How to Care for Orphaned Bunnies and Cottontails-Video
How to Care for Orphaned Bunnies and Cottontails
It’s the first day of spring and since it’s about that time of year for babies to start being born, I’ve decided (by popular demand) to do a post on what to do if you find a tiny little wild bunny, like I did last year.
At the time I knew absolutely NOTHING about caring for little wild bunnies, and I spent the next few weeks researching and learning everything I could while caring for him.
First of all if you find an abandoned wild baby bunny, check around to see if the nest is nearby as many times the mother will be close (the mother will only feed the baby a few times per day when it’s safe, early in the morning and in the evening) If there is no doubt in your mind that the little baby is not being cared for by the mother, the next best thing you can do is to take it to a wildlife rehabilitator…and if this isn’t an option, it’ll need you to care for it until it’s old enough to be set free.
Cottontails are a lot smaller than regular pet rabbits so you can imagine how tiny their babies are. Cottontail babies (kits) are about half the size of most domesticated rabbit kits and from what I hear, are extremely hard to keep alive.
I documented everything so that it may help others who run across a little one that needs help. There are many different ways, but this is the way I did things…and if you have any experience with baby bunnies, please share at the bottom in the comments! 🙂
(By the way, this method can be used with baby domestic bunnies also)
How to Care for Orphaned Bunnies and Cottontails Tutorial
Formula Preparation & Feeding
UPDATE: I was later told by a wildlife rehabilitator that Fox Valley Day One Formula for rabbits is the best, as it takes the guesswork out of mixing up your own formula. If you don’t have access to this, you can mix up the formula below:
- 6 tbsp. water
- 1 egg yolk
- 6 tbsp. evaporated goat milk
- 1/8c heavy whipping cream
- 1tbsp Karo syrup (adding caro syrup is controversial through the bunny world and after much debate, I ended up adding it…some don’t add it at all, so you can make that decision)
I put all the ingredients in a mason jar and shook it all up, then stored it in the refrigerator. At about 5 days, I threw out the old, and started a new batch
I used a glass 2oz dropper to feed the formula with. At first I tried using a tiny syringe but found that the eyedropper worked best. I bought this one from Sprouts, but you can also get one like I used HERE
Then I warmed it with water (I prefer NOT to use a microwave, to prevent nutrients being killed)
The glass part on this dropper is about 2 in long from the handle to tip. I measured his feedings by how many droppers-full he ate, and considered it one dropper-full when the milk line was about 1/2in down from the handle (about 1/4tsp)
Make sure it’s luke-warm
His first feeding took me a little while to get the hang of it. He was a little dehydrated and I wanted to make sure that he wasn’t being fed too little or too much. I wrapped him in a washcloth with only his head sticking out, making sure to hold him upright (not laying on his back). I just slipped the tip of the eyedropper under his lip and fed him drop by drop, feeding him slowly to avoid getting milk up his nose or aspirating it into his lungs
I fed him approx. 5x daily, about every 4 hours. Sometimes he ate 2 droppers full of milk, and others he would only take 1/4 or 1/2 dropper full. But I would pay attention to how full his tummy was, to decide on if he needed to eat more or not.
He was a little older in this pic and didn’t use the washcloth for this particular feeding since he had already got the hang of being hand fed…
The next two pics are before and after pics of his first feeding. Notice how wrinkled and empty his tummy is before eating, and how full and content he is after eating. I had to make sure not to overfeed though, as his tummy should never be round and tight. If your bunny is older and furry, it’s harder to see their tummy, so feeding about 10% of their weight 3x daily is what one specialist said she does that I read about.
After you’re done feeding, make sure to clean and sanitize the eyedropper for the next use, just as you would a human baby bottle.
Also, the mother bunny will gently lick the baby’s abdomen and genital area after feeding to stimulate elimination. To mimic this you can use your clean moist fingertip, or use a warm wet rag or cotton ball. Personally, I have found that rubbing them with my finger while holding their little bottom under a warm gentle stream of water works great (see video at the top of this post).
Prepare Nursery Box
I used a plastic tote to keep my baby in and made sure it was kept in a safe QUIET place, as baby bunnies can get stressed quite easily.
Kit’s can keep warm without the help of a heating pad if the environment is around 80 degrees or warmer. Anything colder than that, they’ll need a heating pad. I slipped my heating pad into a plastic bag (to keep the pad clean) and placed it across HALF of the bottom of the tote. This way if baby gets hot, he can crawl to the other side without the heating pad.
I then covered the heading pad with an old sheet, making sure the sheet coverd ALL of the plastic that the heating pad is wrapped in, to avoid suffocation. Then I turned the heating pad onto LOW
IMPORTANT: Make sure pad is never turned hotter than LOW, to avoid overheating
After finding my cottontail kit, I spent hours reading up on how to successfully raise them. I learned they can be extremely hard to keep alive and many experts who’ve been successful at raising them, swear that including cecotropes in the kit’s daily diet jumps their survival rate from a low 30% up to a much higher 70%. Bunnies normally eat their mothers cecotropes around 10 days old, so I would start adding them to baby’s milk around day 10 and after.
Update: Although I fed my bunny cecotropes, you may or may not have access to them. If you don’t, all is not lost, as one of my readers did have luck raising up his 6 newborn cottontails successfully without feeding cecotropes. Also, another one of my readers that didn’t have access to cecotropes, successfully raised her newborn cottontail using a prebiotic called Bene-Bac.
