Caring for Newborn Baby Rabbits

WHERE TO PUT THE BABIES

Make the babies a soft nest area in a box with clean towels. We like to put one folded towel on the bottom and another bunched on top of that, so the babies can snuggle into it. You can also purchase soft nesting wool from a pet store and put that on top of the towel. Cover the box with a towel so it is dark, making sure that there will be enough air so the babies do not suffocate. Leaving about a one inch gap at the top is usually sufficient. Keep the babies in an out-of-the way, QUIET area, such as an adult’s bedroom. If the room temperature is between 68-72 degrees you will not need to provide extra heat, but if it’s cooler than that you will need to provide extra warmth. Use a heating pad set on low and slip it under one half only of the bottom towel in the box. We do it this way so that the babies can move to a cooler area if it gets too warm. ALWAYS make sure that the heating pad is covered, as babies can burn themselves very badly on an exposed heating pad.

If the babies were with their mamma, but she is not caring for them (and you are sure she is ignoring them) you will need to separate her from them, so they will not get hurt. If she has created a nest, use that material in the box that you have made to hold the babies. Rabbits nurse only ONE TIME a day, so if you think that she is not caring for them based only on the fact you don’t see them feed…think again. But if you are sure she is neglecting them, if they are dehydrated, cold, obviously ignored, of course, something must be done!

WHAT TO FEED THE BABIES

Baby rabbits should be fed Kitten Milk Replacer (KMR), which you can buy at pet stores, or sometimes even a local veterinarian’s office. Because rabbit milk is the most caloric of all mammals, we add in one tablespoon of cream to each can of KMR. Unless you are familiar with and skilled at tube feeding babies, use an eye dropper or sterile oral syringe, which can be purchased at most pharmacies. Feed baby rabbits no more than twice a day. Baby rabbits normally feed only ONCE a day, but you’re not mama and the KMR is not as caloric as rabbit milk—so if baby does not take in the total amount quoted below in one feeding, you may split the feedings in half, AM/PM – but no more frequently as it can cause severe gastrointestinal distress. Overfeeding is a leading cause of death in infant (domestic) rabbits.

If this is a wild rabbit, handle it ONLY during feedings and make sure to keep it in a quiet, safe, out-of-the-way area of your home, as excessive handling and human interaction can be extremely stressful and potentially fatal, and will lessen its chance or survival once released back into the wild.

Following is a guideline for the daily amount to feed a domestic OR wild rabbit who will be approximately 5-6 pounds as an adult (average rabbit size). You can increase the amounts as needed for larger breeds. Remember, if the rabbit does not eat the full amount listed, feed the remainder later, but do not feed more than twice a day.

For the BEST results, go to your local health food store (GNC has this) and get a bottle of ACIDOPHILUS. Ask for the capsules that have the “grainy stuff” inside (they are easier to mix than the “powdery stuff”) and add it to the KMR at each feeding.

Using acidophilus in addition to KMR will GREATLY increase the baby rabbit’s chance of survival, because it helps keep the bacterial balance in a baby’s tummy adequate.

  • Newborn
    • 5 cc KMR
    • 1/2 cc Acidophilus
  • 1 week
    • 10-15 cc KMR
    • 1/2 cc Acidophilus
  • 2 weeks
    • 26-30 cc KMR
    • 1 cc Acidophilus
  • 3 AND 4 weeks, until weaned (you may wean at 4 weeks of age)
    • 30 cc KMR
    • 1 cc Acidophilus

Note: 1 capsule Acidophilus equals 1 cc

Baby rabbits feed from their mothers while lying on their backs. You may loosely wrap baby in a soft face cloth or hand towel and lay it on your lap or in the crook of your arm. If bunny will NOT eat this way, of course, do the best you can. It is ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL to let the baby eat at it’s own pace—especially if it is not suckling from you (i.e. if you are using a dropper or syringe to feed it…). If you squirt the liquid in too quickly you can aspirate (get liquid in) the lungs and the rabbit will suffocate.

After each feeding it is important to make the bunny defecate and urinate to keep the intestinal tract and urinary system running smoothly. Use a soft cloth or a cotton ball moistened with warm water and gently stroke from between the bunny’s front legs all the way down over the anal area until the bunny starts producing stool and urine, and keep stroking until the bunny stops. You are replicating the behavior of the mother rabbit who would lick her young to stimulate them to go to the bathroom (as well as to keep the nest clean). The stool will be soft and may be varying shades of green and yellow. Be sure to clean baby’s mouth with a damp cloth or paper towel, so that no milk dries in the hair.

Baby rabbit eyes open at about 10 days of age. You may start introducing them to hay and pellets at this point, but no veggies or fruits yet. Just leave some hay and pellets in a corner of the box where the babies can easily get to them. Make sure it the pellets are plain, high fiber and fresh, with no added goodies such as dried banana chips or seeds. Don’t ever leave a deep water dish in which a baby could drown; instead, use something shallow and rinse and fill it frequently.

IF THESE ARE WILD RABBIT BABIES: Start giving them small amounts of pesticide-free greens and timothy or oat hay at this point (grass, dandelions, weeds, parsley…), but you do not need to introduce them to pellets, as the goal is to release them back into the wild where the food is not that high in protein. If they are eating pellets and then released into the wild, the change in diet could kill them.

Again, it is critical that you handle wild babies only for feeding and cleaning, or for wound care – as necessary. Keep them in a quiet area away from family goings-on. The goal is to keep them as wild as possible so that they will have a better chance when re-released.

Wild rabbits do not make good pets. The do not become docile like their domesticated cousins and they will be happier in the wild, where they belong. It is illegal and cruel to keep a healthy wild animal as a “pet.”

If you can find a wildlife rehabilitator in your are who will care for and release the babies, this is your best bet.

Wild rabbits should be released as soon as they are eating hay and greens, are urinating, defecating and drinking well and are approximately 5 inches in body length. They will be small, but the longer you keep them, the more agitated and difficult to handle they will become and the less likely their chances for survival in the wild. Make sure to release them in a safe place, where no pesticides are used–and where they will not run out into a street! It is best to release them in the early morning so that they have the day to acclimate. Community parks are NOT the place to release ANY rabbit, let alone a wild one. Prior to the release date, try taking drives and/or walks in the dawn & dusk hours (rabbits are crepuscular) in rural and country-ish areas and find out where other wild rabbits live. We choose to release our babies very early in the morning (5AM) or lat in the afternoon (4-5PM) in order that they have some time to acclimate and find a place to hide. We always make sure to leave several days supply of hay and water, so the babies will not starve or dehydrate will acclimating to their surroundings. It is best to leave the hay and water right next to large bushes, so the rabbits will have some place to run into should a predator come along while they are eating/drinking.

For more information of releasing wild rabbits, or for help determining IF the rabbit you have is wild, please contact us.

If you plan to keep this rabbit as a pet (as long as it is domestic), make sure that you have the time and really want a House Rabbit. They are wonderful, affectionate, playful pets than can be litter box trained like cats and live 8-13 years if altered and properly cared for. If you just want to let it live in the back yard or a cage – contact us for more information, and for help placing it. Rabbits should not live outside or in isolated cages. They are very social animals who love people, and the outside life is simply too dangerous (heat, cold, predators, bacteria) for a rabbit to live a long happy life.