British Wildlife Helpline

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Feeding and caring for baby mammals

General Guidelines for helping a new orphan or casualty

Here you can find info or links to sections on feeding the following mammals:
Hare (leveret)
Wood mouse


Very young mammals need stimulating to produce urine and faeces before feeding.

It may have lost its mother hours before and have a very full bladder!
To toilet small mammals, dampen a small piece of soft facial tissue or pure cotton wool and gently stroke
the urino-genital area with a downwards motion.

For photos and guidance on toileting see the section in rearing squirrels

It may take a minute or so to get a result but be fairly persistent and make sure the orphan expels a reasonable amount of urine and/or faeces.

Place large mammals in a warm incubator or cage with a warm heat pad fitted inside.
Tiny mammals such as mice or shrews can escape so need to be in a secure box or vivarium tank inside an incubator or on a heat pad.
Use a small piece of wool blanket on top of soft towels for bedding.
If the eyes are shut use a plastic front to the incubator to make sure it retains the heat.
Cover the opening of a cage with a heavy towel or cloth to retain the heat. 
A soft toy can be added as a surrogate mother.
Do not attempt to feed until the animal feels warm.

The first feed
First feed should consist of warm Lectade or similar tissue fluid replacement drink. 
This is given diluted as per directions on the packet and fed via a 1ml syringe with a teat or micropipette or very fine artist's paintbrush to very small mammals.
If you have nothing else, use a small piece of link-free cotton cloth that has been sterilised in  boiling water then cooled before use.
Always use boiled water that has been left to cool down and sterilized teats and syringes.
Subsequent feeds should consist of the appropriate milk feed for the type of animal, warmed to blood heat. Feed very slowly and carefully.
Make a record of the times of feeds and amounts taken,  remembering to record “Lectade given for first feed” rather than the appropriate milk feed.
If very young they should be fed 2 hourly, if furry but still blind 2½ -3 hourly.
Mammals with eyes shut will have to be fed up until midnight and then from 6am the following morning.
When caring and feeding for these little creatures throughout the day and into the evening, special attention should be paid to;-
Feed and toilet at regular intervals: 2 hourly initially, moving to longer intervals as dictated by the patients. 
When they are  unwilling to wake up and feed, extend the gap between feeds by ½ hour.
Always use a previously sterilised 1ml syringe and teat, (squirrels, rabbits, hogs)  or
baby bottle and large teat (fox cubs, badgers and fawns) or
1ml syringe and cannula/ micro pastette/ fine paintbrush (mice, dormice and other tiny babies)


When an orphan is given a milk formula it may react badly and become bloated. Infuse about 1 tablespoon of fresh fennel or a fennel tea bag in half a pint of

almost boiling water.  Allow to cool and store in a screw top bottle in the fridge.  Give a small amount just before each milk feed for at least 24 hours.
The infusion will keep for 48 hrs if refrigerated.

Always use a soft piece of facial tissue dampened with saliva.
The urinogenital area should be very lightly stroked or tickled and the movement continued until all urination and defecation has ceased.
They do not always defecate but they should pass water every time they are toileted.
Do remember to close the incubator’s front panel when feeding; the temperature inside soon drops and babies get cold quickly.
Do be patient when feeding these helpless babies.
Concentrate on the job in hand, watch their mouths carefully and stop feeding immediately if they stop sucking.
If they choke, milk will go into their lungs and they may become sick and die.
Use clean woollen gloves when feeding bald babies, their temperature drops quickly if your hands are cold. Ideally, they should be fed just
above a warm heatpad or hot water bottle, to maintain their body temperature.
Concentrate on holding them safely, e.g. Baby rabbits or mice can jump out of your hands in an instant.
If the milk is already made up, give the container a good shake before every feed as it can settle and the last feed is a thick sludgy mix.
Before you remove a baby from an incubator for a feed, make sure you have got everything you need for that feed ready prepared and within easy reach;
  i.e.. Feed chart, feeding utensils, woolly glove, facial tissues and warmed milk feed.

Sterilizing equipment
To sterilise feeding utensils successfully they should be kept in pots filled with sterilising solution to cover the contents.
There should be one clean feeding utensil in the pot for each baby.
After use they must be taken apart and thoroughly washed in hot soapy water, rinsed and placed back into the sterilising pot.
Do not put the small teats or cannulas loose in the sink, they disappear down the plug hole.
Do remember to fill in a feeding chart for every feed; you need to know how much they eat and if they produced urine and faeces. 
If they do not urinate before or after each feed this is serious, and can cause their death

Which milk feed for which baby?

Baby badgers

These are fed Esbilac milk, mixed 1 part Esbilac powder to 2 parts warm boiled water.
Use a sterilised syringe and tiny teat for newborns, a human baby bottle and teat for older cubs.
They can be weaned on mashed puppy food with a splash of Esbilac milk, mashed banana, unsweetened apple puree, finely shredded chicks and earthworms.
Later they can have chopped chicks with beaks and legs removed, worms, mealworms, beetles and crickets and whole native soft fruits.
 For a full description go to :   Feeding Badgers


          The Hazel Dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius) is easily identified by its sandy/ginger coat, long furry tail and prominent black eyes.
          It lives in trees and is nocturnal so is rarely found by cats although individual nest are sometimes disturbed by gardeners.
          For a full description of  how to help go to: Dormouse


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 they are providing treatment and have the aim of eventually returning them to the wild.


