Tuesday, October 7, 2014

What Do Wild Baby Rabbits Eat?

Rescuing Wild Baby Rabbits

A question many veterinary clinics get in spring and summer is, "what do wild baby rabbits eat?" This often happens after a lawn mower finds a rabbit nest. Find out what to feed a wild baby rabbit to prepare it for release back into the wild.

As a general rule it's best to let wild baby rabbits remain safely in their nest. Sometimes circumstances force us to become surrogate mothers to wild baby animals, as was the case for me when a lawnmower went over a rabbit nest. I was faced with trying to save eight wild baby rabbits with injuries ranging from shock to one fatality. After tending to the injuries I called my veterinarian to find out what wild baby rabbits eat.

My veterinarian explained that it's difficult to replicate food for baby bunnies. It's best to contact a wildlife rescue organization near you, especially if there are severe injuries. Because I've had veterinary experience, and all of these baby rabbits had their fur and would only need a week or so of assistance before release back into the wild, he gave me the instructions. Wild rabbits do not make good pets and should always be released back to the wild or to a wildlife rescue..
Assess the Age of the Wild Rabbits

The first thing you need to know before feeding wild baby rabbits is how old they are so you can give appropriate meals.

Less than one week old: no fur yet, eyes and ears closed

One week to ten days old: fur covered, eyes closed, ears down

Over two weeks: fur covered, eyes open, ears up

Wild Baby Rabbits Need Hydration After a Major Shock

Check the rabbits' hydration by lightly lifting the fur at the back of the neck. If the skin stays up or is slow to go down the rabbit is dehydrated.

Rabbit hydration formula: mix one quart warm water with one teaspoon salt and three tablespoons of sugar. Feed to baby rabbits with an eyedropper or a small syringe. Feed every 15 minutes until the baby rabbits perk up and skin elasticity returns.

Feed Baby Wild Rabbits Formula First

Bunnies under ten days old are still on mother's milk. Feed them formula from a syringe or eyedropper a few times a day for another few days. Human soy-based baby formula works well, or you can make your own mix.

Wild rabbit formula mix: 1/3 cup baby animal powdered formula, 2/3 cup heavy cream and one cup warm water. Mix thoroughly and feed three to four times per day up to six hours apart.

Feed Older Wild Rabbits Fresh Greens

At two weeks old introduce fresh greens into their diet. Place small amounts of fresh dandelion greens, clover and Queen Anne's Lace and some fresh garden soil in the hutch for them to graze on throughout the day. Make sure all of the plants and soil are free of fertilizers and lawn pesticides.

Wild rabbits leave the nest at about three weeks old, so once you get them this far it's safe to say they have a fighting chance. I'm happy to report all seven of the baby rabbits I rescued were returned to the wild after only a week of care. Finding out what wild baby rabbits eat and giving them a good start is the best thing you can do for them.


"Rabbits in the Wild": V. Johnson, P. Adams, P. Goodrich and R. Haas, 1991: "Wild Animal Care and Rehabilitation Manual", 4th Edition

Photo credit: Ann Harrison [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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