Introduction: How to Care for a Wild Rabbit Nest

Picture of How to Care for a Wild Rabbit Nest

This guide will walk you through the care of a wild rabbit's nest and it's inhabitants. This advise is based on personal experience and a small amount of research.

Step 1: You've Found a Nest!

Picture of You've Found a Nest!

Rabbits' nests are generally well hidden and can turn up anywhere. The most common places are near bushes, trees, and tall grass. A rabbit's nest can be identified by its common construction of grass and fur. Tall grass is tightly woven into clumps of the mother's fur, providing insulation and camouflage. This covers the burrow underneath.

If you come across a nest under no special circumstances, the best thing to do is leave it be. Don't lift the cover to see the cute bunnies inside. Yes, baby rabbits are incredibly cute and fun to watch, but don't let that be a risk to their survival. If nothing looks out of the ordinary, do not disturb the nest.

Step 2: Your Dog Found a Nest!

Picture of Your Dog Found a Nest!
This is the most common occurrence in my experience. There are several identifying factors indicating your dog has discovered a nest:

  • (S)he is very excited, running to the same spot over and over again.
  • Abnormally heavy panting.
  • Loud screeching noises, often confused for a squeaker toy. (Baby rabbits sure have a major set of lungs, I once heard this cry for help when I was inside at the computer.)
  • Your dog has something in it's mouth that seems odd, and is acting strangely about it.
  • You see an adult rabbit (the mother) frantically dashing about.

I will walk you through several scenarios.

Your dog has something in it's mouth.
Immediately order your dog to drop it. Put force into your voice to tell the dog you mean business. If your dog is well trained, (S)he will comply. If not, grab hold of your dog's nose and lower jaw. Gently force the mouth open and retrieve the rabbit. If someone else is present, have them take the dog inside. Walk over to the rabbit and check for any obvious signs of injury. This includes blood, broken bones, and intense squirming. If the rabbit is injured, immediately call the local vet or humane society. Unless you are a professional, any attempts to care for the wounded rabbit are futile.
The rabbit is uninjured.
I know what you're thinking. This cute, helpless baby rabbit is spooked, confused, and "homeless". I know, I'll raise it myself! Whatever you do, DO NOT TAKE THEM INSIDE! Any care you think you're giving could, and probably will, kill the rabbit. In fact, it is illegal to take in a young wild rabbit in most states. This will also cause the mother and captive baby to become frantic. This often results in the baby injuring itself.
. Gently pick up the young rabbit. If you can, wrap it in a small towel. Don't be startled if the rabbit begins to rub and push it's head against your fingers. It won't bite, it is simply trying to burrow into a less traumatic environment. The rabbit will probably be wet in places from your dog's saliva. Don't worry about this too much. The nest cannot be too far, you should find it within a few minutes. Gently place the rabbit back into it's burrow and replace the cover.
The nest is destroyed.
If your dog found the nest, it is likely in disarray. Do your best to reconstruct the nest, it is vital to the rabbit's survival. If it is absolutely necessary, you can move the nest up to ten feet away. To do this, dig a shallow hole about as deep and wide as the original burrow. Gently pick up the rabbits and transfer them to the new nest. If possible, surround the nest with a bunny accessible fence to keep your dog away. Be sure to leave a gap large enough for the mother. Fences aren't foolproof, you will still need to keep an eye on your dog. Mine managed to trap itself inside the fence. Be extra cautious when the rabbits enter their exploring stage.

Do not worry, the mother will not abandon her young if you or your dog's scent is on it.

Step 3: The Mother Is Nowhere in Sight

Picture of The Mother Is Nowhere in Sight

Don't worry this is completely normal, mother rabbits are known to be absentee parents. During the day, the mother leaves the nest to feed and disclose the location to predators. At night or in the early morning, the mother will visit the nest for up to five minutes. The mother's milk is very nutritious and among the richest of all mammals. This provides enough energy to last the young all day. When she is finished nursing, the mother will leave the nest again.
. There are several ways to check if the mother is returning to the nest. The first is to make a crisscross or tick-tac-toe pattern on the nest with grass. If this is disturbed in the morning, the mother has visited the nest. This doesn't always work though, the rabbits can enter and exit the nest without disturbing it much. It's best if you place it near the area you think is the entrance.
. You can also place unscented baking soda near the nest and check for disturbances the next day. Also, once a day carefully remove the cover of the burrow. Look inside and check the condition of the rabbits. If they seem skinny, dehydrated, cold (no body heat), or are whining often, the mother is not returning. A sign of dehydration is a lack of "springiness" in the skin. If you gently pull on the skin around the back of the neck and it does not spring back, the rabbit is dehydrated. You should call your local vet or Humane Society if any of these signs apply. If the rabbits seem healthy, replace the cover and leave them be.

