There’s nothing quite as adorable as a litter of newborn baby bunnies! But before you rush out to adopt these cute little furballs, it’s important to understand proper care and handling. From preparing the perfect nesting box to when you can finally cuddle the kits, raising baby rabbits requires specific expertise. What special diet do they need to grow up healthy and strong? How do you socialize shy babies so they become friendly pets? Are baby bunnies prone to any dangerous diseases? This article will walk you through everything you need to know about caring for orphaned, abandoned, or newborn domestic rabbit kits. From setting up housing to proper weaning techniques, we cover crucial age-based advice to help baby bunnies thrive! Get ready for an overload of fluffy cuteness!
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. The nesting box provides a safe, comfortable space for the mother rabbit to give birth and nurse her kits. Here are some tips on how to set up an appropriate nesting box for your pregnant rabbit:
First, choose an appropriate location. The nesting box should be kept in a quiet, peaceful area away from busy human traffic and other pets. A location outside the main living area, such as a garage or shed, is often ideal. Make sure the area is free from drafts or direct sunlight which could overheat the kits.
Select a box large enough for the mother to move around in but small enough to feel enclosed. A medium-sized cardboard box or wooden crate works well. The box should be about 18-24 inches wide and long. Place soft, cozy bedding inside like timothy hay, straw, or shredded paper. Provide 3-6 inches of bedding for the rabbit to burrow in. Avoid using fabric, strings, or towels which could tangle around the newborn kits.
Some breeders recommend providing a second "nursing box" attached to the main nest box. Cut a small opening between the two boxes just big enough for the mother to pass through. This gives her a place to feed the kits away from the bedding and waste in the main nest. The nursing box can be a bit smaller, around 12 inches square.
Place the nesting box in the prepared birthing area 2-3 days before the expected delivery date. This gives the mother ample time to get comfortable with the space and make any adjustments to the nest pre-birth. Provide some hay in the box for her to start building her nest. Make sure she has access to plenty of hay to continue nesting right up until she gives birth.
Monitor the mother's activity in the box to make sure she is accepting the space but avoid disturbing her too frequently. Some breeders suggest placing a brick under one corner of the box to angle it slightly – this can help keep the bedding and kits clustered to one side. Just prior to birth, remove the brick so the box lays flat.
Following birth, give the mother and kits some peace and quiet for the first week of life. Avoid reaching into the nest or handling the babies. Change out soiled bedding carefully to prevent disturbing them. Keep the nesting area tranquil and check that the box remains properly positioned for nursing and safety. Having the right nest box set up makes all the difference during this delicate newborn phase!
When Can You Handle Baby Rabbits?
Baby rabbits, also known as kits, are extremely fragile during the first few weeks of life. Knowing when you can safely handle newborn bunnies is important for keeping them healthy and avoiding permanent damage. Here are some tips on when and how to handle newborn baby rabbits:
Days 1-7: Do NOT handle the kits at all for the first week of life. Mother rabbits only nurse their young once or twice a day. Excessive handling can prevent her from returning to the nest or even cause her to kill the babies. Leave them alone to bond with mom.
Day 7-14: Begin handling the kits minimally starting in the second week. Pet, inspect and sex the babies quickly then immediately return them to the nest. Wash hands first and handle gently, supporting the entire body. Start getting them accustomed to human touch.
Day 15-21: Increase handling gradually up to 10-15 minutes per kit daily. Gently pick up and hold individuals, inspecting for any issues. Get them comfortable being apart from litter mates and mom for brief periods. Check sex and markings.
Day 21-42: Kits are weaned from mom by 8 weeks old. Handle extensively after 3 weeks, holding, cuddling, grooming, and playing with the rabbits. Get them used to human interaction and being held. Separate males and females at 8-10 weeks.
Avoid loud noises, sudden movements or chasing kits around the cage. Always support the full body and do not scruff baby bunnies. Limit handling during shedding or molting seasons when their skin is extremely sensitive. By 8 weeks old, regular gentle handling results in friendlier, better socialized rabbits. Follow these age guidelines carefully to ensure both mom and babies stay healthy and happy.
What Do You Feed Baby Rabbits?
