Taking care of baby bunnies after your doe has given birth is an exciting experience for most rabbit owners. However, when it comes to kitten care, there are a lot of factors to consider. Some might argue that the mother rabbit is solely capable of taking care of newborn babies. However, you also play a pivotal role when it comes to taking care of baby bunnies. This article looks at everything you need to know about proper baby rabbit care.
What’s the right time to handle kittens?
You can handle baby bunnies any time after birth, however, only if necessary and when the mother is calm or fond of you. Also, it’s worth noting that since rabbits are naturally prey animals, carrying a baby bunny for a prolonged time causes them stress. For example, you can carry a kitten when its mother has given birth outside the nesting box to prevent them from dying of cold.
Setting up a nesting box
Right off the bat, after your bunny gives birth, it’s always recommended to set up a nesting box that is warm enough to accommodate your baby bunnies. This is simply because they spend the first couple of weeks inside their nest. It’s usually advisable to set up a nesting box prior to the arrival of baby bunnies, to enable the mother to adapt to it before giving birth. One of the tell-tale signs of a rabbit that’s about to give birth soon is pulling out of fur, which she’ll use to build a nest. Below is how to set up an ideal nesting box for your kittens.
- Choose a wooden box that’s secure and spacious enough to accommodate both the Doe and its offspring.
- Next, cover the bottom of your nesting box using pieces of paper or any soft clothing, then add soft hay to it
- Introduce your pregnant pet rabbit into the box and let her make any necessary final touches before giving birth. After birth, always ensure that you cover your baby bunnies and keep their nesting box as dark as possible until their eyes start to open.
- Keep your baby bunnies at a room temperature of between 68 – 72 degrees Fahrenheit. However, when the temperature is anything close to 65 degrees, place a heating pad on a low setting underneath the nesting box floor on one side. This typically enables your bunny to move to the cooler spot when the heat is unbearable.
Closely monitor their behavior
- Typical healthy baby bunnies will wiggle most of the time, however, they’re often totally quiet.
- Before feeding time, hungry kittens are normally still, sluggish, or tend to cry a lot.
Find out whether they’re dehydrated
- One way to ensure that your baby bunny is properly hydrated is to gently pinch its skin at the nape of the neck. Well-hydrated kitten skin usually smoothens flat when pinched. On the other hand, poor skin turgor is an indication of dehydration.
- Kittens start to drink water when they’re about 3 to 4 weeks old. However, they heavily rely on their mother to teach them how to do so from a water bottle. You can try to lower the water bottle or make a little ramp that makes it easier for them to quench their thirst.
Ensure that your kittens are properly fed
Baby bunnies normally rely on their mother’s milk which provides them with nutrients, especially during the first couple of weeks. Although Doe stays away from the nest most of the time during the day, she’ll breastfeed her kittens at least twice during the night. The reason behind this behavior is that instinctively, rabbit mums in the wild, prefer to stay away from the kitten nest to avoid attracting unwanted attention from predators.
So how do you know if your baby bunnies have suckled? One easy way to find out is to observe whether they have a plump, round or bulging stomach. Another way of knowing whether your bundle of joy is well fed is to check if they’re actively wriggling. If your kittens are thin and have wrinkled bellies, then the best move is to hand feed them or take both the mother and her babies to a veterinarian.
How to feed baby rabbits
Again, hand feeding your kittens is only advisable when they’re orphaned or not suckling enough. One of the most caloric feeds that I highly recommend for your baby bunnies is Kitten milk replacer which is available in pet stores. Additionally, you can also supplement the kitten replacer with a tablespoon of whipping cream if you want to increase the calorie intake.
Adding acidophilus to your milk replacer is helpful for your baby bunnies when it comes to strengthening their intestinal bacteria. Below is how to feed your baby bunnies with kitten milk replacer formula when they’re 1 to 6 weeks older. I usually recommend doing so twice per day if you want them to have nutritional value.