Step 4: Lost Rabbit.

Picture of Lost Rabbit.

On one occasion I came across a lost rabbit. This was back when the rabbits were inhabiting the fern. If you notice a young rabbit at least ten feet from the nest, take note of it's location. If it hasn't moved in an hour or more, it is probably lost and confused. Gently pick it up and place it near the nest, not directly in it. Not too far though, place it directly on the edge or within an inch of the burrow. Make sure the nest is uncovered when you do so. If the rabbit runs into the burrow and snuggles in with it's buddies, you've found the right nest. If not, it's best to place the rabbit back where you found it.

Step 5: Truly Orphaned Rabbits

Picture of Truly Orphaned Rabbits

As I've had no experience in this field, I'll direct you to my resource.

Again, make sure you KNOW for sure the mom was killed and the bunnies are abandoned (not warm, etc).You will not see the mom.Remember, the mom will only come back in the middle of the night to feed her babies.If the mom was killed, the best thing you can do for a wild orphaned baby bunny is to get in touch with a skilled rehabilitator.In the meantime, call your local humane society or animal control and one of these vets for a wildlife referral: http://www.rabbit.org/vets/vets.html

http://www.rabbit.org/faq/sections/orphan.html#The%20Bunny%20is%20Wild%20and%20Really%20Orphaned%20-%20How%20do%20I%20care%20for%20it?

Comments

Alanka44 (author)2016-07-30

My dog found a bunny nest and killed the 3 babies in it today. I'm heartbroken. I didn't know what to do with the bodies, so I buried them (pretty close to where the nest is). I went out later tonight and saw the mama. Then I started to think that maybe burying them wasn't the best idea.... Will the mama know what happened to them? Is she going to keep looking for them? Should I have left them out somehow so she'd know what happened to them? The more I think about it the more I'm losing my mind over it. I just feel so bad.

parisusa (author)2016-07-23

"Rabbit mothers nurse their babies for approximately 5 minutes a day. Both wild and domestic mothers will be in the nest or nest box early in the morning and then again in the evening. The milk is very rich and the babies “fill up” to capacity within minutes." Rabbit.org - they do not cuddle or stay near the kits at all except for the nursing. This is to protect them from predators. The kits keep warm by cuddling together. A rare single baby would have an unlikely chance of survival in cooler conditions (my experience with indoor rabbits)

Bunnyhelp (author)2016-07-16

If someone may give me some advice. We had a bad rainstorm last night. We had a nest of baby bunnies I am guessing about 3weeks old. I had put a shelter over them, so the hole would not fill up with water. The mamma came and checked on her babies about an hour or so later in the shelter. ( Have a camera to watch them) After about 5min mamma left and all three babies came out of the nest. I thought they were going to play a little and go back in. This morning 2 of the babies are gone and one is left behind but he is hanging outside the nest and will not go back in. Does anyone know will the mamma come back for him or is he abandoned?? Please any information would be helpful.

ShannonM114 (author)2016-07-07

We have found a bunny nest who's mother has not yet had her babies. Where the nest is located, we have landscapers coming in next week to redo the stoop as well as the garden. How can we help relocate the Mama bunny before they need to tear out the nest and before she has the litter?

LyndaH16 (author)2016-06-17

We have uncovered a fairly large rabbits nest. My dog has unfortunately dug in the hole and uncovered them and I believe killed 2 of them. One for sure, the other is not looking too good. There are maybe 5 or 6 more ,moving around in the uncovered hole. I do not believe their eyes are open. I am worried first off because of the dead one laying close to the hole, secondly because there are all kinds of bugs crawling on these bunnies. I am not sure if the momma will come back or not. I am worried about touching anything around the nest and causing mom not to come back for sure. I did try to cover them back up but due to the digging it is now mostly dirt instead of being a soft cover for them. Please advise on what to do, I really do not want them to die.

