When your rabbits have a litter for the first time, you may wonder just how long the kits (baby rabbits) nurse for? What if the mother rabbit seems uninterested in feeding her babies or died and you now have to take over. Can you provide them with a safe milk replacer or should they move straight onto the water?
So how long do rabbits drink milk?
Baby rabbits generally drink milk from their mothers for approximately 3-6 weeks. By 2 weeks old, kits begin eating small amounts of pellets while still drinking milk. The feedings decrease as they grow and develop until they stop drinking milk altogether (usually around 8-9 weeks).
If you have been wondering how long baby rabbits drink milk, and if they can drink any type of milk, this detailed guide will provide you with all the information you need on the nursing habits of bunnies.
How Long Do Baby Bunnies Drink Milk?
Domestic baby bunnies, also known as kits, drink milk from their mothers for about 8 weeks. A baby rabbit generally weans itself between 4 and 6 weeks old, but it’s possible for them to nurse from their mother for up to 9 weeks.
This time frame depends on the size and breed of your kits, as well as the age of the doe (female rabbit). If the doe is older, she may not be able to nurse the baby bunnies, and you will need to provide them with a milk replacer such as kittie milk (kitten formula).
You may notice your baby bun starts nibbling on pellets from around 2 weeks old, but this doesn’t mean they are ready to be weaned yet.
Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of baby rabbits drinking rabbits milk:
- It contains a high level of fat, protein, and energy, which stimulates rapid growth
- It contains lower levels of sugar than cow’s milk (for example)
- It contains very low levels of lactose
- It can sustain the kits for up to 24 hours
How Often Do You Feed a Baby Rabbit Milk?
If your little bun is orphaned or the doe can’t nurse them, you will need to feed your bunny with an alternative such as goat milk or kitten formula.
Here is a look at how often (and how much) you should feed a baby rabbit milk:
- Newborn kits will need to be fed 0.05 ounces of formula twice a day
- 1-2 week old kits will need to be fed 0.17-0.24 ounces of formula twice a day
- 2-3 week old kits will need to be fed 0.24-0.44 ounces of formula twice a day
- 3-6 week old kits will need to be fed 0.44-0.51 ounces of formula once a day. At this stage, you can drop one milk feeding as they will start eating pellets or hay
Unlike domesticated kits, wild kits only need one feed a day. In the wild, the mother will only feed her kits once a day at night for about 5 minutes. She does this so predators don’t follow her to the nest.
What Type of Milk Can You Feed Baby Rabbits?
You should never feed baby rabbits cow’s milk or any plant-based milk, as these milk products are harmful to their digestive systems and can lead to severe health conditions such as gastrointestinal stasis.
Unfortunately, if you have an orphaned bun or a bun whose mother cannot nurse her babies, you will need to give them an alternative milk option.
Here are a few safe milk options that you can give to your baby rabbit:
Kitty formula is a calorie-rich, high-protein formula that is made from whey protein, eggs, and oil and contains various vitamins and minerals. It’s the closest option to natural rabbit milk as it’s rich and caloric.
Goat milk is gentler on a baby rabbit’s digestive system, as it contains less protein and fat than cow’s milk. The cream from goat’s milk is also very rich, making it a suitable milk substitute.
When feeding goats milk to your little floppy-eared friend, make sure to warm the milk up first so that it’s closer to the temperature of their mother’s milk. Place the bottle of goat’s milk in a jug of warm water (about 105℉) to mimic the doe’s body temperature.
A great way to increase the calories in goat’s milk is to add a tablespoon of heavy whipping cream (unsweetened) to a ¼ cup of goat’s milk.
How to Help Baby Rabbits Drink Milk
Helping your floppy-eared friends drink milk will help them grow into healthy adult rabbits. If your bunny is an orphan, you will need to help your bun drink milk.
Let’s take a look at these simple steps to help your bunny drink milk:
- Choose a safe milk replacer such as kitten formula or goat’s milk
- Use syringes or eyedroppers to feed the milk to your bun. The shape of the syringe will remind the kit of the doe’s nipple
- Feed your bunny twice a day (dawn and dusk)
- Let your bun eat at their own pace
- When the bun suckles the syringe, squirt small amounts of formula into their mouths to encourage them to drink
- Comfort your bun by petting and stroking them gently
What Type of Milk to Avoid
Unfortunately, rabbits and kits have extremely sensitive digestive systems and cannot handle cow’s milk or nut or plant milk.
Here is a list of milk that should be avoided when it comes to feeding baby rabbits:
- Oat milk
- Coconut milk
- Almond milk
- Macadamia milk
- Cow milk
- Soy milk
My Last Bunny Thoughts
Unlike human babies who are capable of nursing from their mother for almost 4 years (and some even longer), baby bunnies only nurse for a short while before moving on to pellets, hay, leafy greens, and water.
If your bun is orphaned or rejected by the mama rabbit and requires a milk replacer, it’s essential to make sure to choose a safe and nutritious formula. Another successful option is to try and find another nursing doe to feed your baby bun.