fighting chance. If I did not have a litter to move him to the best strategy would be remove him so he misses a feeding which will allow the other kits to catch up. It might sound counter-intuitive but if he stays, he will continue to out compete his littermates and the smallest will start dying while he become huge. (Update – the blue kit did get his meal and was returned to his original litter where he now has a fighting chance).