Bats, even when babies, are very adept at escaping through small gaps so a secure, tightly lidded container 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 will provide extra warmth.
Line the base with folded newspaper and provide a low, heavy container full of very wet, crumpled kitchen paper.
This will provide a safe source of drinking water for the bat and humidity for the container. Make sure water is always provided.

Examining a casualty

Note the weight and find out which species of bat it is.
Gently extend the wing membranes and check for broken bones and tears or holes in the wings.
Is the bat inert and cold?
Put in a secure container,  place on a heat pad or a hot water bottle covered by a thick towel, to warm up gradually.
Check every 10 minutes and when warm and becoming more lively, give rehydration fluid on a tiny artist's paintbrush , micropipette
or cotton wool bud.  Touch it to the mouth and the bat should eagerly lick up the fluid.
If not eager to drink, leave to warm up for a little longer and try again.

Range of weights for some species
Young   1-2g      Adult 2-4g
Long Eared
Young   2-4g      Adult 5-12g
Young 3-5g      Adult 5-15g
Young 10 - 23g   Adult 25-35g
Young  10 - 15g   Adult 18-35g
Greater Horseshoe
Young 10 - 25g   Adult 25-35g

For rearing details go to: Rearing young bats



These are fed Lam lac by baby's bottle.  After a few days, the milk can be offered in a bowl and the fawn encouraged to lap.
They should also have access from the beginning to fresh growing turf with soil, new grass and leaves, yellow flowers, rose and young briar leaves.
For a detailed description of feeding orphaned deer go to Fawn rearing

Fox cubs

If they are really tiny and still have dark fur, give Liquid Esbilac or mix 1 part Esbilac powder to 2 parts warm, boiled water. 
When they start to get their brown fur change to Cimicat milk replacement formula. 
Mix 1 part cimicat powder to 3 parts warm boiled water and feed with a sterilised baby bottle and large teat.
Fox cubs are weaned on mashed puppy food with cimicat  milk poured over it, plus chopped chicks without beaks and legs.
For a full description go to:  Feeding fox cubs

Hares / Leverets

For full details go to Rearing leverets


For full details go to Rearing hoglets

For information on late babies go to Autumn hedgehogs

A really excellent site is the Welsh Hedgehog Hospital. Have a look at their rearing advice, complete with photos. I can't give you
a link, unfortunately, as it doesn't always work but if you type the whole name into your browser it should find it.


For full details go to Rearing Rabbits


These are given “squirrel mix” which has to be measured and mixed daily, to feed them use a 1ml sterilised syringe and small teat.
They are weaned on brown bread, rabbit mix, native nuts (hazel, chestnut, walnut) and chopped apple. NO peanuts!

For full details on rearing go to Rearing Squirrels

Shrews & voles

Find out which species you actually have as their diets are very different. 
If their eyes are shut they need feeding 2 hourly with esbilac milk;
Mix 1 part Esbilac powder to 2 parts boiled water. Feed using a clean micro pipette or fine artist’s brush.
Toilet well after every feed
Once they become more active, offer the appropriate solid foods. 
For insectivores, try chopped maggots/mealworms, small earthworms and sluis or other insectivorous food.
Later they can have live maggots and mealworms.

Vegetarian species can be offered freshly picked grass stems, fruit and a variety of small seeds.

Wood mice

If their eyes are shut they need feeding 2 hourly with esbilac milk.
Mix 1 part esbilac powder to 2 parts boiled water.  Feed with a clean micro pipette or fine artist’s brush.

Babies are very wriggly and you may have to resort to letting them lick milk from your hand a drop at a time.
They do get rather sticky and will need wiping over with warm damp tissue and gently patting dry.
They are weaned on brown bread, apple, various small grains and seeds.
All animals in the process of being weaned need a small shallow bowl of water in their cage.
Mice need a small shallow lid holding a crumpled tissue soaked in water; it prevents them getting too wet or drowning.

           baby woodmouse

 Baby wood mouse

Recipes for milk feeds

Esbilac milk

1 x measure Esbilac powder
2 x measure hot water (previously boiled and allowed to cool slightly)
Put powder into a clean sterilised jug, gradually add hot water, whisking continuously.
Strain through a sieve into another clean and sterilised jug.
Store in a clean, previously sterilised container with a label giving the contents and the date made.
Place in the fridge


1 x measure cimicat powder
3 x measures hot water (previously boiled and allowed to cool slightly)
Mix powder and water together and store exactly as for esbilac.

Squirrel mix

1 x 15ml measure dried goats milk
1 x tsp Esbilac
2 x tsp baby rice
¼ pt x warm water (previously boiled)
Whisk this altogether in a clean sterilised jug and mix until all lumps have gone.
Store in a sterilised container, labeled with contents and date made, in the fridge.

Powdered goats milk

1 x 15ml measure dried goats milk powder
¼ pt warm water (previously boiled and cooled)
Mix thoroughly in a clean sterilised jug, continue whisking until all the lumps have disappeared.
Store in the fridge in a clean sterilised container, labeled with contents and date made.

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