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FEEDING ORPHANED KITS

Rabbits nurse only ONE TIME a day, so if you think that she is not caring for them based only on the fact you don’t see them feed…think again. But if you are sure she is neglecting them, if they are dehydrated, cold, obviously ignored, of course, something must be done!. I usally breed two or more does the same day so they will all have their litters at the same time. Should any problems or extremely lager litters occur i can foster some kits to other does. A well-fed baby will have a very distended tummy. If the babies have not been fed, they will have sunken tummies, their skin will be wrinkled and they will be dehydrated. If your worries begin on the day of the birth, wait a day before attempting to do anything. Some mother rabbits do not feed their babies until the evening of the first day or early on the second day. If the mother rabbit has died, cannot or is not feeding the babies, you can attempt to hand feeding them. Bottle-feeding infant rabbits usually results in the babies’ death within a few days to weeks. Hand feeding is terribly unsuccessful because there is no milk replacement formula that is 100% adapted for infant rabbits. The milk of rabbits is the richest of all domestic animals. It contains from 13 to 15 per cent of protein, to to 12 percent of fat, 2 per cent of sugar, and 2 to 3 per cent of minerals. An important point is that the doe’s milk output increases with litter size but the baby rabbits get less milk each than they would in a smaller litter. Depending on genetics, milk production will not increase above 8 to 12 baby rabbits. The most likely potential disease to cause infant/weanling death is mucoid enteritis. Although it does occur occasionally in weanlings who have been fed by their mothers, it is seen much more often in hand-fed babies. It shows up as severe diarrhea, or refusal to eat. It also causes bloating and gas. Mucoid enteritis is caused by a bacterial overgrowth, usually of Clostridium spiroforme, in the hindgut (cecum) of the baby, as the normal microflora are attempting to establish. These normal microflora help the baby achieve adult digestive capabilities. As babies wean off of milk onto adult solid foods, the gut pH gradually changes by getting a lot of help from the mother’s changing milk ingredients. By day 10 of age, the babies eyes will have opened, and they will begin eating their mother’s cecotropes, (also called “night feces” or “cecal droppings”). Cecotropes help provide the babies with essential nutrients and later, inoculate the hindgut with the essential flora that is needed to metabolize a diet that is changing from milk to solid foods. Cecotropes are clustered, soft gel-like “bunches” of fecal matter, which are covered with a light mucous film and resemble a raspberry in shape and size. They are manufactured in the adult cecum through “hindgut fermentation,” and contain high concentrations of proteins, B and K vitamins, fiber, ash (nitrogen-free extract) and unidentified “energy” elements, as well as the hindgut microbes. Cecotropes are an important part of a healthy rabbit diet and are usually eaten directly from the anus as they are produced. In hand-raised babies, it is essential to provide adult cecotropes to the babies after their eyes are open. Usually, the babies will eat the cecotropes immediately, because it the natural thing for them to do. However, if the babies do not eat the cecotropes on their own, add two to three of the individual pellets in the cluster to the formula at one feeding per day for three to four days. As the babies begin to explore adult foods, it is important to monitor their fecal output. At the first sign of “mushy” stool, re-introduce cecotropes to them, in formula if necessary. No substitute milk formula supplies immunity from disease nor are most rich enough to supply the energy needs of the rapidly developing babies and without overfeeding them. For these reasons the prognosis is not good for the babies. Infants lose the suckling instinct quickly, so if hand feeding is to be attempted, it must be started within 48 hours. Nothing is as good as a mother rabbit for a baby bunny, but it is possible to hand-feed orphans. There are many milk replacers for dogs and cats that do not contain the right ingredients that the rabbits need.I have herd that you can use these with cream or goat milk added but have no experience with this. I got this formula a long time ago from a breeder. His wife used it many time and she told me she had great luck with this mix. They had a small rabbitry and only had two does that they breed at different times and one doe would have 12+ kits in a litter they would take 2 or three out of the litter. She would keep them in her apron pocket and feed them until they were 4 + weeks old. You will need baby dolls bottles to feed them, an eyedropper or a syringe with no needle. the eyedropper or the bottle are the easiest to use(she used an eyedropper) if you use the syringe do not force the liquid out or go to fast with the feeding you can suffocate the kit by doing this.

FORMULA-
1 pint 2% milk
2 eggs yolks
2 tablespoon powdered milk
2 tablespoons kayro syrup light or dark either will work
1 teaspoon bone meal

Mix good and keep refrigerated until needed. Just warm up as much as needed. Warm to 90 degrees(just like babies milk test on your wrist to see if it is warm enough). Then feed the kits what they will readily consume. You will know they are full when they do not want anymore. Feed them what they will eat twice a day at about 12 hour intervals. Their body functions do not start functioning properly until they are about three weeks old. After each feeding it is important to make the bunny defecate and urinate to keep the intestinal tract and urinary system running smoothly. Use a soft cloth or a cotton ball moistened with warm water and gently stroke from between the bunny’s front legs all the way down over the anal area until the bunny starts producing stool and urine, and keep stroking until the bunny stops. You are replicating the behavior of the mother rabbit who would lick her young to stimulate them to go to the bathroom (as well as to keep the nest clean). The stool will be soft and may be varying shades of green and yellow. Be sure to clean baby’s mouth with a damp cloth or paper towel, so that no milk dries in the hair. You should be able to raise the kits successfully using this formula. I have seen this work and the kits survived and some were really good rabbits!

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