Reviving Cold Newborn Baby Rabbits

by Josée

Both our does (female rabbits) have kindled (had babies) for the first time this year. I am always a little nervous when kindling time draws near. I feel the tension and excitement as the does busily build their nests. I check on them every couple hours so that I can rescue any newborn kits that might be born out of their box.

This year one of our does insisted on building her nest on the wire instead of in the nest box. I kept on moving the nesting material to the box but in the end she rebuilt her nest on the wire and that’s where she kindled. Soon after I gently moved her nest to the box. Initially the kits seems fine, except one that was put aside. A doe will do this if she knows that there is something wrong with the kit. This particular kit (baby rabbit) was quite small, a runt, but it was still moving so I tried to revive it.

To revive a cold newborn kit I start by giving it skin-to-skin care. The perfect spot for this is in your bra (if you’re a gal and wear a bra). As the kit begins to warm close to my skin I fill a sink with warm water and then place the kit’s body into the water while holding it’s head out. I hold the kit there until it starts to move more frequently. When it’s body feels warm I take the baby rabbit out and quickly dry it off with a soft towel. The kit should feel warm, move it’s legs and make little noises.

Often when a kit is born on the wire it misses it’s first feed so before returning the kit to it’s nest box I give it a chance to nurse from the doe. To do this I remove the doe from the cage and place her on her back. This is tricky because rabbits don’t like to be on their back. I manage to keep the rabbit on her back by holding the rabbit’s head between my knees and keeping a firm grasp on it’s hind legs. I place the kit on her belly and allow it to nurse. When the kit is no longer interested I return the kit to the nest box and the doe to her cage.

I have revived quite a few baby rabbits this way and I hoped this one would survive but it was so much smaller than the rest. Unfortunately I found this kit dead the next morning and several days later more of it’s siblings were dead. I finally clued in that the doe had refused to nurse her kits after I moved her nest into the box. One cold small kit was left and I revived it by using the methods above and then fostered the kit with the other doe who has six healthy growing kits. Hopefully it survives.

Linking to Barn Hop.

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31 comments

Kim Corrigan-Oliver April 16, 2013 - 1:18 pm

Wow, they are so tiny. This is amazing, so happy you shared it. Really sorry about the kits, fingers crossed for the one remaining.

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crunchymama April 17, 2013 - 2:25 am

WOw that's just amazing! Thanks for sharing. I had never seen kits before, true miracle of life! I showed the pictures to my toddler and this allowed us to start a conversation about rabbits and the cycle of life.

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Tanya April 17, 2013 - 3:19 am

Beautifully grand attempts to save the kit… Thanks for sharing the pics, our does are expecting their first litters soon and you've given me ideas of how we can help them.

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Josée April 17, 2013 - 3:50 am

So far it looks like the baby rabbit is surviving 🙂

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Josée April 17, 2013 - 3:51 am

My children love to look at the baby rabbits. It's such a great opportunity to discuss all sort of things relating to life.

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Josée April 17, 2013 - 3:51 am

How exciting! I hope the kindling goes well.

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Melissa Carter October 14, 2013 - 3:40 am

Hi, i was hoping to get some advice. My doe had 8 kits 2 weeks ago. There was no problems untill this morning i found 2 babies out of the cage, they were very cold but still alive. I warmed them on a hot water bottle,and placed them on my does belly but they did not feed. I am unsure why they would have been out the cage as they are not really moving around yet and had full bellies. I have since returned the 2 back to the nest in hope that the other babies would provide body warmth and maybe kick start their system. They do not have a strong heart beat and im just not sure what to do from here. Any advice would be great. Thanks.

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Josée October 14, 2013 - 3:50 am

Hi Melissa, I have found that around two week the kits start getting bigger and moving around in the nest box. If the sides of the nest box are too low, or there is too much bedding in the box the kits can accidentally fall/jump/bounce out. As for reviving the kits, it sounds like you attended to them well. They might be alright but check on them frequently. If they had too much of a shock they might die and it's best to remove them from the nest as soon as they do. At this point there really isn't much that you can do other than wait and see, and make changes to the nest box to ensure the kits don't bounce out accidentally. Hope that helps a little.

