How to help the runt survive

by Sylvia

Hi!! I'm a first time bunny grandma. My Ruby gave birth to 4 kits. 2 of them were pretty big, one was a bit smaller, and the 4th was much much smaller. We're on day 5 and three are the same size and the runt is still tiny.

What's worse, he seems to have his leg hurt. I imagine its from the other 3 jumping on him or his mom. Will it repair itself? Also, I decided to remove him from the nest and build another nest for him. He's on his own, but with lots of hay and fur. I want to make sure his leg heals and that I can control his food intake.

I'm putting him on Ruby 4 times a day to make sure he's getting enough food, but he's still pretty scrawny.

Any advice??

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

I admire your creative ways to help this little runt...I hope they work!

I'm concerned however for a couple reasons. First, if you separate the runt into its own nest, it no longer has littermates to snuggle with and help him keep warm. He may freeze overnight, especially being so runty.

Second, if in a litter of only 4 one is very small, I strongly suspect this bunny could actually be a double-dwarf called a 'peanut.' Read more at If I'm right (and I don't know that I am, since you did not say the size of the parents), then this little 'runt' will die no matter how hard you try to keep it alive.

I just want to make sure you're aware of all the possibilities. In the meantime, the best of luck to you.

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May 24, 2019
Netherland Dwarf Runt
by: Anonymous

We are first time rabbit keepers and our Netherland Dwarf had her babies last night. One appears to be a runt and its belly isn’t full like the other. We put him back in the nest on top so when she feeds them tonight hopefully he’ll be first but should we go ahead and help the mother feed him now? Will it be too late by tonight? It’s currently 9:54 am and they were born over night. The father is also a Netherlands’s dwarf.

***** Karen Sez *****
Hmm, Anon, if the runt is "just" a runt, then waiting till the evening for the doe to feed it will be fine. The kits have enough reserves at birth for a day or two.

But, I wonder if your "runt" might actually be a lethal dwarf, known as a peanut. If so, then nothing can be done to save it, and it will die, usually before it hits 2 weeks of age.

Get more info here:
Dwarf Rabbits
Rabbit Raising Problem Solver

Jun 21, 2012
by: Cathy Raphael

The last poster was right: It could be something you cannot control - that "peanut" thing. I had a runt in a litter of 3 - and one of the first things you need to know is that the mother only feeds them ONCE a day. In the night. I solved my little one's "runthood" by putting the fat ones in a cage overnight by themselves and leaving little guy with her mother. She porked out in one night!! Now she is fine. But if she is a LOT smaller than her litter mates - and esp with a broken leg - I don't think she will make it at all.

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Helping Runts of Litters

by Joanna Courage

We helped a runt from a litter, by feeding it electrolytes, as well as warmed, watered down goats milk, through an eye dropper,
The runt seemed to be sick at the time, and its poo was runny, after feeding it electrolytes for about 3 weeks, the poo was back to normal and the kit seemed to be doing much better, and with the extra goats milk it survived.
It always stayed smaller than its sisters, but fortunately it survived.

******Leia sez******

Congratulations on successfully nursing your runt! Other rabbit breeders will be very encouraged to hear about this. That is a great story. Would you share more details?

What breed is it?

How did it compare in size to the other kits from the litter?

How much did you feed it per day?

How much was electrolytes, and how much was watered down goats milk?

What was the ratio of goats milk to water?

Did you try having the runt nurse by itself, then once he was full, let the other kits nurse?

(You can answer these questions by using the comments section below.)


We have 2 books that have information about helping runts survive.

Our paperbook, The Rabbit Raising Problem Solver, is a great question and answer style book, which covers everything from habitats to health. This great book is autographed by the author when you buy through us, and the straightforward format helps you find what you want quickly and easily.

Our digital book, Rabbit Reproduction, covers everything about how big rabbits make little rabbits, from the first thump of love to mama doe weaning her kits. It goes into depth for what rabbit owners and breeders need to know about rabbit romance and family life. All of our ebooks are 30% off!

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