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Forum HOUSE RABBIT Q & A Wild Rabbits

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    • Kailaeve1271
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        I chose to adopt 9 pet rabbits (2 adults and 7 babies. The male is seperated) that were dumped at my school nearly 3 weeks ago. Thanks to help to many people on GuineaLynx Forums I learned how to care for them. I am still caring for the original 9 rabbits that I adopted, but now I think I need the help of more experienced rabbits owners. I just got an email from someone who found wild (possibly cottontail) rabbits who were attacked by a dog. Two babies in the nest survived, but are severely injured and the mother is dead. The guy called a few vets who refused to look at them because they were too young and were wild animals (I find this suspicious and arrogant, but I am taking he guys word for it). I agreed to take them in and care for them. Is it possible to try introducing them to the mother rabbit that I have to see if she will feed them and if so how do I go about that? I have yet to see them and their injuries. What should I get today other than basic rabbit supplies, that I have for the original 9, before the guy brings them to me and is it possible to release them back into the wild or will they forever be stuck as pets?


      • joea64
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          My recommendation is to try to find a qualified wildlife rehabilitator, if there’s one in your area, ASAP and consult with them. Generally, wild animals orphaned in this kind of situation should be nursed until they’re able to survive on their own in their natural environment, and a rehabilitator will be able to take charge of that or at least give you the assistance you need to nurse them back to health. I know very little about the specifics of all this myself, but I’d guess that nursing the babies on a foster mother’s milk would be a lot better than trying to feed them yourself, which is quite difficult and risky.


        • Bam
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            Thank you for adopting those 9 rabbits!

            Wild rabbits are best cared for by wildlife rehabers. In some states and countries it’s actually illegal to keep a wild animal as a pet. A vet could very well refuse to see them unless it’s a vet that has a contract with the authorities to care for hurt wild animals. The reasonable thing for a vet to do would be to refer the guy to a wildlife rehaber, but I doubt they’re obliged to.

            Meanwhile, while your trying to get hold of a wildlife rehaber: If you have a rabbit that’s currently nursing she might accept the babies even if they’re the “wrong” species. What you could do is to rub (very gently of course) a soft cloth on the backs of the kits you have, and then rub the new babies with this cloth so they get the scent of the other kits on them. If the mother reacts with any kind of aggression she could harm the babies badly, but it could still be possible to let them feed buy holding momma rabbit so she can’t reach the new babies, and let the babies suckle for a few minutes until their bellies are nicely rounded. Baby rabbits don’t share a nest with their mom when the kits are very small, so you’ll need a nestbox with soft and warm fluffy material mimicking the fur the mama rabbit n ormally wrap her newborns in. It’s extremely important the kits are kept warm, or they wont feed. They guy bringing them to you must keep them warm.

            Dont let them share a nestbox with your other kits, wild animals can have parasites that could be transferred via urine or feces, and your primary concern must of course be the rabbits you already have. 

            I’ll alert our forum leader LBJ to the thread, she has has professional experience in dealing with wild animals.


          • Kailaeve1271
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              I don’t know if any wildlife rehabilitators that are relatively nearby (within an hour since I can’t drive). The mother kicked at one and I’m scared she will attack them if I turn my back so they are separated. Also, one of the babies we received was half paralyzed. I bought kitten formula and heavy cream to make milk for them but since I didn’t have any when they were given to me I gave them some cows milk earlier (they look like they are starved so I thought it was better to give them that than nothing) I will give them the new stuff when they start to actually want to drink it or in a few hours


            • LBJ10
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                Oh no, poor things! Do you have any idea how old they are? Are their eyes open? Wild cottontails are weaned around 4 weeks of age.

                I’m doubting your mother rabbit will accept them. I’d be afraid of her showing aggression toward them. If they need formula, you can use kitten milk replacer. If you mix milk with it, I’d use goat’s milk instead of cow’s milk. Some rehabbers add probiotics to the formula too. If they are really young, you will also need to encourage them to go to the bathroom by wiping their bottom with a warm, wet cottonball. Very few people have success with hand raising baby cottontails. Mortality rate is extremely high. They really do need an experienced rehabber, so please try to find one ASAP. If you need help finding one, we might be able to help depending on where you are.


