Hypothermia in newborn bunnies:
Unfortunately, baby bunnies are born hairless, making them very sensitive to the cold. Baby bunnies born on the wire can die within a few hours. There can be a larger percentage of does that have their babies on the wire in the winter due to hormonal factors. They know this is NOT the normal season to be raising young, but we force them to do so that we may have new rabbits to show. This is sometimes the consequence we pay.
Providing a heated building and 15 hours of light in your barn can help to keep them producing and encourage them to care for their young during the winter months.
The cold baby syndrome:
You go out to your barn, excited with anticipation. You arrive at the cage to find the babies scattered on the wire floor. Giving the doe a disappointed glance, you start picking up the babies one by one, getting ready to dispose of them. But wait - was I seeing things or did one of them move? After closely examining them, you find they are still alive - but very, very cold.
What to do? I take them into the house and proceed to try to save them! If they have a lot of debris on them, I wash them off with tepid water (being careful not to get water in the nose or mouth) and pat them dry. Next, I wrap them in a hand towel and either place them on a heating pad set on low or put the towel with the babies under the covers on our waterbed. If you warm them up too quickly, they'll die.
Your success depends on how long they were exposed to the cold. I've used a hair dryer set on warm also. The key is providing a slow warmth. I let them warm up for about 8 hours, checking them periodically. You still will have your casualties, but the effort is worth trying. You could be saving the life of a champion bunny.
When the bunnies are all toasty warm you can put them back with the doe in the nest box. If the doe did not build a nest, you may need to build it for her. I use white pine shavings (3 inches thick) on the bottom of the
nest box and then straw, making a burrow for the babies. I pluck fur from the doe (the fur comes out easily at kindling time) if there is none available. We do keep a bag of fur around so we don't have to pluck a doe
unless necessary. Line the nesting burrow with fur, place the warm babies in, and cover them up with fur. If the doe did not build a nest and had the babies on the wire, there is the possibility the doe won't care for her babies. Ideally, I would foster these babies. However, if that's not possible, do the above and keep your fingers crossed. I always try to breed several does just in case I have to foster any babies.