LaurenY5 (author)LyndaH162016-06-22

It's a myth that rabbits will abandon their young if a human has touched them. Try to reconstruct the nest as much as possible by covering it with leaves and natural materials. Basically make sure the babies are covered so that they are protected from predators as much as possible. Mother rabbits don't hang around their nests so as to not attract attention to them, but they return to feed them usually once a day around dawn. Hope this helps!

KatG15 (author)2016-06-17

Ok so my dog has found a baby bunny nest that we had previously known about and were protecting from her. But somehow she had gotten out and started digging up the bunnies. All but one were fine. One has received a small cut on there neck but only fur deep. There is really not a lot of blood because it is only the pelt part that has been torn. What should I do? Should I put it back with the others or should I call like a vet or what? PLEASE LET ME KNOW SOON, ITS URGENT.

LandaG (author)2016-06-11

A baby has taken to us. It is over 2 weeks old, comes out when it hears us and sleeps on my feet. I don't know what to do. The mom comes still. Should we just stay in for a few days?

JerryF15 (author)2016-05-31

So while cleaning up our garden we found a nest of bunnies, unfortunately most of the cover was removed before we noticed them. We left the nest as undisturbed as possible and tried to recover the nest with foliage. The bunnies eyes were not yet open. What are the chances that mama will still care for them? I am afraid that now that most of their cover is gone, the rain will drown them.

ragamuffin1215 (author)JerryF152016-05-31

if it is raining, you can put something such as a cardboard box with a cut out big enough for the mama rabbit to get in over the nest. or a wicker basket with an opening cut in it, or any other type of covering that still allows access for the mama. covering it with foliage was good. Just check the nest occationally to be sure it has not been abandoned.

linap6 (author)2016-05-28

I've petted the bunnies I've seen every morning, after school, and at the afternoon. I'm not trying to be mean but the mom always came back. Today I woke up finding two of them missing. My grandma said they followed their mom. I was happy to hear that but 3 were left. Sorry if I've hurt/said too much.

hotheavens (author)2015-03-19

I was wondering if you could tell me what type of bunny this is

midnightk1 (author)hotheavens2016-05-23

That's definitely a Domestic Rabbit. It's probably a Netherland Dwarf.

jmvernal. (author)2016-04-16

sorry to sound stupid, but our lawn guy just uncovered a nest of babies. He said they were mice.. the nest was close to our house near a basement window. they looked like they were just born to a few days. They were black, but had long bodies. He said the nest was covered with fur. A little later his wife said that she thought they were bunnies because of the ears. There were about 6 of them. I couldn't see tails, but I wasn't close to them, but his wife said she seen a tail.. but it wasn't as long as it's body (as I said a mouse should have lol). Would a litter of about 6 bunnies be all black?. I am confused.. how do you tell the difference or are these something else? I am worried since it was close to our basement window, wondering where the parents our.

midnightk1 (author)jmvernal.2016-05-23

Wild rabbit babies should not be all black, though they may be somewhat blackish before their fur grows in. They have a little furry tail about the same size or smaller than their ears. If the nest is shallow and covered in fur with grass around it, it's almost certainly rabbits. If their fur is truly all black, one or both parents is likely a stray or abandoned domestic rabbit. If so please contact a rabbit rescue group (if there is none near you, try a local pet rescue many will take rabbits). Domestic rabbits do not have a good chance of surviving out in the wild.

This should help you with identifying them and knowing what to do next: http://wabbitwiki.com/wiki/Feral_and_stray_rabbits

SherryL23 (author)2016-05-10

I FOUND A BABY RABBIT IN THE FRONT GARDEN WHILE WATERING, THEN 2 DAYS LATER FOUND THE NEST APPROX 12 TO 16 INCHES FROM THAT SPOT THAT IS WHAT BROUGHT ME TO THIS SITE THANK-YOU SO MUCH FOR ALL YOUR INFORMATION DIDN'T KNOW WHAT TO DO. STILL DON'T KNOW IF MOTHER RABBIT IS AROUND BUT NOW I KNOW WHAT TO LOOK FOR. S.LEVITSKY SIMPSONVILL,S.C.

Emmy02 (author)2016-04-23

I found a nest of newborn wild bunnies (eyes haven't opened) and unfortunately my dog found and killed one:( I need to move them so the other two don't die but I don't know how to do that without the mother abandoning them from not knowing where they are. Please help!

