At what age do rabbits eat solid food?
At what age do rabbits eat solid food?
Judging their age is important. Rabbits eyes come open at about 10 or 11 days after birth. Hand feed them until they are 14 days old. They will start eating on their own — hay, carrots, and rabbit pellets around 14 days old. They should be released into the wild when they are 4-6 weeks old. Don’t keep wild rabbits together after they are 2 months old — they will tear each other apart. Do not mix wild rabbits with domestic rabbits. You could spread parasites and diseases to your domestic rabbits.
If the bunnies you find are really young, you will have to force feed them with an eyedropper. I have fed them successfully on 2% cows milk without any losses. Some suggest baby formula. I was condemned by certain wild animal rescue groups for recommending the use of milk. They stated that rabbits are lactose intolerant and should be fed Pedialyte. Due to these groups’ pressure, I changed my website to recommend Pedialyte. I have since received at least two emails from really sad people stating that Pedialyte killed the bunnies. I therefore now retract my recommendation of Pedialyte. I have had a 100% survival rate on just 2% cows milk. That should speak for itself.
I just received this email on 6/7/2010 from a wildlife rescuer:
My Name is Debra and I am a wild rabbit rehabilitator here in Canada. I have been rehabilitating wildlife for about 15 years including. rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, bby deer and even a Belgian draft Horse..lol. anyway I have read extensively for years about what to feed an orphaned animal from the wild and I have to say I have tried everything and my best success was using plain old cows milk.. I do scald it to remove the strong enzymes that the young cannot digest but thats what has worked the best and I endorse this constantly. I believe that is the best source of milk as it is made naturally by all mothers. and I dont think there is much difference between them all..I have too had some conflict front our Ministry of Natural resources but after getting regular updates and pictures of my many success stories they dont bother me. Actually it was a gal that i found on the internet in Texas that started me with the cows milk after I had lost a baby squirrel (using kitten milk replacer) and was desperately searching the internet for answers to save the second one. Then I found her and never looked back..
«Keep on doing what your doing!». Good Luck
Debra from Canada
I now feel vindicated in my statement about cow’s milk. You don’t have to prepare much milk because they don’t drink much.Bring the milk or baby formula to a lukewarm temperature (where it feels neither warm nor cold) and feed them as much as they will take in. Refrigerate any leftover prepared milk in order to avoid bacterial contamination. When they are born up to when they are up to 2 weeks old, they don’t consume much — about 1 eyedropper full per feeding. You only have to feed them three or four times per day, but make sure they get enough or they will waste away.
When they start eating at about 2 weeks, they will eat alfalfa hay, carrots, and rabbit pellets. Don’t feed them lettuce or cabbage.
Baby wild rabbits are like domestic rabbits — they will not bite you and are safe to raise. They are really jumpy, though, and will try to escape whenever they get a chance. Not many people have been successful in domesticating wild rabbits. If you handle them daily, they may become more familiar with people and settle down. Remember that they scare easily and can run fast. They may possibly get hurt trying to get away from a dog or cat you have. This fright is nature’s way to keep them safe in the wild. Our domestic rabbits came from the common wild European rabbit, selecting for tameness.
For more interesting facts about wild rabbits and other wild animals, visit
The Wildlife Care Organization.
For more information on what to do when you find baby rabbits, visit
The House Rabbit Society.
This page last updated on 7/7/07
Feeding Baby Rabbits
Feeding baby rabbits falls mostly to the mother rabbit for the first 3 weeks of the bunny’s life. Between 3 weeks and around 6 weeks old, the baby rabbits need less and less of mom, and more and more pellets and hay.
At the point they no longer «need» the mother for food, they are said to be weaned. This physiological point arrives almost precisely at 4 weeks of age, at least in regards to the operative word «need.» This means that a kit orphaned for some reason at 3.5 — 4 weeks old can go straight to solids, and will not need supplemental milk unless it happens to also be malnourished.
