Raising a baby cottontail rabbit can be an extremely rewarding experience, but it also comes with a lot of responsibilities. If you’ve found a 3 week old cottontail and want to ensure it grows up healthy, this complete guide will provide everything you need to know about diet, housing, handling, common health issues, and releasing it back to the wild.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer:Feed the rabbit specialized formula milk every 2-3 hours and provide timothy hay. House it alone in a quiet area with soft bedding. Handle minimally and gently. See a wildlife rehabilitator for medical care. Plan to release at 8-10 weeks old.

Housing a 3 Week Old Cottontail Rabbit

Enclosure Type and Size

When it comes to housing a 3 week old cottontail rabbit, it is important to provide them with an appropriate enclosure. A large and spacious enclosure will allow the rabbit to move around and explore comfortably.

A wire cage with a solid bottom is a good option as it allows for proper ventilation and prevents the rabbit from escaping. The enclosure should be at least 4 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 2 feet tall to provide enough space for the rabbit to hop and stretch its legs.


The bedding in the rabbit’s enclosure is essential for their comfort and hygiene. It is recommended to use a soft and absorbent bedding material such as hay or straw. This will not only provide a cozy resting place for the rabbit but also help absorb any urine and keep the enclosure clean.

Avoid using cedar or pine shavings as they can be harmful to rabbits’ respiratory systems.

Location and Temperature

The location of the rabbit’s enclosure is important for their well-being. It should be placed in a quiet and peaceful area of the house, away from loud noises and excessive foot traffic. The enclosure should also be kept in a temperature-controlled environment.

The ideal temperature for a 3 week old cottontail rabbit is between 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Extreme temperatures can be harmful to their health, so it is important to keep them in a comfortable environment.

Cleaning the Enclosure

Maintaining a clean enclosure is crucial for the health of the rabbit. The enclosure should be cleaned regularly to remove any soiled bedding and waste. This will help prevent the buildup of bacteria and odors.

It is recommended to clean the enclosure at least once a week, or more frequently if necessary. Use a pet-safe disinfectant to clean the enclosure and make sure to thoroughly dry it before adding fresh bedding.

Feeding and Hydration

Proper feeding and hydration are crucial for the health and well-being of a 3-week-old cottontail rabbit. At this age, they are still dependent on their mother’s milk, but if you have found an orphaned rabbit or are caring for one without a mother, you will need to provide the necessary nutrition.

Formula Milk

When it comes to feeding a 3-week-old cottontail rabbit, it is important to use a specially formulated formula milk. Regular cow’s milk is not suitable for rabbits and can cause digestive issues. You can find rabbit-specific formula milk at your local pet store or veterinarian.

Follow the instructions on the packaging for proper mixing and feeding.

Transitioning to Solid Foods

As the rabbit grows, it will gradually start to transition to solid foods. At around 3 weeks old, you can introduce small amounts of fresh hay and leafy greens into their diet. These foods provide essential fiber and nutrients.

Start with small portions and gradually increase the amount as their digestive system adjusts. It is important to monitor their stool consistency to ensure they are tolerating the solid foods well.

Providing Water

Cottontail rabbits, like all animals, need access to clean and fresh water. At 3 weeks old, you can provide a shallow dish of water for them to drink from. Make sure the dish is stable and not easily tipped over. It is important to change the water daily to prevent bacteria growth.

Water bottles with a sipper tube can also be used, but make sure the rabbit knows how to use it.

Signs of Malnutrition

It is important to monitor the health of the 3-week-old cottontail rabbit to ensure they are getting the proper nutrition. Signs of malnutrition include weight loss, lethargy, dull fur, and a decrease in appetite.

If you notice any of these signs, it is important to consult a veterinarian for further evaluation and guidance.

For more information on caring for a 3-week-old cottontail rabbit, you can visit www.rabbit.org. They provide comprehensive resources on rabbit care and can offer additional guidance specific to your rabbit’s needs.

Proper Handling and Human Interaction

When caring for a 3-week-old cottontail rabbit, proper handling and human interaction are crucial for their well-being. The way you handle and interact with the rabbit can greatly impact their stress levels and overall development. Here are some guidelines to follow:

Minimizing Stress

Minimizing stress is essential when handling a young cottontail rabbit. These fragile creatures can easily become overwhelmed, which can affect their health and growth. To minimize stress, create a calm and quiet environment when handling the rabbit.

Avoid sudden movements or loud noises that may startle them. Additionally, limit the amount of time you handle the rabbit to prevent excessive stress.

Holding Techniques

When picking up a 3-week-old cottontail rabbit, it’s important to use gentle and proper holding techniques. Start by slowly approaching the rabbit and gently cupping your hands around their body, supporting their hindquarters. This provides them with a sense of security and stability.

Avoid holding the rabbit by their ears or limbs, as this can cause discomfort or injury. Remember to always handle the rabbit with care and be mindful of their delicate nature.

Human Contact

Human contact is an essential part of a young cottontail rabbit’s development. Regular human interaction can help them become comfortable around people and ensure they receive proper care. However, it’s important to strike a balance between providing socialization and avoiding excessive handling.

Allow the rabbit to have some independent time in a safe and secure environment, while also providing supervised interaction with humans. This will help them develop trust and familiarity with their caregivers.