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Lydia H December 27, 2013 - 7:35 am

(づ。◕‿‿◕。)づ Thank you for sharing your method and I was hoping to get some advice.
My doe had 6 kits for her first litter. They were big and healthy. Then after a month, she just gave birth to another litter ( 6 kits again) even though I separated her from the buck. However, this time, the kits were even smaller than the first birth and the one you have in the picture. They were quite healthy until day 3, I found out that 3 kits were dead (TT.TT), while the other 3 still warm. But then at night, 1 of the 3 quite weak and refused to drink her mom's milk, and she turn cold quickly too. She stopped moving a couple of times, but I managed to get her to moved again. For now, I put her with the rest so they can warm her. What should I do? :<

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Josée December 27, 2013 - 8:10 am

Hi Lydia,
A couple questions.

Were the first batch of kits nursing up to the point when the second litter was born? If so, the small kits might be a result of the doe having too much stress on her body and not having enough nutrients/fat/energy to support both the developing kits inside her and those nursing. Or simply not having enough time to replace her stores of fat etc. before rebreeding.

My second question is when were the doe and buck separated? A doe is most receptive to rebred right after kindling.

My advice would be to continue monitoring the remaining kits. They may not survive with being so small. It's always sad when this happens. At this point I recommend ensuring that the first litter remains healthy. They should still be nursing if they are only four weeks old. I wean kits around six weeks of age. I hope that helps a little. Maybe wait about six weeks before rebreeding your doe again to give her time to gain her strength back. Let me know if you gave any other questions.

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Lydia H December 28, 2013 - 7:21 am

Thanks for replied.
Another two kits from second litter die, I'm trying to pray and hope that the last kit will survive. He/she has grow some fur now, but the body is cold and not warm like yesterday :<

Yes, the first batch of kits nursing up to the point when the second litter was born. The first litter is quite healthy and active too. They around 5 weeks old now. Although for some reason (which I don't know), one of the kit has one of his/her ear down like their mom, while the other stand up just like their dad and this happens today. What happens to his/her ear?

I separated the doe and the buck after I went back from school. I knew that the rabbits can breed fast, but never thought it would be that fast…-sit in corner-

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The Higgins Family March 21, 2014 - 1:40 pm

Our doe did not pull out enough fur for her nest – the kits were "buried" a little, but we could see them through the hay and fur. They are very cold, but we are trying to revive them. If we can, I'm not sure how we keep them warm without enough fur. Any advice?

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Josée March 21, 2014 - 4:58 pm

You could try pulling out fur from the does belly yourself if the doe allows you. If that doesn't work is it possible to move the rabbits to a warmer location?

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Nayeli Collier May 1, 2014 - 3:25 am

Thank you SOO much for this post. I read it a few days ago after my doe kindled before realizing I would need it. She kindled on wire so the kits were all over the garage.. I overlooked one that was in another expecting does cage. Anyway this guy was okay, threw him in the nest box with the others, found him tonight freezing in a corner away from the others. I don't think the other rabbit just had one kit but he might smell like her and get rejected not sure. I'm warming him up and although I had the doe sit and feed the others I guess he wasn't nursing cause once again he is cold and I can see he hasn't eaten. I'm following your methods to the T now!

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Nayeli Collier May 1, 2014 - 3:37 am

… and he died from the bath. =(

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Josée May 1, 2014 - 3:49 am

Oh no! Sometimes no matter how hard you try the doe will reject the kit and it will not make it. I'm not sure why this happens some. Perhaps the doe knows that something is wrong with the kit and leaves it out… or if it's the runt it will be neglected. Sorry to hear that it didn't make it.

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claynpaper October 19, 2014 - 1:35 pm

Can I revive my cold and dead baby

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Anonymous August 6, 2015 - 4:39 pm

We use cotton if the doe doesn't pull enough fur, that way we are sure that they,re warm and secure

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Anonymous August 6, 2015 - 4:39 pm

HI.Had this problem .. after the doe gave birth to 6 kits (2 died) the buck had eaten one of the kits, and the other one was save but the feet , its tail and also some part of the ears was also eaten . Still , the kit survives for 2 days , now i was feeding them , the 3 other was perfectly good , but the injured kit is cold and also making some noise , which is different from others . I'm worried . What should I do ?

