How To Take Care of Baby Bunnies

There’s nothing quite as adorable as a litter of newborn baby bunnies! But these fragile little fuzzballs require round-the-clock care in their first magical weeks of life. From preparing the perfect nesting box, to handling techniques, ideal feeding schedules, common illnesses to watch for, housing setup, weaning timelines, and even caring for orphans – raising infant rabbits takes dedication. If you’re ready for the rewarding challenge of nurturing baby bunnies from birth to their hoppily ever after, this comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know! Get ready for an unforgettable journey as we delve into the wonders of newborn rabbit care.

How to Set Up a Nesting Box for Rabbits

Setting up a proper nesting box is an important part of preparing for newborn baby bunnies. Here are some tips on how to set up a nesting box that will help keep the mother rabbit and babies safe and comfortable:

  • Use a cardboard box or wooden box around 12 inches tall with a removable lid. The box should be large enough for the mother to move around in but small enough to feel enclosed.

  • Line the bottom of the box with soft bedding like straw, hay, shredded paper or even paper towels. Provide 3-6 inches of bedding material for the rabbit to burrow in.

  • Put the nesting box in a quiet, semi-secluded area of the rabbit's cage or hutch, away from the main living area. Rabbits like privacy when giving birth.

  • A few days before the birth is expected, place some of the mother's fur in the box so she can line the nest with it herself. The fur helps insulate the babies.

  • Once the babies are born, resist the urge to peek at them. Only lift the lid if necessary, like if you need to supplement feed orphaned kits.

  • Ensure the nest stays dry and replace soiled bedding as needed. Dampness can lead to illness in delicate newborns.

  • If the box has a removable lid, you may take it off once the kits are 2 weeks old and their eyes are open. At this point, they will begin exploring outside the nest.

  • Let the mother rabbit continue to access the box until kits are 8 weeks old and ready for weaning. She will feed and care for them there.

Providing an appropriate nesting box with adequate bedding gives the doe the material she needs to create a warm, safe space for giving birth and nursing her young. Check it daily and make adjustments to help the litter thrive.

When Can You Handle Baby Rabbits?

Newborn baby rabbits are extremely delicate and require specialized care. Here is a guide on when you can start handling kits and some tips for safe handling:

  • Days 1 to 7: Do not handle kits at all for the first week of life unless emergency medical care is needed. Infant rabbits are hairless, blind and deaf at birth. They rely completely on their mother. Handling them too soon can lead to rejection or death.

  • Days 8 to 14: Limited handling can start at around 8 days old once the babies have fur and are a bit more stable. Handle only if necessary, for no more than 5-10 minutes per session. Be sure to wash hands first and avoid sudden movements.

  • 2 to 3 weeks: By 2 weeks old, kits open their eyes and their ears start to unfold. Handling is safer at this stage but should still be limited to about 10 minutes at a time once or twice a day. Be gentle and never lift them by their ears or legs.

  • 3 to 4 weeks: Baby bunnies start exploring the world around 3 weeks old but still spend most of their time in the nest. It's ok to handle them more for bottle feeding, playing and socializing but let them rest afterward.

  • 4 to 8 weeks: By 4 weeks, rabbits can be fully handled and even separated from mom for short periods. Increase hands-on playtime gradually so they become accustomed to their owners. Limit individual handling sessions to 20 minutes.

  • 8+ weeks: At 8 weeks, rabbits are weaned from their mother's milk and can be fully handled. Hold sessions can be gradually extended. Establish a hand feeding routine at set times to bond with the rabbits.

With gentle, limited handling at the right stages starting at 1-2 weeks old, baby rabbits can become quite comfortable being held by caring owners. Just be sure to let the mother rabbit do the hard work at first!

What Do You Feed Baby Rabbits?

Feeding appropriate foods in the right amounts is crucial for the healthy growth and development of baby rabbits under 8 weeks old. Here are some guidelines on what and how much to feed:

  • Milk: Ideally rabbit kits will nurse milk from their mother up to 8 weeks old. If orphaned, use kitten milk replacer and feed with a syringe or dropper 2-3 times a day.

  • Grass hay: Introduce hay like oat hay or timothy hay around 3 weeks old so kits can start naturally digesting fiber.

  • Pellets: Feed alfalfa-based pellets formulated for young rabbits starting at 4-6 weeks old. 1/8 cup per 6 lbs of body weight daily.

  • Vegetables: Around 6-8 weeks old, slowly introduce a variety of chopped veggies like lettuce, kale, carrots, broccoli and parsley. 1-2 tablespoons veggie mix per pound of body weight.

  • Fruit: Small amounts of chopped apple or banana can also be added to the diet around 6-8 weeks old. These are treats only due to high sugar content.

  • Water: Once eating solid foods at 3-4 weeks old, provide fresh water in a sipper bottle or bowl, changed daily.

  • No seeds, nuts or grains: Do not feed human breakfast cereals, bread, crackers or other starchy foods. These upset rabbit digestive systems.

The key is introducing new foods slowly while kits are still nursing, to help transition them to adult foods they will eat after weaning. Feed a balanced diet and monitor baby bunny weight weekly. Seek vet advice if weight or appetite changes.

Do Baby Rabbits Have Diseases?

Baby rabbits under 8 weeks old have underdeveloped immune systems and are prone to certain infectious diseases. Here are some common illnesses to look out for:

  • Snuffles: Snuffles is caused by the bacteria Pasteurella multocida. It leads to discharge from the nose and eyes, sneezing, breathing issues and fever. Antibiotics from a vet are required for treatment.

