Dealing with litters born outside the nesting box is not fun at all but something that every rabbit raiser will likely run into at some point.
Thank goodness it is not common but can happen.
When I know a litter is due I check on the expecting doe often. Babies being born outside the box is one of the easiest things to fix but can result in the loss of all the babies if they are not born in the box.
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Why A Doe Will Have Her Babies Outside The Box
Most often this happens with a doe that inexperienced and is not sure what to do once she goes into labor. Not always but it happens. Another reason they will not use the box is because they were disturbed by something whether it is a noise or a smell on the box.
If it could be the smell, try another nest box if you have one. If not then try hosing it out with a small amount of soap and let it sit in the sun for a few hours.
So you might have to become a detective and try to found out the reason.
If you want to learn more about next box tips and tricks you can read more here.
If your doe has not had the babies yet and keeps insisting on building the nest outside the box then keep picking the next back up and put it back in the box. If you keep annoying her enough she should quit and leave the nest in the box.
What To Do With The Babies Born Outside The Box
If you find a litter outside the box that is still wiggling then pick them up and but them back in the next close together.
If momma did not make a nest then make a little hole in corner or off to the side of the nesting box. Use the straw and line it with the momma’s fur that she hopefully pulled. Then put the babies inside the little pocket.
If they are cold or not moving…
If you are not more then an our past the time they where born you can probably get a few other them warmed up. If you are within half and hour then you should be able to get the whole litter to survive.
The babies are not warm and seem dead or barely moving, take them inside and try to warm them up. I put them in a basket with a rag to take them inside. I like to use my hairdryer to get them started because I can hold them in my hand and feel the temperature. You do want it nice and hot but not enough to make your hand feel like its burning.
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If you have a small space heater, close the baby rabbits up in a small room and let it get nice and toasty in the room. You want to be able to put your hand over the nest (with the fur removed from over top of them) and feel the heat without the help of a heater. So once they feel warm to the touch then turn the heater off and let the room could down to what is comfortable for you. Then wait for an hour or so to see if they still feel warm on their own. If not then you know they won’t survive the temps outside even if it is 50+degrees.
The biggest thing to remember is to just not freak out and get them warm. If you can check on the doe often during the time she is due then you will likely catch the babies in time. But sometimes that is not possible if you have to work or plans you made beforehand.
If you want more tips on planning your breeding season check out this post.