Caring for an orphaned baby bunny isn’t an easy task.
They have such a small and delicate stomach.
So things might easily go wrong with one improper feeding.
But hey, relax.
This might require enough knowledge and be challenging at first.
However, hand-raising a bunny isn’t impossible.
So how can you do this and what are the things you can feed to them?
Read on to discover:
- The nutrients and benefits of a rabbit’s milk.
- 11 things you can safely feed to an orphaned baby bunny.
- Whether a baby rabbit can survive without any milk or not.
- The answers to, “Can baby bunnies drink water?” and “How long can baby rabbits go without nursing?”
- And many more…
What to feed baby rabbits without a mother?
You can feed baby rabbits without a mother with a milk replacer. But since they need more nutrients and fats, this must be mixed with goat milk. As well as heavy cream and colostrum. Then as they grow older, start offering them cecotropes and solid food. Like pellets, alfalfa hay, and leafy greens.
Can a baby rabbit survive without milk?
A baby rabbit won’t survive without milk. At age 0 to 3 weeks old, it’ll be the sole part of their diet. So it’s their only way to get the nutrients and energy they need to live longer. And even though they’re already eating solid food at 6 to 8 weeks old, they still need milk for more nourishment.
In a study, the most common cause of death in baby rabbits is abandonment.
It had a 31 to 31.3% rate, followed by cannibalism (17.6% to 18%) and starvation (11.7% to 12.%).
I know you want to prevent this and save your young bunny. So let’s dive right in!
11 things you can feed a baby rabbit without a mother
First off, did the baby rabbit’s mother die after delivery?
If this is the case, your kitten didn’t get any milk from their mom. This is why they need a special substance called colostrum.
“What is that?”
It’s a fluid that’s produced by mammals before they even release breast milk.
“Why is colostrum important?”
Aside from nutrients, it also contains antibodies that help newborns fight infections.
So Dr. Dana Krempels says that baby rabbits who had this have a higher survival rate than those who didn’t get any.
What to do?
You can buy this at health food shops near you.
But, you may also get this from your vet instead. Then ask them how long should this be given to your rabbit.
This comes in either powdered or capsule form. And it’ll be mixed into the milk formula. (I’ll discuss the recipe shortly so stay tuned!)
Reading tip: How To Take Care Of Baby Rabbits? 11 Vital Tips
#2: Rabbit milk replacer (RMR)
Baby bunnies need milk to survive. And their mom’s, in particular, is said to be high in nutrients and calories.
Plus, it’s also greater than them by 4.5 to 5 times in terms of arginine. It’s an amino acid that helps build protein.
But if you have an orphaned bunny, how can you provide this essential need of theirs?
First, you can look for a nursing female rabbit.
But if it isn’t doable, another way is to get a suitable milk replacer.
“What is it?”
As its name implies, it’s a substitute for a mother’s milk. It’s packed with nutrients and easily digested by babies.
There are many varieties of this in the market.
But, let me talk about the ‘rabbit milk replacer’ first, a.k.a. RMR.
A group of researchers in Thailand conducted a study about this.
And their goal was to find the differences among the 3 milk replacers for bunnies, which are as follows:
- Kitten milk replacer (KMR).
- Rabbit milk replacer (RMR)
- Mammal milk replacer (MMR).
“What are the results?”
After feeding the 36 baby bunnies for 20 days, they found that RMR didn’t cause any side effects. So it’s considered safe for rabbits.
But, it was lower than KMR and MMR with regards to nutrient digestibility. Although the difference isn’t that significant.
“Where can I get this?”
The researchers made their own RMR formula for the study. And it’s quite complicated to follow.
So here’s a rabbit milk replacer I found on the Internet.
But wait, before giving this to your bunny, it’s best to consult a vet first for their safety.
Note: Again, baby rabbits below 3 weeks old should only have milk in their diet. And to know whether your kitten is at this age, check their eyes. They must be closed if they’re less 2 weeks.
#3: Kitten milk replacer (KMR)
Rabbit milk replacers aren’t always available in some places.
This is why the most commonly used is a kitten milk replacer or KMR. Since you can easily buy this online or in the market.
Based on the study I mentioned above, rabbits fed with this absorbed more nutrients than those who received RMR.
KMR is also higher in crude protein content. But, it’s low in fats compared to rabbit’s milk.
So to compensate for this, experts advise adding other ingredients into the formula. And I’ll discuss this shortly.
#4: Goat milk
Aside from the ones I listed earlier, this could also be a substitute for rabbit’s milk. Although it’s usually mixed with other products to be more effective.
