I have not yet tried this, but raspberry leaves or raspberry leaf tea is supposed to promote a healthy pregnancy and a healthy litter. Give raspberry leaves (or tea), during the last two weeks gestation for a quick, strong birth and to prevent retained afterbirth. Overall, a great prenatal supplement. I need to start doing this with my does!
"PREGNANCY TONIC: Combine the following: dried, raspberry leaf, nettle, and goats rue (Galega officinale) in equal parts, and half part Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum). All organic either grow your own or get it from a health food store. Feed: 1 Tbs. per day at feeding time, to pregnant does beginning one week before kindling through the first month. These herbs help ease kindling, offer nutrition and support lactation. Just sprinkle 1 Tbs. over their food, once a day" (Rise and Shine Rabbitry).
Similar to human woman, does that get exercise pre pregnancy and during the pregnancy are more likely to have a healthy litter compared to does that spend all their lives in a 24" x 24" cage. I like to make sure my does have a lot of exercise the week they are due. Exercise also prevents obesity, which can lead to a doe miscarrying a litter or inability to get pregnant.
Never let the Doe Run out of Water -
When a doe starves or gets too thirsty, she can't provide nutrients to her kits and she becomes skinny faster than usual. And underweight doe is at risk of losing the litter or having a very stressful pregnancy and delivery.
Proper Nutrition -
For the development of a healthy litter, the most important thing is a proper diet. Does need LOTS of protein, fiber and vitamins to grow a healthy litter. Pellets with at least 20% fiber, 16% protein and added vitamins and minerals, like Purina Show (the feed I use), are perfect for growing healthy kits.
Prevent Obesity -
An obese doe will have a harder time getting pregnant and if she does, her body will have a larger amount of stress on it and the kits could be unhealthy.
Insure a Stress-free Environment -
If you need to make a major change to the doe's diet, environment or anything similar, do so before the 26th day of gestation. Does have more stress as their bodies prepare for delivery on the last 4 days of gestation. If you can, make sure the doe has a quiet, stress free area to deliver in. That doesn't mean you need to remove her from her current environment or from other loud rabbits if she lives in a rabbitry, but prevent small children from running in and yelling, or people she doesn't know from trying to touch her or anything else that could be stressful or unknown in those last four days.
Keep the Doe from Getting too Hot -
When a doe is pregnant or in labor, she is a lot hotter than usual and so when the temperature gets to be above 80 degrees, make sure she can stay cool, because with kits in her belly or with labor, she can overheat a lot quicker than a rabbit that is not pregnant or in labor.
Prevent your Doe from Getting Underweight -
Underweight does have a higher risk of losing the litter to miscarriage, producing underdeveloped kits, or just overall an unhealthy litter because their body simply does not have enough nutrients to support the doe and her litter.
Leave the Doe Alone Once she's in Labor -
I like to check on my does every hour or every other hour the day they are due. But once I can tell a doe is in labor, I like to wait for about an hour and a half before I visit her again. If all goes well, she can deliver a live litter of 5 or 6 in twenty minutes. And usually it's about an hour or so from the start of labor to when she gets in the box and starts to kindle.
Sometimes I will watch the doe give birth if she is a veteran mom and I know she won't mind, but with my first timers I like to have them do it alone by themselves unless something goes wrong.
**My friend Liz from Clear Sky Rabbitry has been breeding for several years, and she suggests the following:
~Calcium before and right after delivery is very important to help with strong contractions! Many breeders give a Tums chewable tablet once a day starting on day 28. Liz starts on day 30 and then one after kindling. My personal favorite is kale, since I don't usually have Tums on hand and I'd like to stay away from the sugar. I gave Saige lots of kale every day when she had a stuck kit and it helped her with the contractions and kept her from retaining the kit (it was stuck for a week).
~For milk production and gaining weight: calf manna or dandelions can help a doe gain weight after a particularly difficult labor or after kindling/nursing lots of kits. Some does don't produce enough milk for all their kits, and calf manna really helps with that. *I need to get some!*
I hope you guys enjoyed and that this helped some of you!