              • jerseygirl
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                  Poor lil things. Sending {{{Vibes}}} I hope they fair okay.

                  Just wanted to share these 2 FB pages that *may* be able to help. Both deal with domestic rabbits but as a network, they would likely have contacts with experience with cottontails.
                  The Bunderground Railroad in case there is someone nearby that could take them to a rehabber for you.

                  Rabbit Rescue Network – Could also appeal for transport there. 

                  You’ve done a good thing taking on the 9 domestic rabbits! Hopefully someone can help you out with these cottontails.

                  ETA: I found this page on cottontail orphans which is recommended by the very rabbit savvy Dana Krempels: http://www.2ndchance.info/bunnies.htm


                • Cyndi63
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                    Hi I miss a rehabber from NC. The cottontails are a different species than domestic rabbits. I’ve never heard of trying to put them with a domestic mama bunny. They have very specific dietary needs. Feeding them the wrong thing will cause them to die. Go to the wildlife commission page in your state to try and find a rehabber in your area. They can come get the ones that are left and give them the medical care they need and will release them back into the wild. It’s unlikely mama will accept them ? Thank you for trying to help them. Best of luck.


                  • Mikey
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                      I can kind of help out. I used to help my mom rehab hurt/sick wild bunnies. Note, you really should be googling around for a professional. They are not easy to care for and are different from pet rabbit babies. Depending on how they were injured, they also may require a ton of vet care you cannot provide for them.

                      They need to be separated from your current bunny family. You dont know if the babies are sick or injured, and you dont want that to cause problems with your current bunny family. Since mother bun is already showing aggression towards them, you need to remove them.

                      About how old are they? Their size, what their fur looks like, ear length, ect. Do they allow you to hand feed them (warmed goats milk with a bit of heavy cream) with a dropper? If you put hay or greens in front of them, do they eat it? How do their poops look? Their pee? How do their tummys look? You mentioned one was paralyzed: how? Describe in as much detail as possible (how its walking, how its limbs are moving, any wounds you see, bleeding, swelling, ect).


                    • spunkysmokey
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                        HI! Id like to offer my experience, about two months ago my family rescued a baby cottontail 4 days old! His mom was dead and his eyes were not open yet. We feed him kitten milk replacer with heavy cream.

                        The most important tip I can give you is to give him cecotropes, The baby’s need this! It is a second kind of poop that rabbits eat. baby rabbits guts are born sterile, they need to have good bacteria introduced to them. YOU can get this by putting an adult Over 6 months in a wire floor cage for the night, It is hard to get and If you don’t have it I suggest to get ((bene bac)) . That is what I used, I couldn’t get the cecotropes. My cottontail lived with flying colors. HE stopped eating at one point (before bene bac) And we thought he wasn’t going to make it. We bombed him with the stuff and he bounced back! Just mix it in there milk

                        Also to keep them warm fill a long sock with beans or rice I used beans, and heat it up in the microwave. make sure its really hot! Then place it under a few towel’s And check that the heat seeps through warm. But have a small section were they can get away from the heat. You might have to rewarm it every two hours (that includes night time). I feed mine Every 3 hours don’t give him so much milk that his tummy is really tight but let him eat by all means. YOU will have to get up at nigh and feed them every 3 to 4 hours the first 2 to 3 weeks. (its a lot of work!!)

                        DONOT give him veggies/hay/pellets till about 3 weeks to be safe then once you think they are doing ok give them one piece of soft hay timothy or alfalfa (I had timothy) Then wait a day to see how they react to it. 

                        If you have any questions at all don’t hesitate to message me and I will reply as soon as I can!! Good luck I hope this helps!

                        (Helpfull video) this video has some good info It helped me.      


