Last Updated on July 13, 2022 by Georgie Smith
Wild baby bunnies are not always orphans. Many people when they find a nest feel they need to rescue the babies and take care of them. If you discover an abandoned nest of baby rabbits, rehabilitating them may not be necessary at all.
The fact is, fewer than 10 percent of orphaned bunnies survive a week. Also, unless the person that finds them has animal medical training, they can do more harm than good at times. Most vets will tell you if you find a nest the best thing you can do is leave them right where you found them.
The momma rabbit will more than likely come back to find them, but only at night. Momma bunnies “hide” their nest in plain sight. That could be in your yard, in the bushes or anywhere she can find a soft spot.
If you happen to find a nest that shows signs of destruction, restore it the best you can but leave the babies there. If you know that a dog discovered the nest, do all you can to repair it with leaves, grass, and whatever the momma used. Just make sure the babies are in there and somehow find a way to keep the dogs away.
The momma will come back for her babies therefore if you move them at all you will decrease the odds of their survival. If you did not see the momma bunny, do not panic. Momma rabbits only nurse a few minutes each day, and away they go.
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If you discover one of the babies have injuries, or an animal brings a baby to you, get her to a vet if possible. Do not attempt to play doctor yourself as you can do more harm than good.
Feeding Baby Rabbits
For the first three weeks, the mother must feed her babies. Around six weeks of age, the baby needs less from the mom and more food such as hay and pellets. It is that time that the bunnies will not need their mom for food anymore and she will wean them.
This milestone takes place at precisely four weeks of age as far as what the offspring “needs.” If by chance the kit is an orphan for any reason around three or fours weeks old, she can be put right on solids and no longer needs supplemental milk unless it is malnourished. 
With domestic rabbits, the mom allows her babies to keep nursing just because she can physically afford to do so.
Typically, if you have a litter of rabbits in your hutch or home, they can be as old as six to seven weeks before their Mom cuts off the nursing. Baby bunnies need rescuing for any of the following reasons:
- It has a broken bone, an open wound, or is bleeding
- It has been in a dog or cat’s mouth
- It has a massive amount of fly eggs that will resemble small rice grains
- It is wet, cold or crying nonstop
If you are still unsure if you need to help the bunny, call the local veterinarian for advice on how to handle the baby.
What If I Found a Baby Rabbit, What Next?
First, try to determine the age of the baby. Is it as large or larger than the size of a baseball? If so, you more than likely found a juvenile bunny. This age group may appear very small but are still independent of their mom and know a few tricks on their own.
Juvenile bunnies do not need rescuing. She can survive on her own. Many times when people find small rabbits such as these, they take them home as pets. Before doing so, ensure you understand this is a full-time commitment and not just for when it’s small and cute.
What if it is an infant? You will know this answer if she is really small and has a thin layer of fur. Her eyes may or may not have opened just yet. Her chance of survival is higher if you can reunite her with her mother.
To reunite the infant bunny with her mother, you must be sure the baby is warm. To do this, you will need uncooked rice and a sock. Place the rice in the sock, tie it closed and put it in the microwave for no more than 30 seconds.
Next, wrap the sock in an extra soft towel and put it next to the baby bunny to warm her up.
Now try to locate her nest and place the baby back. A nest resembles a shallow indention in the ground and will more than likely have a lining with grass or fur. If it is a cottontail bunny, they do not burrow.
Place the baby bunny back in her nest and then sprinkle the surrounding area with flour and place two twigs over the nest. Check back on the baby in about 24 hours to see if momma rabbit came back. She more than likely will go back when it is dark so that she does not draw attention to the babies.
However, you will easily be able to tell if there has been traffic surrounding the nest. If you see rabbit footprints in the flour or the twigs are broken or moved, chances are the mother returned and is with the baby.
If there are no apparent signs of activity, take the baby to either a rehabilitator or the local veterinarian. Be sure to keep her warm but avoid trying to give her food or water. Rabbits have super sensitive digestive systems and feeding her anything without the proper training could be fatal.
What Does a Rabbit Nest Resemble and Should I Move It?
Eastern cottontails which are the most common rabbit in the U.S. build a shallow nest from fur and grass and in grassy areas. These areas will typically be near trees or bushes and in the open. Many find it odd that a rabbit would build her nest in the middle of a busy area such as a front lawn.
