PSA: kits are not dead until warm and dead.

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eco2pia

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Last week my oldest most reliable doe gave me a litter of 10! Mostly I try to leave the mom's alone to do their jobs, but given my recent rat problems, the size of the litter, and her age I've been doing daily nest checks.

This morning I found 2 fat and warm kits, and 8 "dead" in the doorway of the nestbox. No movement, the white kits looked gray blue.

They had no marks on them and they weren't well covered with fur. It's chilly in the night but not freezing.

I immediately stuffed them in my shirt and I'm sitting under a blanket writing this post. I can feel several squirming, and I've heard a few squeaks. I don't know if I will manage to save them all, but I've definitely saved some.

I'll foster the two fatties to a different doe with slightly older kids and once these are as warm as toast I'll give them back to Mom and see if she can pull them thru.
 
I am wondering if a chicken egg incubator might work. When I was trying to revive (sadly without success) a cold wee thing I realised the importance of providing a stable temperature. Has anyone tried this method? I hope your 3 are making good progress @eco2pia
Wouldn't that get too hot? Or not have enough air?
 
It's a long time since I raised chicks. My incubator is very old but I still have it somewhere. I think the temperature control is pre-set to around 100°F. It has a fan and you control the humidity by adding water. I was happy to leave new chicks in there for up to 48 hours.
 
If you happen to have a heated pad, ie for gardening or those heated pet mats, or even a small heated blanket you don't care if it gets messy, put it under half of the nest box; the kits can wiggle their way to it when they are cold, and wiggle away if they are too hot.
I have considered with the next lot, putting one of my soft heated pads slightly jutting out the front of the box, in case a hungry baby gets dragged out when the mom leaves. I haven't tested yet, but my hope is that a kit might survive until it's noticed even if it can't get back to the warmth of the nest.
 
I will warn you that overheating is JUST as dangerous. It is very possible to overheat and kill a small animal with a heat lamp, etc, if said animal is unconscious or incapable of moving away from the heat source. They just do not have the surface area and circulatory system to compensate for overheating. It is a very narrow window that is safe, and our bodies are pretty much centered in the sweet spot. What I kinda wish I had was a nice snuggly baby bunny bag made of muslin that I could tuck them into under my shirt without covering myself with fuzz. That said I would probably just not be able to find it when I needed it and stuff them in my shirt anyway.
 
If you happen to have a heated pad, ie for gardening or those heated pet mats, or even a small heated blanket you don't care if it gets messy, put it under half of the nest box; the kits can wiggle their way to it when they are cold, and wiggle away if they are too hot.
I have considered with the next lot, putting one of my soft heated pads slightly jutting out the front of the box, in case a hungry baby gets dragged out when the mom leaves. I haven't tested yet, but my hope is that a kit might survive until it's noticed even if it can't get back to the warmth of the nest.
I've had bad results with under-box heating. It's hard to heat a box full of insulating fur without making things very hot (the fur insulates from heat as well as cold). You can find underbox heaters, and maybe some folks use them successfully, but the few times I've used them, the does have liked the warm resting spot very much, and ended up sitting in the box almost all the time. That was problematic for several reasons, including two big ones: litters tend to scatter when the kits notice what smells like breakfast at the front of the box and leave the huddle to go try to nurse when the doe isn't having it; and the box gets full of potty waste from the sitting doe.

But under-box heaters shouldn't be necessary unless temps are colder than what most breeders will encounter very often, and again, at -30F, the does themselves will want to take advantage of a warm box - they're not stupid! :ROFLMAO: If the nest is properly made by the doe, the kits that venture out of the warm huddle can get back to it unless there's already something wrong: a cold kit will wander and dig until it finds warmth. By the same token, a very hungry kit will wander as well, and if that's the case, it won't stay put no matter how warm the box is. Other problems that can cause kits to be unable to find the huddle include a doe sitting in the box (see above); a box that is too big (nest box should be barely bigger than the doe herself, which also discourages box-sitting); or a kit that is already failing - sometimes it seems to be that the rest of the litter actually ejects certain kits.

Having a heater in front of the box to catch a popped-out kit may work, though I kind of suspect not. A single kit will usually wander around looking for the huddle, and may not stay sitting exposed on the pad. But it might be worth a try - I'll look for your update when you try it! :)
 
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I will warn you that overheating is JUST as dangerous. It is very possible to overheat and kill a small animal with a heat lamp, etc, if said animal is unconscious or incapable of moving away from the heat source. They just do not have the surface area and circulatory system to compensate for overheating. It is a very narrow window that is safe, and our bodies are pretty much centered in the sweet spot. What I kinda wish I had was a nice snuggly baby bunny bag made of muslin that I could tuck them into under my shirt without covering myself with fuzz. That said I would probably just not be able to find it when I needed it and stuff them in my shirt anyway.
Someone needs to market bunny warming bras, use as regular underwear until needed to rescue frozen babies.
 

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