                      • Kailaeve1271
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                          The rabbits are probably about 2 weeks old. (Old enough to have open eyes, but still are palm sized). They have not been around my domestic rabbits except for a few minutes with the mother to see if she would accept them to feed them. She did not sadly.

                          I contacted the nearest rehabilitator who told me the distance was just too far. I told him how I care for them and he told me what I needed to add or change. As for the paralyzed one he had no advice. The rabbits back legs were dragging but the rest of its body is fine with no scraped or bleeding. There is a slight bend in its back above the legs. I have been gently massaging and stretching the legs and it is showing signs of moving them and slightly kicking them (perhaps it isn’t paralysis?).

                          They are taking well to syringe feeding a KMR/Goats milk mix with a slight amount of heavy cream. They have a cage inside that has grass and hay as bedding and a nest built out of grasses. I was told that they should only be fed twice a day (more if they choose not to eat enough though) and as long as one person is caring for them then they should still be able to be released into the wild once they reach the correct age. They nibble at the hay in the cage, but are not quite eating it. They are defecating fine without help.

                          They are very thin right now and you can see ribs and hips poking out. Since I’ve gotten them and began feeding they already are looking better. I am currently looking for probiotics that will be safe for them, but it’s a hard search so far


                        • Bam
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                            I’m glad you got hold of a rehabilitator that at least could give you some advice. Probiotics safe and tested with domestic baby bunnies are saccaromyces cerevisiae (live brewer’s yeast) and enterococcus faecium. Benebac has enterococcus faecium in it, but it also has a lot of lactobacilli that are not naturally found in the bunny gut. Those bacilli tend to just be killed off by the stomach acid. That means they wont harm the bunny, but they might not do much good either. Could you call the rehabilitator again and ask for a suitable brand/species of probiotic? Or maybe email them?

                            It sounds like they’re doing well with you, nibbling at hay and all. Tiny baby buns can look frightfully skinny with ribs and hips poking out and loose wrinkly skin, but they can fill out.


                          • Mikey
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                              Posted By Kailaeve1271 on 9/07/2017 9:40 AM

                              The rabbits are probably about 2 weeks old. (Old enough to have open eyes, but still are palm sized). They have not been around my domestic rabbits except for a few minutes with the mother to see if she would accept them to feed them. She did not sadly.

                              I contacted the nearest rehabilitator who told me the distance was just too far. I told him how I care for them and he told me what I needed to add or change. As for the paralyzed one he had no advice. The rabbits back legs were dragging but the rest of its body is fine with no scraped or bleeding. There is a slight bend in its back above the legs. I have been gently massaging and stretching the legs and it is showing signs of moving them and slightly kicking them (perhaps it isn’t paralysis?).

                              They are taking well to syringe feeding a KMR/Goats milk mix with a slight amount of heavy cream. They have a cage inside that has grass and hay as bedding and a nest built out of grasses. I was told that they should only be fed twice a day (more if they choose not to eat enough though) and as long as one person is caring for them then they should still be able to be released into the wild once they reach the correct age. They nibble at the hay in the cage, but are not quite eating it. They are defecating fine without help.

                              They are very thin right now and you can see ribs and hips poking out. Since I’ve gotten them and began feeding they already are looking better. I am currently looking for probiotics that will be safe for them, but it’s a hard search so far

                              Awesome! Theyre at a good age then Dont worry too much about their hop bones poking out. Their bodies are shaped different and grow different that house bunnies, and sometimes they seem thinner than they actually are. Continue feeding as you are, once or twice a day. At two weeks, hay and grasses are acceptable for wild rabbits to have around to nibble on and eat, even if they currently are still on a milk diet primarily. Wild rabbits are often weaned and out of the nest much sooner than house rabbits. 