Actually, it is rather smart. Predators seldom venture into open areas, so it’s actually really safe. If you find a nest that appears disturbed, check to see if it still has babies inside. Unless the babies are clearly injured or suffering, the best thing to do is nothing.
You will be doing more harm than good if you attempt to touch the babies or relocate their nest. The best thing is for you to leave the babies and the nest alone.
Most people mean well and just want to help the little babes since the mother appears to have left them. However, that is rarely the case. Momma bunnies are smart, and they check back with her babies to visit and nurse.
There are times when people attempt to rescue an animal even though that animal does not need saving. Mother rabbit is generally close by and will return when it is feeding time and grooming which is typically in the morning or evening.
The most important thing is that you not panic or you or your children touch the babies. Whether there is much truth to it, there is a saying that if a mother rabbit smells human scents, she will abandon the babies.
Therefore, the best thing you can do is leave the nest alone and not touch the babies. Handling a frightened baby rabbit can cause stress and often, a fatal injury
What to Feed a Baby Rabbit
Like humans, bunnies need feeding differently at different milestones of their life to ensure healthy weight, digestions, and development. Throughout your rabbit’s life, the more you can avoid a sudden change in her diet, the better she will be.
A baby bunny, or kit, solely depends on its mom for milk the first three weeks of her life. Those three weeks or so, her milk will have high levels of antibodies that will help protect the baby from various diseases.
After those three weeks, the baby will start nibbling on pellets and hay such as this Timothy Hay. By the time she reaches seven weeks old, she should be able to handle unlimited amounts of hay and pellets in addition to her mother’s milk. Babies are generally weaned from their mom’s milk by eight weeks of age, depending on the breed of rabbit.
Between weaning and seven months of age, the small bunny will be able to live off of unlimited amounts of hay and pellets such as small pet select pellets. At her three-month milestone, you can begin to introduce small amounts of healthy veggies into her diet.
Make sure you add one vegetable at a time, so you will be able to tell if she eats and digests the food properly. If you find one particular vegetable is causing her digestive system issues, avoid that food in the future.
Young Adult Rabbits:
Young rabbits are considered an adult from seven months on. You should introduce her to Timothy Hay such as this from Small Pet Select as well as oat hay and grass and have it available all day. The hay has plenty of fiber in it which is vital for her digestive system to work correctly.
At this age, she will need small amounts of alfalfa hay as well as fewer pellets. The alfalfa hay has more calcium and calories than what she needs at this milestone. The pellets have high calories as well which can cause unhealthy weight gain.
Rather than feed her unlimited amounts of pellets, change it to ½ cup of pellets for every six pounds she weighs each day. To make up for the loss of nutrition, you will need to increase her vegetable intake and hay. You can also feed her various fruits at this stage as well. You need to limit the calories to no more than one to two ounces per six pounds of body weight each day.
Mature Adult Rabbits:
Mature bunnies should have an unlimited amount of Timothy hay, grass, and oat hay. Here again, you need to reduce the amount of pellets in her diet. A good guideline to incorporate is ¼ cup per six pounds of body weight each day.
You will need to add dark, leafy greens and feed her three varieties each day. Iceberg and other light-colored varieties have no nutritional value to them, so it’s useless to feed her those. Also, be sure to add orange and dark yellow veggies to her diet. Treats, including various fruits, in moderation, can also be part of her diet.
Q: If I must feed a newborn, what should I buy?
A: Kitten or goat replacement milk it the best options to feed a baby rabbit.
Q: Can my other rabbit foster an orphaned baby?
A: Fostering a baby rabbit is relatively simple up to one week old, especially if the babies are close in age. Slip the baby into the doe’s nest and watch her take over as a mother.
There are many reasons why baby rabbits are left to survive on their own. Whether it be a case that something killed the mother or she just never came back, baby bunnies are fragile and need special care.
Until you are 100 percent certain that the babies mother is gone and is not returning, do not touch the babies or try to relocate them and the nest. As mentioned above, if the mother smells a human scent on their babies, chances are she will avoid that baby.
Cover her nest and check on the babies the following day to see if she has made it back and if the babies are doing fine. Other than that, let nature take care of its own.
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