It may have a lower protein content than RMR, but it’s higher in fats. So Dr. Krempels also recommend this to be included in the formula – along with KMR.
“What are the other benefits of goat milk?”
Experts say that it’s more nutritious than cow milk. Plus, it’s easier in the tummy and has lower risks of allergies.
#5: Formula with heavy cream
Again, baby bunnies must be fed milk to survive.
But for their survival rate to be higher, it must be as close as possible to a rabbit’s milk.
Most especially in terms of nutrients and fats. Since babies need these in their diet to grow and develop well.
Kitten milk replacers are nutritious. But, they’re low in energy and fats.
So to make up for this, experts suggest adding some heavy cream. But take note that it must not have any sweeteners in it.
What to do?
Follow this sample formula recipe for baby rabbits made by Dr. Krempels:
- 1/2 cup – fresh goat milk.
- 0.20 tbsp (3 ml) – heavy cream.
- 1/2 cup – kitten milk replacer (KMR).
- 1 to 1 ½ tbsp (10 capsules-worth of content) – freeze dried colostrum.
Mix all of these in a container with a lid. Then shake well until the colostrum is thoroughly dissolved.
But before giving the formula to your baby rabbit, it must be warm first.
So you may heat the formula to 105o F (40.56o C). Or submerge the container in a hot water.
Fill your small oral syringe/dropper. Then drop some on your wrist to check if it’s cool enough to be eaten by your bunny.
“How much formula should I feed to my baby rabbit?”
This usually depends on their age.
- For 0 to 1 week old: 2 ½ ml every feeding.
- For 1 to 2 weeks old: 5 to 7 ml every feeding.
- For 2 to 3 weeks old: 7 to 13 ml every feeding.
- For 3 to 6 weeks old: 13 to 15 ml every feeding.
But some adjustments can also be made based on their size. Say, if the baby is quite small, they may need a lesser dosage.
“When and how often should I feed them?”
Feeding must ONLY be done twice a day. Preferably at dusk and dawn since these are the times mother rabbits nurse.
Do this to avoid overfeeding as it can lead to bloating and death.
To know the proper way to feed a baby rabbit, check out this video:
- Feed them in an upright position. You may also wrap the baby in a soft cloth while you’re handling them.
- Do this in a safe place. Baby rabbits are wiggly and they’re prone to falls. So hold them securely (but not too tight). And ensure there’s a counter with a soft towel underneath.
- Make them drink slowly. Squeeze the syringe gently and feed them drop by drop. See if the baby already swallowed the previous one before you squeeze again. Drinking quickly can make the liquid go into their lungs. And this may lead to suffocation.
Note: Make sure to wash your hands first before you pick up the baby. Why? Experts say that there are 2 to 10 million germs on our elbows and fingertips. These can be transferred to the kitten. And it may cause serious illnesses as their immune system is still developing.
#6: Alfalfa pellets
When a baby bunny is around 3 to 4 weeks old, they should start nibbling pellets as per House Rabbit Society.
At this age, they’ll drink less milk and show more interest towards solid food. So offering them a few pellets can help them have a smooth transition.
“But what kind of pellets are best for baby rabbits?”
In this case, plain alfalfa-based pellets are your best choice.
It’s rich in calcium and protein. So these are vital for your baby bunny’s bones and muscles.
Baby rabbits grow pretty fast. In fact, they can live outside their nest as early as 3 weeks old.
So they need more nutrients to grow and develop well.
Note: Although baby bunnies start eating solid food at 3 weeks old, they still need milk until 6 to 8 weeks old. To give you a clearer idea, here’s their diet plan as they grow older:
- 3 to 4 weeks old: Milk, some alfalfa and pellets.
- 4 to 7 weeks old: Milk, more access to alfalfa and pellets.
- 7 weeks to 7 months old: Unlimited access to pellets and hay.
#7: Alfalfa hay
Besides pellets, baby rabbits aged 3 to 4 weeks old also need to eat some hay.
It’ll give them the nutrients they need. Plus, a bunny’s teeth will start growing at this period (around 19 to 21 days old to be exact).
So they need something to chew on to wear down their continuously-growing teeth. As well as to keep them healthy.
Alfalfa hay vs Timothy hay
Timothy hay is considered to be more suitable for grown-up rabbits.
While alfalfa hay is the better option for young bunnies.
This is because alfalfa has higher calcium and protein content. Plus, it also aids in good digestion.
#8: Diluted formula
Does your baby rabbit still ask for milk at age 6 or 8 weeks old?
At this phase, bunnies are usually weaned completely.
But if this is not the case with your rabbit, give them a diluted formula to have a smoother transition to solid food.