- Baby bunnies up to a week old:4 to 5cc KMR formula
- Baby rabbits that are 1 to 2 weeks old:10 to 15 cc KMR formula
- Those that are 2 to 6 weeks old: 15 to 30 cc KMR formula
When feeding your kittens use an eyedropper or syringe. Be careful and go slowly when feeding them. In other words, allow them to swallow naturally. You can either feed your baby bunnies while they’re lying on their backs or when sitting upright.
When should you feed young bunnies solid food?
After kittens open their eyes, at approximately two weeks old, they are usually ready to feed on solid food. You can feed the kittens with a high calories diet that consists of Alfalfa hay and pellets. Those under 8 weeks old should never eat leafy greens since their digestive tract is still not yet fully developed to accommodate any vegetables.
On the other hand, it’s advisable to give them water when they’re three to four weeks old. At this stage, you’ll notice that the young rabbits are starting to eat soft fecal matter otherwise known as cecotrope which is highly nutritious. Finally, at 8 weeks old, kittens are usually able to survive entirely on solid food.
How to help an orphaned 1 to 9-day-old rabbit excrete
Abandoned kittens that have just been born (1 to 9 days old) are normally unable to excrete. The Doe will instinctively lick their genitals after suckling to enable them to pee or poop. On the other hand, when you’re dealing with orphaned baby bunnies, after feeding them, use a warm moist cotton ball, to gently wipe their genitals.
This will mimic a motherly touch that will stimulate them to excrete. Finally, end the process when they stop peeing or pooping. Once your kittens open their eyes at 10 days old, they are usually capable of excreting on their own. Alternatively, taking your kittens to a veterinarian is also ideal especially if you want to increase their survival rate.
Do baby rabbits carry diseases?
Just like adult rabbits, kittens can suffer from health problems. One common ailment is diarrhea brought about by microbe imbalances (harmful bacteria) in the intestines. This particular disease is usually fatal hence making it necessary to regularly check for signs and symptoms. Other than that, always keep your young pets warm and well-fed if you want them to remain healthy. Below are some of the common symptoms a sick baby rabbit shows, that need immediate veterinarian intervention.
- Lack of appetite
- Bloody fecal matter
Setting up a kittens cage
After a couple of weeks, when your kittens have opened their eyes, they’ll instinctively want to explore their surroundings. Setting up a safe environment is usually ideal. You can rabbit-proof your house beforehand to avoid any mishaps that might lead to your kittens harming themselves or causing destruction.
Ensure that cords and cables are out of reach or purchase a play or wire pen to control their movement in the house. Alternatively, if you prefer purchasing a cage, go for a spacious one that can accommodate, their food, water dish, toys, and litter box.
Frequently asked baby rabbit questions
- How long do baby rabbits stay with their mums?
Kittens can stay with their mothers until they are eight weeks old. Earlier than that can deprive your baby bunnies of the calories found in their mother’s milk or the gut bacteria found on fecal pellets. It’s also worth pointing out that if you want to prevent further breeding, always separate Bucks from Does when they’re 8 weeks old.
- Will a rabbit abandon her kittens when you handle or touch them?
No, a bunny will not abandon her young ones if you handle them. However, ensure that you do it carefully since kittens are usually fragile. Also before doing so, ensure that their mother is ok with it and that you have a strong bond with her.
- Can bunnies breed with their offspring?
Yes, rabbits will breed with their offspring when given a chance. This particular type of breeding is ideal especially if you want to maintain a certain genotype.
- How can you tell the exact age of a baby bunny?
You can only tell how old a baby bunny is by looking at the development stage at least up to a year old. However, knowing the exact age is difficult. Some of the key features that determine a kitten’s age is their nails, teeth, or how active they are.
- Can young rabbits drink cow milk?
No, cow milk is not healthy because it has no kitten development nutrients or enzymes. The best rabbit milk alternative is usually kitten Milk replacer formula or goat milk.
- How long can kittens go without food?
Kittens can stay for 3 to 4 days without feeding. However, if a day goes by without them eating then they’ll become weak and their health will start to deteriorate.
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