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Hare Preservation Trust

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~ Working for the preservation and welfare of the hare ~

Leveret Hand Rearing

Orphaned leverets being hand reared. Picture credit Susan Sroka
Credit: Susan Sroka

By HPT Member Susan Sroka

Important

If the leveret in your care has injuries it is important that you have these injuries assessed by a vet as soon as possible.

Orphaned leverets can be very difficult to hand rear but this doesn't mean you wont succeed in doing so. If for whatever reason you are unable to do this, then where possible I will take him/her on for you, hand rear, rehabilitate then release.

If required, and whenever possible, I can offer you advice and support to help you to hand rear the leveret in your care. This has been achieved successfully via email and telephone. I would take you through feeding, weaning, rehabilitation and discuss release options. Depending on the age of your leveret and the time of year, you would need to allow around 6 - 8 weeks to achieve this.

Leveret Rearing Information

Wildlife vet and HPT member Steve Bexton would like to hear from anyone with experience of leveret rearing and can be contacted by email at stengunsteve@yahoo.co.uk

PLEASE KEEP YOUR LEVERET WARM QUIET AND SECURE.

If you don't know what to do or are not sure, please ask. My contact details are
Email: brackenh@hotmail.co.uk
Tel: 07885 969527
Tel: 0113 440 5028

If you are able to, please email me a photograph of your leveret for ID conformation.

Please use the following as a guide

Like deer, leverets are highly strung by nature, so should therefore be kept in as quiet an area as possible. They won't feed well if surrounded by noise and movement.

Usually, there are two to four in a litter, born above ground, fully furred with their eyes open. To avoid the entire litter being lost to predators they will separate to individual resting places known as a 'form'. The Mother Hare usually feeds them morning and/or evening and will call to them when she arrives. By their nature and their feeding pattern, hares and leverets are more active between early evening to dawn.

Hand Rearing Information

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 even at such 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. After a few days the leveret should have settled, so you can then use fresh towels etc. Hopefully, this will limit stress, as they will associate the familiar smell with feeding and safety.

Leverets are born with the beginnings of their front teeth. For comfort and ease of feeding please place the teat in their mouth just off centre.

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 that I have had to equip myself for the long term. The feeding equipment is much cheaper and disposable than the housing equipment so try and borrow 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. Each is lined with newspaper and a generous amount of clean hay. Do not use non-absorbent magazines with staples. House indoors in a quiet room.

By the end of the first 5 days the leveret will hopefully have settled and be 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 are able too graze. They will need some form of shelter so they can shelter from the weather conditions. I provide 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 - 8pm.

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. They also like to have a dust bath, you can use a large cat litter tray filled with dry soil.

Weighing

Orphaned leveret being weighed. Picture credit Susan Sroka
Credit: Susan Sroka

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 in 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 e.g. 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.

Feeding

Orphaned leveret bottle feeding. Picture credit Susan Sroka
Credit: Susan Sroka

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 COW'S MILK

I use Kitty 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, 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 and 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 1 ml 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, 8 - 9am and 8 - 9pm. 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 used 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.

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
(grams)
Daily total of
milk quantities
(millilitres)
Number of milk Feeds
1 - 3 days45 g - 85 g10 ml - 20 ml3
4 - 5 days55 g - 250 g20 ml - 35 ml2 - 3
7 - 10 days250 g - 300 g35 ml - 55 ml2
11 - 15 days300 g - 450 g55 ml - 105 ml2 + solid food
15 - 20 days450 g - 600 g105 ml - 170 ml2 + solid food
20 - 25 days600 g - 800 g140 ml - 120 ml1 + solid food
25 - 30 days800 g - 920 g90 ml - 0 ml1 + solid food
30 - 33 days920 g - 1007 gsolid food only  
Solid food from the list below only for 4 - 7 days then release; weight = 850g - 1kg.

To transport the leveret to the release site I attempted to use the hay lined pet carrier that had previously been used to house him 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.

Food stuffs etc. and suppliers that I use

Beaphar Kitty Milk Powder
from:

Beaphar Kitten Nursing (bottle) kits
from:

Burgess
Rabbit Excel complete pellets (Junior and Adult)
Fresh Hay
Alfalfa Nibbles
Salt Blocks
Dried field flowers

all from:

Avipro micro-encapsulated
from:

Fresh greens etc.
Dandelion leaves, flowers and roots
White and purple clover (leaves and flowers, though NOT THE PURPLE FLOWERS apparently the PURPLE flowers can in some cases cause diarrhoea
Fresh Herbs: some leverets like parsley, basil, coriander, mint, thyme
Kale: curly or flat
Carrot tops
Pea shoots
Fresh grassed area for grazing.
Ears of corn/wheat/barley
Dried corn/wheat/barley

Further Information

I am only too pleased to be given this opportunity to share my experience of hand rearing leverets. The above method has worked well for me, and the leverets. I would be very happy to receive both enquiries and your experiences whether similar or different to my own.

Email: brackenh@hotmail.co.uk
Tel: 07885 969527
Tel: 0113 440 5028