Find a helpless baby rabbit alone in the wild? Don’t panic! With some luck and the right care, you can nurse the orphaned bunny back to health. Raising wild baby rabbits is an extremely delicate operation, but also highly rewarding. From building a proper nest to special feedings round-the-clock, you’ll need to mimic mama rabbit perfectly. Monitor the baby closely for any injuries or illnesses which require prompt treatment. With your tireless devotion, the fragile infant will hop fromStrengthless newborn to lively juvenile ready for release back to nature. This comprehensive guide details every step needed to give a lost baby bunny its best shot at survival. Your attentive interventions could save a precious life!
How to Help A Wild Baby Rabbit Survive
Caring for a wild baby rabbit can be challenging but also very rewarding. Wild rabbits are not equipped to survive without their mothers at a young age, so they will need a lot of help to stay alive. With proper care and nutrition, orphaned wild rabbits can grow up healthy and be released back into the wild. Here are some tips on how to give orphaned wild baby rabbits the best chance of survival.
Build A Nest
It is important to build an artificial nest to mimic the kind of environment a wild baby rabbit would have with its mother. Get a cardboard box or plastic tub and line it with soft rags, t-shirts, or paper towels. Avoid using straw or hay as bedding because the strands can get wrapped around the baby rabbit's limbs. Make sure the nest is at least 4 inches deep so the bunny can burrow down and stay warm. Keep the nest in a quiet, dark place away from pets, loud noises, and excessive activity. Adult rabbits only visit their nest 2-3 times a day to feed their young, so limiting disturbance is vital. Check on the baby rabbit every 4-6 hours unless it seems weak or ill. Then increase feeding frequency.
Maintain the Right Temperature
Regulating body temperature is extremely important for a baby rabbit's survival. Baby rabbits cannot control their own body temperature until around 2-3 weeks old. The ambient temperature where you keep the nest should be between 80-90°F. Place a heating pad under half of the nest, set to low. This creates a temperature gradient so the bunny can crawl to the warmer or cooler side as needed. Never place a hot water bottle or heating pad directly in the nest, as it may overheat. Monitor the heat frequently with a thermometer. If the baby rabbit is spread out limply, it is too hot. If it is hunched up shivering, it is too cold. Adjust heating pads accordingly. The nest should be in a room temperature area, not outside where temperatures fluctuate. Keep drafts away from the nesting area.
Feed the Wild Rabbits
Mother rabbits only feed their babies once or twice a day, but orphaned wild babies will need more frequent feedings to survive. It is best to use a specialty rabbit milk replacer formula for wild babies. Mix the powdered formula according to instructions. Never give cow or other animal milk, as this can cause deadly diarrhea. Feed the baby rabbit with a small animal bottle or syringe. Allow it to nurse until the stomach feels full but not bloated. Avoid overfeeding. Baby rabbits should be fed every 2-3 hours around the clock for the first 2 weeks. Then decrease feedings to every 3-4 hours. Feed at night for the first few weeks. At 3-4 weeks old, start introducing solid foods like timothy hay, leafy greens, and quality pellets. Provide a shallow bowl of water at all times once the rabbit starts eating solids.
Stimulate Urination and Defecation
Young rabbits are unable to urinate or pass stool on their own. The mother rabbit licks the genital region to get them to empty their bladder and bowels after feeding. Without this stimulation, babies can die from toxic buildup. After feeding formula, use a cotton ball or tissue dampened with warm water to gently stroke the genital area until the baby urinates and defecates. Do this each time you feed. Look for milk-filled stool to indicate proper feeding and digestion. If the rabbit stops passing stool, it is constipated and needs help immediately.
Rabbits have a special type of droppings called cecotropes that are essential to their nutrition. Cecotropes are soft and greenish, unlike normal rabbit pellets. Around 3-4 weeks old, the baby rabbit will start producing cecotropes but cannot eat them directly. The mother rabbit would transfer cecotropes directly to the babies. As a substitute, take some cecotropes and mash them into a paste. Feed this supplement once or twice a day. This will provide important nutrients the rabbit cannot get from formula alone.
Caring for An Injured Wild Baby Rabbit
While orphaned wild babies need a lot of care to survive, injured rabbits require additional measures to help them heal. Here are some common injuries and illnesses seen in baby wild rabbits, along with how to provide the right treatment:
Rabbit Is Dragging Back Legs
Often caused by bladder inflammation from lack of urination or injury to the spine. Try gently stimulating urination. Check for wounds on the hindquarters. If no improvement within 12 hours, take the rabbit to a wildlife rehabilitation center immediately. Paralysis or nerve damage may require euthanasia.
Rabbit Keeps Falling Over
Inner ear infection is likely causing balance issues. See a vet to get antibiotic drops. Tilt the rabbit's head back several times a day to help drain infection from the ears. Keep the baby bunny contained so it doesn't wander and risk further injury from falling.
Rabbit Is Lethargic
Can indicate serious systemic infection, dehydration, or malnutrition. Feel the stomach for bloating. Check anal area for diarrhea. Increase fluid intake by adding electrolytes to formula or feeding pedialyte. Get antibiotics from a vet if feverish. Supportive care is vital.
Rabbit Isn't Moving
Lack of movement for more than a few hours indicates a life-threatening problem. Check for respiratory distress, oozing wounds, or rectal bleeding. Get emergency veterinary care immediately. May require euthanasia if suffering.
Rabbit Has Been Attacked
Bite wounds and scratches must be cleaned to avoid deadly infection. Flush wounds with sterile saline. Apply antibiotic ointment daily. Isolate rabbit if attacker is still nearby to prevent re-injury. Head trauma requires a vet immediately.
Rabbits are fragile, high-maintenance babies. Orphaned wild rabbits have additional challenges due to lack of maternal care. But with proper housing, frequent feedings, attentive medical care, and monitoring, they can survive and return to the wild. Always get professional wildlife rehabilitation help for difficult cases. With patience and care, you can successfully raise healthy orphaned or injured wild baby rabbits.