Horses n rabbits (author)Emmy022016-05-01

well, if you haven't seen the mother, she is probably gone somewhere. If the mother is gone you can just pick them up with a towel. I would keep them warm in a box but put it on outside. Sometimes the mother shows up that way

Horses n rabbits (author)2016-05-01

I think I found one. It has hay and grass in it. My dog keeps digging at it and acting like she wants to protect it. I haven't seen a mom in 2-3 days. Should I dig it up and get the babies? I don't see fur but my guess is their only 2 days old since the mom has been absent.

DonaldE3 (author)2015-10-25

As a Watership Down fan you did something awesome by sharing

pendulum30 (author)2009-12-11

My cat brought a baby rabbit home and I had no clue what to do to help it. It was late night, and I put it in the box with grass and water, planning to call "wild life preservation" next day. For this poor rabbit it was too late. They're so fragile when out of nest! Your instructable will help many other baby rabbits to be returned safely to their nest, to live and be well!

carebear771 (author)pendulum302015-05-02

Bunnies will die from something in cats Saliva !!!!

carebear771 (author)2015-05-02

jillian.howardbowman (author)2015-04-23

chrismeadows (author)2015-04-19

Thanks for posting the great info. We have spotted a rather pregnant mom rabbit the last few weeks in our back yard. today while outside in the yard my wife was cleaning up the gardens and accidently found a nest. she cleared the top of the nest off exposing 3 or 4 little bunnies. eyes are just barely opening and are all curled up in a ball.. as I observed the 4some I realized 3 were breathing fine and one was not. Upon closer inspection without getting to intrusive I found that the one little rabbit closest to the outside of the nest was not alive, and appeared to have died 2 or 3 days ago (didn't smell to nice). Being in southern Ontario the nights are still pretty damp and cold so maybe it got to him. I removed it from the nest as it was rotting pretty good and didn't want it to bring sickness to the rest. we did see momma rabbit yesterday in the yard, going to keep an eye out today and this evening to see if she returns and what she does with them.

jianglin.li.50 (author)2015-04-16

I found a rabbit nest while preparing flower bed a few days ago. The nest is practically in the open, no grass around at all and is dangerously close to street. It is really the worst place to raise babies! Everytime I see someone walking a dog, I was nervous. I check the nest everyday. So far the babies are doing fine, they grow fast and eyes are open now. I don't know how to keep them safe when they are old enough to leave the nest.

richard.slamans (author)2015-04-10

I was weed eating and hit rabbit nest. I covered it back up will they be ok I didn't hit any of them ?

N'SeyaB (author)2015-03-16

today at school i rescued a bunny like the one in the image but smaller and it was bleeding on its nose very much so i took it to my agriculture teacher and we wiped the nose with a damp cloth and put her her the hutch with our lionhead bunny and our lionhead nola took care of it as her own then after school we took it to the vet and it survived. this was a great exprience for me because i want to be either a rehabalitor or veternarian.

gloria.mawhinney.3 (author)2014-07-31

I found 2 baby bunnies in the grass on my lawn.No sign of a nest in the vicinity.They appear OK and are grooming each other and are cuddled together.Is there anything I should do..they are unprotected out in the open.

livi611 (author)2011-01-14

my dad ran over a baby bunny with a mower when I was little. it was OK though. we put it on the side of the house in a shoe box with meds on the very tip of its ear (which he managed to clip off with the mower). Also lettuce and some old strawberries. we checked on them on the middle of the night and there were 5 extra babies and the mama in the box! it was a great experience for me.

Myrka (author)livi6112014-04-21

nice glad they survived

supertoria12 (author)livi6112011-05-04

ironically, my Dad managed to find a bunny nest BEFORE he started mowing the lawn. i'm 50% sure they were orphaned too, because a week prior, I found a dead adult bunny under a bush. that could've been the dad tho.

