"Help! I Need to Hand Raise!"
Looking for advice about hand raising rabbits? I got you! You will find links to the things I mention here at the end of the post... no, I don't get anything if you use the links. I don't supplement normal runts (it is harder on their systems so I have found them more likely to survive by fostering or leaving them be), I typically use this for awful Dams or orphaned litters when no foster is available. In no way do I guarantee success with my methods, but this is what got Rud Ridge's Ruth (RRFF3 - DOB 2/7/2022), Rud Ridge's Axiom (RRPG1B - DOB 8/15/2022) and Rud Ridge's Piggy (RRPG2B - DOB 9/18/2022) (plus more) to weaning and beyond from different litters.
KMR is found in a lot of places (we have Farm & Fleet, so that is where we get it). The directions on KMR advise 1 part KMR to 2 parts water. In the beginning I do 1 Scoop KMR + 1 Tbsp Heavy Cream + 1 Tbsp hot water. When they are older (and eating more in volume) I use 3/2/1... 3 Tbsp Water + 2 Scoop KMR + 1 Tbsp Heavy Cream. You may need to make more depending on how many you're feedhng. Now you're going to want to scoop the KMR into a small (think 1 cup) lidded conter, add the hot water and shake. It's like making a baby bottle but on a smaller scale. After it is mixed and free of lumps, add the Heavy Cream. You can then either draw from that container, or pour it into the bottle to draw from there. You may want to put the lid back on the container or put your finger over the top of the bottle and shake it under running hot water to heat it up a little since the cream will be cold.
Attach a lure lock syringe to the nipple. The lure lock Syringes have the ability for both the miracle nipple (my preference) and the nipple from the Pet-Ag nursing kit to pop right on. In a pinch, because it takes time for the miracle nipples to arrive, you can cut off the tip of one of the small nipples in the Pet-Ag kit. Draw up the KMR mixture, then turn the syringe nipple pointed up and flick the side of the syringe with your finger to make sure any bubbles go to the top. Slowly push the air that may now be at the top out.
Babies won't latch to the nipple on their own, so place the baby in your non dominant hand, on it's back, with its head resting between your thumb and pointer finger. Put your thumb on one side of the baby's jaw and your pointer finger on the other and gently pinch to open their mouth and put the nipple in. You can keep your fingers there to help the seal between their mouth and nipple. DO NOT PUSH DOWN ON THE PLUNGER. Resting your thumb on the top is all you need. New syringes slide really easily and the babies can draw the plunger down on their own... if it is getting difficult after a few feedings you probably need a new syringe. You will use the syringe for at least three weeks before bottle, or the whole time if you like... it's up to you.
As for how often and amount.... Yes it is true Dams only feed their kits once or twice a day. However I've learned the secret in hand feeding is not letting them get too hungry in order to avoid aspiration all the way through to weaning. I start with every 2 hrs, then 4 hrs, then 6 hours, then 12 hours. It probably takes three or four weeks to get to every 12 hours. They will fight/unlatch when they are full. Especially in the every 2 hour period it might only be a couple CCs. Some might do multiple syringes in one feeding. It just depends.
When they are newborns, I have kept them in a towel nest I built in a bowl. This helps me see their poop/pee. When they are about a week old I put them into a little carrier cage with cardboard up the sides and fill it with *timothy hay*. This is important because they will begin to "sleep eat" at this age so the timothy hay helps their gut. At about three or four weeks old I put them in a bigger cage and start offering water, pellets, and hay just like they would have in their Dam's cage. I DO NOT OFFER THEM CECOTROPES FROM OTHER RABBITS IN OUR BARN. I just have never had success with it. Be sure that if you are going to transfer them outside after weaning (I do this about 7-8 weeks old at the earliest) to keep in mind the temperature difference between the environments. I have found these bunnies to be much more social than even our most loved on regularly born and raised rabbits, so they make great pets but also can be breeders.
I think that is all I've got! I suggest copying and pasting the names of products to a store close to you if you don't have access to a Farm & Fleet or don't want to wait on Amazon. Feel free to ask questions if you have them and I will answer.
If you have a Rabbitry or Homestead and would like to share this post you are welcome to, just please don't copy and paste without credit. Good luck!
Links to products I use:
Kitten Milk Replacer (KMR): https://www.farmandfleet.com/.../874138-pet-ag-12-oz-kmr...
Nipple: Miracle Nipple Mini for Pets and Wildlife https://a.co/d/2VYM9bT
Syringe: Ideal 6cc Syringe Luer Lock SP - 6 Pk https://www.fleetfarm.com/.../ideal-6cc.../0000000316756...
Little cage: Kaytee Take Me With Small Animal... https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000MD3MH8...
Big cage: Cavie Guinea Pig Cage & Rabbit... https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0133LNCJS...
The Story of Ruth... our unofficial Rud Ridge Mascot and the Rollercoaster of hand feeding: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=188792497030011&id=100076977855910&mibextid=Nif5oz