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How to Feed a Baby Rabbit (And What to Feed Them)

Nicole Cosgrove

Has your rabbit mother recently given birth? Or maybe you’ve found a baby rabbit that was separated from its mother? Either way, your mind may be turning towards what you need to do to make sure that these baby rabbits are happy, healthy, and well-fed.

In this guide, you’ll find what you need to know to determine if you really do need to feed a baby rabbit, as well as a list of equipment and step-by-step walkthrough for how to feed.

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How Do I Know If I Need to Feed a Baby Rabbit?

Did you know that rabbit mothers feed their babies only once or twice per day? Or that, outside of these feeding times, they mostly leave their young completely alone?

Unlike many other mammals, rabbit mothers do not stick extremely close to their babies, sometimes even right after they’re born. Because rabbits are prey animals, their instincts tend to make them wary of staying near anything that a predator might target — including their own children.

rabbit drinking milk
Image: Daniel Hall, Flickr

In most cases where the rabbit mother is still present, you’ll not have to intervene and help feed her babies. Only if the babies are showing clear signs of distress, such as wandering around their nests and crying, will you maybe have to help feed them.

However, in the unlikely and unfortunate circumstance that the mother rabbit is dead, missing, or completely ignoring her newborns, you’ll need to take action and begin feeding them right away! For the next three weeks, you’ll be their most vital source of nutrition and care.

The Right Supplies and Best Food for Baby Rabbits

When you are called upon to feed one or more baby rabbits, you’ll need to gather some special supplies to make sure that you’re feeding them in the safest and most nutritious way possible. Before mixing your formula recipe, make sure you have both a Sterilizing steam bag, such as the ones used by breastfeeding human mothers, and Nursing bottles and nipples, often available in package sets.

Then, you’ll need to mix your baby formula from this recipe, courtesy of Doctor Dana Krempels of the University of Miami Biology Department:

  • ½ cup fresh, whole goat milk (available at most health food stores)
  • ½ cup Kitten Milk Replacer
  • 1 tablespoon freeze-dried colostrum
  • ½ teaspoon heavy cream

Be sure to mix this in advance so the colostrum has time to fully dissolve into the formula. The combination of nutrients in this formula most closely resembles rabbit mothers’ milk, making it an almost-perfect match for feeding orphaned babies.

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Step-by-Step: How to Feed a Baby Rabbit

baby rabbit
Image by auenleben from Pixabay

Feeding baby rabbits takes special care and attention, so as not to overwhelm their sensitive immune and digestive systems. Follow these steps to the letter:

  • Thoroughly wash your hands with warm, soapy water.
  • Follow the instructions that come with the steam bags to sterilize and disinfect the bottle and nipples.
  • Fill the bottle with formula, then warm it to body temperature.
  • Sit on the floor, and spread out plenty of cushioning under where you’ll feed the rabbits.
  • Hold the baby horizontally in your non-dominant hand, and gently place the nipple of the bottle to its lips.
  • Sometimes, the baby will resist being bottle-fed; in this case, wet their lips with a drop of formula, and be persistent.
  • DO NOT try to force formula out of the bottle! The last thing you want is to overfill the baby’s mouth, causing it to breathe in the formula.

That’s it! Over time, the babies will acclimate to your feedings and not put up a fuss. For the first three weeks of their lives, they’ll be relying solely on formula for their nutrition.

From 3 to 6 weeks, you’ll notice them starting to try out solid foods. This will form the foundation for weaning them off of the bottle, but they’ll still need the nutrients provided by formula up until about 8 weeks of age — at which point you can safely stop feeding them. A fantastic way to make this transition is with a food designed for young rabbits, such as this one from Oxbow.

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Final Thoughts on Feeding Baby Rabbits

When you’re called upon to feed a baby rabbit due to conditions outside of the mother’s control, it’s a big responsibility. With the help of this guide and the proper equipment, you can give your baby rabbits the best chance at a long and healthy life in your home! As always, if you’re unclear on anything you’ve read here, it’s best to contact your local veterinarian for personalized help.


Featured Image: Jannes Pockele, Flickr

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.