Myrka (author)2014-04-21

I have trouble me and my friend found a baby bunny alone in the grass at school then the janitor came to mow the field where we found it so we carefully graved it and hid it from the janitor but then the teacher caught us with the bunny and gave it to the janitor

parisusa (author)2013-09-01

Great advice! Mother animals know best but on rare occasions human help can be beneficial. Encourage children to leave wild animals alone and only "look"! There are thousands of domestic pets - bunnies included -that desperately need adoption! If you have space, time and can commit more than 10 years consider adopting a bonded pair.

ebishop2 (author)2013-05-01

Thank you for the information. Last night while cleaning the leaf litter out from under our tree in the front yard, I found the nest, undisturbed until I nearly stepped on it. Inside the "pocket are three babies, which last night we took for chipmunks as it was near dusk. I took some old coconut basket liner and placed it over the nest after attempting to "recreate the scene". This morning when I checked on them I found out I had bunnies. They had moved out of the cocoon and into the coconut liner. It did not appear as if a mother rabbit had been there as the liner itself appeared undisturbed. I placed the bunnies back in their pocket and will keep an eye on them today. I will follow your instructions on placing something so I can see if the mother rabbit is coming to feed them, and may make the nest more protected, as I had cleaned out the area extensively and mowed before I found them. Luckily, I have access here to one of the best anilmal rehabilitators. She has told me to bring them to her if they appear abandoned. Her website is http://www.picturetrail.com/backwoodslynne if anyone else needs advice or just wants to see her marvelous abilities.

the_burrito_master (author)2008-07-15

don't pick the rabbit up with your hands or the mother could reject it.

Actually, there are very few species that will abandon their young just because it's been touched by or smells like a human. That's mostly a myth. The parental instinct is very strong in most species, sometimes so strong that they will adopt young that are not their own (or not even their own species!).

Ah yeah I heard not too long ago that it was a myth elsewhere. By the way I said that five years ago I was a stupid 13 year old then xD

Ha, I hadn't looked at the date on your post. five years too late I guess.

Unlike most animals, that is not true for rabbits. Read the last line in step two.

oh ok my mom insisted that we not touch it the first day we saw them. so I guess that was worthless :P

aleksandrray (author)2011-08-27

It's rabbit from http://youzay.com - nice little. I now!
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dlphinlvr13 (author)2011-06-05

This helped so much today. Today, my dog,Ruby, 2 year old golden retriever found a rabbits nest in our yard. unfortunately, I did not recognize that squeaky sound as bunnies but when my husband heard he knew it was some kind of animal. There were 6 bunnies all of which were out of the nest. Thanks to Ruby. two were in a garden where she was sitting stairing at them. two by our swing set and two more by our shed. They are very little, eyes not open yet. Ruby, accidentally, killed one, another one was completely drenched and another is questionable . But we returned five including the one who did not seem great back to the nest and tried to re-create the best we can. We are banning our dog from the backyard for now :( but she has the front yard. I am going to check on them tomorrow morning. I hope she comes back. I am going to do what they suggested so I can see if the nest has been disturbed.

I'll keep you posted. I am so grateful that there are helpful sites like this.

Scumm7 (author)2011-03-26

When I beagle found a nest in our yard, I used a paver to cover most of the nest and a couple well placed cinder blocks to allow the mother access. She moved the babies that night.

knexinventer (author)2011-01-01

if you got a baby that is now an orfan [i dont] could you make an indoor home just like its old one like a modle

Gtazz (author)2010-04-10

anything about a baby rabbit with broken legs

Batness (author)Gtazz2010-08-24

Call a local wildlife rescue; they have experience raising animals like that and can help.

nikeman76 (author)2010-06-16

hmm... i see a lot of rabbits in my backyard but no matter how had i try, I CANNOT FIND THEIR NEST!

zoestarr (author)2010-05-29

i have a success story. my dog caught a baby rabbit the size ov the 1 in the photo while walking her one day. i thaught it was cute and took it home. with full care and attention including bottle feeding with warm milk from your vet (sometimes need to forse feed like i had to, but be very gentle), a large  shoe box full with hay and a warm woolen beanie, baby farricks for food also. 7 months on i still hav my little rabbit. now she is not so little. eats rabbit pellet, grass, hay, apple,banana, and has the most awsome personality for a rabbit. she knows to come when called, that look means her favourite food, when i ask her if she wants to come she knows shes going in the car. she loves to come in the car. she has also been able to toilet train her self amazingly and lives inside as the house bunny.

usb.to.go (author)2010-05-04

 This is a great instructable I read this and then a couple days later (today) I saw two cats chasing a bunny and followed this instructable and it bounded happily away after recovering a bit from the shock. 
Thanks 

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