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Wild Orphans | Wildlife Rehab Centres | Caring For Orphans |

Orphaned Bunnies

Being involved in rabbit rescue and rehabilitation one comes across many an orphaned kit. Anyone who comes by these helpless creatures cannot just stay idle and instantly hopes to raise the orphans whether they are domestic rabbits or their wild cousins. Let me tell you, raising newborn kits is not an easy undertaking. The survival rate for orphan rabbits is extremely low. If they donít die within the first few days they often die between four to eight weeks when weaning would naturally occur. This is also the point were the stomach pH values drop from 5-6.5 to a more normal range of 1-2. Very few people, including professionals have successfully hand reared newborn kits without loosing any from the litter.


Wild Orphans


When dealing with wild orphans, do not assume that a litter of rabbits is orphaned just because mamma rabbit is now where to be seen. A mother rabbit only nurses her kits once or twice a day and often leaves the nest during the day to hunt for food. A well fed baby will have a very distended tummy, looking like the "Pilsbury Dough Boy". Whereas a baby that has not been fed, will have a sunken tummy and their skin will be wrinkled from dehydration and they may appear to be weak or unresponsive.



What To Do If You Suspect A Wild Orphaned Bunny


1. Watch the nest for several hours to see if the mother rabbit returns.

2. If you believe the kits are in fact orphaned, sick, injured or in danger contact the Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre: http://www.wildliferescue.ca/todo.htm


Do Not Remove The Kits From The Nest


In an after hours animal emergency only


1. Phone the Vancouver SPCA shelter's night emergency line (if in the GVRD) at: (604) 879-7343

2. If you are in the area, the 24 hr Animal Emergency Clinic, located at the corner of 4th Ave and Fir, in Vancouver, will hold and stabilize animals overnight for the Wildlife Rescue Association of BC. Their phone # is (604) 734-5104.

3. Find a local rehabilitator (British Columbia (see below)



Lower Mainland Wildlife Rehabilitation Centres:  http://www.wrn.bc.ca/find_a_wildlife_rehabilitator.htm

Critter Care Wildlife Society - Gail Martin MWLAP,
Mammals, education
481 - 216th Street
Langley, BC V2Z 1R5
P: (604) 530.2064
Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society (OWL) MWLAP,
Raptors, education
3800 - 72nd Street
Delta, BC V4K 3N2
(604) 946.3171
Wildlife Rescue
Association of BC (WRA)
CWS; MWLAP, Birds,
oil spil; rescue all spp.
5216 Glencarin Drive
Burnaby, BC V5B 3C1
P: (604) 526.7275
F: (604) 524.2890
Elizabeth's Wildlife
Small mammals and birds
32508 Verdon Way
Abbotsford, BC
V2T 7Y3
Pager: (604) 855.3914
P: (604) 852.9173



Caring For OrphansI


If you do happen to come into possession of orphaned rabbits keep them warm, around a temperature of 27-30įC (80.6-86įF), heat loss is a primary cause of death among newborn kits.


Until you can get them to the veterinarian or wildlife rehabilitator you may want to place a drop of honey or fruit jam into their mouths to help keep their blood sugars elevated.


In the event of a worse-case scenario and there is no wildlife rehabilitator available, or your pet rabbit (mother of the kits) has died or is unable to care for the babies herself you may need to hand rear the kits yourself.


I have listed some formula suggestions which can be used as a replacement for motherís milk. You must be careful when feeding kits. You do not want to over feed them, nor do you want them to aspirate on the formula. All of which can happen very quickly and easily.


To safeguard against aspiration hold the kit facing towards you in an upright position or at a 45 degree angle, and point syringe down towards bottom or side of mouth. Use extreme caution not to get formula in their noses. If this happens, firmly press down on the bridge of the kits nose, and move down to the top lip and wipe the milk away with a soft tissue.