“What’s a cecotrope”, you ask? Basically they are:
“partially digested foods that are passed from the bunny and then re-ingested. They contain a wild brew of bacteria and fungi that are normal and beneficial for the rabbit. In fact, the rabbit can’t live without them, since they contain essential nutrients (fatty acids and vitamins) that the rabbit cannot produce on their own.” (You can read more HERE)
Yes, you heard right…they eat their poop.
Now I’m not gonna lie, the thought of feeding poop to my little guy made me want to gag just thinking about it! But after some thought I figured if it keeps him alive and healthy, I SUPPOSE I could give it a try…
So I jumped onto craigslist and started emailing bunny breeders, asking if they could spare some bunny poop. Yes I got a few laughs, but the beauty of emailing is that you don’t have to hear them laugh at you in person! One breeder was only ten minutes from me so I buzzed on down to her house.
After sifting through the plentiful poop selection under her rabbit cages, I finally found those elusive cecotropes! Unlike regular ‘cocoa puff-looking’ rabbit droppings, cecotrotes resemble small, mucous-covered bunches of grapes. I dropped a few of these treasures into my zip lock baggie and headed home.
I poured a little bunny formula into a dish, dropped in a cecotrote, and basically smooshed and stirred it all up till the liquid resembled chocolate milk.
I fed 1/4 to 1/2 dropper full of this concoction to my little bun bun 2 or 3 times a week. The remaining liquid and extra cecotrotes where stored in the fridge in a tight plastic bag wayyyyyyyyy in the back (far from my sight) LOL. After about 5 days I would throw out the old batch of ‘chocolate milk’ and make a new one.
The day I found him (1-3 days old)
He can smell but his eyes and ears are closed so he can’t hear or see. When I touch him and he’s REALLY hungry, he lets me know by letting out a loud cry (kind of sounds like a loud puppy yelp). But honestly after the first day, he never cried again because I gave him small, frequent feedings (approx. every 4 hours)
(2 days later)
He loves to snuggle and burrow into my hand or his bedding, especially after he is finished being fed
His ears have opened and he can hear today! I sneezed and he was startled by it
Started him on the cecotrope formula . I was not looking forward to this part (as it still seemed a little ‘yucky’ to me) but after he ate it I was glad I did it. He ate it slowly and I only fed him about 1/4 to 1/2 of a dropper full, then washed it down with his regular formula.
This is the first day he grabbed the tip of the dropper with his mouth and ate without me having to coax him! He sucked the milk out of the dropper and I only had to help him out a little by lightly squeezing the eyedropper, but I still had to be careful that I didn’t squeeze the milk out too fast (only about 1-2 drops at a time
Eyes are open!!!
He can hold his ears erect!
Cutting his feedings down to 3x daily
Has been doing well with the 3x daily feeding schedule. Because his feedings are less frequent, he obviously eats more during each feeding. The little guy ate 5 droppers-full tonight which is the most so far! He has also started licking my hand when I hold him
Today he is very listless…I’m worried. He hasn’t had much of an appetite for the past 2 feedings so I’ve had to somewhat ‘force feed’ him drip by drip, giving him about a dropper-full or two, each feeding, to make sure he doesn’t get dehydrated. I’ve also gone back to feeding more frequently (every 4-6 hours). I’ve also noticed for a while now that his bowel movements have been very hard so I’ve given him about 2 drops of mineral oil per feeding in hopes that constipation is what is making him not feel well.
Because of what I’ve read about them going downhill fast out of nowhere, I woke up expecting him not be with us anymore…to my relief he was alive but still very listless. His normally wiggling nose hardly moves and he just slowly crawls around like he has no energy. I slowly fed him breakfast, and then his drop or two of mineral oil after feeding him. I’ve continued the drop of mineral oil after each feeding all day. On his last feeding tonight, he seems to be feeling a little better, looking a little more alert and showed semi-interest in eating. We will see how he is in the morn…
Little guy is poking his head out of his little hole when he hears me come in so he seems to be doing a little better. His little nose is back to it’s normal wiggle but he still just kind of crawls slowly around when he moves…BUT, he has been moving around his box more than he was since he started not feeling well. He semi-eagerly eats a dropper-full of milk and I slowly coaxed him to eat another 1/2 dropper-full, then topped it off with a drop of mineral oil, and then a few drops of milk to wash it down.
Little bun bun is feeling better, and he constantly licks my hand after eating! After his feeding tonight, I went out, picked some fresh grass, and offered it to him. He eagerly smelled it and started nibbling on a few pieces!
Have continued giving him grass after each feeding, he loves it!
Giving the 3x daily feeding schedule a try again
Have been back on the 3x daily feeding schedule for the past 5 days. He eats 6 or 7 droppers full per feeding. I still end the feedings off with 2 drops of food grade mineral oil (found in the pharmacy section of a grocery/drug store) to keep him regular, still help him to potty by rubbing him, then offer grass to nibble on. I also noticed that he’s starting to clean himself when done eating…Bun Bun is getting big!
Unlike domesticated bunnies who would normally become more tame with hand feeding, this this little guy became very skittish and alert as he got older. It became harder and harder for me to catch and feed him and at the 4-5 week weaning age, I knew it was time to prepare this growing baby to be set free.
