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How To Tell If Baby Rabbits Are Dead [What To Do About It]

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Not sure how to tell if baby rabbits are dead?

If things went according to plan when raising rabbits they would be always born in a nest, out of the way of momma’s huge feet, and all warm and cozy…

Buuuut that has only happened MAYBE 25% of the time. I am constantly moving babies putting them in the right spot or moving the nest out of the way of where momma tends to land when she jumps in the nesting box.

So if you are constantly having issues just know that it’s not you. Sometimes things just go wrong even though you did your best.

How To Tell If Baby Rabbits Are Dead From Being Cold

This is just about the only thing you are going to be able to bring a rabbit back from. There are several other reasons a kit (baby rabbit) may die that I will explain later.

rabbit nest with fur

If the kit looks dead from being cold is possibly resuscitable (wow that’s a big word) the kit will feel cool and be stiff. If the kit is cold, limp, and with no movement whatsoever after a few minutes of trying to warm it up, then it’s too late to bring it back. 

Even if you think it is too late you might as well try to warm it up. Better to be safe than sorry. 

Here are the best ways to warm a baby rabbit that looks dead.

Top Ways To Warm A Baby That Is Cold

  • Use a hairdryer on low heat. – Hold the hairdryer 12-18 inches away. You don’t want to burn the rabbits. Holding them with your hand is also a good way to make sure you don’t overheat or burn them. Make sure to put the babies in a basket with a cloth in the bottom to help you contain them if they start wiggling you don’t want to drop them. 
  • Heating pad – This is a great way to try and warm them up
  • You can also try immersing them in warm water. Obviously, make sure to keep their heads above the water and dry them off really well once they are active. Source: farmingmybackyard.com
  • Your own body – This is some people’s favorite method and if I had to.. well ok but I’m not a fan of having little wigglers in my bra. 

DO NOT use a heat lamp like you use for chicks. These put off too much heat and you will cook the kit. 

Once the kits feel warm to the touch (you may not get them 100% back to normal) but moving and mostly warm is good enough to put them back in the nest. Being with their siblings is what keeps them warm the best.

But if they are still cold to the touch you don’t want to put them back in the nest quite yet because the other kits may move away from them and not keep them warm.

If you want to bring the whole nest inside to keep an eye on them for a bit you can do this too. Your doe only goes in the nest to feed them so keeping the baby rabbits for an hour or two won’t hurt anything.

how long does it take to revive a baby rabbit?

If your kit (baby rabbit) is cold you should start to see movement in 5 minutes or less if there is going to be any chance of survival.

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How To Know If The Kit Is Warm Enough to go back with the litter

When I am warming up a kit I will often have it in a deep basket with rags in it. Then put the kit under a rag to keep it warm. Then I will put it in our smallest room with the space heater to get the room up to 75-80 degrees.

I want to be able to touch the kit without feeling a chill on its skin. If it can hold that for about 30 minutes without any type of heat source on it then I will put it back out with the rest of the litter.

sun drawing

General Tips To Keep KitsWarm

  • Mamas Fur – Mamas fur is the most important thing to keep a litter warm. If your doe has not pulled fur you can often encourage her by plucking fur from her belly and dewlap. The fur around those areas gets looser right around the time she has given birth so don’t feel bad thinking you are hurting her.
  • Save Extra Fur For Later– If you have a doe that has pulled an excessive amount of fur then take some of that and put it in a bag. You can use that with a doe that has not pulled enough if necessary.
  • 40 Degrees And UP – If the nighttime temperatures are below 40 degrees when the kits do not have fur I move them into our sunroom which is not as warm as the house but is better than fully being outside and they do great. Just make sure to take them back to mamma as soon as you wake up. Don’t keep them away from her for more than 12hrs so she can feed them. Often times my girls are waiting by the cage door and are ready to jump in when they see the box coming.

How Cold Can They Handle

For newborn litters, if it is above 45 degrees at night they will be fine if they stay under the fur. BUT if they wander out of the nest they need to be found within 30 minutes or they will die.

If you have a decent size litter and they have fur but don’t have their eyes open they can handle just at freezing temps. 

If it starts to get below 30 degrees I would bring them into a warmer (but not as warm as your house, the change will be too much of a shock) area like a garage. This is one reason why I am extra careful about the time of year my does are bred.

Watch my litter planning system here.

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Tools To Help Keep Your Rabbitry Warm

Thermometer: Put a thermometer in the same area or room as your rabbits so you can keep an eye on how cold it is getting in your rabbitry.
Heat Lamps: work great to add a bit of heat to the area without being directly on the rabbits (you don’t want to overdo it or encourage momma to sit in the box because she will likely smash the rabbits)
Timer: This will help you not leave the lamps on too long. Set the timer to come on in the evening and to turn off mid-morning.

will a momma rabbit remove a dead baby from the nest?

The short answer is no, you have to be the one to remove it from the nest box. It is unhealthy for the kits to leave that in the box and if it is mid-summer could lead to maggots being hatched out in the nest box.

The rest of the kits may move to the other side of their nest box because the kit is cold and it is part of their survival instinct.

Another gross warning. Sometimes a doe may eat a dead kit for a number of different reasons. So be warned that can happen too. But all in all it is best to just get the dead kit out of the box and keep the environment clean.

what does a dead rabbit look like

If the kit has just died it may be stiff. But if it has been gone for more than 12 hrs or so it might be floppy when you pick it up and somewhat flat.

Other Reasons Your Baby Rabbit Might Be Dead

Raising rabbits is not an easy thing. Momma rabbits don’t always do their job and things just go wrong. 

  • Baby rabbits might not be getting fed.
  • The kit got stepped on. 
  • They wandered out of the nest and got cold.
  • GRAPHIC WARNING ——————————- The doe ate all of part of the kit. Yes, this happens more than I would like to admit. The reasons are just a guess. But often there is something wrong with the kit or the doe gets a screw loose. If your doe does it more than once I would not keep breeding her. It can be a bad habit you don’t want to pass on to feature generations.

How To Tell If Baby Rabbits Are Dead From Not Getting Fed

The kit will start to get wrinkles across the back like in the image below. The stomach will start to look flat and eventually, the kit will become extremely skinny.

skinny baby rabbit not getting fed by its monther.

It will take about 3 days before the baby will die. So this will leave you some warning and time to fix the problem. But it is best to help feed the kit if you think it is not getting fed rather than wait until the last minute.

You should be able to hand feed the kit so make sure to read this post if you think you are losing kits this way.

How To Tell If Your Baby Rabbit Died From Getting Stepped On

I have big rabbits so this happens quite often.

If the kit has been stepped on it will often be outside the nest (the hole that the momma made but still inside the nesting box) and be soft and playable from below the ribs. You may even see some discoloration (blue/green in color) in the midsection indicating internal bleeding. 

If you are having trouble with this read this post I have on what to do if your mother rabbit is stepping on her babies. 

PSA: this is assuming you do not have a colony set up or have other rabbits with the mom and litter. I do not recommend having multiple rabbits together ever. 

Losing rabbits sucks. Flat out. This can be a big reason I see people give up raising them. But do your best to not let your heart get attached until they are closer to 10-14days old. I know this can be hard and honestly, it takes years of experience and a lot of losses before you can keep going and not let it break your day to pieces.

It takes time to learn to protect your heart but it is so worth it. Nothing good comes without the hard parts.

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