Care of Orphaned Cottontail Rabbits

Care of Orphaned Cottontail Rabbits thumbnail
Cottontail rabbit mothers do not stay on the nest during the day.

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
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Instructions

    • 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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References

  • Photo Credit Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images

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