Weaning him was easy…I simply moved his little nursery box with the heating pad outside and cut a hole in one end of the box, so that he could come and go as he pleased. I made sure there was plenty of water and grass for him to nibble on near the nursery box and after a few days, he was off and running around with all of the other little cottontails 🙂
Mary Jo Scarlette
Thanks so much for sharing this. I am a licensed Wildlife rehabber and rehab all small mammals, except the bunnies. Some of my fellow rehabbers that do rehabilitate orphaned bunnies know nothing about the cecotrope but it was briefly taught in my classes. I was told it was very difficult to keep these young orphans alive and I can see this may be because they don’t use the cecotrope. I have taken in 2 one week old kits and this is day 2. They are doing well so far on the Fox Valley Formula (for orphaned cottontails, squirrels, opossums, etc.) and I know someone who has rabbits to collect the cecotrope from but could you help me with this: Do I need to collect the cecotrope early in the morning since it’s usually produced at night? Should I rinse it off when I get home in case there is urine or other contaminants/bacteria on it? How much cecotrope to formula ratio (pea size maybe)? How long will it be ok in the fridge (the cecotrope and the formula mixed with cecotrope)? When did you stop giving the cecotrope/formula mixture (when completely weaned?). Thank you for any help you can give me. I have researched this online and have found little info. about this. Maybe I’m not looking in the right places, but I’m so glad to have found your blog.
I’m so glad you were able to find my post helpful…I also had a hard time finding information regarding this topic which is why I decided to post about it.
I didn’t rinse my cecotropes with water or collect them in the morning but it definitely can’t hurt to do both. I would say yes, add a pea size to your milk formula at first and just keep adding little bits until the formula resembles a greenish-brown chocolate milk color. I kept my cecotropes in the fridge for about a week, then threw them away and collected new ones just to make sure they were fresh. I continued giving the cecotrope formula until he was completely weaned.
It’s good to know there is actually a good formula out there (Fox Valley Formula)…definitely helps to share information to help keep these little guys alive!
Does the poop mixture have to be the cecotrope poop or can you mix regular rabbit droppings.? We had a friend that has rabbits give us a bag of the cleaned out cage of her rabbits but I didn’t see any that looked like the cecotrope.
In my research I had read that it needs to be the cecotrope, so if it were myself, I would not feed regular droppings. One of my readers did have success with raising a litter of babies without the cecotropes, so it is possible to do without them. Hope this helps!
Sorry…one more question. I have a little guy that the dog brought up that we didn’t know where the nest was. I’m guessing he was approximately 2 days old. No fur, eyes closed, underdeveloped ears. I have had him now for 4 days and he has gotten a lot of his fur now and seems to be doing well. I have been feeding him about every 4 to 6 hours. His eating varies. Sometimes he eats a whole dropper (1ml) sometimes less. Last night he ate the best about 2 dropper fulls. He sucked it out of the dropper himself and was very eager to eat. But after that feeding he has not wanted to eat again. It has been about 9 hours and he has no interest in eating. He has refused the dropper. Do you think it is because he had such a large earlier feeding? Any suggestions? I’m worried about him
It very well could be because he ate so much during the last feeding. I would give him a little more time to get hungry, and then try offering the dropper again in a few more hours to see if he shows more interest in eating.
Just wanted to thank you for your post and answering the questions I had. This post helped me a lot in learning how to raise up our bunny Pip, as we affectionately called him. He was apparently 1 to 2 days old when our dog brought him up. No fur, eyes closed, and ears not developed. We proudly released our little guy today to hopefully live a long happy rabbit life (see attached video) Also, for those that might be interested…I could never find the cecotrope but bought Bene-Bac online and started mixing it with his milk at about 10 days old…about 3 days before I started feeding him solid foods and continued to give it to him until his release at 6 weeks of age. I had success with that. Thanks again
Can I start out with kitten formula till I can get fox valley. I don’t know how long that will take
Yes, I know of some people that started out with kitten formula for their babies and then switched over. Good luck!
My friend called me saying her dog had found a baby bunny, and he had killed the mother. I told her to just release the bunny, and let Nature take it’s course, but she said the baby would die. I didn’t know how old the bunny was, or anything. She told me to come and get it, knowing it’d be safer in my hands. Being a child, I had to ask my mom, and we went to get the bunny. I know, child = danger, but I’ve done my research, and I’m more smart about animals than your average kid :/ Anyways, I got the bunny, and was surprised at how small and young it was.
I have the baby bunny now, and I’ve checked it’s gender, it’s a girl. I know this part will sound pretty messed up, but I’m keeping her in a tub with my mouse, Jwi. Jwi and Hosha (The bunny) are sleeping together and cuddling together… I make sure to open the lid and get fresh air in there every once in a while, and make sure they’re okay. I read on how to feed Hosha, and will do. My mom said I’ll have to let Hosha go once she’s old enough, and I’m fine with that. I want to thank you so much for making this helpful website!
I’m so glad you enjoyed my post! Lot’s of luck with your little bunny…sounds like she is in good hands though <3
I keep my hamster in a tub. He can’t get high up, so I leave the lid off. I believe the rabbit could jump out, and maybe the mouse could too, so perhaps putting a screen over the tub would be a good idea? I am worried that maybe if you don’t get home when expected, it might get a bit stuffy in the tub.
What do you do if baby cottontail sucks milk up his nose
I lightly dab his nose with a tissue, pause for a few seconds so he can catch his breath, then try again SLOWLY. Hope that helps!
Thanks it does and so far the 2 are doing great
Awww, thank you so much taking this time to help the little guys.
I’ve been in domestic rabbit rescue for 20 years. I have never personally dealt with a baby or a wild rabbit. I was involved in wildlife rescue until they started rehabbing coyotes using rabbits, nuf said.
The cecals is very good, it’s great! I have a tiny wild guy that I’m about to try to rescue, I have two healthy house rabbits, so I’m not sure I can get any cecals out of them. If healthy, they usually don’t drop them.
