Care of baby rabbits while in the nest box. How to care for baby bunny rabbits age zero to two weeks old.
Baby rabbit care during the first two weeks of their lives is fairly simple. The mother rabbit will do all the feeding and cleaning of the kits.
Your job will be to ensure that the rabbit nest box stays clean and dry, and that the doe and kits stay well-fed.
Here are a few tips about taking care of baby rabbits....
Don't let her feed run out, and don't let her water crock go
empty. Since the doe will be doing all
the feeding of the baby rabbits, she will need plenty of feed and water for
herself in order to make plenty of milk for the hungry kits.
The more baby rabbits she has, the more crucial is this tip.
You'll make sure
they stay healthy, well-fed, and free of health problems, such as eye
You’re also checking to be sure no kits get isolated in a corner of the nest box.
After one of our does gave birth, I found 2 of her kits down in the burrow where they belonged, and the rest of the litter in a separate little pile in a corner of the nest box. That night, the doe fed the two kits in the burrow, and ignored, or forgot, the entire rest of the litter!
Since I was checking the litter every day, it was clear that most kits had not been fed, but the two bunnies in the burrow had enormous round chubby tummies. It was easy to put all the babies together into the burrow. The next evening all the kits got fed, and all was well.
To take care of baby rabbits during very cold weather, you’ll also check to be sure the burrow stays warm and that no kit strays away from the nest accidentally and gets chilled or frozen.
It's not that the nest needs to be sterile, because the kits
gain their gut bacteria from the mother's feces. But you don't want the nest to get damp with
urine or excessively dirty.
Usually the doe stays out of the nest except for the 5-10 minutes it might take her to feed her babies. But some does like to lounge in the nest all day. That's when she may just pee and poop in the nest box.
If you’ve still got days to go before the nest box comes out of the cage, you can either clean out the dirty spots in the nest box or completely replace all the bedding:
Checking that their tummies are all full is a fine excuse. It is our feeling that as we handle the kits regularly at this very early age, they become better accustomed to human contact. Their transition to weaning is that much easier, and they seem to have less anxiety throughout their lives.
The best rule-of-thumb for removing the nest box:
The rabbit nest box comes out the moment a bunny hops out all by itself.
Day 12 was the earliest any of my baby rabbits hopped out. In the summer, when it’s warm, you don’t need to worry so much about keeping bunnies warm once the nest is gone, especially if you do as I have - put a low-sided cardboard box with a few shavings and straw or hay into the cage.
A problem might arise if a youngster hops out too soon in the winter. But usually, during the cold, the kits tend to remain burrowed. It’s during the warm summer evenings that the smaller, hungry kit tries to get more of Mama. It’s the little kit you’ll find huddled outside the nest in the morning when you check on the animals. Or, it’s possible the little kit was latched onto a teat, and got pulled out when the doe jumped out of the box.
If the little guy jumps out on Day 12, I’ve been known to pop him back into the nest box. Almost invariably he’ll be out again the next morning. That’s when I put in the cardboard box with shavings and straw and simply remove the nest box altogether.
Any longer than about 18 days, and the chance of "nest
box eyes" rises significantly. Depending
the situation, some litters can be at risk for eye infections sooner than 18
"Nest box eye" is an eye infection. Without a little attention, an eye infection can cause blindness, even death if severe.
Terramycin opthalmic ointment works wonders for nest box eye.
Diarrhea caused by enterotoxemia can be fatal in a very short time. See Rabbit Diarrhea for more information.
Enjoy your new bunnies!