It is spring time and the world is renewing itself! This is my favorite time of year with all the plants coming out of their sleep and all the baby animals running around. On my mom’s property, which is next to mine, she has a ½ acre area that is overgrown with trees, underbrush, berries, etc. It was that way when she bought her property and she has never tried to change it. I call it “the briar patch”.
I love to go walking early in the morning near the briar patch at this time of year because I get to see so many animals out and about. Especially the bunnies. In the early morning they are out foraging in the field and it is a treat for me to watch so many wild animals at once.
We have similar areas on our farm, but they are not as accessible to me. I don’t like walking through the long, wet grass. However, I am still glad we have these places on our farm. I think it is important to leave some “wild, undisturbed ground” for the small animals to have cover from the predators. My husband and I enjoy watching the quail and pheasant as they come out with their babies. We don’t have that many pheasant anymore though. We have wild peacocks that roost in the trees. The songbirds also need to have cover and places that are safe to build their nests. And of course, the bunnies.
As a result of having these spaces on our farm, we also have a healthy population of predators. We have hawks, eagles, owls and bats, (and unfortunately the odd coyote). As long as we provide cover for our chickens and I don’t have any white chickens, they don’t seem to prey on our girls during the day. We coop them up at night so they are safe.
One thing this time of year always brings to the store, is a large number of people bringing in baby bunnies that have been preyed upon by cats and dogs. We always get people coming in with the cute little fuzzies and asking us for help on how to keep them alive. So, I thought I would write down a few insights from a book that I use to look up first aid for wild creatures. The book is called “Care of the Wild Feathered and Furred, treating and feeding injured birds and animals by Mae Hickman and Maxine Guy. Here are the highlights:
- If you find a NEST of bunnies, leave it alone. The mother will probably come back for them. Keep dogs, cats, and children away. Constant “checking” will scare off the mother.
- If you do have to care for babies (like your cat left one for you on your door step, etc.), they can be fed 3 oz of whole milk to which has been added a teaspoon of baby cereal. Be sure the cereal is completely dissolved. Keep the formula refrigerated. Warm it up by putting the jar in a warm water bath. (Do NOT microwave). Many people in my area buy kitten formula instead of mixing their own. This seems to work as well.
- They need 5 feedings per day, about every 3 hours. They may use a bottle, or an eyedropper, or dipping the corner of a cloth in milk. Just keep trying until you find what works. They do not need to be fed at night.
- Keep them in a box tall enough so they can’t jump out. Be sure they are warm and dry. Covering with a screen is useful. They can jump a lot higher than you think!
- At one end put soft bedding (hay, tissues, soft cloth) and at the other put a shallow bowl of water and some clover or grass. They also like to eat apples, carrots, or grain.
- Continue to feed formula, but back off as they eat more on their own.
- Give them fresh greens every night so they can nibble at dawn while you are peacefully sleeping.
- When you feel they can forage for themselves completely, you can release them. Try to find a place with plentiful food, water and cover. They should be about 4 inches long (cottontails).
If you have had the opportunity to raise a baby bunny successfully, I would love to hear about it as I have never had the experience.