I am using your formula, and thinking I’m a better shot at this point,
Again, thank you for posting this.
You are such a caring person to give your time to help these little creatures. I am so glad you were able to find my post helpful! It helps a lot when we can all share out stories and info that we’ve learned to help these little guys
All bunnies drop these cecals, but not all bunnies eat there’s or they drop to many and won’t eat them all .
Hello. I am having trouble feeding an about 2 week+ old bunny. I took him in yesterday as the rest of his nest was eaten by the neighbors cat and he seemed a bit slow. He does not appear to be swallowing the formula. I place the dropper into the side of his mouth and squeeze a little bit out. Some goes in his mouth and some runs down him. It looks like a little may be going into him but I can not see him swallow. It does appear that he is starting to nibble on some grass now. Is it possible that he is too old for formula? Thank you for all your insight.
It can be a little challenging getting them to get used to the eye dropper. With my little guy, I squeezed just enough to wet his mouth for the first few feedings if he wasn’t swallowing well. I’d wait a minute or so and then try again (all while wiggling the tip of the dropper around in his mouth as a reminder to swallow) It’s a little time consuming, but you are basically teaching them how eat differently than they’re used to, so be patient. Did you get a chance to watch my video on how I fed my little guy? Also, if your bunny is nibbling on grass, he may or may not be old enough to wean. They need to be about 4 or 5 weeks old before weaning. Can you post a pic of him?
Thanks for your reply Tiffany! I did watch your videos. I tried again after your reply, I tried using a different dropper and he went for it! His tongue was moving all around and he was really lapping it up. I gave him 3ml and then had him take a little break. He was climbing on me as if asking for more so I gave him 2ml more. I was afraid to give him too much at once. He began to wash himself when I put the dropper away and then looked sleepy. The formula I used was liquid kittens formula as I couldn’t get my hands on any goat milk. I think I will try adding heavy whipping cream to it tomorrow. I have read so much stuff online the past day that my head is spinning! Thank you again for listening and responding!
Yay!! I’m so glad you were able to get him to drink. I know what you mean about your head spinning from reading so much…LOL I have heard some people using kitten formula so go for it! Good luck!!!
Ok I have 2 baby cottontails don’t have there Ears and eyes Open yat and my dog killed three of them do you live close to Arkansas I thought you maybe could take these babies sent you did so good with the other one please I’d hate for them to die. 1-501-730-2986 Vickey Matthews
Please give me a call
Oh my goodness, I wish I could take them but unfortunately I live all the way in Arizona. Have you tried contacting any local wildlife rehabilitators?
I have two kits but no goat milk and cant go to the store right now could I feed them 2% milk cause thats all that I have.
I’ve heard of people feeding them kitten formula that you can get at the pet store. 2% cows milk just doesn’t have the fat content that they need. But if it’s all you have, give it a try.
Fox Valley formulas are the best. Takes all the guess work out of it for you. I am a volunteer wildlife rehabilitator and this is what we use at the center.
So good to know!!! I’ll have to make a little note of this in my post 🙂
Tobi San Agustin
Our lawn mower was on the fritz and my husband just cut our back yard today. Tonight. to my horror, my son came to get me because my dog had gotten a hold of a nest and all 5 baby bunnies. Three were in really bad shape and because veterinarians have to be licensed with the state to treat wildlife the only option was to make a midnight run and have them euthanized. (They can euthanize them but can’t treat them. Good job government) I kept 2 of them because they seemed in pretty good shape. I think they are cotton tails but I’m not sure. Eyes are still closed. I raised rabbits when I was a kid but this is out of my league. Is there a formula that has the cecotropes in it? I’m sure I could find someone with rabbits but going to a strangers farm isn’t really something I want to do. I’ve included some pictures so if you can tell me approximately how old they are it would be very helpful. I included a picture of their bottle and nest so any input on how I can make it better would be greatly appreciated. Thank you
You are so sweet to take these little babies in. There just isn’t a lot of info anywhere on how to take care of baby cottontails and it’s very frustrating how the laws are, which is why I was forced to care for my little one. I would say your baby cottontail is is about 4-5 days old, and his eyes should be opening in the next few days. Unfortunately cecotrotes are not sold anywhere so you’ll have to find someone who has rabbits to collect them. I hope this helps and good luck!
Tobi San Agustin
I really wanted to help them but after my research (mostly your site) I decided to turn them over to a nature sanctuary. They have the training and experience. The sad thing is I had to take 3 of them to an animal hospital at midnight last night and because they don’t have a license to treat wildlife the only thing they are allowed to do is euthanize them. I think one of them could have been saved but I couldn’t stand it being in pain all night. Ridiculous that they can’t treat them. Thanks so much for the information you provided.
If there is a good sanctuary to take them to nearby, that is always the best thing to do since they care for these little creatures on a daily basis. I agree that the laws can be somewhat frustrating with this issue and you made the only choice you could with the circumstances that you were given. <3
Thank you for this great post. 40 years ago we lived in Iowa. My dad was on his way home from work and saw a lawnmower get the mother rabbit–he brought home the nest full of babies. We had no idea what to do, but my mom tried. Your sweet blog post and photos have great helpful information I wish we had known. Trying to keep them alive was my first experience with mortality. Nice work documenting your mothering and helping others be kind to animals. (And the poop milk=awesome! Fecal transplants done in other countries for IBS & Crohn’s patients makes sense!)
