Raising Wild Rabbits
Why do some people consider raising wild rabbits?
Sometimes, people stumble across abandoned nests of wild rabbits. Perhaps the mother became dinner for a coyote or a dog, or perhaps the nest has been disturbed by the lawn mower or other landscaping tool. Often, people find the nest and just assume the mother is missing because they don't see her. Mother rabbits only spend a few minutes a day with their young feeding them. The rest of the time the nest remains hidden and the mother tries not to attract attention to it.
If you do pick up wild baby rabbits you think are abandoned, there are a few things you can do to care for them properly. Raising wild rabbits is notoriously difficult, so don't be surprised if you are not successful. Even experienced wildlife rehabilitators are not always successful. The best thing you can do is to get them to a wildlife rehabilitation center as soon as possible. There are laws in many states against the keeping of wild rabbits, so if they can be raised and released, that is the best situation.
Bunnies that do not have their eyes open will require a milk formula. Some people have had success with whole cow's milk that has been scalded to remove the enzymes that the rabbits cannot digest. Others swear by a formula made from one can of goat's milk, three tablespoons of heavy cream, three tablespoons of corn syrup and one egg yolk. The ingredients are mixed together and warmed slightly in the microwave.
Rabbit milk is extremely rich and full of calories. Since baby rabbits grow very quickly, they need all the calories they can get. Whatever you decide to feed them, use an eye dropper. You can sometimes see the bellies fill up on baby rabbits; you should see their bellies look whiter as they fill up.
After feeding, it is important to massage the abdomen with a moist, warm cloth. This will help encourage the bunny to urinate and defecate. Without this stimulation, they won't relieve themselves.
If you try raising wild rabbits, the babies should be kept in an enclosed box in a warm place. Bedding of hay, dried grass or straw will help. You could also use an old soft towel. A heating pad underneath the box will keep them toasty. You could also use a hot water bottle. Don't hold the rabbits too much. The stress can cause them to give up.
If you are successful with nursing the babies, they will eventually need grass to eat. While they can eat rabbit pellets, hay and other foods given to domestic rabbits, once in the wild they will primarily eat grasses and bits of shrubs. Starting them on these foods will help them make the transition to living in the wild.
Be careful handling the rabbits. They will jump unexpectedly and can run amazingly fast. Once they escape, you will be hard pressed to recapture them. Household pets may frighten them. You may be tempted to keep them as pets, but this is illegal without special wildlife permits. If you are successful at raising wild rabbits, take them to a safe spot and release them into the wild once they are eating solid foods well.
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