So, you’ve discovered a bunny nest that has either been destroyed or the mother has been killed or injured? There are two schools of thought. One, let nature take its course or two, help. There are wildlife resources in your area that may or may not help. This article is NOT about wildlife resources and there are many reasons why I did not turn the wild bunnies over to any of them in my area. In this series, my goal is to help educate you on the proper way to care for wild bunnies during the first 10 days or prior to their eyes opening.
Before you read on, I must post a disclaimer: In most cases wild bunnies ARE NOT abandoned and should be left alone and the mother will only come back at night to feed them. In reality, less than 10% of orphaned wild rabbits survive the first week. Any attempt to care for them may be illegal in your area.
With the legal mumble jumbo out of the way…
In the early spring, I stumbled upon a nest in my garden that was deserted because momma bunny was killed and found on the road. It was verified, don't worry. The baby bunnies, or kits, were approximately two days old. I scooped up the babies and moved them into my home where I would begin to nest and feed them, just as their mother would. There were five kits in the litter. My first goal was to make the nest as similar to the one they were removed from. I did this by using the grass from the original nest and because I had a cage at home, I was easily able to mimic their environment and keep them warm and protected. I added some extra warmth and comfort by using the same cage liner material that you would use for a domesticated bunny or guinea pig. That’s the easy part.
Next, the feeding. Baby rabbits need a lot of calories and their mother’s milk is rich in calories. Most mother’s feed their babies for a few minutes each day, but my gut instincts kicked in and I fed them twice a day. Once at dawn and once at dusk, every day like clockwork. Consistency is key and you took their lives in your hands, so you must also remain consistent. I use KMR which is kitten formula and heavy whipping cream. Again, the calories are important here. I used 1-part heavy whipping cream to 1-part liquid KMR. KMR can be found at any pet store. I started with the liquid KMR, but later switched to the powdered version. With the powdered version you will use 1 part KMR to 1-part water and 1-part heavy whipping cream. It must be mixed smooth. It’s important to warm up the formula, just as you would for a human baby. Remember, momma’s milk is going to be warm!! Do a wrist check to make sure it isn't too hot. Do not use a microwave, simply fill a bowl with hot tap water and place the container you mixed your formula in into the container until the water cools.
With a dropper in hand, I fed each baby bunny. It's a slow process so allow yourself at least an hour for each feeding. During the first two weeks, baby bunnies nurse from their mother on their backs. You will need to hold them in your hand on their backs. They are totally adorable and nestle into the warmth. They may even fall fast asleep while feeding! It took them some time to get used to the dropper, but once they did they naturally suckled. It’s important to have a hand towel to wipe their mouths during the feeding. Momma would have licked their faces clean and KMR will leave behind a sticky clump. It is especially important to stay clear of their nose. At no time should any liquid drip back toward their nose. If you’re going to do this, you’re going to invest a lot of time to their care and it is critical that you do it correctly so they survive.
Ready for the fun part?
Baby bunnies cannot pee or poop on their own for a few weeks. Great! Hey, you’re their momma now you have to do what you have to do. In order to get their digestive system moving, you will need to soak a cotton ball in warm water and rub their bellies starting at the top, down to their groin area. You’ll repeat this until they have urinated and pooped. FUN! You get to do this twice a day for two weeks!!
So let’s recap...
1. Make a warm nest inside a cage to keep them safe and warm. 2. Feed them twice a day using KMR (found at any pet store) and 1-part heavy whipping cream. (It must be heavy whipping cream do not substitute). 3. Starting at the top of the belly, using a wet and warm cotton ball, rub in a downward motion until the baby bunny goes potty.
4. Repeat every day.
Baby bunnies will open their eyes at around 10 days old. I will never forget when I was feeding one of the babies and I noticed his eyes were open. It was a joyous feeling. Opps, did I fall in love with them? You bet I did.
Stay tuned for my next article: Rescuing Bunnies Part II.