So glad you enjoyed the post! I know when I found my little one, it was very frustrating because of the lack of info on the web about baby cottontails. I never dreamed this post would be one of my top posts, as many others are in the same boat and looking for answers with this topic. So glad you were able to stop by and drop a line!
My rabbit gave birth to 5 kits and she is not looking after them at all, what should I do as the weather here is winter now .
If the mother is not caring for the kits I would definitely bring the babies inside and keep them on a heating blanket (turned on low) so that they stay warm while you care for them yourself. You could always bring the mother inside, keeping them together while you care for the babies, in hopes that she will eventually start to care for them herself. If you bring the mother in with the babies, I would keep them in a small area that is large enough to cover half the area with a heating pad for the babies to keep warm, and the other half to keep the mother’s food and water. This will give the mom enough space to eat and drink, but it’ll keep her close enough to the babies in case she has a change of heart and eventually starts caring for them herself. Hope this helps!
See on täpselt minu mees!!!
I think I overfed them and their stomachs are a little round but not bad should I hold off on one feeding? I have 6 cotton tails and they are all healthy just plump lol probably at about the 13-17 day mark
Hi Nate! It wouldn’t hurt to wait a little bit longer to feed for the next feeding. After a few times you’ll get the hang of how their tummies should look after they have eaten. You’ve got your hands full with six! Good job!
Can I use regular goat milk instead of evaporated goat milk in your formula? And what is the advantage of adding Karo syrup?
Yes, you can use regular goat milk. You can also leave out the water in the recipe if you use regular goat milk instead of evaporated. The Karo syrup gives them added calories and energy. It raises their blood sure and kind of ‘wakes them up’ if they are really listless.
My baby cottontail is maybe a week old. I’ve been taking care of her for about 3 days. I had been feeding her just regular goat milk, but then I made a similar formula to the one suggested with 3/4 cup regular goat milk, 1 egg yolk, 2tsp heavy whipping cream and 1tsp corn syrup. But she seems to have diarrhea. Could it be too rich for her? Or maybe something else? When do you start the cecotropes formula?
Although I raised my cottontail with my recipe, I would stick with what seems to be working best with your baby. Personally, I think fresh goat’s milk is the best if you can find some. I started the cecotrope formula right away, if it’s available.
Just found a baby. Eyes and ears closed still. Dropper feeding is very trying today. Feeding correctly as for kind, etc. Sleeping and cuddling good. He doesn’t like the eyedropper though and since noon yesterday has only taken in 1 dropper full. (It’s 2:30 am now) will be found tomorrow and mixed. He twists and turns while feeding and I don’t want to cause more stress. Any suggestions? He sleeps in a fuzzy winter sock on my chest at the moment ?
Hi Cynthia, what a sweet little thing 🙂 I know how you feel, it can be frustrating when these little guys don’t cooperate. He doesn’t like the eyedropper because he is used to his mother’s teat and the taste of her milk. He’ll get used to it if he gets hungry enough and you’re persistent. If he squirms, I would hold him a little firmer and continue offering the formula. Just get him to take a few drops, then give him a rest for a minute or two, then continue. At first it will be a little time consuming but it won’t when he he finally gets the hang of it. It might take him getting a little tired from fighting you until he finally accepts the dropper. Good luck!
MY DOGS JUST KILLED ONE BABY RABBIT AND I HAVE THE SURVIVING ONE IN MY HOUSE… IT’S LATE AND NOTHING IS OPENED ESPECIALLY IN LIGHT OF THE VIRUS… CAN I HEAT UP SKIM MILK OR SHOULD I JUST WAIT UNTIL MORNING AND TRY TO GET SOME GOAT MILK. HE S PRETTY SMALL… PROBABLY WON’T SURVIVE, BUT I’LL DO WHATEVER I CAN… SUGGESTIONS.
Normally the mother bunny will only feed her babies two or three times per day so I would wait until morning to feed him. If he is very listless and won’t move at all, I would give him one drop of Karo syrup mixed with a couple drops of water to give him some calories until you can feed him milk. I hope that helps!
My friend captured a baby bunny without good reason and now she does not want it because she wants a domesticated rabbit that she found in Petco. She said she was going to throw it back in the wild but I don’t think that she should do that being as I don’t think the bunny will survive. So I offered to take the rabbit in but I really just don’t know what to do. I’m overwhelmed and I just want to see to it that the bunny gets its best chance at survival but I’m just clueless on what to do if you could help, please reply.
How old is the bunny and what type is it? Wild cottontail and brush bunny rabbits should be released as soon as they are eating hay and greens. They should also be approximately 5 inches in body length and run from you when you are around them. Good luck!
I was very glad to find your post! I’ve been researching a lot to find out the best way to care for the kit in my care. There is a good bit of info that conflicts and then you have the stern “Only a licensed Rehab” person can handle this. That’s not helpful! I just needed to know the best way to care for this little dude! (Actually, I don’t know if it’s a male or female but I call him a “he”). My biggest concern is trying to figure out the best time to release him. When he came into my care his eyes and ears were already open. Thanks to your formula recipe, he’s thrived for a week so far and seems to be doing very well. He eats fresh greens as well as timothy hay. I offer water in a shallow dish but I’m not sure how much he drinks over how much he spills 🙂 . I’m attached a picture – he’s learned to stand alone for feedings. I’m truly amazed at his progress and his trust of me. I remain respectful of his wild nature and don’t try to hold or pet him…just take care of the needs. How old do you think he might be? I’m thinking that he’s at least close to four weeks. (Not the best pic but the most recent)
What a cute little guy! I would say if he is already eating greens he’s probably around 3-4 weeks old. You’ve done a good job caring for him! I understand about articles saying ‘leave their care under a professional’s supervision’ as there aren’t always places to take these little babies. When he is completely on his own with eating greens and drinking water you can start to think about releasing him. If there is a place to leave his little box outside, you can cut a hole in it so he can come and go. Leave fresh water and make sure there is grass for him to munch. He’ll start to venture further out every day and eventually will get the hang of living outside. I hope that helps and thanks for reaching out!
