Rabbits are now becoming a common household pet.

And this is different than finding a wild baby rabbit. There are things you can do if you found orphaned wild rabbits in your backyard.

There are cases when a pet owner has to take care of a baby rabbit from the start if there is no mother rabbit around anymore.

It may be because it was abandoned as a baby, or simply the mother has passed away. These baby rabbits have a slightly different diet compared to mature rabbits.

We are here to give you information about it. 

Baby rabbits are small and fragile and require a lot of attention and pampering. While rabbits make good pets, these baby rabbits diet changes as they grow and increase in age. They have to be well-fed for them to grow strong and healthy.

Just like any other baby creature, infant formula milk is a necessity for baby rabbits as well. It’s actually better if you make a diet chart that outlines the rabbit’s age along with it. Formula milk should be diluted before a baby rabbit can drink it.

You have to keep in mind that nothing will ever be an equal replacement for the nutrition that comes straight from a mother. If the mother rabbit really is not around anymore to give the proper care, then what you are providing is merely an alternative. 

There are lots of probabilities as to why baby bunnies become orphans. It could be because the mother died during childbirth, or it poses a risk to the infant if the young feeds directly from the mother, or simply because the mother just refuses to feed her young. There are other factors but these are the most common so far. Either way, the chances of survival may be slim but there is always hope as long as the young are provided with proper nutrition. 

What to feed baby rabbits without a mother

If there is a mother, the baby rabbits would only need to feed from her twice a day for 5-10 minutes every meal. Mother rabbits are not very maternal. They do not coddle their young. There are times when the mother would abandon her children and refuse to feed them. This is a hopeless case as you cannot force the mother. So here is an idea about what to feed baby rabbits and whether or not 2-week old bunnies can drink water. 

BEST DIET FOODS FOR BABY RABBITS
NameWeight
Kaytee Forti Diet5lb
Kaytee Timothy Rabbit Food9.5 pounds
Sherwood Baby Rabbit Food10lb

Proper diet for baby rabbits

In the worst-case scenario that the mother is really no longer around to be a source of natural nutrition for the baby bunny, then you must take it upon yourself to be responsible for feeding the younglings. 

Around 0 to 3 weeks of age, baby bunnies only have a strictly liquid diet. You can buy rabbit’s milk online. This type of milk contains more calories and nutrients compared to any other mammal’s milk which is exactly what infant rabbits need for their growth and development.  

You can buy them online or at local pet stores. You can also make them yourself. You just have to make sure that they contain all the necessary nutrients.

How to feed formula to baby rabbits 

Confirm the mother rabbit’s absence

You should not assume that the young rabbits are abandoned just because the mother isn’t there. You have to be 100% sure that the mother is really incapable of providing care for her young before you take responsibility for them. 

You may notice that the mother is not always present to tend to their young but this is normal behavior because mothers only need to feed their young twice a day for 5-10 minutes. Other than that, they do not have to be around anymore to keep them warm or groom them. 

You will know that the baby rabbits are neglected if:

  • They are cold or shivering, may have blue discoloration on their skin, excessively cry, or dehydrated
  • The mother is showing clear signs of rejection to her young. In this case, you should separate the babies from the mother to protect them from harm.
  • Do not take the baby rabbits away from their nest just because you don’t see their mother around. Observe and check on them a couple of times before taking them in.
  • The survival rate of hand-reared rabbits is only at 10%. As much as possible, just leave them in their natural habitat. 

Buy replacement milk

So if you have officially taken the baby rabbits in and assumed the responsibility of caring for them, the first thing you’re going to need is their milk. The replacement milk for natural rabbit milk should have the equivalent calories and other nutrients that they need.

  • Kitten Milk Replacer or organic goat’s milk can be a good alternative. These are available in local pet stores or vet clinics.
  • For every can of KMR, you can add 1 tablespoon of sugar-free heavy whipping cream for the caloric content and to mimic the consistency of the mother’s milk.
  • You can also add a trace amount  of acidophilus to the mixture for the maintenance of the normal bacterial flora of the rabbit’s digestive system. This can also be bought at health food stores. 

Cow’s milk cannot be used as an alternative because it lacks the essential nutrients. The next best thing would be goat’s milk. The typical formulation for the milk is one glass of milk, one egg, and one teaspoon of honey. Mix these altogether in a bowl and you have your formula. 

Add in the additional contents we mentioned in the list and you’re good to go. Keep in mind that the gastrointestinal flora of a young rabbit is very sensitive and therefore must not be fed with just anything. A strict diet has to be followed to ensure their well-being.

Use small syringes

Since baby rabbits are very small and won’t be able to drink from regular-sized water bottles just yet, you need to get small, sterile syringes as a way to introduce the formula milk to them. This is also a convenient way to measure the specific amount that you are giving to them. 

You can buy syringes at pharmacies, vet clinics, or pet stores. There are also special infant syringes that are specially designed for feeding. 

Formula amount for baby rabbits

Baby rabbits have to be fed and nursed from the day they are born until they reach 6 weeks of age. This is the period of their early life in which their diet will gradually change as they grow. The frequency is two times a day but the amount that is required for their every meal increases with their age as well. Refer to the data below for the required daily amount of formula for every age group. Since this refers to the overall daily amount, you have to divide it by half to get the serving amount per meal. 

  • Newborn to one week – 4 to 5 cc formula
  • From 1 to 2 week – 10 to 15 cc formula
  • 2 to 3 weeks – 15 to 30 cc formula
  • 3 to 6 weeks until weaned – 30 cc formula

Giving the formula 

After you mixed the formula, you can do the twice a day nursing of the baby rabbit. You have to feed them at dawn and at dusk and as much as possible you should try to resemble the way they would feed from their mothers.  