“What should I do?”
A baby bunny’s tummy is quite sensitive. So start with this ratio: 75% formula and 25% clean drinking water.
Then as you progress, reduce the amount of milk. And do this until they fully lose interest in it.
#9: Leafy greens
Once your baby bunny is already 12 weeks old, you can start feeding them veggies.
But wait, only offer these to them one at a time. And they must be in small amounts to not upset their stomach.
“How much leafy greens should I give to my baby rabbit?”
To be safe, begin by offering them tiny pieces (2 in or 5 cm).
Then increase the amount gradually (up to 1 cup a day if they’re 5 lb or 2.27 kg).
But while doing this, watch them closely and look for signs of diarrhea:
- Weight loss.
- Low energy.
- Sunken belly.
- Reduced appetite.
- Hunched posture.
What leafy greens are safe for rabbits?
According to VCA Hospitals, these are the best options:
- Bok choy.
- Carrot tops.
- Beet green.
- Broccoli greens.
- Mustard greens.
- Romaine lettuce.
While certain leafy greens must not be fed frequently, like:
- Swiss chard.
- Collard and dandelion greens.
These vegetables have high calcium content. And an excess of this may lead to the formation of bladder stones.
Their milk formula already gives rabbits enough to support their bone development. So it’s best to avoid more calcium-rich items in their diet.
#10: Other rabbit-safe veggies
Apart from the dark leafy ones, young bunnies can also eat other types of veggies, such as:
- Wheat grass.
- Brussel sprouts.
But make sure to remove any seeds and hard parts before serving these. And slice them into small pieces for easier and safer digestion.
Note: We often see rabbits eating carrots in cartoons like Bugs Bunny. But did you know that these should be fed in limited quantities? Yep, this is because carrots are packed with carbs. And high amounts of these can upset a bunny’s stomach.
Last but not least, baby rabbits also need to eat some poop to have a healthy tummy.
“Wait. What do you mean?”
You may have noticed this already. But it’s normal for bunnies to eat their poop.
They produce 2 kinds of droppings. And the softer stools with a sticky appearance are the ones they’ll consume.
Rabbits are ‘hind-gut fermenters.’
They have a different digestive system than ours. And this is because their diet is high in fiber.
Grasses and weeds aren’t easy to digest. So to absorb all the nutrients, they have to re-ingest what they took in.
To do this, their bodies will release these partially-digested droppings, a.k.a. cecotropes. Then they’ll eat these to get the nutrients they need.
Now, going back to the topic.
A baby bunny’s stomach pH level is higher than an adult’s.
Plus, it doesn’t have any living microorganisms in it.
So when they turn 10 days old, babies will usually eat their mother’s cecotropes. Since they can’t produce some of their own yet.
They do this to get essential nutrients (e.g., protein, fiber, vitamins B and K). As well as important hindgut microorganisms.
And these will help their tummies to digest well as they transition to solid food.
What to do?
You can start introducing these to them at age 2.5 to 3 weeks old. But experts say that this is also vital for bunnies below 1 week of age.
If you don’t have an adult rabbit at home, you may look for a healthy cecotrope donor.
Collect some of their droppings. Then give 1 cecotrope daily to the baby rabbit for 4 to 5 days.
Note: Some young bunnies may refuse to eat cecotropes. If yours is like this, mix them in their formula instead. Keep doing this for around 3 to 4 days until they’re fine with it.
People also ask:
How long can baby rabbits go without nursing?
Baby rabbits can go without nursing for up to 3 to 4 days. But since they don’t get any food, they’ll get weaker as days pass by. And this could lead to a slow death.
Typically, mother rabbits nurse their babies once a day. And they’ll do this within 5 minutes too.
Because rabbit’s milk is high in calories. So ingesting it once is enough for babies to get through the day.
However, the absence of it for several days will cause serious problems for the kittens.
This is why they must be hand-fed if they don’t get enough milk every day.
Note: It might be different for wild baby bunnies. This is because they have more sensitive stomachs. So if you see one, don’t feed them. Instead, put them in a box with towels to keep them warm. Then contact the nearest wildlife rehabilitator in your area.
Can baby bunnies drink water?
Baby bunnies can drink water when they’re between 3 to 4 weeks old. This is because, at this age, they’ll start to be introduced to other food aside from milk.
So if your rabbit is already in this phase, you can give them access to water. But since they’re still small, provide a shallow dish for them.
Note: Do you have a messy drinker? If so, try bottle feeding instead. This will prevent them from getting drenched in water. Try giving them a dish after a few weeks. And see if they don’t make a mess.