Just got one the a few nights ago. My dog found the nest and killed the sibling before I realized what was happening. I’m mixing KMR with goats milk and things are OK at the moment. All heating pads seem to have an auto shutoff after two hours though. I worry about the temperature. Feb 1, 2020.
AWW, they’re so tiny aren’t they? I’m glad you were able to save this one from the dog…
Hopefully all is well and I wish you luck with this little one!
I thought you might enjoy a real success story. About four plus weeks ago I was letting our dog out for the last time before going to bed. I turned the outside lights on and happened upon a Great Horned Owl attacking a rabbit not 15 feet away from us. I was surprised he continued considering we were so close but he eventually was successful and carried the rabbit away (the owl has been around here for a couple of years but this is the closest he has gotten to our house). I thought nothing of this until the next day when I was raking up pine needles near the incident and discovered the nest of 6 (six) now orphaned bunnies…..hardly any fur, eyes closed, and ears laid back. We were still experiencing below freezing weather here in Iowa at night so I brought them into our heated garage and put them in a large plastic bin along with the material from the nest. I used a heating pad as you suggested and the next day they seemed to be doing OK. I went on-line and found your website; your formula for feeding seemed to be just the ticket and I fed them as you suggested. Today – 4 weeks later – all 6 are thriving. They are still being fed the formula 3 times a day and I place cut grass as well as dandelion greens in their box. They are ravenous and when it’s time for their next feeding the grass and greens are gone and the bottom of the plastic bin is FULL of small rabbit droppings. I never did resort to using the cecotrope formula. I love the way they clean each other after eating. The last couple of days they have started jumping trying to get out of the bin so based on their size and how well they are doing eating I think I’m going to release them in the next day or so……all together in the same location. There is a large arboretum close by and dogs are not allowed. I can’t say the same for owls and hawks. I just hope that I haven’t raised these sweethearts only to become food for something else but they are the bottom of the food chain. I can only hope for the best. Thank you again for your fine website. I learned a lot and feel immense pride in bringing these 6 brothers and sisters this far. Now we can only keep our fingers crossed.
This is so wonderful Barney!!!
It’s stories like yours that make it worth all the work that I put into these posts! So glad to hear all of those little babies made it, as I know it was a lot of work for you to take care of SIX!!! WOW!!! It’s very interesting to hear about what you did and didn’t do (like the cecotropes), as raising cottontails is such a controversial subject. Also, did you end up adding the Karo syrup to their formula as I did, or did you omit it? (the Karo syrup can also be a controversial subject for bunny formula). I’m so glad you stopped by to let me know about your little bunny update, as we can only learn from each others’ experiences on what worked and didn’t work. Thanks for dropping a line!
Thank you for your post, it helped me a lot since my rabbit gave birth a few days ago and I dont think the mother rabbit is feeding her offspring because she looks so thin.
I just have a question. Whenever I am feeding the rabbit, I see her yawn midway. Do I stop feeding her? Does it mean that she is already full?
I’m so glad you enjoyed my post Jessica! When she yawns, I would pause with the feeding to give her a minute or two break, and then try again. If she continues to yawn or refuse to eat by turning her head, she is probably finished. Hope that helps!
I recently found a nest with tiny baby rabbits in them, a dog named molly at the mother a baby and injured another. I have the injured rabbit named mocha and he/she is not doing very well so I think I am going to do exactly what you did and see if mocha survives.
It never hurts to try! Good luck!
What mineral oil did you use?
That’s a good questions. Any brand of mineral oil works as long as it is labelled food grade. It is found in the medical section of the grocery store. Industrial grade mineral oil is toxic.
Awesome, thank you. I’d like to have it on hand just in case.
Hello, I can’t tell you how thankful I am to have found your site. We were landscaping our friends back yard and they destroyed the nest. We brought 6 new babies home in a tote similar to the one in your picture. We have several rags in there to keep these babies warm. Based on what you said in your article, these little guys are only a few days old. I received a formula tip from the guy at the local feed store (kitten milk and heavy whipping cream). I’ve been successful at feeding them by hand 2 times today. Their ears nor their eyes are open so I’m assuming they are only a few days old.
I’ve called the Colorado Wildlife, a local vet, and then a bunny rehabilitator and they all suggested I euthanize the babies. I just can’t see myself doing that.
After reading your article I’m assuming if they continue to feed well, and I can stimulate them to go to the restroom, then in 14 days I can try to release them back to their on habitat.
I’m really hoping I am doing the right thing.
I would not feel right to put down the bunnies either! Hopefully they will all do well! I wish you much success! It will be a lot of work but well worth it in the end! Hugs!
I have 9 baby bunnies in my 2 foot deep flower bed. They Nestle under the lilac tree, I was watering the tree and one started screaming. So went and got a bag of spinach and dumped it along with a carrot and a tray of water. I used a napkin to avoid me scent. They were attempt to climb out and they looked like your March 6th picture. Eyes open. One was thin, I did email wildlife as a large rabbit normally comes to eat grass or clover from the back yard but I haven’t seen it today? I’m worried. I have a pic but cant attach it.