  • Diarrhea: Diarrhea in infant rabbits can be caused by diet changes, intestinal parasites like coccidia, or infections. Make sure nursing babies stay hydrated. Consult a vet for medication.

  • Upper respiratory infections: URIs can be caused by bacteria or low cage temperatures. Symptoms are nasal discharge, wheezing, trouble breathing. URI medication from a vet will be needed.

  • Digestive issues: Diets too high in carbohydrates, sugars or fats can disrupt fragile digestive systems in babies. This can cause loose stool, gas, or gastrointestinal stasis.

  • Intestinal parasites: Coccidia and other parasites from unsanitary conditions can infect kits and cause diarrhea. Vet-prescribed anti-parasite medications are used for treatment.

  • Ear mites: Tiny ear mites can infest kit’s ears causing crusty skin and ear twitching. Vet treatment includes dropping medication into ears.

Prevention is key. Keep cages clean, avoid drafts, feed proper diets, isolate sick rabbits and schedule regular vet checkups. Seek prompt veterinary care at the first sign of sickness in vulnerable baby bunnies.

How to Setup a Cage for a Baby Rabbit

Housing baby rabbits properly helps set them up for healthy, happy lives. Here are tips for setting up the perfect starter cage:

  • Size – Opt for a minimum single rabbit cage size of 30”L x 36”W x 16”H. But bigger is always better. Expandable, multi-level cages are ideal.

  • Litterbox – Provide a corner litter box with an inch of rabbit-safe litter. Clean litterbox daily.

  • Bedding – Use 2-3 inches of soft bedding like aspen shavings or paper-based bedding on the cage floor. Avoid pine or cedar shavings.

  • Hay feeder – Install a hay manger, rack or other feeder with a fresh supply of grass hay at all times.

  • Water – Use a no-spill bowl or bottle with clean, fresh water changed daily.

  • Toys – Add safe chew toys, balls, tunnels, willow sticks, blocks, and places to hide. Rotate toys to keep it interesting.

  • Shelter – Provide a snug but roomy cardboard box, flower pot, or other shelter for comfort and security.

  • Litter training – Start litter training when you see bunny sniffing in corners. Place soiled bedding in the litterbox to encourage use.

  • Baby proof – Ensure the cage is free of choking hazards, toxic substances, small openings, hazards.

  • Location – Place cage in a quiet area away from drafts, direct sunlight, noise and other pets.

Setting up the right habitat helps young rabbits feel secure. Upgrade cages as bunnies grow. The more room the better as they love running and jumping!

When Can Rabbits Leave Their Mother?

Deciding when baby rabbits are ready to be separated from their mother and adopted to new homes is important for ensuring continued healthy development. Here is a guide:

  • 3 weeks old: At this age rabbits are still fully dependent on mother’s milk and care. Kits should not be weaned or removed yet.

  • 4 weeks old: Kits can start the weaning process at 4 weeks but should stay with mom for nursing, cuddling and learning.

  • 5 weeks old: Partial separation from mother for brief supervised playtimes can start at around 5 weeks old. Limit to 1-2 hours daily.

  • 6 to 7 weeks old: Daily separation times can be increased gradually in duration at 6-7 weeks old while monitoring kit weights.

  • 8 weeks old: By 8 weeks, baby rabbits can fully wean from mother’s milk and leave her care. Kits should weigh at least 1 lb at this age.

  • 9 to 12 weeks old: Optimal adoption age is 9-12 weeks for rabbits that have been properly socialized and weaned by their mother.

While 8 weeks is the minimum age a kit can be weaned and adopted, waiting until 9-12 weeks results in the most well-adjusted pet rabbits. Considering keeping siblings pairs/groups together when adopting at this older age as well. Patience leads to happier bunny families!

Newborn Rabbit Care Without a Mother

Caring for newborn baby rabbits without a mother (orphaned kits) requires diligence and round-the-clock care. Here are some must-know tips:

  • Feed kitten milk replacer with a syringe every 2-3 hours, even overnight. Do not use regular dairy milk – the protein content is dangerous for rabbits.

  • Keep orphaned kits together in a nesting box on a heating pad set to low. Make sure they can move off the warmth if needed.

  • Gently massage rabbit kit’s genitals with a warm, damp cloth after feedings to stimulate bowel and bladder elimination. This mimics mother’s licking.

  • Check for dehydration by pinching up the skin over the neck/back. If it does not snap back, hydrate the kit with unflavored Pedialyte.

  • Handle newborns as little as possible and only when necessary. Wash hands before and after.

  • Transition from milk to alfalfa pellets mashed with KMR, then introduce vegetables/hay at 3-4 weeks old.

  • Visit a rabbit-savvy vet promptly if kits seem ill, fail to thrive, or have developmental issues. Medical intervention may be needed.

  • If possible, pair orphaned kits up with other litters/mothers. Raising single kits is very difficult.

Hand-rearing infant rabbits without a mother is extremely challenging but can be done with dedication. Have an emergency plan in place in case complications arise. Work closely with your veterinarian.


Caring for newborn rabbits through the first 8 weeks of rapid growth and change is a big but rewarding undertaking. Set up a proper nesting environment, handle carefully, feed nutritious foods in appropriate amounts, watch for disease, and make sure baby bunnies are fully weaned and adjusted before placing them in new homes. With attentive, informed care guided by these tips, you can raise happy, healthy baby bunnies!


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