How cold is too cold for baby rabbits?

by Brook
(NC)

We have a litter of kits that are 1 week old. They are currently in a nest box, with plenty of hay and fur, in a hutch with their mom. We have brought them inside a couple of nights though because the night temperature fell to about 32-34 degrees. The next couple of days are supposed to have high temps in the lower 40's.


What temperature is too cold for them and when should they be brought inside to prevent them from getting too cold?

Moderator Note:

Good question Brook. When the nest box is padded with at least 2 inches of wood shavings and stuffed with straw and/or hay, AND the doe pulls plenty of fur, meaning you can't see the kits at all under all the fur, then the babies should easily be able to survive sub-zero temperatures. At least, this is the opinion of rabbit breeders that live where winter temperatures regularly drop below zero.

Our temps got down to 13 degrees last winter, and there were no problems with the babies. Gotta say, though, I'd be tempted to bring my kits inside if the temps started dipping into the single digits. Or, we might stuff the cage full of straw for extra insulation.

Maybe rabbit breeders from the frigid reaches of Canada will weigh in with their experiences....

Good luck Brook, and thanks for checking in...
Karen

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Apr 04, 2016
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How cold is too cold
by: Jocelyn

My rabbit had baby bunnies last night and it's going to be like 10 degrees Fahrenheit and I didn't get to check if they are all alive or how many there is. How do I figure this out?

I want to get any dead ones out but if I uncover the nest, I'm worried it will kill them. What do I do? I stuck my hand inside the nest box she has and it felt warm so is that good or should I be checking on them even if it is a risk. Please help last time they didn't survive and I want this litter to live please help.

***** Karen Sez *****

Can you remove the nest box and take it into a warm place like your home? Then you can move aside the fur, quickly check the kits and the nest, and put it back in with the doe before the kits can get cold.

If there are 4 or more babies, their body heat should be enough to keep them all warm, as long as there is enough fur insulation in the nest. Also, have you thought of putting some cardboard and straw in the cage to serve as additional insulation? There are lots of great tips and ideas in our book and e-book:

Rabbit Raising Problem Solver

Rabbit Reproduction E-Book

Enjoy your bunnies!

Oct 20, 2015
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Bunnies died at 4 weeks from cold temps?
by: Anonymous

Hi! We live in SC and had our first frost two night ago, so it only got into the low 30's. When we went out to check our 4 weeks old bunnies this afternoon, 4 of them were dead? They are in a nesting box inside their pen that had wood shavings (I believe that's is what it is), but there wasn't much I noticed....

Could these bunnies have died from it being this temperature of the low 30's, or is something else going on? They had been eating some of the mother's pellet food and nursing too. We only have one little one, so I cleaned out the box, put down the rest of the wood chips and filled it full of straw.....thanks in advance for any help.

***** Karen Sez *****
30-ish degrees should be no problem for 4-week-old bunnies, especially those that have littermates to cuddle with.

A more likely cause is probably something on the order of gastroenteritis. This could have been brought on either by germs in the nest box, or by a diet imbalance. The cold temps are not the cause, but could have been a triggering factor due to stress. Any other remaining kits are at increased risk of death from the same cause.

What to do:
1) Thoroughly disinfect the nest box, or remove it entirely. For a bit of protection from the cold (reducing stress levels) you can fill a clean shallow cardboard box with shavings and straw and provide it to the doe/kit(s). Or, turn the disinfected nest box on its side in the cage and stuff it with straw.

2) Remove all food immediately and provide nothing but water and hay for the next 48 - 72 hours. This will help to normalize the intestinal flora and avert more deaths.

Don't forget that I am not a vet. My experience and opinion about what you have told me does not substitute for a vet's opinion. I might be right on, of course, but then again, I can only offer an experienced opinion based upon the information I receive.

Best of luck with your rabbits going forward!


Feb 14, 2015
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Thanks!
by: Hanna

Silly story - I thought this 1-month-old rabbit was a girl, so of course I put it with the girl. Then one morning when I fed my rabbits there were babies! Sadly they all died and I didn't even know she was pregnant. I'm pretty sure she is pregnant now, and now I know just what to do when it comes. Thanks for all your help for telling me what to do to keep my babies alive!

Nov 07, 2013
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How cold is too cold??
by: Drue

Our babies arrived last night!! I believe there are 4 alive in the nest box, two were still-born..we had a nice mild night, but it is supposed to get in the 20's tonight..I have them in an enclosed area, and I went ahead and hung a heat lamp in the enclosure as well..they seem nice and warm in the nest box..I do have a heated shed I can move her if I need to..do you think it is necessary? I don't want to stress her out with the move if I don't need to..thanks so much, I really appreciate all your advice you share!!

***** Karen Sez *****
If the nest box has a couple inches of bedding in the bottom, lots of hay and straw on the top of that bedding in which the kits are nestled, and there is so much fur pulled that you cannot see the kits, then in my experience, they will be warm enough in 20-degree F weather with no additional interventions. You can always groom more fur out of the doe or another rabbit and add it to the nest if you think it is needed.


Oct 29, 2013
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Should we use a heat lamp?
by: Anonymous

Our doe is due next week and the temps should be in the 30's to 40's at night..she is in an enclosed area, should we put a heat lamp in the area as well? She lost her first litter, so we are really anticipating this one!

***** Karen Sez *****
How hot do you think you want the space? If your rabbit feels the nest box is too hot, you risk her failure to use the box. The temperature range you list is no problem to rabbits. It may be best to simply monitor the rabbit's progress and be ready to intervene only if a problem arises.


Jan 21, 2012
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How cold is too cold for baby rabbits?
by: Anonymous

I did add calf manna after that to my doe's feed as well, she was definitely not a good milker and now is doing much better. You are probably right in that they were attached to mom when she left, I never thought of that. She kindled on Wednesday and the babies are doing wonderful in the house, but it has been getting below zero here so I'm glad they're in.

Jan 16, 2012
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How cold is too cold
by: Anonymous

I had kits born out in our barn when it was 30-40 degrees out with a warm nestbox, unfortunately after a week two of them climbed out and froze, so I brought my doe and the remaining baby inside and she will kindle inside again. I won't take any chances.

***** Karen Sez *****
Did they climb out (nestbox needs to be redesigned), or were they attached to a spigot when the doe hopped out? In this case add some calf manna or a 1/2 tsp of olive oil to the feed. This will enhance milk production, and the kits will stay put next time cuz their tummies will be happy.

Being safe rather than sorry is fine too, but if you can correct the underlying issue...? It's a good question....

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