From what I’ve learned, the mom will only come a couple times a day to feed her babies…and if she thinks it’s unsafe, she will wait until it is safe. The screaming is a natural sound that baby bunnies make when they are scared. (I’m thinking the water must have startled the one that screamed). If it were me, I would keep an eye on them from a far as the mother could be coming during the night to feed them. As long as their nest hasn’t been destroyed, I’m thinking the mother will return and they will be OK. If you still aren’t sure, check on them once a day to see if they are still moving around, as this will be a sign they are being fed. If they are very listless, then that means you’ll probably need to step in and help them. Good luck!
Hello Tee, I’m currently raising a little one, she was 24 hrs old at the most when found. I didn’t have any cecotropes to give her so on day 4, I got some acidophilus tablets (vitamin aisle) and scraped those (they powder formed tablets) into her formula of goats milk with heavy cream & she’s doing great. She’s actually a little piglet, and loves to eat. Just thought I’d shared the acidophilus trick to help out some others. Bunnies digestive systems are really fragile & they need good micro flora to have a healthy digestive tract. After giving her the acidophilus tablets, her poops turned greenish like an adult rabbits droppings. Once she got her eyes open it wasn’t necessary to stimulate her to potty anymore, she could do it on her own. She’s about 2wks now. Next step is clover & grass. Don’t want to rush it bc if a rabbit gets diarrhea, it will kill them. She’s a spoiled baby, in picture (she/he too tiny to get accurate sex) is sound asleep on her back.
Looks like you’ve done an amazing job with raising this little baby…it’s definitely not easy, but it’s worth it!!! Thanks for dropping by and sharing a pic, as well as what you did to successfully raise your little bunny. It’s nice to share info with each other on what works and what doesn’t with these little ones!
Hi. My neighbor called me yesterday morning to come get a tiny wild bunny that she had in a shoe box. She said that the momma bunny had been run off by a cat and that a black crow had been also watching the baby bunny. She said that the bunny came out if the hole twice looking for his mommy so she put it in the box. It’s eyes were open and he seemed fine except for being terrified of me. Any time I reach into the cat carrier to put greens in he cringes. I mixed goat’s milk and heavy whipping creme but couldn’t hold him to feed it to him because of how much he is squirming and jumping around. Therefore he hasn’t eaten anything for 24hollyholly hours as of now. Should I put him back in the hole and hope the momma somehow knows he is back? My guess is 10-14 days old. Thanks-
Since you’re having issues with feeding him, I would put him back in the hole, but leave some water out for him. He is at the age where he’s probably starting to nibble on grass around his hole anyway…so if mom doesn’t come back, he may get hungry enough and start eating the grass full time. It’s never an easy answer is it? Good luck!
Thank you for writing this article. It’s been very helpful. We have a baby cottontail here. Similar situation.
We happened to already have 2 domestic rabbits already. I’m making calls to find a wildlife rehab but I’m the meantime feeding him goat formula with a little bit of heavy cream.
My question- I’ve gone through my rabbits pen- I can’t seem to find ANY of the Cecotropes. I read somewhere that a lot of rabbits tend to eat it right away when it comes out. Could that be the case? I do notice some darker and moist looking poops- but their not stuck together. Any thought?? Thank u so much.
Unless you are going to raise this baby long term until he is old enough to be released, I wouldn’t worry about it, as long as he goes to a wildlife rehab…they will know what to do.
Yes, rabbits do eat them right away so you may not find any. If you can’t get your hands on any, not all is lost, as one of my reader’s did raise 5 babies successfully without the cecotropes. I hope that helps!
Hello! I am so relieved to find this information. I have a small bunny around a week old. It just opened it’s eyes. I’ve read a lot of conflicting info..so I’ve been only feeding him twice a day (KMR, heavy whipping cream, and a probiotic added). I’m just worried about him because his belly is certainly not as round as the after feeding picture you posted..but he doesn’t look super skinny like the pre-feeding picture either. He’s always in between the two for the most part..am I not feeding him often enough? He eats 6ml pretty easily but I try to get him to eat more cause he’s so little. I don’t want to over feed either though. He doesn’t really suck in the syringe but he is really good about chewing on it and swallowing. Any suggestions? Thank you!
It sounds like you’re doing a good job with the feeding. If he starts to get listless, then he’ll probably need to be fed a little more, but if he seems full of energy and eager to eat every time, he’s probably getting enough. You can also try to put a little grass in with him so he can start learning how to nibble and eat solid foods in-between feedings. Hope that helps!
Thank you so much! Yes I actually put a little bit of grass in there today and I think some of it is gone. Now I’m noticing he doesn’t always pee whenever I stimulate him now..I’ll pretty sure the towel was a bit wet earlier as well..does this mean he had learned to do it on his own? Or should I keep trying. He peed this morning but I can’t get him to after feeding tonight.
I wouldn’t worry about it as it sounds like he is starting to learn how to go on his own. Sounds like you are doing a great job! 🙂
This article has been very helpful as my dog found a nest of bunnies and mom seems to have been snagged by something. They are super young, eyes and ears are closed and there are 3. I am having trouble understanding the stimulating part? Do they need to pee and poo when you do this? I had 2 have bowel movements but have not seen them pee. I called every wildlife center I could and no one will take them.
If you are stimulating them with running water, you will not see them pee and maybe even poop because the running water carries it away so quickly. If you use a wet cotton ball or paper towel to rub them, you will see them poop and pee. Hope that helps!
