Manual for handrearing a kangaroo or wallaby

Buy the book Macropod Husbandry, Healthcare & Medicinals, from Lynda Staker. She is an expert on kangaroos and wallaby's and has written a comprehensive manual. The chapters about handrearing are more that 200 pages long, and contains everything you need to know about everything.

Wombaroo and Biolac kangaroo milk is often stopped and seized by European customs. This means we can not get this kangaroo milk. It is important that a milk replacer for kangaroos and wallabies contains as little lactose as possible. However, it should contain another kind of carbohydrate called maltodextrin.

The nutrition expert at Blijdorp - a famous Dutch zoo - provided us with a recipe for kangaroo milk. From there, we worked with Blijdorp and Australian nutrition experts to develop our own milk replacer, which resembles Wombaroo 0,7 quite nicely.  We offer wallaby and kangaroo milk, teats and other products in our webshop.

This manual is regularly updated with new tips and infomation.
Wallabies and kangaroos should be given about 7% of their body weight in milk each day. So, if your young wallaby weighs 400 grams, you should feed it 28 ml of milk a day, divided into multiple portions. For example, 4 portions of 7 ml. More information in the feeding schedule, below.

For more exact information about amounts to feed, see the growth and feeding chart for Bennett Wallaby's.

If you have any questions, please contact me via the contact form at the bottom of this page.

Feeding supplies

FoxValley 30/50 low lactose milk replacer

Fox Valley 30/50 is a milk replacer that contains very little lactose and a lot of fat. As kangaroos and wallabies cannot tolerate much lactose, this makes Fox Valley 30/50 the ideal basis for the milk.

Maltodextrin

In stead of lactose, which is common in milk for most euterian animals, kangaroos use a different carbohydrate in their mother’s milk. This is a very complex galactose-chain which cannot be exactly reproduced. As a replacement, we use Maltodextrin. Maltodextrin is easy to digest for young kangaroos. Moreover, it has a low osmotic gradient, preventing diarrhea and dehydration.
The maltodextrin is added to the low lactose milk (see recipe).

Col-o-Roo Colostrum

Colostrum (also known as beestings or first milk) is essential to the health of a young kangaroo. Wombaroo Impact is often used in Australia. In Europe we use Col-o-Roo colostrum for kangaroos. Colostrum stimulates a healty tymus and helps the immune system.

Electrolyte solution

Electrolytes are commonly found in mother’s milk for kangaroos, expecially so with hairless joeys. Electrolyte powder can be bought at the pharmacy. There is also an electrolyte powder especially for animals, called Rehydration.

Following the instructions on the package, mix the electrolytes with water. To start, only give the animal electrolytes for the first 24 hours. Later, you can mix the milk with electrolyte-solution in stead of water.

Teats

€ 2,75 stuk
€ 2,50 per stuk bij aankoop van minimaal 5
Speen MTM
Kangaroos have very long nipples. Wombaroo has specially designed teats which mimic this. These Wombaroo teats are available in our webshop.

All these supplies are seperately available in the webshop, but can also be bought in a handy Starterkit for 49 euro.

Send me an email for more information. At the bottom of this page is a contact form.

Recipe for kangaroo and wallaby milk with Fox Valley and Maltodextrin

The average contents of kangaroo mothers milk is as follows:
solids: 13.9% This percentage rises slowly after week 18 to about 35% in week 40.
proteïnes: 28.8%
fat: 33.1%
carbohydrates: 32.4%

After consulting nutrition experts at Blijdorp, Lynda Staker and Wombaroo nutritionist and after many literature studies, we have found an ideal recipe:
Take a (powder) milk replacer without lactose and with a low carbohydrate content. Fox Valley 30/50 fits this description. Add maltodextrin. This is also added to Wombaroo milk and is a type of carbohydrate that is easy to digest.

The best recipe for kangaroos still in their mothers’ pouch is 100 grams of Fox Valley 30/50 + 50 grams of maltodextrin + Col-o-Roo  Colostrum.
This will produce a milk replacer with:
20% proteïnes,
33% fat,
37% carbohydrates

(Adding extra Col-o-Roo Colostrum will increase the protein percentage, and lower the fat and carbohydrates.)

The contents of mothers milk changes drastically when the young kangaroo leaves the pouch. At this point, 100 grams of Fox Valley 30/50 + 10 grams of maltodextrin is sufficient.

How to mix the milk:
All Fox Valley recipes work with ‘parts’. One ‘part’ is a scoop. The size is irrelevant. A kitchen scoop will do fine.  

First, mix the Fox Valley powdered milk with the maltodextrin. The feeding schedule below will tell you exactly how much of each you should use.

