Before kits, or baby bunnies, are weaned from their mother, they should be eating commercial rabbit food pellets. These small bits are designed specifically for the rabbit's sensitive gastrointestinal system. With kits, it's a matter of feeding just the right amount, neither overfeeding or underfeeding the developing rabbits. Watch the babies carefully for signs of illness after weaning. Call the vet if a kit stops eating or develops diarrhea.
Avoid weaning the kits from their mother before the age of 4 weeks. Before that time, they still rely on mother's milk for their nutritional needs. Wean the babies between the ages of 4 weeks and 6 weeks -- although you might want to wait until the kits are 8 weeks old for large breeds. By these ages, they are drinking little, if any, milk and are fairly independent. Take their mother out of the cage and leave the litter together. Keeping them in the familiar cage helps reduce some of the stress of weaning. Make sure the babies have a constant supply of fresh, clean water. The University of Florida Cooperative 4-H Extension recommends giving them about 60 percent of recommended commercial feed ration on the first day of weaning, 80 percent the following day and the full amount on the third day. Make hay available all at times during this period.
Twice daily, give baby bunnies only the amount of feed pellets they can consume in about half an hour. The feed should consist of a minimum of 18 percent protein and should be low in carbohydrates. Since nursing mothers require high protein, you can probably give the kits the same feed you gave the doe. Feed labels will give you protein and carbohydrate information, but it's wise to ask your vet for brand recommendations. After a few weeks, switch to a lower-protein diet, around 16 percent. When you make any changes in the commercial feed, including switching brands, do so gradually over a period of several days rather than all at once.
All domestic rabbits require the fiber in hay to keep their gastrointestinal tract moving efficiently and their constantly growing teeth worn down. Newly weaned bunnies are no exception. The University of Florida advises either giving newly weaned kits free choice access to hay or feeding pellets in the morning and hay at night. Feed either timothy or grass hay, not a legume like alfalfa. The latter contains too much calcium.
Newly weaned rabbits might suffer and succumb to enteritis, or gastrointestinal tract infection. It's important to keep an eye on your kits' fecal output once they're weaned. Feeding too many carbohydrates and too little fiber is a recipe for disaster in rabbits 1 to 2 months of age. Enteritis usually presents itself in the form of diarrhea. Your vet might be able to save your kit by prescribing antibiotics and recommending dietary changes.
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Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.