Thank you so much for this post. I spent hours researching about baby cottontails after finding a nest of day old babies in my raised planter (born April , we think). There are 5 babies. Mom came back to feed them on the night of 4/10 (the day we found them) and was able to feed 4/5 babies but one went back into the hole without being fed and even though mom tried to get him to come out to eat, he wouldn’t. He’s the runt of the litter, but was very active like the rest on 4/11 and seemed to be doing well. We set up a bunny cam in our window so we can watch for mom, as the planter is immediately outside a window. We were gardening and cleaning the yard yesterday and I’m worried we scared mana away because she did not return to feed the babies last night. I’m worried the runt won’t make it to the next feeding since I’m not sure he’s been fed at all since birth. I read that the front feed until the next day after giving birth and he missed that feeding. I’m going to try to feed just the runt today and put him back in the nest to see if mom comes back tonight to feed them. I heard they can go 3-4 days before coming back sometimes. But like you said, there is little information about baby cottontails and so much conflicting info. I really hope mama comes back as we want these babies to have their best chance at life. I’m sick with anxiety over it. Thanks so much for your post and all the comments. I feel much better equipped to try to save these babies now than I did last night.
Attached is a picture of the day we found them 4/10/2021. They’re presumed to be 1 day old.
You are most welcome. I hope it helps!
So, sad update, but after I sent this post we went out to check the babies with the intention of feeding them since mom didn’t come that night, and the runt had passed away. We were able to feed the others and put them back in the burrow that night and mom came back and fed the 4 that were still with us. However, she didn’t come back the following night, so her pattern has been every other day – so far. We’re on day 4 at the moment. We are feeding the babies between visits to ensure they can make it until mom returns. Feeding KMR with a tablespoon of heavy whipping cream mixed into the can. Each baby is taking about 2-3ccs per feeding and a total of 6-8ccs per day, but I’m not sure if this is too much or too little. Their bellies are full, sometimes more than other times – but I figure some food is better than none. They all syringe fed pretty well without too much issue.
We have spring showers in Texas where we live, so we have been bringing the babies in during the day and putting them back out at dusk to see if mom will come back for them. The 4 are doing splendidly and your tips all seem to be working. We have given them bene-bac once on day 2 and they will get some more today. For the bene-bac, I mixed 8ccs KRM Mixture with 1/4 scoop bene-bac but wasn’t sure if those were the correct ratios – then fed each baby 2ccs each of that mixture. How long do we need to run them under water to help them expel until they can do it on their own? Seems that at least 2 can do #2 without help because we find droppings in their box. I’ve only seen 2 pee so far in the 3 days we’ve been handling them – and it’s possible it’s the same 1 that peed on two different occasions (I’m still trying to distinguish them).
We keep a bunny cam pointed at the nest to ensure we know if/when mom comes back and can monitor if she is feeding all babies. There was a thunderstorm last night, so we waited until about an hour after her usual time that she comes for them, but she was a no show and it was raining so badly we decided to just bring them in. Checked the footage and she never did come for them last night, so I’m glad we brought them in and fed them. Seems like at least one has their ears open now, because the camera shutter makes her jump. They’re getting much bigger and much stronger so I can imagine the feedings will get more difficult in the coming days. But this is such an amazing experience and I feel so much more confident after having found your blog. Will keep you updated on their progress!
Here’s an updated photo of 3/4 (one was being fed). They’re getting so cute!
Thank you for this post. It’s the most helpful and informative guide I could find on rescuing baby cottontails that I could find. The little one that I am trying to save will definitely benefit from the knowledge you have shared!
You are welcome, Jeff! I appreciate your kind words! Good luck with your little one!
Thank you so much for this!! I am hoping this recipe and information will really help my little two. My neighbor had a destroyed nest and the mother and other bunnies were dead. He didn’t know how to take care of them so I figured I would try. I believe there are about 3 weeks, not nibbling on any shredded greens, carrots, or leaves/ clippings from outside yet so I grabbed goats milk. I also weighed them when I took them in so I can keep track of their health. one bun is drinking and the other almost refuses it. I’m hoping with your recipe they will both enjoy it more and be more willing to drink up because they are starting to loose weight! 🙁 I really want to try to help them grow up strong. Thank you for the help!!
Hello, Brigette, You have to be patient but persistent, when feeding them. Sometimes you have to feed them drop by drop, like in my video. It takes a lot longer when you have more than one bunny to feed, but it is worth it. Good luck and take care. 🙂
hello, thank you so much for this post, I have a wee little cottontail at the moment who is probably around 3 days old and I’m just wondering when do you start introducing cecotropes into the bunnies diet and does it matter what breed of bunny you get the cecotropes from?
Bunnies normally eat their mothers cecotropes around 10 days old, so I would start adding them to baby’s milk around day 10 and after. It shouldn’t matter what breed of rabbit you get your cecotropes from either. I hope that helps and good luck!
I can’t find a date on this post, so I have no idea how old it is or if you are still responding to comments!
My question is: I have three newborn kits – probably about 24 hours old at this point (umbilical cords were still present when we got them this morning). I have not been successful in getting any of them to pee or poop. Since they are so young, do you think this is normal? Or maybe I am not trying long enough? How long do you try to get them to go? I tried both running them under water and the moist cotton ball.
Thank you for this post – it is very helpful!
Sorry for the delay in responding! It sounds like you’re doing all the right things to stimulate them to go potty as I stimulate them for about 30-60 seconds. If they haven’t eaten, they may not have to go until they get some food into their tummies. Good luck, and you’re a saint for helping those babies!!!