Care of Orphaned Cottontail Rabbits

Cottontail rabbits are native to every part of North America. Mothers build a shallow ground nest and come back to feed only twice a day. Sometimes, they don't return to the nest, and therefore they orphan their young. The bunnies' eyes open at 10 days, and they begin eating real grass by 5 weeks of age. Knowing when and how to feed orphaned baby cottontail rabbits increases their chances of a successful return to the wild.

Things You'll Need

  • 1 high-sided box
  • 2 towels
  • Kitten milk replacer
  • Clean eyedropper
  • Cotton balls
  • Warm water


    • 1

      Place the baby rabbit snuggled in a dry, clean towel down in a high-sided box, then place the box in a quiet room. If the rabbit's eyes have not opened, cover the box with a towel.

    • 2

      Keep the room where the box is located between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit and free from drafts.

    • 3

      Feed the orphaned cottontail rabbits kitten milk replacer from an eyedropper until they begin eating on their own. Feed the baby in a normal upright position (to prevent aspiration) once early in the morning and once late in the evening. This replicates the mother's natural feeding cycle.

    • 4

      Allow the bunny to eat its fill from the eyedropper. This should take about five minutes of eating time.

    • 5

      Check to make sure the baby rabbit’s belly is full. It should be firm with food after feeding, not soft and empty.

    • 6

      Gently glide a warm, moist cotton ball over the rabbit's genital area to eliminate waste and urine. Do this after each feeding. Repeat with a clean, moist cotton ball to clean the area.

    • 7

      Continue to feed the rabbit twice a day, and stimulate the rabbit to eliminate waste after each feeding, until it is able to eat grass on its own and eliminate waste on its own.

    • 8

      Release the rabbit into the wild when it is ready--generally, when it is three to four weeks old.

Tips & Warnings

  • Contact local wildlife agencies for listings of wildlife rehabilitators for medical assistance.
  • Add a pinch of acidophilus tablet to milk to promote healthy gut flora.
  • Baby rabbits must be stimulated in order to eliminate waste and urine. Contact a wildlife rehabilitator if you feel you cannot perform this task.
  • Feeding more than twice a day is fatal to baby rabbits.
  • Do not feed cottontail rabbits cow's milk or use puppy milk formula.
  • Do not use additional heating sources for bedding or under bedding to prevent overheating the rabbit.
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  • Photo Credit Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images

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