Allow them to feed at their own pace

Baby rabbits may feed slowly during their young age. You should not force them to feed quickly. Allow them to savor their milk while they consume it. 

  • Baby rabbits tend to suckle the syringe. The best way to introduce the formula into their mouths is to gently squirt a small amount at a time. 
  • If you notice that they aren’t sucking from the syringe voluntarily, don’t rush them. Give them a bit more time to adjust to the new source of food. 
  • It’s also a good idea to pet them gently while they are being fed so they feel safe and comfortable. 

Urination and bowel movement of young rabbits

After every meal, their urination and defecation must naturally occur or be stimulated to ensure good digestion and excretion. Stimulation of their bowel movement should be from their birth until they reach 10 days. 

Moisten a small cotton ball or fabric with warm water and gently stroke the genital or anal area of the baby rabbit until it starts to dispose of its waste via urination or defecation. Keep the stimulation until the baby rabbit is done. 

This is a way of mimicking the mother’s behavior where she licks the baby rabbit to stimulate the excretion of their waste.

Weaning

The weaning of baby rabbits takes 3 to 9 weeks of age depending on their breed. So until they are fully weaned, the formula milk should be the only source of nutrition provided to them. 

  • Domestic rabbits wean around 6 weeks old. 
  • Wild rabbits like cottontails wean at around 3 to 4 weeks while jackrabbits wean at around 9 weeks. 

Feeding solid food

Wait until they are able to fully open their eyes

You can start giving solid food to baby rabbits once they can fully open their eyes. This can happen at around 10 days after they are born. You can incorporate small amounts of solid food into their formula until they are weaned. Always wait after they are able to fully open their eyes when you introduce solid food otherwise their digestive system cannot tolerate it.  

Introducing solid food

When their eyes are fully open, you can begin to mix in small amounts of solid food into their formula. There is a difference between the types of solid food that domestic and wild rabbits can eat so you must first determine the breed of the rabbit that you have under your care. Both domestic and wild rabbits eat oats. Timothy hay, and alfalfa hay. 

  • For domestic rabbits: Give them oats, timothy hay, alfalfa hay, and pellets. Do not give them vegetables. 
  • For wild rabbits: Same as above but give them fresh vegetables instead of pellets. 
  • Put the solid food in the corner of their food tray.
  • If there are leftovers, dispose of them immediately and replace them with fresh ones for every serving. 
  • Make sure that the vegetables are fresh and moist when you serve them.
  • Hay and pellets are available at pet stores or the vet clinic. You can buy fresh vegetables at your local market. 

Constant supply of water

Aside from the formula and the solid food, water is essential for every living creature and rabbits are no exemption. You should provide a readily available supply of water for the baby rabbits. 

  • Do not put the water in deep bowls.
  • Use shallow dishes and fill them with a small amount of water and keep it in the corner of their space. 
  • Do not leave stagnant water. Clean the dish and refill it every once in a while so it won’t accumulate bacteria.

How to properly feed the baby rabbits

Lay the baby rabbit down on their stomach on your hand when you feed them. Do not position them on their back while you feed them. What you have to do is put them in a similar position as they would be if they were feeding from their mother. You have to hold their head up while they feed.

Fill the syringe with formula milk based on the amount appropriate for their age and hold the syringe near the mouth with the tip just slightly above their mouth without actually putting it in. Pump out a small amount onto the side of their mouth so they can sense it first.

When they notice the presence of the milk, then they should start feeding. Do not squeeze out the syringe inside the rabbit’s mouth. Only give small amounts of the milk at a time so they won’t suffocate or drown. 

You will notice that they are properly feeding with the slight movements of their belly. If it’s round then that means that they are full and satisfied. If not, then they might need more.

Remember to increase the amount that you feed them as their age increases. 

Diet schedule

A diet chart is essential for you to be able to track the proper amount of food that you should be feeding to the baby rabbits as they age. For the first two weeks of life, the rabbits are still very small and should only be fed with formula milk alone. 

3-4 weeks: Add alfalfa hay to the formula.

5-7 weeks: Formula milk plus hay. Try increasing the amount of hay every week and slowly decreasing the amount of milk and see how they respond. This is the time when weaning should begin to develop.

8 weeks onwards: Weaning stage. Formula milk can be eliminated from the diet. 

Risk factors to be aware of

We already mentioned that the survival rate of baby rabbits who aren’t fed by their mothers is only at 10%. The few weeks after birth are critical stages of a young rabbit’s life. They need to be carefully tended to and fed well to ensure their survival and proper growth and development. The following are the reasons of the low survival of orphaned baby rabbits:

  • Incorrect milk formulation. The alternative milk formula that you feed to baby rabbits should be a good replacement for the mother’s milk and contain essential nutrients. 
  • Wrong position while feeding. The baby rabbit’s head must be held up to prevent suffocation and not have the milk go to their lungs. 
  • Non-sterile syringe used. The syringe that you use to feed the baby should be sterile otherwise there may be a presence of bacterial pathogens that can infect the infant rabbit. Remember that their gastrointestinal system is still starting to develop and therefore cannot tolerate bacterial contamination.
  • Underfeeding or overfeeding. Always refer to the diet chart to provide appropriate amounts for their age.
  • Inability to excrete body waste. If baby rabbits do not urinate or defecate, then they are unable to eliminate body toxins which can be fatal. 

Make it a point not to commit any of the mistakes that are mentioned above to increase the chances of survival of the baby rabbit. 

Other considerations

The first three weeks of a baby rabbit’s life are the most crucial. It is the major determinant of their survival and growth. There are unfortunate times when the rabbit will be abandoned by their mother so if you take the responsibility of caring for them, make sure you are careful and gentle in the steps you take in feeding them. Always refer to the diet chart. Keep them well-fed.