Baby Domestic Rabbits

From WabbitWiki
(Redirected from Babies)
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is incomplete because it lacks depth or is unfinished. Help by expanding it.

Baby rabbits should not be removed from their mother until at least 8 weeks in order to develop a proper digestive and immune system from their mother's milk and cecals.[1] If you bought a rabbit that still needs to be fed milk, be warned that your rabbit will not have a high chance of survival. Do not purchase any rabbits under 8 weeks of age from a pet store or breeder.

Appearance

The links below include information about the appearance of baby rabbits as they grow.

Care

To distinguish various baby rabbits in the litter, you may use a dab of food coloring, permanent marker, or nail polish in the ear.[2]

See Taking Care of a Pregnant Rabbit and Her Litter for more information.

Below are some useful resources on the care of baby rabbits:

Weaning

Baby rabbits should not be completely weaned from their mothers and sold until 8 weeks of age. Babies removed earlier have a high risk of developing enteritis, which is easily fatal in a young rabbit.

Below are links with more information about the process and age of weaning.

Orphaned

Rabbit kits may need to be hand-reared in case of maternal death or mismothering or lactational failure of the doe. Does with a new litter may take 24 hours to start lactation.[3] Mother rabbits only jump in the nest twice a day (once early in the morning and once in the evening) for about five minutes at a time to nurse their young, and do not "nest" on their litter of rabbits.[4]

Mismothering can be diagnosed if the kits have not been fed for 48 hours.[3] Unfed kits will have thin abdomens and wrinkled skin due to dehydration. From Dana Krempels,[5]

If the mama has been separated from the babies for more than 24 hours, and refuses to feed them, you can try to gently, but firmly hold her over the babies until they can get a meal. Stroke the mama, talk to her gently and love her, making her feel secure. After the first feeding, you probably won't have to do this again. She will take care of the babies on her own.

Before handling the babies, wash your hands well with disinfectant soap and hot water. Once they're clean, rub your hands in a bit of clean, fresh hay and on mama's fur to scent your hands.

Kits under 7 days old should be kept at 27-30°C (80.6-86.0°F).[3] A incubator, heated cage, or airing cupboard can be used to house the babies. The kits should be placed in a box lined with hay, maternal fur if available, or soft cloths and fleece. The nest box should be in a quiet place at ground level where other pets and children are not allowed until the babies are eating solid food and out of the nest. For the first few days, keep the room relatively dimly lit and quiet. The temperature can be lowered after seven days if the kits are thriving.[3] Do not use an electric heating pad. From Dana Krempels,[5]

Two or more babies usually are able to snuggle and keep each other warm if they have a good, padded nest. If there's only one baby, a warm water bottle wrapped in a soft towel can provide an excellent artificial heat source, but be sure the baby can crawl away from the bottle if it feels too warm.

The most common causes of failure and death when hand-rearing rabbits are aspiration pneumonia due to inhalation of milk into the lungs, and diarrhea due to the failure to establish a normal gut flora.[3] Death at around four weeks of age are also common due to intestinal Escherichia coli overgrowth.[3]

Feeding

Ideally, try to find a nearby rabbit breeder that may have a lactating doe that will be able to foster the baby rabbits. There is no perfect replacement for a rabbit's milk.

Otherwise, some tips on hand-rearing and feeding orphaned baby rabbits:

  • Infants lose the suckling instinct quickly, so if hand feeding is to be attempted, it must be started within 48 hours. Kitten nursers are much too large for the mouth of a baby rabbit. Toy doll bottles are sometimes small enough. If the baby has lost the suckling instinct, a tuberculin syringe (with needle removed) can be used to carefully administer formula.[6]
  • Feed only twice a day. Overfeeding is a leading cause of death in these youngsters which results in fatal intestinal disease.[4] Do not allow a baby rabbit overfeed at one sitting![5] A baby can learn suckle so quickly that it is possible for him to ingest a volume too great for his stomach. Although it is unlikely for the stomach to rupture, stretching it too taut can cause pain, gas, and make the baby sick. It is better to underfeed slightly than overfeed. If in doubt, let the baby rest for about a minute after feeding to allow time for the stretch receptors to respond and let the baby know he's really full, then offer the nipple again.
  • Orphaned baby rabbits will need help defecating/urinating after each feeding as they are unable to on their own.[4][5] Usually the mother will groom the babies to do so.

    To simulate this, use a cotton ball moistened with warm water and gently stroke the anal area until the bunny starts to produce feces and urine. Stop only when the output stops. You may wish to first place a towel on your lap before doing this procedure as it can be very messy.