For more information on proper handling and care for young cottontail rabbits, you can visit reputable websites such as rabbit.org or bunnyapproved.com. These websites provide valuable resources and guidance for rabbit owners, ensuring the well-being of these adorable creatures.

Common Health Issues

Caring for a 3-week-old cottontail rabbit involves being aware of common health issues that may arise. It is important to monitor the rabbit’s health closely and take necessary actions to ensure its well-being. Here are some common health issues to watch out for:


Diarrhea can be a common problem in young rabbits and can be caused by various factors such as improper diet, stress, or underlying health issues. If you notice your 3-week-old cottontail rabbit having loose or watery stools, it is important to take immediate action.

Diarrhea can lead to dehydration and further health complications if not addressed promptly.


Dehydration is a serious concern for young rabbits, especially if they are experiencing diarrhea or are not drinking enough water. Signs of dehydration in rabbits include dry mouth, sunken eyes, lethargy, and loss of appetite.

If you suspect your 3-week-old cottontail rabbit is dehydrated, it is crucial to provide it with fluids immediately. You can try offering water through a syringe or seek the assistance of a wildlife rehabilitator.

Respiratory Infections

Respiratory infections can occur in rabbits due to various factors, including exposure to cold drafts, damp environments, or viruses. Symptoms of respiratory infections in rabbits may include sneezing, coughing, nasal discharge, and difficulty breathing.

If you observe any of these signs in your 3-week-old cottontail rabbit, it is essential to seek veterinary care as soon as possible. Treatment may involve antibiotics or other appropriate medications.

Fly Strike

Fly strike, also known as myiasis, is a condition where flies lay eggs on a rabbit’s fur, which then hatch into maggots that feed on the rabbit’s flesh. This can be a severe health issue for rabbits and can lead to infection and even death if not treated promptly.

To prevent fly strike, ensure that the rabbit’s living environment is clean and free from flies. If you notice any signs of fly strike, such as maggots or foul odor, it is crucial to seek immediate veterinary assistance.

Finding a Wildlife Rehabilitator

If you encounter any of the above health issues with your 3-week-old cottontail rabbit, it is important to seek the help of a wildlife rehabilitator. Wildlife rehabilitators are trained professionals who have the knowledge and resources to care for injured or sick wildlife.

They can provide the necessary medical treatment and ensure the rabbit receives the appropriate care it needs for a successful recovery. To find a wildlife rehabilitator in your area, you can visit www.wildliferehabber.org or contact your local animal control or wildlife agency for guidance.

Releasing the Rabbit Back to the Wild

Choosing a Safe Location

When it comes to releasing a 3-week-old cottontail rabbit back into the wild, choosing a safe location is crucial. The ideal spot should provide ample food, water, and shelter for the rabbit’s survival. It should be away from heavily trafficked areas and free from potential predators.

Research local wildlife rehabilitation centers or organizations for guidance on suitable release sites in your area. They can provide valuable information about the best habitats for cottontail rabbits.

Preparing the Rabbit

Before releasing the rabbit, it’s essential to ensure it is ready for the transition back to the wild. Make sure the rabbit is healthy, active, and displaying natural behaviors such as foraging and hopping. Gradually introduce the rabbit to an outdoor enclosure to acclimate it to the environment.

This will help the rabbit become familiar with the sights, sounds, and smells of its future habitat.

It’s also important to consider the rabbit’s physical condition. If it has any injuries or health issues, consult with a wildlife rehabilitator for appropriate treatment and guidance. Additionally, check with local regulations to determine if any permits are required for releasing wildlife.

The Release Process

When releasing the rabbit, it’s important to do so gradually to increase its chances of survival. Begin by opening the enclosure door and allowing the rabbit to explore its surroundings. This allows the rabbit to get comfortable and make its own choices.

Keep a close eye on the rabbit during this time, but avoid unnecessary interference.

After a few days of supervised exploration, you can open the enclosure completely and let the rabbit come and go as it pleases. Ensure there is still access to food and water in the area to support the rabbit’s transition.

Remember, it may take some time for the rabbit to fully adjust to its new environment.

Providing Continued Care Post-Release

Even after releasing the rabbit back to the wild, it’s important to continue monitoring its progress. Keep an eye out for any signs of distress or injury. If you notice any issues, consult with a wildlife rehabilitator or veterinarian who specializes in wildlife care.

Additionally, you can contribute to the rabbit’s well-being by creating a rabbit-friendly environment in your own backyard. Planting native vegetation and providing food and water sources can help attract rabbits and provide them with additional resources.

This can create a sustainable habitat for the released rabbit and other wildlife.

Remember, releasing a 3-week-old cottontail rabbit back to the wild is a delicate process that requires careful consideration and preparation. By choosing a safe location, preparing the rabbit, following a gradual release process, and providing continued care post-release, you can give the rabbit its best chance at a successful return to the wild.


Raising an orphaned baby cottontail is a big commitment, but with proper care and planning, you can give the rabbit its best chance at survival. Make sure to provide the right diet, housing, and handling techniques. Monitor its health closely and get veterinary help if needed.

If all goes well, you’ll be able to successfully return your cottontail to the wild around 8-10 weeks old.

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