Baby bunnies should be fed with their mother’s milk until they’re fully weaned.
But sadly, there are situations where they’re not properly nursed.
Or they have no mother who’ll feed them.
However, if you’re taking care of a baby rabbit with a similar case…
There’s still a way to feed them.
Read on to learn:
- If baby rabbits can drink powdered milk or not.
- 7 easy steps on how to make a homemade rabbit milk replacer.
- List of things you can feed to a baby bunny aside from milk formula.
- Tips you should keep in mind while preparing the rabbit milk replacer.
- And so much more…
What is a substitute for rabbit milk?
The only substitute for rabbit milk is a formula made of goat milk and kitten milk replacer. So don’t consider other alternatives. This is also mixed with colostrum. As well as heavy cream. And this is done so that it can provide almost the same calories and nutrients that their mother’s milk has.
“How nutritious is rabbit milk?”
Well, when compared to cow milk, it’s higher in proteins and fats. As well as other vitamins needed by baby bunnies.
Based on this study, rabbit milk has:
- Fats: 0.028 lb/0.22 lb (12.9 g/100 g).
- Protein: 0.027 lb/0.22 lb (12.3 g/100 g).
While cow milk only has:
- Fats: 0.017 lb/0.22 lb (7.9 g/100 g).
- Protein: 0.016 lb /0.22 lb (7.7 g/100 g).
Newborn bunnies need lots of energy to survive. And their mother’s milk can provide this to them.
It’s their main source of nourishment when they’re young. This is why their survival and growth also depend on it.
So if it isn’t available and your baby bunny has no mother…
The closest thing to rabbit milk is a specially-made formula.
So how do you make a rabbit milk replacer?
I’ll discuss this step by step.
How to make homemade rabbit milk? The #1 replacer
#1: Get the ingredients
We’ve already talked about how a rabbit’s milk is filled with calories.
So feeding goat milk or kitten milk replacer alone to baby bunnies won’t be enough to give all their needs.
This is why Dr. Dana Krempels shares this recipe on how to make the closest formula to rabbit milk:
- ½ cup – whole goat milk.
- 0.6 tsp (3 cc/ml) – sugar-free heavy cream.
- ½ cup – kitten milk replacer or KMR (e.g., PetAg).
- 1 to 1 ½ tbsp (contents of 10 capsules) – lyophilized (freeze-dried) colostrum.
Before we proceed to the next step, let me discuss each ingredient first.
Kitten milk replacer (KMR)
This is made to resemble a mother’s milk in terms of calories and nutrients.
It has essential minerals and vitamins that younglings need to grow properly.
KMR is also rich in prebiotics and probiotics. These are live good bacteria that help in good digestion.
Also, compared to other milk formulas, this is easier to digest.
This is why baby rabbits won’t have any issues taking this in.
One study even found that KMR allows baby bunnies to absorb more nutrients. And this was compared to other formulas.
But you might ask, “Can baby rabbits drink cat milk?”
Well, baby bunnies are also called ‘kittens.’
But, this doesn’t mean that you can feed them cat milk. Only a specially-made formula with kitten milk replacer will do.
Same with KMR, baby rabbits can also digest goat milk well.
It’s also rich in nutrients like protein, minerals, fats, and vitamins.
Plus, it’s also low in lactose compared to the other milk produced by animals (cow milk for example). So it won’t hurt a baby bunny’s stomach.
Interesting fact: Goat milk is a better option for those who have cow milk allergies. Research shows that 40% to 100% of people with the said allergies are able to digest goat milk well.
According to VCA, it’s a fluid produced by the mammary glands after giving birth.
It contains many antibodies. So this will be a baby rabbit’s vital weapon against infections.
Aside from immunity, this also helps the good bacteria in the tummy. And it has growth hormones as well.
Sugar-free heavy cream
Lastly, rabbit milk is high in calories.
This is why experts recommend adding heavy cream to the formula. Since it has 36% to 40% fat per tbsp (15 ml).
#2: Mix all the liquid ingredients
Do you have all the ingredients you need?
If so, get a container with a lid.
Then mix all the liquids in it – ½ cup goat milk and ½ cup kitten milk replacer.