    Failure to stimulate the babies to urinate/defecate can result in the death of the baby. The bladder can actually rupture if it is not stimulated to empty. It may take a couple of weeks before the babies are able to urinate and defecate on their own. Watch for signs of redness/irritation around the anus and urethral opening, which can indicate that you are stimulating too vigorously. Back off on the pressure, and apply a bit of soothing calendula ointment (available at health food stores) to heal the irritation.

    If the feces come out liquid or "smeary", it's a sign of potentially serious trouble. Consult your rabbit-experienced veterinarian at the first sign of diarrhea, as this can be fatal in only a few hours in a baby rabbit.

  • If possible, obtain adult cecotropes to feed to the babies after their eyes are open. Usually, the babies will eat the cecotropes immediately, because it the natural thing for them to do. However, if the babies do not eat the cecotropes on their own, add two to three of the individual pellets in the cluster to the formula at one feeding per day for three to four days.[6]

Amount to Feed

The amount of formula to feed will depend on the age and size of the baby rabbit.[4][5] The following guidelines are for twice daily feedings for a baby rabbit that will be about five pounds as an adult. 1 cc is equivalent to 1 mL.

  • Newborn to One Week: 2-2.5 cc each feeding.
  • 1-2 weeks: 5-7 cc each feeding. Amount will vary depending on size of rabbit. Smaller rabbits will need less.
  • 2-3 weeks: 7-13 cc each feeding. Domestic baby rabbit eyes open at about 10 days of age. You can start introducing them to hay, alfalfa pellets, and water.[4] Although they may begin to eat solids, this does not mean that they should be or are ready to be weaned.
  • 3-6 weeks: 13-15 cc each feeding.
  • 6-8 weeks: The babies should start to wean at this period. Begin to dilute the formula from 3:1 formula:water, gradually adding more and more water until the babies lose interest.

Formula Recipes

For all formulas, heat the formula to about 105°F and keep it warm in a water bath while you feed the babies. They are generally more eager to accept warm formula.[5]

From Dana Krempels, Ph.D.,[5]

  • 1/2 cup of fresh whole goat milk
  • 1/2 cup of Kitten Milk Replacer (KMR) by PetAg
  • 10 capsules/1-1.5 Tbsp of lyophilized (freeze dried) colostrum - available at most high-quality health stores either in bulk powder form or capsules. Colostrum is a special, immunoglobin-rich substance with antibodies that help destroy foreign bacteria that the mother rabbit produces in the first few days of lactation. Without a colostrum "starter", the babies have a lower chance of survival.
  • 3 cc of heavy cream

Mix ingredients together in a lidded container, and shake very well until colostrum is dissolved. It's best to mix this a few hours in advance so that the colostrum has time to soften and suspend easily.

The House Rabbit Society recommends adding a pinch of acidophilus to promote healthy gut flora.[4] They also recommend not using any cow's milk, puppy formula, or Karo syrup.

From Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents, Clinical Medicine and Surgery, 3e, [7]

Cheeke's Milk Replacer

  • 1/2 cup of evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 Tbsp of corn syrup

Taylor's Milk Replacer 1

  • 1/2 cup of Esbilac powder
  • 1/8 cup of heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup of water

Taylor's Milk Replacer 2

  • 1 cup of KMR liquid
  • 1/2 cup of Multi-Milk powder

Taylor's Milk Replacer 3

  • 1 cup of Esbilac
  • 2/3 cup of Multi-Milk powder

Taylor's Milk Replacer 4

  • 1 cup of Esbilac
  • 1 cup of Multi-Milk powder
  • 1.5 cup of water

From Sarah Cuthill, [8]

  • 1/2 cup canned evaporated goat's milk
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 Tbsp cane syrup

Extra Resources

The following links contain more information on how to properly care for orphaned baby rabbits.

Sexing

Sexing young rabbits is very difficult, but here are some guides, some with pictures, on how to properly sex your rabbit. Refer to your rabbit-savvy veterinarian for the final judgement of your rabbit's sex.

Here are some videos on sexing rabbits:

The following are pages from rabbit breeder sites. As we constantly remind, we do not condone rabbit breeding for the common owner, and these have been linked for information purposes only.

See Also

References

  1. Dana Krempels, Ph.D., The Mystery of Rabbit Poop
  2. Rabbit Talk, Identification marking for rabbits.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Emma Keeble, Anna Meredith, et al., Rabbit Medicine & Surgery, 2006.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 House Rabbit Society, Caring for Orphans
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 Dana Krempels, Ph.D., Care and Feeding of Orphaned Domestic Rabbits
  6. 6.0 6.1 House Rabbit Society, Sandi Koi, Domestic Baby Bunnies and Their Mom > Feeding Orphaned Baby Rabbits
  7. Katherina Quesenberry and James Carpenter, Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents, Clinical Medicine and Surgery, 3e, 2004.
  8. Sarah Cuthill, How to Hand-Feed Rabbit Kits