Feeding appropriate foods in the right amounts is vital to the proper growth and development of baby rabbits. Here are some guidelines on what and how much to feed baby bunnies from birth to weaning:
Birth to 3 weeks: Rabbit kits need ONLY their mother's milk for the first 2-3 weeks of life. Do not remove them from the nest or supplement with formula, pellets or veggies. Mother's milk provides all the nutrients they need.
3-4 weeks: Slowly introduce alfalfa hay and pellets around 3 weeks old. Place small amounts in the nest for the kits to start nibbling naturally. Give unlimited alfalfa hay at this stage for proper protein/calcium levels.
4-7 weeks: By 4 weeks old, kits can eat softened pellets mixed with mom’s milk. Make a gruel by soaking 1 part pellets in 2 parts water or goat milk. Feed this mush in a shallow dish 2-3 times daily alongside hay.
6-8 weeks: Begin offering chopped greens at 6 weeks old. Introduce 1 new vegetable every 3 days: lettuce, kale, carrot tops, parsley, cilantro. Limit to 1 cup per 5 lbs. body weight daily with their mush.
8-12 weeks: At 8 weeks, kits are fully weaned from milk and can eat hay, pellets, vegetables and fresh water freely. Transfer weaned kits to proper housing but keep littermates together. Feed alfalfa-based pellets until 6 months old.
Avoid sugary fruits, starchy veggies like potatoes, and greens high in oxalates for young kits. Free-choice timothy and alfalfa hay should always be available. Monitor growth rates and adjust food amounts to maintain healthy weight gain. Follow these feeding guidelines for age-appropriate nutrition. Consult an exotic vet with any concerns.
Do Baby Rabbits Have Diseases?
Like any young animal, baby rabbits are susceptible to certain health conditions and diseases in the first few months of life. However, many of these can be prevented with proper care. Here are some common diseases to monitor for in newborn and juvenile rabbits:
Snuffles: The most common affliction in baby bunnies. Snuffles is a respiratory infection causing nasal discharge and congestion. It’s caused by bacteria like Pasteurella. Signs include sneezing, wheezing, runny nose, and eye discharge. Snuffles is very contagious and can be fatal in kits under 12 weeks old. Antibiotics from a vet are the appropriate treatment.
Diarrhea: Digestive issues are common in kits, leading to soft stool or diarrhea. Causes include diet changes, intestinal parasites like coccidia, stress, and enteritis. Severe diarrhea in babies can quickly lead to dehydration. Consult a vet for fluid therapy and proper medications.
Parasites: Intestinal worms are highly prevalent in young rabbits if not dewormed. Look for worm segments in the stool. Mites can also infest kits and nesting areas, causing intense itching, hair loss and skin lesions. Vet-prescribed medications clear up both internal and external parasites.
Urinary tract disease: Older unneutered male kits may develop calcium crystals or sludge in their urinary tract after 12 weeks old. This is a very painful condition and requires medical intervention. Get male rabbits neutered by 5-6 months old to avoid this.
Prevention is key to keeping baby bunnies disease-free. Use excellent sanitation in housing, feed a balanced diet, avoid stress, and schedule regular vet check-ups for exams, vaccinations, and parasite treatments. Watch closely for any concerning symptoms in growing kits. Addressing illnesses promptly leads to the best outcome.
How to Setup a Cage for a Baby Rabbit
Housing baby rabbits properly helps set them up for a lifetime of good health. Here are some tips for setting up the ideal enclosure for your growing bunny:
Size – Baby rabbits need lots of room to hop and play. Start with a minimum cage size of 36”L x 24”W x 24” H but plan to expand as they grow. Large dog crates work well for housing juvenile rabbits.
Flooring – Wire floors can injure delicate feet and legs. Provide a solid flooring like linoleum, wood or pans lined with grass mats, fleece or towels. Avoid slippery surfaces. Add litter boxes with pelleted litter.
Safety – Baby bunnies love to chew and dig! Remove any cables, toxic plants or hazards. Provide dig boxes and safe chew toys. Choose a cage with small bar spacing of 1” or less to prevent escape.
Comfort – Add boxes or tunnels for hiding and security. Place soft blankets and stuffed animals for snuggling. Keep the area peaceful, away from dogs, loud noises and excessive handling.
