Caring for wild bunnies
When I lived in the country, I had quite a bit of acreage. I would often find ground nests, lined with fur when I mowed with tractor; always careful not to run over the soft ground beneath me.
One day, I saw the neighbor dog run into my back yard and leave carrying a rabbit in its mouth. I ran outside to the newest nest I had discovered and found 6 tiny bunnies, huddled together, trying to keep warm. I covered them back up with the warm fur and placed two stick on top of the nest in an X so that I could check for their mother's return the next morning; as mother rabbits return to their babies at night to feed and sit upon their nests.
The next morning, my fear was confirmed; it was the mother that had been snatched by the neighboring dog and I now had orphan bunnies to take care of. I tried to find a wildlife rehabilitation center that would take them but they would only with a fee. I didn't have the money to do this. I researched a bit at the local library and decided to try my hand at rabbit mothering. Little did I know, how much work that mother rabbit had to put into those little bunnies their first two weeks of life.
I put the babies in a tall box, lined with cedar chips, a blanket and a heat lamp to keep them warm. I purchased non-iron baby formula from the store and heavy cream and mixed the two together and got out some eye droppers for feeding. I would warm the milk mixture to a bit warmer than room temperature and take each little babe, one at a time and feed them by squirting the warm mixture into their mouth a bit at a time. Their little tongues would lap up the milk mixture (you need to mix with cream as they need a high fat diet) until they could eat no more and then I had the fun task of helping them pee. Little animals such as bunnies cannot urinate on their own. I had to wet a cotton ball and stroke their genital area after each feeding to help them eliminate. Those little bunnies ate quite a bit during the day too! I fed them every two hours the first week and then every four hours the second week. After each feeding, I helped them eliminate until I saw them doing so on their own. The third week, they were fed every 5 hours. They began to eliminate somewhere around this time.
After a couple weeks, I began to put oatmeal, grasses and clovers in the box. I took them out and let them exercise by allowing them to hop around in the kitchen or the bathroom. Within a month, they were hopping, eliminating and biting! I knew it was getting close to the time to set my little orphans free. As cute as they were, I knew they were wild creatures so I began to take them outside and let them hop around on the grass within a penned in area. Once I saw they could find food on their own, I took them to the field and set them free one by one.
Most of them scurried away. One, my favorite called Patch would come and visit from time to time. He never got close enough for me to touch again but he would watch me plant my flowers and would peer from the bushes as I mowed.
I raised another batch of bunnies a year later successfully but the following year lost 6 because my work didn't allow me to bring the bunnies with me. They starved I believe. Raising a wild creature and setting it free, knowing you are helping it begin its new life is very rewarding but very time consuming!
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