British Wildlife Helpline
Back to Index

Hand Rearing young Leverets

Susan McClure
Orphaned leverets can be very difficult to rear. They are very timid and highly strung so should be kept as quiet as possible.
They won’t feed well if surrounded by noise and movement.
Usually there are 2 – 4 to a litter, born above ground, fully furred and with eyes open.
To avoid the whole litter being lost to predators, they separate soon after birth to an individual resting place called a form.
The mother hare usually feeds them morning and evening and calls to them as she arrives.
In the wild, leverets remain still when under threat and only bolt at the last minute.
This instinct is present from a very young age and can cause problems with feeding until they adjust to new surroundings.
If possible, wear the same top and the same towel for your lap without washing them.
After a few days the leveret/s will have settled and you can use fresh towels etc.
There is no need to toilet leverets but you will need to mark them so you can identify individuals for your records.
Use a small blob of coloured tippex on the fur between the ears or food colouring in the inner ear.
Keep them well away from domestic noises and family pets, especially cats & dogs.
They are a danger to juvenile hares, so once in the wild they must not associate safely with the sound or smell of these animals.
Ideally, they should have the same foster mum throughout.

Housing

 Use a fairly big cage, say 4ft x 2 ft, lined with newspaper and hay.
Keep in a quiet room in the house and let the leverets get used to their new surroundings for about 5 days before moving the cage into a shed or outbuilding.
Do remember to keep check of the temperature as wooden buildings can get very hot or very cold.
With 2 or more leverets, use a dab of liquid food colouring on the inner ear to identify them.
After their morning feed, put them outside in a small run or grassed area so they can graze.
An upturned open-fronted wooden box (no base) should be provided for shelter during the day, then they can be returned to the indoor cage after the evening feed.
Provide a bark-covered log or tree stump for gnawing and a large piece of weathered stone or brick for them to lick for their mineral content.

Weighing

This is essential, as it will indicate if they are receiving sufficient milk. At first, weigh daily at the same time of day.
Once they have settled into a feeding pattern, weigh every two days.
They may lose a few grams initially but should soon settle into a daily weight gain of 5 – 20 grams.
When changing a feeding pattern, weigh them daily to see if they are ready for the change. A
s the amount of feed taken increases their weight might well remain static for a day or so before it begins to increase.
If the leverets lose weight for 2 days running, you will need to re-introduce the dropped feed for 2-3 days before trying to change again.

Feeding

Esbilac milk substitute works well with leverets. Give in a 1 ml syringe with the smallest Catac teat.
You can increase the size of the syringe gradually as they require more feed, as long as you remember to press the plunger more slowly with the larger sizes.
For the first 10 days give 1 ml a day of warm Avipro micro-encapsulated water-soluble probiotic to help the gut to digest the feed properly.
A full, round but not taut tummy and steady weight gain is a good indication that the leveret is getting the right amount of food.
A room free from disturbance and noise is essential.

Feeding intervals

For the first 3 – 5 days feed at 8am, 2pm and 8pm. Mix up enough Esbilac for the day.
Following the quantity instructions on the tin, mix the Esbilac to a paste with warm boiled water. Not hot or cold, it will make it curdle.
When smooth, add the remaining amount of cold water. Whisk well and store in the fridge in a sealed clean container.
Warm up just the amount needed for a feed and throw away any that’s left over.
Try to keep the milk at a constant temperature with a baby bottle warmer or similar.
Always check the temperature before feeding.
Do not re-heat the milk; use within 24 hours of mixing and keep the opened tin of Esbilac in the fridge.

Here is an example of one of a pair of leverets that have just been released.
His sibling was a little lower in weight and food intake; they were 3-5 days old.
Days1-3
Amount:15-25ml over 3 feeds, + 1 ml Avipro.  Weight103g. Gain 0
Days 4-6
Amount: 25-40ml over 2 feeds AM/PM + Avipro Weight158g Gain 55g
Days 7-10
Amount 40-55ml, 2 feeds AM / PM + Avipro. Weight 248g. Gain 90g
Days11-15
Amount 55-65ml over AM/PM feeds. Outside run during day. Caged overnight. Weight 331g. Gain 91g
Days16-18
Amount 55-65ml over am/pm feeds outside run during day, cage overnight. Weight 423g. Gain 92g
Days19-22
Amount 65-90ml over 2 feeds. Dry & fresh grasses. Outside run in day, cage overnight. Weight 514g. Gain 52g
Days21-22
Amount 65-90ml over 2 feeds. Dry & fresh grasses. Outside run in day, cage overnight. Weight 566g. Gain 52g
Days 23-24
Amount 55ml in 1 feed am. Dry/fresh grasses etc.Weight 524g. Gain42g
Days 25-26
Amount 85ml in 1 feed pm. Dry/fresh grasses etc. Weight 627g. Gain 96g
Days 27-28
Amount 90ml in 1 feed pm. Dry/fresh grasses etc.Weight 680g. Gain 60g
Days28-29
Amount 70ml in 1 feed pm. Dry/fresh grasses etc. Weight 714g. Gain 34g
Accident
After the pm feed this leveret inhaled some milk. It left him distressed and feeling unwell. I took him to the vet first thing next day.
The vet said his lungs sounded clear but as a precaution gave an injection of Rimadyl and Baytril and prescribed a course of antibiotics:
Once daily for 5 days: 0.4 Baytril syringe fed; 2 drops Metacam in the mouth.
Days 31-32
Amount 40ml in 1 pm feed lapping + dried & fresh grasses etc.Weight 765g Gain 51g
Progress Report
The leveret was quite large now and prone to guzzling. I felt it wise to encourage lapping from a shallow dish while sitting on my lap.
 They were moved to an outside hutch and run. Secured one of the hutch doors open so leverets have access at all times.
Begin weaning
Days 33-34
Amount 30 ml in pm, lapping. Dried & fresh grasses. Lots of dandelion leaves. Weight 902g. Gain 137g
Days 35-36
Amount 20 ml in pm, lapping. Dried & fresh grasses. Lots of dandelion  leaves. Weight 910g. Gain 8g
Days 37-38
Amount 10 ml in pm, lapping. Dried & fresh grasses. Lots of dandelion leaves. Weight 930g. Gain 20g
Days 39-40
Amount: No milk feed. Dried & fresh grasses. Lots of dandelion leaves. Weight 945g. Gain15g
Days 41-44
As aboveWeight 997g Amount 52g
Days 45-46 amounts As above. Weight 1050g. Gain 53g
Days 47-48. Amount As above. Weight 1120g. Gain 70g
Days 49-50. Amount As above. Weight 1140g. Gain 20g
Release
After obtaining permission, the leverets were released in good hare habitat at the Tring nature reserve in Herts.
To transport the hares, use a wire mesh pet carrier with a lining of hay.
Do not use a pet carrier that makes a dark, enclosed space, it will frighten them.

Foodstuffs and Suppliers Esbilac: Perky Petfoods 01522 696467
Alfalfa Nibbles: Petlife International Ltd 01284 761131
Excel natural Dried Grass: Burgess Supafeeds 0800 413969
Fresh food: Dandelion leaves, flowers, roots, clover leaves and flowers, parsley. Enclosed grassy area for grazing
Occasional treats: very occasional small amounts only, corn on the cob, kale.
Information courtesy of Susan McClure July 2003 Harebells foster home/rehab centre. 01296 662989
HYPERLINK "mailto:susan@harebells.co.uk"
susan@harebells.co.uk

Top of page
Back to index