#3: Add the colostrum
Colostrum usually comes in powdered form. And it can be given to baby animals as it is.
But, mixing it in their food is a better option.
So once you’ve poured all the liquid ingredients in the container…
Add the 10 capsules-worth of contents of lyophilized colostrum.
Then shake the formula well. And do this until the powdered colostrum is fully dissolved.
One tip, it’s best to make their formula in advance so that the colostrum will have more time to soften up.
Note: Normally, a baby calf will only be given their mother’s colostrum for 3 days. This may be different for baby rabbits. So better ask your vet how long should you give colostrum.
#4: Heat the formula
Baby rabbits prefer their milk to be warm. So never give a cold one to them.
Instead, heat the formula you made to about 105 °F (40.56 °C).
But watch out for the temperature.
Experts say that overheating a milk formula above 158 °F (70 °C) can make it lose some of its nutrients.
You don’t want this to happen.
So to avoid this, check the temperature using a quick-read plastic rectal thermometer.
But sanitize it first before you put it in the formula to prevent the transfer of bacteria.
Note: Some also submerge the bottle with a formula in warm water.
#5: Fill the dropper with the formula
Apart from the ingredients, you also have to buy an oral syringe or dropper to feed your baby bunny.
This should be small so that it’s easier for you to control the amount you drop. As it’s important not to overfeed a baby rabbit.
Improper feeding is one of the main causes of death in young bunnies.
They’re only nursed by their moms once (rarely twice) a day. So making them eat more than their needs will only do harm.
Feeding them fast may also cause aspiration. And this is when liquids accidentally go into their lungs which lead to pneumonia.
Also, it’ll be hard to hand-feed a young bunny at first since they’re not used to it yet.
They’ll wriggle a lot and refuse to eat.
But be extra patient and gentle.
After a few more feedings, they’ll start to accept it. And they’ll be glad to be fed like this adorable tiny munchkin:
What to do?
You can buy one at a pharmacy nearby or on Amazon. (Check out this set of a syringe and dropper for small animals.)
After heating the formula, let it cool down for a bit.
Then fill the oral dropper with it.
Note: At first feeding, you’ll usually fill the whole 3 cc/ml dropper. Then when it’s already empty, only fill it with the amount left (minus the 3 cc/ml you gave) based on your rabbit’s age.
Typically, this will be the amount of formula that a baby bunny needs:
- 1 to 3 weekd old: 5 to 7 cc/ml each feeding.
- 2 to 3 weeks old: 7 to 13 cc/ml each feeding.
- 3 to 6 weeks old: 13 to 15 cc/ml each feeding.
#6: Check the formula’s temperature
Before serving the milk formula to your baby bunny, shake it well first.
Then drop some of it on your hand (preferably on your wrist) to check its temperature.
You don’t want to burn your fur baby’s mouth. So see if it’s already warm enough to be eaten.
#7: Refrigerate the rest
Since it’s best to prepare the rabbit milk formula beforehand…
You’re going to have some left after the first feeding session
So you might think,
“Do milk replacers have to be refrigerated?”
The answer is yes.
These have fats and milk and they’re prone to spoilage. So it’s right to refrigerate them. But make sure to use it within 24 hours.
Once you’re done, the next step is to feed your baby rabbit.
This should be done properly to avoid any problems.
But what’s the correct way to do it?
Learn more: How To Take Care Of Baby Rabbits? 11 Vital Tips
Can baby rabbits drink powdered milk?
Baby rabbits can’t drink powdered milk. Whether it’s an infant formula or full cream milk powder. This dairy product is made from cow milk so it’s high in lactose. Plus, it has a different nutritional value than rabbit milk. So as a result, bunnies can’t digest this well and they’ll have diarrhea.
If you want to know more, read this article: 7 Reasons Why Baby Rabbits Can’t Drink Cow Milk
What can you feed baby rabbits besides milk?
Besides milk, you can feed baby rabbits alfalfa hay and pellets once they turn 3 weeks old. Start by offering them a few pieces to nibble on every day. Then slowly increase the amount when they’re 4 to 7 weeks old. Also, at 12 weeks, you should introduce leafy greens to them (e.g., basil, cilantro).
Further reading: 11 Things You Can Feed A Baby Rabbit Without A Mother