Then add water or an electrolyte solution. The feeding schedule below will tell you how many scoops (parts) to use.
Scoop up the milk powder and level it off. There should not be a mound on top of the scoop.

It is best to use hot water (about 80 degrees celcius). Slowly mix the water into the milk powder. If you shake or stir too hard, the fat in the milk can start to coagulate, resulting in lumps.

You can also use hot electrolyte solution in stead of water.
Leave the milk to set in the refrigerator (not the freezer) for at least four hours. This way, the milk powder has the chance to properly absorb the water. This makes the milk easier to digest and lessens the chance of diarrhea with young animals. The mixed milk can be kept for 24 hours in the refrigerator. Before you start feeding, you should warm up the milk au-bain-marie until it is at body temperature. You can also use a botle heater for babies. Never use a microwave to heat the milk. The small amounts of milk will quickly boil, ruining the milk.

Add the Col-o-Roo Colostrum to the milk last.
More information on: www.ewildagain.org.

Feeding schedule

Here is a growth and feeding chart for Bennett Wallaby's.

Phase 1:
Closed eyes, no fur.

100 grams Fox Valley 30/50 powdered milk + 50 grams of maltodextrin powder.
(This gives a mixture of 20% proteïnes,33% fat, 37% other carbohydrates)


Mix both powders and put in a clean container for further use.
Mix 1 levelled off scoop of milk powder with 3 scoops of electrolyte solution (if you do not have electrolyte solution, use water).

Feeding 7 - 8 times a day.

Gives a total of about 7% of the body weight, divided into 7 - 8 portions.

Electrolytes (such as Rehydration, Pedialite or ORS) are given to treat diarrhea and dehydration. Kangaroo's mothers milk contains a lot of electrolytes. ORS can be bought at the pharmacy. Mix the electrolyte solution according to the instruction on the package and use this solution to mix into the milk powder (in stead of water).

Feed the animal Col-o-Roo colostrum daily. Use 1 gram per 100 grams of bodyweight per day (or more if you want to increase protein intake). So, for example, if your joey weighs 400 grams, give it 4 grams of Col-o-Roo daily. You can divide this over several portions.

Phase 2:
Eyes are open, ears are free, no fur. Some coloration is possible.

100 grams Fox Valley 30/50 + 50 grams of maltodextrin + electrolytes

(This gives a mixture of 20% proteïnes,33% fat, 37% other carbohydrates)

Gradually increase the thickness of the milk by adding less water. Mix 1 scoop of powder with 2 scoops of electrolyte solution (or use water). Feed about 10% of the bodyweight daily, divided into 6 or more portions (do not stop feeding at night).

Electrolytes (such as Rehydration or ORS) are given to treat diarrhea and dehydration. Mothers milk contains a lot of electrolytes. ORS can be bought at the pharmacy. Mix the electrolyte solution according to the instruction on the package and use this solution to mix into the milk powder (in stead of water).

Feed the animal Col-o-Roo colostrum daily. Use 1 gram per 100 grams of bodyweight per day (or more if you want to increase protein intake). So, for example, if your joey weighs 400 grams, give it 4 grams of Col-o-Roo daily. You can divide this over several portions.

Phase 3:
The young animal is sticking its head out of the pouch.

Start offering the joey dirt and grass with the roots still attached.
Electrolytes are no longer needed (unless it has diarea).


100 grams Fox Valley 30/50 + 50 grams of maltodextrin
Mix both powders and put in a clean container for further use.

(This gives a mixture of 20% proteïnes, 33% fat, 37% other carbohydrates)

Gradually increase the thickness of the milk by adding less water. Mix 2 parts powder with 3 parts water. Feed about 10% of the bodyweight daily, divided into 4 or 5 portions per day.

Feed the animal Col-o-Roo colostrum daily. Use 1 gram per 100 grams of bodyweight per day (or more if you want to increase protein intake). So, for example, if your joey weighs 400 grams, give it 4 grams of Col-o-Roo daily. You can divide this over several portions.

Change to Phase 4:
In the last three weeks of phase 3, when the joey starts leaving the pouch regularly,  slowly and gradually reduce the amount of maltodextrin. Continue to make a milk mix of 2 parts of powder with 3 parts of water. Feed four times a day.

Phase 4:
Completely furry, regularly leaves the pouch.

Change to a bigger size teat.
100 grams FoxValley 30/50 + 10 grams of maltodextrin
(this gives a mixture of 27% proteïnes, 45% fat, 13% carbohydrates)

Mix 2 parts of the milk powder with 3 parts of water. If desired, you can also mix 3 parts of powder with 4 parts of water, although that will result in a very thick, porridge-like milk.
Feed 3 to 4 times a day, about 10% of the body weight per day.
Continue offering hay and grass (with dirt and roots still attached).

