Hand Rearing Information
Please use the following as a guide.
Leveret 12 - 14 days old
In the wild, hares will remain still if they feel under threat and only bolt if that threat gets too close. This instinct is present from a young age so you may initially experience problems with feeding until they have adjusted to their new surroundings. They may 'freeze' and close their jaw shut, so patience and encouragement will be required until they settle, usually within 2 to 5 days. For these first few days it may help to wear the same top and use the same towel for your lap without washing them, this will then hold on to some of their scent. Hopefully, this will limit stress, as they will associate the familiar smell with feeding and safety. After a few days the leveret should have settled, so you can then use fresh towels etc.
Leverets are born with the beginnings of their front teeth. It will help to place the bottle teat close to, but just beside his front teeth. As with wild rabbits, leverets do not need to be 'toileted' they sometimes wee during or just after their feed. Keep the leverets away from domestic noises and family pets, especially cats and dogs. They are a danger to juvenile hares, so once in the wild they must not associate any form of security with the sound or smell of these animals. Ideally, keep to the same foster mum throughout.
Housing Your Leveret
Because I hand rear leverets and rabbits on a regular basis it has been for both practical and financial reasons to equip myself for the long term. The feeding equipment is much cheaper and disposable than the housing equipment so try and lend a cage and a hutch/run where possible. It is vital that you sanitize any secondhand/loan housing cages/hutches. I use anti bacterial detergent and a kettle of boiling water (outside and with care) you can purchase a good quality ANIMAL SAFE cleaner and spray from a pet store.
I use 3 different cage sizes increasing a size periodically over the 6 - 8 week rearing period. If you start with a big cage they will only want something bigger as they grow, start smaller and they will appreciate the extra room as they grow and move around more. See more details about the equipment that I use.
Each is lined with newspaper and a generous amount of clean hay, no heat is required. Please do not use non-absorbent magazines, anything with staples that could cause injury. Pleased never use sawdust or wood shavings, the leveret could ingest the dust which could cause respiratory problems or choking. House indoors in a quiet room.
A cage top is not suitable for long
term use or leverets over 25 days old
By the end of the first 5 days the leveret would hopefully of settled and feeding well. If housing in a wood construction like a shed please bear in mind that the interior temperature can be very high or cold in some weather conditions so you must accommodate for this. After the morning feed I put them outside, for a few hours only, in a small run on a grassed area so they able too graze. They will need some form of shelter so they can shelter from the weather conditions. I provided an upturned wooden box, no base, open fronted and lined with hay.
As your leveret grows you will need to house him outside during the day in a hutch with an attached run. Always bring him in before it starts to get dark, usually at the time of his evening feed at 7 - 8 pm.
For gnawing, provide a bark covered log, large stone or a clean brick that has been weathered. They like and need to lick a stone/brick or salt block for minerals. As they get older some leverets like to have a dust bath. You can provide this by using a large cat litter tray filled with dry soil.
Credit Susan Sroka
Weight monitoring of a 14 - 16 day old leveret
This is an essential part of hand rearing. This will indicate if your leveret is receiving a sufficient amount of milk and when the time is right, solids. Weigh daily and once they have settled into a feeding pattern, alternate days will be sufficient. They may lose a few grams initially, but as the feeding pattern settles they should show a steady weight gain of approximately 5 to 20 grams daily there after. Resume daily weighing for 2 - 3 days when changing a feeding pattern eg reducing from 3 to 2 feeds or 2 to 1 feeds. This will tell you sooner rather than later if your leveret was ready or not for the change and whether they have adjusted to it successfully. The amount of milk taken in the remaining feeds usually increases, so their weight may stay the same for a day or so and then start to increase. If when you change the feeds the leveret loses weight 2 days running, re-introduce the dropped feed for 2 days and then try again.
When I have 2 or more leverets I use different liquid food colour applied to the inner ear for identification. This will need to be re applied periodically as it fades.
I am always relieved when a leveret that comes into my care that is at least two to three days old, looks in good health, with a tummy not totally empty and not too dehydrated. There is a better chance that they will have had some of Mum's milk, which is always beneficial to all orphaned newborn mammals.
NEVER USE COWS MILK
I use Kitten milk powder by Beaphar, in the UK this can be purchased from 'Pets at Home' and some local Pet Shops. If you are unable to purchase the Kitty Milk Powder straight away then, for emergency use only you can use tinned evaporated milk. Mix 50% milk with 50% water. It is not a good idea to change/mix products, this can cause diarrhea which leads to dehydration and if this is serve enough, loss of the leveret. Kitty Milk Powder is supplied in 200 gram tubs, cost around £7 and you will need 3 tubs approx. Beaphar also do the kitten bottle kits.