                              Youll be able to release them once they start eating hay and grass very regularly and you are able to slow the milk feeding. Try to wean them as much on grass instead of hay, so they dont get too confused in the wild as they may start to grow picky. When you release them, you want to do it when the temp outside is within 10 to 20 degrees of the temp inside of your home. If the temp change is over 20 degrees, the buns might risk shock. You can acclimate them slowly to temp change by changing the temp inside of your home a few degrees everyday until it nearly matches the temp outside or becomes within 10 to 20 degrees difference. If its very cold out, snowing, raining, or hailing, wait until a calmer weather day to release them. When you release them, do it around mid day and set them near trees or bushes. 

                              As for the one with the leg problems, if there is a kink in its spine, its possible his spine is broke, fractured, or has a dislocation. This would limit leg movement, but might not cause complete paralysis. He could also be limiting his leg movement because he is in pain. Wild rabbits are better at hiding pain than house rabbits. Try to find a vet who will see him, atleast to have an xray done if possible. Do not release him until his legs start to move well enough that he can run if need be, please. It is ok if you release them apart/at different times/on different days.


                            • joea64
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                                As far as temperature issues goes, I’ve been assuming that Eastern cottontail rabbits, being evolved for American climatic conditions, would do better in warm/hot weather than domestic rabbits, which are descended from the European rabbit, which itself was evolved to do well in much milder European climates. Am I wrong?


                              • Mikey
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                                  Generally, all wild rabbits are very good at adjusting to temps as its needed to survive in the wild. Typically, a house rabbit going through a 10F temp difference can cause sickness and possible shock, where as for wild rabbits, the risk is much less. From what my mom told me, wild rabbits can usually handle up to a 20F temp difference. So, if its 70F in Kailaeve’s home, she can safely release the rabbits outside between temps 50F to 90F as long as minor acclimation tactics are used (slowly changing the temp in the home over the course of a few hours to a temp similar to that outside).

                                  Im not entirely sure how different all wild cottontails are with temp, as Ive only helped rescue and rehab north american rabbits (namely eastern cottontails and swamp rabbits). For both of these, about a 20F temp change wont cause harm be it hotter or colder.


                                • spunkysmokey
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                                    They are very thin right now and you can see ribs and hips poking out. Since I’ve gotten them and began feeding they already are looking better. I am currently looking for probiotics that will be safe for them, but it’s a hard search so far

                                    You can use bene bac I left a link to it in my other reply to you. My cottontail did fine with this. OH and don’t be afraid to spend time with them contrary to what most people say, but a lot of baby cottontails die from lack of love. please believe me on this one. They will still be afraid of other people just not you as much. Feed them more than twice a day I gave you the wrong time in my last reply, feed them every 4 hours.
                                    again I hope this helps!


                                  • spunkysmokey
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                                      As for the paralyzed one he had no advice. The rabbits back legs were dragging but the rest of its body is fine with no scraped or bleeding. There is a slight bend in its back above the legs. I have been gently massaging and stretching the legs and it is showing signs of moving them and slightly kicking them (perhaps it isn’t paralysis?).

                                      It could be a bad sprain.


                                    • Kailaeve1271
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                                        Both the rabbits were hungrily eating and the hurt one was walking around sometimes. I there a way to encourage him/her to? At this point, I think it is healing and needs to exercise a little, but I can’t seem to get it to without someone accidentally scaring it when walking by


                                      • Bam
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                                          The only way I know of is to make like a “hammock” of a towel (or small piece of fabric in your case, probably), and cradle the mid-section of the bun in it for support so the bunny can use his hind legs without having to put his full weight on them. You hold the piece of fabric in both ends so it’s like a hammock, bunny walks. This way he can get exercise and hopefully strenghten his leg muscles.


                                        • Mikey
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                                            Thats awesome the bun is already starting to walk around! Im thinking it has a sprain in its spine for sure, then. As everything heals and it starts to feel less painful, the bun will start to move around more. If youve got the time to, Bams idea is really great help for helping the bun exercise I would keep with the leg massages you mentioned as well.