Feed the animal Col-o-Roo colostrum daily. Use 1 gram per 100 grams of bodyweight per day. So, for example, if your joey weighs 2 kg, give it 20 grams of Col-o-Roo daily. You can spread this over several portions.


Phase 5:
Completely out of the pouch.

Kangaroos that are fully out of the pouch still need milk for about 4 to 6 months. Gradually wean the animal. Every two days, cut the amount of milk by 10ml, until you are feeding it 40ml per day. At that point, replace the milk by water. Feed the animal a normal diet consisting of kangaroo-feed, apples without peel (skin), carrots and hay.

Keep a close eye on the weight and development of the kangaroo while you are weaning it. Sometimes the baby kangaroo depends on extra milk for a longer period.

Feeding tips

Make the joey urinate before feeding it. Wet a paper towel with luke warm water. Gently rub the paper over the animals’ genital area. It should immediately urinate or defacate.
Feed the animal while it is in its pouch. This is more natural and less energy consuming for the joey.
Hold the animal in a small towel while feeding. This allows you to clean up any spilled milk immediately, and will keep the pouch clean.

Weighing the animal

You should weigh your young kangaroo regularly, so you can keep track of its’ growth.

SImply placing the animal on a set of scales will not work. In stead, put it inside a pillowcase, and then place it onto the scales. This should make it much easier. Afterwards, weigh the empty pillowcase and subtract the weight from your measurements. This will give you the weight of the animal.

Note the weight of the animal in a diagram or chart and note how much it drank. You can also note other details, such as a description of the feces. This will give you a good overview.

Temperature/ breathing / heart rythm / temperature of the surroundings

Digital thermometer

Young kangaroos are incapable of regulating their body temperature. They are fully dependent on their mother for this.
A young kangaroo without fur requires a temperature inside the pouch of between 31 and 34 degrees celcius. Thin fur allows a temperature of 30 degrees celcius, and a thicker fur allows 28 degrees celcius.

Measure the temperature of the animals surroundings. A digital termomether with and air temperature sensor is ideal. Place the sensor inside the pouch so you can monitor the pouch temperature at any moment.

Body temperature

A normal body temperature for a young kangaroo ranges from 35.5 to 37.0 degrees celcius. Body temperature is most easily measured with a regular thermometer for humans. Coat the tip with some vaseline and insert it carefully into the animals anus. This is the only way to accurately measure the kangaroo’s temperature.

Breath

A normal rythm of breathing for a kangaroo is between 20 and 40 breaths per minute. Smaller breeds have a faster rythm.

Heart rythm

An adult, big kangaroo (m. Rufa) in rest has a heart rythm of 40 beats per minute. Smaller breeds and young animals have a heartbeat of 70 to 200 beats per minute.

Surrogate pouch for young kangaroos

Young kangaroos can experience a great deal of stress if they are not kept inside a pouch. Moreover, they will lose body heat and precious energy quickly if they are allowed to walk around too early.
Young kangaroos prefer to sit in a hanging surrogate pouch with their hind legs folded over their head.

A surrogate pouch is best made from natural materials. An old t-shirt can be used for the inner lining. A flannel pillowcase is often used. However, this material can begin to pill (form small balls of fuzz), which can get in the animals nose and restrict its breathing.

The best material for the inner lining is a t-shirt. Sew the openings for arms and head shut. A wool sweater placed over the shirt (on the outside) provides warmth and isolation. Outside of the sweater, you can place an electric heatpad, hot water bottle or Snugglesafe heatpad. Finally, place the whole bundle inside a bag or backpack made of a material that allows air flow.

Beating heart

A Snuggle Pet beating heart is also a useful addition to your surrogate pouch. This little device produces a tactile heartbeat much like the one in the mothers pouch, calming the young kangaroo.


Electric footwarmer

Another useful solution is an electric footwarmer bag, with a pillowcase inside. Monitor the temperature in the puch constantly. An elctric footwarmer will usually have multiple settings. Try to keep the temperature at 28 to 34 degrees celcius, depending on the amount of fur the animal has. If the animal is very small, and has a lot of room in the surrogate pouch, you can fill the excess room with a towel. Too much room in the pouch will result in loss of warmth.

The animal should not be standing in the pouch, but lie in it in a rolled up position, with its hind feet above its head.

Hang the surrogate pouch in a quiet place and leave the animal in peace in between feeds. Especially at first, kangaroos are easily stressed out.