For the first few feedings you will probably have to place the tip of the syringe in the corner of the mouth placing just a drop or two of formula inside the mouth. Wait for the bunny to swallow before trying again.


Feeding Instructions


A mother rabbit will feed her kits twice a day. Therefore the minimum you should feed a kit is every 12 hours. However, it has also been suggested that you should feed the kits more frequently. No matter how often you feed the kits be extremely careful not to overfeed them as this can prove deadly. Before attempting to bottle feed a kit yourself I suggest you read the article "Bottle Feeding Kits" in addition to the information listed below.



Kit Development

A newborn baby rabbit or bunny is also known as a kitten or kit for short.


0-3 weeks                    totally dependent on mother

Day 2               loose sucking reflex

Day 7               fur begins to grow

Day 10             eyes open

Day 12             ears open

Day 15             eats mother's cecotropes

Day 18             leaves nest

3-5 weeks                    begins to nibble at foods

Day 20             creates own cecotropes

6-8 weeks                    becomes totally independent

Day 60             fully weaned & independent

16-24 weeks                sexually mature





Feeding Guideline


1-2 weeks old kits,

Feed every 6 or 12 hours, no more than 4-5cc/ml

per day for the first week and 10-14cc/ml for the second week. After each feeding you must wash the kitsí belly and genital area with a warm moist towel to stimulate them to pee.


2-4 week kits,

Feed every 8 or 12 hours, no more than 14-26cc/ml per day, in addition introduce hay, pellets and water. Cecotropes should be introduced to the kit as soon as the eyes are open giving each kit only one per day for 4-5 days.


4-6 week kits,

Feed every 12 hours, no more than 26-30cc/ml per day.


After 6 weeks of age you no longer need to supplement the kitsí diet if they are eating a regular diet of pellets.


If you are adding acidophilus powder (Probiotic) to the formula  kits 2 weeks and younger should be given 1/2cc/ml per day and kits older than 2 weeks fed 1cc/ml per day.



Recipes For Formula

 1.        1/2 cup evaporated milk

1/2 cup water

1 egg yolk

1 tbsp corn syrup

* This one can been used without the egg


2.         1 part Esbilac powder

1 part multi-milk powder

1-1/2 parts water


3.         3 parts boiled water

1 part Esbilac powder

2 parts heavy whipping cream

3 drops liquid vitamin


4.         Regular goat's milk


5.         KMR (Kitten Milk Replacer)


Note: You can add acidophilus powder (Probiotic) to the formula or food,  1cc = 1 capsule.

Once you find a formula that works well for you it is best you stick with it and to not change to a different one.


Possible Complications


Hand-rearing orphaned kits is not without its problems.


Diarrhea is common place, it could be the result of over feeding or the formula may be too rich. If diarrhea continues for more than a day it is best to see your veterinarian.


Dehydration is also no stranger to orphaned kits. This could mean the kit is not getting enough fluids so you may want to replace one or two feeding with Pedialyte.        


Constipation is another complication so you must remember to wipe the belly and genital region after each feed to stimulate the kit.



Additional Reading/References

1.   The Biology & Medicine of Rabbits & Rodents - page 26-27

2.   ARBA Official Guidebook to Raising Better Rabbits & Cavies - page 126-127

3.   Rabbits For Dummies - page 193-195

4.   House Rabbit Handbook - page 88-89

5.   Rabbit Health, Husbandry & Diseases - page 61-63

6.   I Found A Baby Rabbit, What Do I Do? - page 35-39

7.   HRS Article: Domestic Baby Bunnies And Their Mom, by Sandi Koi

8.   HRS Article: Caring For Orphans

9.   Article: Hand Raising Baby Bunnies, by West Boulevard Veterinary Clinic



Disclaimer: Raising House Rabbits takes no responsibility for the use or misuse of any information in this article. If you are uncertain of how to deal with a situation, consult your veterinarian or local animal rehabilitator immediately.


This page was last updated on: January 09, 2008

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