                                          • Kailaeve1271
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                                              I have continued massaging, trying bam’s hammock trick and I fed it 3 times instead of twice because a teacher of mine said it could be a deficiency and feeding it more may it can heal may help. Today, it is walking around, but it’s back hips are slightly sideways as it walks and when it tried to run fast it falls


                                            • Bam
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                                                Paralysis and partial paralysis in the very young is often thought to be potassium deficiency by people who bring up rabbits, although in your case I would guess it some type of anatomical problem rather than a deficiency. Some people do give tiny amounts of tomato juice to help the baby. Vitamin B12 is sometimes given as well, but I don’t know anything about dosage. A vet would have to a advice you. But if the rest of the bun’s muscles are working (as they seem to be), a deficiency seems unlikely. It might still be under-developed muscle though, so he needs more gentle exercise and massages. The fact that he’s even trying to run fast of course means you’re doing an excellent job with these little guys.


                                              • Mikey
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                                                  His hips could be misaligned because hes not putting full pressure on one of the legs/putting more pressure on one leg over the other. Its awesome he is showing improvement! Keep doing what youre doing. Youre doing great


                                                • spunkysmokey
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                                                    Both the rabbits were hungrily eating and the hurt one was walking around sometimes. I there a way to encourage him/her to? At this point, I think it is healing and needs to exercise a little, but I can’t seem to get it to without someone accidentally scaring it when walking by

                                                    My cottontail got out of his cage once and sprained his back leg, he didn’t move much for like 3 days but he recovered soon. I wouldn’t make him move more than he’s willing we don’t know how much pain he may have 


                                                  • spunkysmokey
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                                                      I’m sorry if my reply’s are getting annoying but I just wanted to mention that it is good to feed them at least 3 times because in the wild the mother may only feed them 1 or 2 times but you have to keep in mind that her milk is perfectly designed for them, our replacers are not and it goes through them more quickly. just thought id mention that glad to here they seem to be doing well! 


                                                    • Bam
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                                                        Spunkysmokey, your input is valuable and certainly not annoying one bit. It’s a good point about mama cottontail’s milk being a perfect fit that humans can only hope to roughly mimic.


                                                      • spunkysmokey
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                                                          Ok I was just concerned I might be over replying,ha thanks


                                                        • Kailaeve1271
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                                                            The rabbits are walking around fine. They are eating less though and seem really stressed. I think it’s from the storms that are passing by and Irma which will be hitting soon (in less than 24 hours) I added some long grasses from outside to make them feel more hidden. Is there anything I can do to help them?


                                                          • Mikey
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                                                              Hidey boxes with holes big enough they can jump in and out of. Itll be dark enough that they feel hidden, but you can still peak inside to make sure theyre already. Some animals eat less when storms approach. If you keep encouraging food (milk, hay, and grass) and water, they should be ok. If either of them completely stop eating and avoid food for 12+ hours, youll need to work on force feeding them a small amount every few hours.


                                                            • Kailaeve1271
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                                                                They are both still living and well. I am wondering what would be an adequate environment to release them in. I have two options: to release them in an acre of wood of mine in a side lot. Connected to woods of my neighbors. Lots of bunnies already live there and we have almost no predators, but it is fairly close to a few houses. I could also release them in a couple hundred acres of woods that are miles away from any roads or houses, however, it is so full of predators that it is hard to see hardly any rabbits. Which would they be happier in?


                                                              • joea64
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                                                                  Not an expert in rehabbing wild rabbits by any means, but I’d vote for the first one (the woods with lots of rabbits and few predators). Your wild buns will be a lot happier with many other rabbits to interact with and safer with fewer predators.


                                                                • Kailaeve1271
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                                                                    I tried to release the rabbits on Saturday morning. I let one go perfectly fine and I have seen it a few times since then (at least I think it is the one). This was the one that was half paralyzed. I am both amazed and happy I could give it chance at life the way it was supposed to live it. I brought the other to the woods as well and it suddenly died I’m my hands. I don’t know what I did wrong to cause it to die. This has brought many mixed feelings to me. I can just hope that I did good for the other rabbit

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                                                                Forum HOUSE RABBIT Q & A Wild Rabbits