Check the inner lining of the pouch regularly. The animals fragile toes and fingers can easily become tangled in loose threads. This will lessen blood circulation and could lead to the loss of a finger or toe. The animal could also try to eat the fluffy lining, leading to bowel problems.

Make sure you have multiple clean t-shirts for the inner lining. Change them at least once a day and wash them at a minimum of 60 degrees celcius.

When the animal is old enough to leave the pouch, place the pouch in a (dog)bench or other enclosure, allowing the joey to safely leave and return to the pouch.

Carrying your kangaroo

Many people like to carry their young kangaroo around. This can be a very pleasant experience for the animal. In effect, you become a surrogate mother, with your warmth, heart beat and movement setting the animal at ease.

The best way to do this, is to make a surrogate pouch from a sleeveless shirt. You wear this under a wide sweater or buttoned shirt, allowing the animal to peek out through your collar. See the image below.

Skin care

Very young kangaroos with very little or no fur can often develop a dry skin. In nature, the humidity in the mothers pouch is combined with a low percentage of oxygen. The skin and fur of the mother also contains a substance protecting the joey’s skin.

When hand-rearing kangaroos, you should regularly apply skin-cream to the animal. Preferably a type of skin cream without perfumes or additives. Baby oil can also be used, but a cream is better.

A dry skin can also be a sign of dehydration. Using an electrolyte solution or an intravenous drip (get this at the vet), give the animal extra fluids. Extremely dry skin can lead to clotting of the skin around the tail or toes. This could lead to loss of blood circulation, and the clots should be partly removed.

Changing to solid food / weaning

As soon as the young kangaroo is getting somewhat furry and sticks its head out of the pouch regularly, you can start offering it grass. A joey in its mother’s pouch wil normally eat grass when its mother bends over to eat grass herself.

Feed the animal grass with the roots and some dirt still attached. Preferably taken from a field where adult kangaroos live. It will contain important substances for the animals immune system, as well as special bacteria for its stomach and intestines. However, it is important to make sure the adult kangaroos are healthy and do not have worms.

At a later stage, you can offer the young animal hay and willow twigs, as well as small pieces of carrot and apple. It is best to first peel apples, as small parts of the skin may end up between the animal’s teeth, leading to dental infections.

Water

Like any animal, young kangaroos need water. At first, the water in the milk will be sufficient. But as soon as they regularly come out of the pouch, you should offer clean tapwater in a container. Make sure to refresh the water regularly.


Bringing the animal outside

As long as the young kangaroo does not travel outside of the pouch regularly, it is best to keep it inside. This will give it a stable temperature and provide quiet surroundings. Changes in the environment can be stressful for the animal.

As soon as the joey regularly sticks its head out of the pouch, it is old enough for short trips outside. Sunlight is good, but make sue the animal doesn’t get sunburned. Carry the joey close to your body.

As soon as the joey is old enough to be outside of the pouch continually, you can start to accustom it to the outside world. Start on a bright day with calm, pleasant weather. Just allow it to move around on a fenced in patch of grass, and do not leave the animal alone. It has to get used to the sights and sounds, and may easily panic. Start with a short timespan, and gradually build to longer times outside. In time, you can leave it outside during the day, and bring it inside at night. If that goes well, you can eventually leave the animal outside during the night, provided the weather is pleasant enough.


The original Blijdorp Zoo recipe

developed by J. Nijboer, nutrition expert at Blijdorp

Ingredients:
Whipped Cream 35% (from the supermarket, pay attention to the fat percentage!)
Protifar (proteine diet food, from the pharmacy)
Calcium monophosphate (from calcium tablets)
Calcium carbonate (calcium tablets from the pharmacy)
Galactose (from our webshop)

For 200 ml kangaroo milk:

    19 g protifar
    1,2 g calciummonofosfaat
    1 g calciumcarbonaat
    4,4 g galactose

To this, add:

    40 g whipped cream with 35% fat (make sure to get the right fat percentage!)
    136 g water

The major problem with this recipe is the lack of vitamines and minerals. The zoo has raised multiple young kangaroos on this recipe, although those were older, furred animals. Blijdorp has since changed to Fox Valley 30/50 and galactose. At least two kangaroos have been raised on that recipe.


Further reading

Below, we have collected a number of scientific articles on kangaroo milk. Most require some knowlegde of nutrients. All these articles emphasise that marsupial milk is very different from that of other mammals, changes composition often and contains almost no lactose.

Changes in milk composition of Tammar Wallaby (opent een pdf-document)

Milk carbohydrates of marsupials (opent een pdf-document)

Nutrition of pouch young marsupials (opent een pdf-document)

Milkbook van Wombaroo (opent een pdf-document)

end of manual for handrearing kangaroo joey

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