How to Raise Cottontail Rabbits


It is important to remember cottontail rabbits are wild animals. As they grow to maturity they will not behave like domesticated bunnies. They are extremely jumpy and easily frightened. With frequent handling from a young age they might become accustomed to certain people but they will still be a wild animal. It is highly recommended by the Alabama Wildlife Center that those looking for a pet rabbit narrow the search to domestic breeds. An abandoned baby cottontail can be successfully raised by humans, after which time, it should be released back into the wild.

Things You'll Need

  • Rubber tote
  • Soda bottle
  • Eyedropper
  • Esbilac powder
  • Heavy whipping cream
  • Water

Keep baby rabbits warm. Fill a small (20 ounce) soda or water bottle with hot water, wrap it in a towel and place it next to the rabbit. Make sure the bottle cannot roll onto the baby rabbits.

Create a safe place for the rabbits to live. A large plastic tote with high sides works well and it is an inexpensive solution. Line the bottom of the tote with a soft towel, old shirt or some straw.

Feed the babies every two to four hours using a small syringe or eye dropper. According to the Alabama Wildlife center, formula for baby rabbits should consist of one part Esbilac powder, one part water and one-quarter heavy whipping cream. Dilute the formula with two parts water for the first three feedings.

Very young rabbits will need to be stimulated to urinate and defecate. Dampen a cotton ball with warm water and rub each rabbit's genital area with it. Be very gentle. The rabbit should respond by urinating and defecating after a few moments. Do this after every feeding until the rabbit is eliminating on its own.

Begin to offer solid foods such as carrots, hay and rabbit pellets when rabbits are 2 weeks old.

When baby cottontails are 6 weeks of age, the Alabama Wildlife Center recommends releasing them back into the wild. Do this in a place that is safe from cars and predatory pets such as dogs and cats.

Tips & Warnings

  • A heating pad can be used, on the lowest setting, to keep rabbits warm. Place the heating pad on the outside of the enclosure to ensure the rabbit does not chew on it, which could result in electrocution.
  • In some areas it is illegal to take in any wild animal without the permission of authorities.

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