What are the ‘Faders’? I can hear you all asking, so now I’ll try to describe them to you from my own experience. As its name implies, a bunny that is a ‘Fader’ literally just fades away until it has no energy left and it dies. We, along with many other breeders, have tried numerous methods in an attempt to save these little ones with only a small percentage, if any, making it past three weeks. You first notice a ‘Fader’ when the babies leave the nest at around 2 weeks of age.
This is the stage where babies start to nibble on anything they see their mother chew on. The ‘Fader’ appears to crouch as close to the mother or other siblings as possible with its ears close to its head and its fur fluffed up to conserve as much energy as possible. You won’t see them trying to nibble on anything, run around the cage full of energy, or eat with their siblings when mom feeds them. Also, their eyes seem to open later than normal (around day 11) and they usually have to be bathed in warm water to free them, not just once, but several days in a row.
We ourselves have tried numerous strategies and documented the treatments used. When the next fader appears, we used the parts from the previous treatments that seemed to have had a positive effect on the ‘Faders’ and livened them up a bit. We have been very lucky to have only had six ‘Faders’ since we started raising rabbits almost five years ago. We found that the most important things to ensure a positive result for the ‘Fader’ were warmth and sunlight, keeping them with their family rather than isolating them as this only made them die faster, and the addition of extra vitamins in the form of Penta-vite® added to its formula. We also noticed that these little ones couldn’t suck like their siblings, but they could lick the warm formula when it was placed on their tongue. So when Ellie gave us two of these little ones, we were determined to give them our best care in an effort to save them.
As soon as they hatched out of the nest and were seen to be ‘Faders’ we immediately started supplementing them with the modified formula, put heating pads under their bedding (we put heated wheat bags under our cooler frames so they didn’t become a tasty snack for mom and the other siblings) and made sure they got a sunbath every day for a couple of hours (vitamin D) by putting them inside in front of the window so they were exposed to direct sunlight, but they kept warm and draft-free. We weighed them before and after their feeding using very accurate scales and found that they ate 4g of feed per feeding at first and ended up consuming 12-15g when they were weaned four weeks later. The little baby Siamese Smoke, who is a male, weighed 82g for his mother, while her sister, a REW, weighed 94g. Her brother (a sooty fawn) who was a normal, healthy baby weighed 146g, so we used that as a benchmark. It has taken almost two weeks of three daily doses and constant monitoring to see a positive change.
When they were four weeks old, these two little ones started behaving normally and are doing better. The REW now weighs 142g and the little Siamese Smoke now weighs 129g. His sooty fawn brother weighs 190 grams. When they see me coming they get very excited as if to say: ‘Mommy two legs is coming, yes’. Their mom, Ellie, still cleans and cares for them so we don’t have to worry about that side of things and now their little ears are starting to get cut off. Mind you, his sooty fawn brother is also getting his ears cut off.
So it looks like we’ve come up with a winning treatment to change these little guys. How happy are we? As you can imagine, we feel great and it’s wonderful to sit there watching the little ones run. We will keep the REW Doe to see how it develops and also do more studies in the future (such as if it will produce normal babies or faders, if its health will be affected in the future etc.) and we will also keep an eye on the little Siamese Smoke to see how it unfolds. We hope this information helps those of you who are raising rabbits.