by Dale C. Johnson, DVM
My husband stupidly brought home 2 young wild rabbits. Since we live in the city he was afraid to leave them and couldn't find a mother. My guess is that he just plain didn't see them and thought he was doing the right thing. Anyway, now what should we do with them: ie; food, water, letting them go, etc. Is is possible to raise them and they be healthy? Any help you could give me would be much appreciated.
Thanks for any help in advance.
Surprisingly, raising wild rabbits is about the same as raising domestic ones. Keep them in the house until they are about 4 weeks old so they will be warm enough. Put them in a 2 sq ft cardboard box that has very high sides. Put some hay in it that they can either hide under or lay on top of.
Judging their age is important. Rabbits eyes come open at about 10 or 11 days after birth. Hand feed them until they are 14 days old. They will start eating on their own - hay, carrots, and rabbit pellets at 14 days. They should be released into the wild when they are 4-6 weeks old. Don't keep wild rabbits together after they are 2 months old - they will tear each other apart. Do not mix wild rabbits with domestic rabbits. You could spread parasites and diseases to your domestic rabbits.
If the bunnies you find are really young, you will have to force feed them with an eyedropper. I find that regular cow's milk (2% or 4%) works fine. Bring the milk to a lukewarm temperature (where it feels neither warm nor cold) and feed them as much as they will take in. When they are up to 2 weeks old, they don't consume much - about 1 eyedropper full per day. You only have to feed them once or twice per day, but make sure they get enough or they will waste away.
When they start eating at about 2 weeks, they will eat alfalfa hay, carrots, and rabbit pellets. Don't feed them lettuce or cabbage.
Baby wild rabbits are like domestic rabbits - they will not bite you and are safe to raise. They are really jumpy, though, and will try to escape whenever they get a chance. Not many people have been successful in domesticating wild rabbits. If you handle them daily, they may become more familiar with people and settle down. Remember that they scare easily and can run fast. They may possibly get hurt trying to get away from a dog or cat you have. This fright is nature's way to keep them safe in the wild.
Good luck in your raising them. Don't get your hopes too high for them, though. With all your efforts, they still may not survive, but you may as well give it a try.