You will need to cut a hole in the teat so it is best to snip a small amount at a time. If you cut the hole too big the leveret could choke or swallow too much milk that can cause inhalation pneumonia.
Test with each cut by filling the bottle with water and gently squeezing the bottle. Your aim is to have a large drip to a slow flow. The leveret will learn to suck but until then you will need to very gently press the bottle to produce a steady drip for him to swallow. If the hole is too small it will frustrate the leveret and prevent him from feeding well. Also for the first 10 days I syringe feed 1m per day warm Avipro micro-encapsulated water-soluble pro-biotic. This helps with gut performance and hydration (this is not essential but beneficial). A full, round tummy (not taut) and a steady weight gain is a good guide to your leveret having received sufficient food.
A room free from noise and movement is essential.
For the first 1 to 3 days (5 days if necessary) feed at 8am, 2pm and 8pm. Once he has settled to feeding from the bottle, drop the feeds to two a day, 7 - 8am and 7 - 8pm. Mix enough milk for that day, following the quantity instructions on the tub. Strain and keep in the fridge. Warm the amount required for each feed - discarding any left over. Try to keep the milk at a constant temperature by means of a baby bottle warmer or similar. Always check the temperature before feeding. Do not re-heat, use within 24 hrs of mixing and keep the tub of powder in a cool place.
Sterilize all feeding equipment, bottles, mixing pots, bottlebrush etc. after each use. I use boiling water you may use a baby sterilizing unit or fluid. Keep a record of the amount of milk taken at each feed and also weigh the leveret at the same time each day.
Try to resist the temptation to let other people or children handle the leveret. Also, limit your contact other than to feed and clean his cage/hutch. It would be beneficial to spend a few minutes after feeding just to let him bond enough to feel secure with you. Let him get use to your voice when you approach his cage from a short distance. If he is calm and settled he will feed well and progress through to release.
Once your leveret has started to eat solids you will need to provide drinking water even though they will receive moister from the milk feeds and the greens you provide. Please use either fresh bottled water or clean rain water, they may be put off by the chlorine in tap water. Do not use a water bottle, instead please use a flat bottomed, heavy dish to prevent it being tipped over. Don't worry if you don't see them drinking it, even though they may only sneak a few mouthfuls it is best to provide it just in case.
Below is a guide to help you judge the age of your leveret and from this you will see what quantities of milk your leveret should be taking for his age and weight. This is for the approximate age of the leveret in days/weeks and not for the number of days that you have had him.
I am able to visually approximate the age of a leveret so, if you are unsure please contact me with the weight of your leveret and a photograph of your leveret with a small object next to him and I will try to assess his approximate age for you.
|Age||Weight||Milk quantities||Number of milk feeds per day|
|1-3 days||45 - 65 grams||10 - 15 mils||3|
|4-6 days||65 - 85 grams||20 - 30 mils||2 - 3|
|7-9 days||85 - 105 grams||30 - 35 mils||2|
|10-15 days||105 - 125 grams||35 - 40 mils||2|
|15-20 days||125 - 230 grams||40 mils||2 + solid food|
|20-25 days||230 - 250 grams||40 - 50 mils||2 + solid food|
|25-30 days||250 - 300 grams||40 - 50 mils||2 + solid food|
|30-35 days||300 - 400 grams||40 - 50 mils||1 + solid food|
|35-45 days||400 - 550 grams||50 - 60 mils||1 + solid food|
|45-50 days (minimum)||550 - 700 grams||0||solid food only|
|Around day 50+ and at a weight of 800+ grams your leveret should be ready for release|
|Feed solid food only, selected from my list of foods, for 4 - 7 days before release day. Your leveret should weigh 800+ grams to be ready for release.|
If you do have the enchanting experience of helping an orphaned or injured hare then please complete your good work by releasing them back into the wild. This should be at around 8 weeks for hand rearing; age, weight, health and weather conditions considered. If you truly care about Wildlife, care about their future ... RELEASE them.
To transport the leveret to the release site I attempted to use the hay lined pet carrier that had previously been used to house transported in for feeding. It is dark, solid sided with a wire lid and should provide a secure feeling. But after a long break from using this they became panic stricken when placed inside.
A hay lined open mesh cat carrier was placed in their run and this time they walked into it themselves. Maybe this indicates that unlike wild rabbits that live under ground and feel safe in small dark spaces, hares by contrast live in and need to see open space.
It is important that you carry out some research into where you plan to release your leveret. It needs to be inhabited with hares, free from any hunting, shooting, lamping and coursing. Also as far away as possible from major or busy roads. If possible and as safe as possible then always take him back to the area where he came from. If this is not possible then you could try to find a local nature reserve that has a population of hares and ask for permission if you can release your leveret there. Keep your release site safe from public knowledge.