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Angel Kluesner February 19, 2016 - 3:33 pm

My rabbit just had 5babies .this is her first litter.4of the babies r warm to the touch and r huddled together. The other one keeps leavi g the nest and is cool to the touch….I am concerned but my husband said it's ok nothing to worrie about…should I intervene and take over on the one that keeps leaving the nest…

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Josée February 19, 2016 - 3:38 pm

I have definitely had this happen before. Usually I try to put the little stray back into the nest; this often works. Every once in a while that same little one wanders off again and it dies. I'm not sure why this happens. You could try warming it on your skin but sometimes it seems that no matter what you try a little one just isn't keen on living.

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Ariana January 12, 2017 - 5:32 am

I have a mature rabbit and all her baby’s are warm and fine she just had them but when I seen her by them she kinda pushed them away and they were making noise how to I make sure that she’s not hurting them and how do I make sure she’s feed them all they are all warm this is her second time her first little didn’t make it but these baby’s seem healthy and warm to the touch how much fur is enough?

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Josée January 12, 2017 - 8:07 am

Mama rabbits can be very nervous. It’s best to always give them plenty of space, if they feel threatened in any way they will be more likely to abandon their kits (babies). If everything look alright just give her space. When you check on her do so very discreetly. Unfortunately there is no way to force your rabbit to feed them, but your rabbit will know what to do. If the kits feel warm they should be fine. If you feel like there isn’t enough fur you can always gently pull some from your rabbits belly area (which is where the rabbit pulls its fur from). I hope that helps 🙂

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Kim February 9, 2017 - 3:34 pm

My rabbit had 5 babies on Tuesday, they’re are in a box with plenty of straw & hay & mum has pulled tons of fur & this is all over & in the nest. You cannot see the babies as they’re hidden. I was advised to leave them & not interfere so haven’t but tonight had an urge to check on them. 1 of them is dead & 1 of the remaining 4 is a very different colour to the rest. Similar to the colour of the 1 that hasn’t made it. They all seem to have fat bellies but they are all really cold to touch, the remaining 4. I have moved them into the bathroom next to the towel radiator that is on low, I’m not sure what to do, why are they cold? Any suggestions would be really appreciated. Thanks kim

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Josée February 9, 2017 - 4:59 pm

Hi Kim, I’m sorry to hear you’ve lost a little kit. Where were the rabbits before you brought them into the bathroom? Were they outside before? If they were outside and it was cold it could be that despite the hay and fur it wasn’t enough to keep them warm. We’ve lost kits for this reason… bringing them into a warmer space is a good call. However, sometimes moving the nest can be stressful for the doe so best to keep an eye on her (very discreetly of course). Depending on where you live, how cold your winters are, and if you keep your rabbits outside you might find that breeding your doe in the winter is challenging because the kits get too cold and die. You may want to consider avoiding winter breeding all together, or making some changes to your setup (ie. heat lamp or heat mat) to keep the kits warm enough (or bringing them inside…). I hope that helps a little.

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Mgloff February 28, 2017 - 3:02 pm

How do I know if our doe has finished birthing? She just had one baby and it was dead. It’s been about 4 hours ago.

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Ashley March 28, 2017 - 7:21 pm

My holland Lop had 8 babies they all seem to be doing good she had them 4 days ago will she be able to feed them all!

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Sharon jones March 14, 2018 - 1:54 pm

This is her second litter she has lost both litters she is seven months old she had three the first time out side we didn’t no she was pregent this time brought her in she made her nest two was born good size both was dead we tried to warm them but nothing happened they looked fine would her mate be to big as they are meant to both be drawfs be he is a lot bigger than her we put them in different cages when Kew new she was near hope you can help

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Zeeshan March 19, 2018 - 12:55 am

It’s been 18 hour since my rabbit gave birth to two kits who aren’t moving but are alive

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i'm french May 26, 2020 - 11:59 am

thanks for uploading the pictures, these are so so cute. But I was so sad to read that it didn’t survive 🙁

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Chrisey January 30, 2021 - 8:23 pm

I came home to 6 still burns. 🙁 my holland lop hardly pulled fur- left a mess- the bunnies were just thought her cage.
I cleaned everything up. I’m terrified now there was something I could have done to revive them… but the seemed so lifeless and so cold.
Why did she let or happen this way. It was her 1st little however

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