British Wildlife Helpline



Bats and the Law

Only licensed experts are allowed to move bat colonies or keep bats in captivity.  Wildlife carers are allowed to keep bats only
while providing treatment and with the aim of eventually returning them to the wild.

Initial treatment


Bats are very adept at escaping through small gaps so a secure, tightly lidded container with lots of small ventilation holes is essential.
They also need a rough surface to hang from (e.g. a piece of towelling), warmth and humidity.
Small pieces of towel taped inside a plastic tank with a well fitting, ventilated lid make a secure container and
a heat pad underneath half the base of the tank will provide extra warmth without ovrheating.
Line the base with folded newspaper and provide a low, heavy container full of very wet, crumpled kitchen paper.
This will provide drinking water for the bat and humidity for the container.

Young bats

These need to be housed at 32°C in a humid atmosphere.
Small pieces of towel taped inside a plastic amphibian tank with a well fitting, ventilated lid make a secure container
but to keep them at 32°C it needs to be placed in an incubator. A dish filled with crumpled kitchen paper soaked in fresh water
will provide humidity as well as a drink.  Make sure the bat always has access to water.


If under about a week old they will need toileting after every meal.
Do this by slightly moistening a small twist of pure cotton wool and VERY GENTLY stroking the genital area with a downward movement.
You should barely touch the surface. The idea is to gently tickle the area to stimulate the batlet to urinate and defecate.
The batlet should produce some urine after most feeds, and faeces after about 1 in 3 feeds.
There will only be a few tiny drops of urine and a tiny dry stick like dropping.

Asessing young bats

Feel the backbone - if they feel like soft sausages then they are OK and will manage with 4 meals a day.
If the back feels thin, tapering away and falling away from the backbone give 2 hourly feeds from 7am to 11pm, increasing the gap between
feeds to 2½ or 3 hourly when the bat resents being woken up or feeds erratically.
Keep the incubator heated to 32 ° C
This is very important. If batlets are not warm enough they will not digest the milk, become bloated and die.


Give warm goats milk (unpasteurised if possible), or Esbilac made up frshly from powder, fed hourly from 6am to midnight.
A very tiny artist’s paintbrush size 0 is ideal for feeding, as it leaves the batlet in control of how much milk it takes.
Once they have been hand fed for a day or two, put a few drops of milk in a very tiny, shallow dish with a small lip.
The lid from a film container or plastic milk bottle is very suitable. Do not put very much milk in at first as it could be inhaled if too deep.
Place in the incubator so the batlet(s) can help themselves.
Change milk every 2 hours between about 8am and 10pm while continuing the hand feeding.
Eventually the batlets will prefer to feed themselves, and amounts left in the incubator can be increased.

Washing Batlets
The batlets can get very sticky so need their faces washing daily and occasional baths.
Hold by the shoulders and gently lower into a small container of warm water (32°)
They will spread their wings and the fur only needs a quick rinse with a finger to get clean.
Remove from water, wrap in a soft facial tissue or two and dab until dry, then replace in warm incubator.
Once they are self feeding regularly they get the hang of it and need less washing. Also the number of feeds can be gradually reduced.

Age 3 weeks and over

Give the juice of chopped mealworms as well as milk.
Put a few bits of chopped mealworms and small flies (fruit flies) killed by freezing in a shallow lid in the incubator so they can help themselves.
Gradually introduce small live mealworms so the young bats can help themselves when hungry.

Back to Feeding Mammals

Adult bats

The housing should be the same as for young bats but larger amounts of mealworms will need to be supplied in a small, steep sided dish to prevent them escaping.
Water should be supplied in a bigger lid, with crumpled up, well soaked tissue or kitchen roll inside, to avoid accidental drowning.

New patients

Warm on a heat pad or by holding if you have warm hands.


Mix up a small amount of lectade or other rehydration fluid and warm a small amount to blood heat.
Dip in a very tiny artist's paintbrush or cotton wool bud and touch gently to the bat's lips.
(You may need reading glasses with the smallest species to see the bat's mouth and tongue!)
Keep offering the liquid until the bat isn't interested in taking more.
Once the bat has been warmed up sufficiently and had a few drops of rehydration fluid, offer it solid food.


Cut the head off a mealworm and hold the cut end of the body to the bat's mouth.
Is should lick the soft insides and might grab it out of the tweezers and chew it up greedily.
Some bats will eat the whole thing, others suck out the insides and throw away the skin.
Keep offering mealworms until the bat has had enough. It may take 8 or even more if  it hasn't eaten for a while.
Replace in the warm tank and leave to rest.
Place a pot of live mealworms in the tank - make a note of the number so you will know how many it eats.

Feeding intervals

Offer headless mealworms in tweezers 3 - four times a day until the bat is completely self feeding.
Replenish the live food last thing at night, first thing in the morning and during the day if they are being eaten.
Renew  the drinking water and soaked tissue at the same time.

Top of page
Back to feeding mammals
Back to index