Climate – Keep the room at 55-75° F year-round. Position the cage away from drafts, direct sunlight, heat vents and misters. Provide a fan for hot days.
Accessories – Ensure food and water bowls are tip-proof. Scatter hay on the flooring as well as in a rack. Add toys, tunnels, chews, litter boxes and a hide box.
Cleaning – Spot clean droppings and wet bedding daily. Remove uneaten fresh foods. Fully disinfect cage, bowls, toys weekly. Replace litter boxes 2-3 times per week.
Following these guidelines creates a nurturing environment for your bunny. As they grow bigger and more active, expand the space and enrichment items appropriately. Proper housing is vital to raising healthy, happy rabbits from baby to adult!
When Can Rabbits Leave Their Mother?
Knowing the right age to wean and separate baby rabbits from their mother is key to avoiding unnecessary stress and health issues. Here is an overview of appropriate weaning and separation ages:
3-4 weeks: Kits begin nibbling solid foods like hay and pellets at 3 weeks while nursing. Do not fully wean yet.
6 weeks: Milk intake decreases around 6 weeks as rabbits eat more solids. Some mothers begin rejecting kits from nursing.
8 weeks: By 8 weeks old, most kits are fully weaned and no longer require milk. Natural separation from mom begins.
10 weeks: Kits should be completely independent and eating only solid foods by 10 weeks of age. Separate males from females now.
12 weeks: At 3 months old, healthy kits are ready for their new permanent homes. Littermates can still be paired up if bonded well.
Weaning too early under 6-8 weeks leads to nutritional deficits, poor growth and digestive issues. Separating later than 10-12 weeks allows fighting to occur as maturing hormones kick in.
Watch for these developmental milestones rather than strict age limits. Signs a kit is ready for weaning include:
- Eating 1+ oz of solids daily
- Nursing less frequently and for shorter periods
- Weight gain continues and feces look normal
- Less interest in nursing, more independent exploration
If in doubt, check with your veterinarian about the ideal weaning timeline. Closely monitor each kit’s eating habits, weight and social behavior. Ensure they are fully ready for the major transition away from mom. Patience leads to happy, thriving juvenile rabbits!
Newborn Rabbit Care Without a Mother
Caring for newborn rabbits without their mother present requires diligent round-the-clock attention. Here are some must-know tips if you end up hand-raising orphaned or abandoned kits:
Shelter: Keep newborns in an enclosed nesting box lined with soft bedding and buried heating pads set on low. Maintain air temperature between 85-90°F. Do not allow drafts or direct sunlight. Handle minimally.
Feeding: Bottle feed kitten replacement milk or goat milk every 2-3 hours. Use kitten nurser bottles with small holes. Never feed cow’s milk. Stimulate to urinate/defecate with a warm wet cloth after each feeding.
Weaning: Begin offering alfalfa hay, greens and pellet slurry around 3-4 weeks old. Transition fully to solids by 8 weeks old. Provide a water bowl for weaned kits.
Health: Get an initial vet check as soon as possible. Watch for dehydration, respiratory issues, parasites and diarrhea. Medicate any infections promptly under a vet’s guidance.
Socializing: Handle frequently after 2 weeks old for socialization. Pet, hold, hand feed and speak softly. Avoid loud noises and fast movements that can scare kits.
Rehoming: Orphans can be paired with other weaned kits for companionship after 8-10 weeks old. Screen adopters carefully and ensure proper housing is prepared before placement.
Hand-raising infant rabbits is very demanding but rewarding. Get guidance from an experienced rabbit breeder or exotic vet. Provide attentive care and schedule around the clock feedings for the best chance of survival. With proper technique, dedication and time, orphaned kits can grow into wonderful pets.
Caring for baby bunnies requires preparation, diligence and patience. Setting up the proper environment, understanding their growth stages, feeding age-appropriate foods, monitoring health issues, and practicing safe handling techniques gives baby rabbits the best start in life. Bond closely with your kits through gentle regular interaction as they grow. Wean, separate and rehome juvenile rabbits at the right developmental stage. Follow these detailed tips and enjoy watching your baby bunnies thrive!