In our domestic rabbits, however, the doe permits her kits to keep right on nursing, simply because she can physically afford to do so. The typical litter of bunnies in your home or hutch can be 6-7 weeks of age, possibly older, by the time their mums forbid any more nursing.
See our Raising Baby Rabbits page for more detail on the normal care of bunnies from 2 weeks of age and older, including the processes of weaning the litter.
What do you do if something catastrophic happens to the doe?
Every once in a while tragedy strikes. The doe could develop young doe syndrome. You’d find her suddenly dead in her cage, with her kits being just a week or 10 days old. Or, the doe could develop mastitis, refuse to nurse the kits because of the pain, or herself die from bacterial toxins.
Whatever the disaster, feeding baby rabbits now falls to the rabbit owner.
What you do will likely depend on how old the kits are. Obviously, the older, the better the survival rate.
Can you foster the baby rabbits to another doe?
Between the age of 0 to about a week, fostering is fairly easy, especially if the kits are within a couple days of the age of the foster-mother’s kits. Just slip the babies into the new doe’s nest. Do it in the morning, and rub their little bodies gently with the new doe’s fur in order to transfer her smell to them.
As you replace the nestbox, give the new doe a generous helping of calf manna, whole oats, or a favorite treat, in order to distract her. She’ll think everything is fine, and by evening, all the kits should smell like they belong in the nest. If you’re still nervous about the doe, just leave the nestbox outside the nest all day, and then put it back in with the doe about suppertime.
The foster doe will do a much better job at feeding baby rabbits than you could, if you don’t overwhelm the new doe with a dozen bunnies. How many kits you give her may depend on her ability to make the additional milk. Adding a source of fats, like whole oats or black oil sunflower seeds, will definitely help her augment her milk supply.
Rabbit Condition Enhancers: BOSS, Whole Oats
These very healthy 2 1/2 week old baby rex rabbits still rely nearly entirely on the doe’s milk.
Easy to use nursing bottle, recommended Esbilac milk replacements:
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- PetAg Goat’s Milk Esbilac Small Animal Powder
- Esbilac Milk Replacer
Here are some other options for feeding kits:
- PetAg Esbilac Emergency Feeding Kit
- Lixit Small Animal Oral Syringe
Other powders and supplements we recommend:
- PetAg Bene-Bac Plus FOS & Probiotics Gel Supplement
- PetAg Bene-Bac Plus Pet Powder, 16oz
- PetAg Esbilac Puppy Milk Replacer Powder (12-28oz can, 5-lb bag)
Proven Guidelines for Feeding
Feeding Wild Rabbits page, because her instructions for feeding baby rabbits work for both cottontails and orphan domestic rabbit bunnies.
Rabbit Milk Replacement Suggestions
We recommend Goat’s Milk Esbilac, or Esbilac Milk Replacer for Puppies. Whatever formula you use to hand-feed bunnies, it will still need the addition of fat. The easiest way to do this is to use heavy cream.
Bene-Bac (or healthy cecotropes) will be another essential ingredient of the milk formula in order to prevent fatal diarrhea.
See Feeding Wild Rabbits for the formulas and details , including some suggestions should you have been surprised by the sudden death of a doe, and not have on hand any formula.
Good luck with feeding baby rabbits!
Feeding baby rabbits orphaned at
3 or 3.5 weeks old
By three weeks old, baby rabbits are already nibbling pellets and hay, but they still need mother’s milk. They may also still be at risk for life-threatening bunny diarrhea. Nevertheless, their survival rate improves dramatically by 3.5 weeks old, even on just excellent rabbit pellets and water.
This Bunny Food is Currently the Best I Have Found:
- Besides providing pellets and alfalfa hay, some very dry (non-moldy) bread soaked with raw, unpasteurized cow’s or goat’s milk might be a good milk substitute for feeding baby rabbits. (Raw milk available from some dairy farms and very possibly at a nearby health food store, depending on the state you live in). Or, soak the dry bread in Kitten Milk Replacer (KMR). Offer this to the kits.
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