Echidna milk composition changes significantly as the young ages. Echidna Milk Replacer Late Lactation is specially formulated for older juveniles, when they would normally be deposited in the burrow (greater than 50 days of age). At this stage they are growing spines, and rapidly increasing in body weight. These animals require a high energy (fat) milk to cater for infrequent feeds, and large quantities of protein for growth. Note that age estimation of echidnas based on body length or weight becomes inaccurate after 50 days of age.
Success in hand-rearing furless echidnas greatly improves if they receive Impact Colostrum Supplement within a week of coming in to care. However Impact may also be of benefit to more advanced, spined young with a compromised immune system. Refer to "Directions for Marsupials" under the Impact feeding guidelines.
Making up Milk
To make 100mL of milk: Mix 36g of powder (5 scoops) with 70ml of warm water.
To make 700mL of milk: Mix 250g of powder with 70ml of warm water.
Add half the water to the powder first and mix to a paste. Then add the remaining water and mix thoroughly. Pre-boil the water to ensure that it is sterilised. If the water is too hot it can cause the milk to curdle. If it is too cold then it will be difficult to disperse the powder. Wombaroo contains elevated protein and fat levels, so the milk needs to be well mixed to prevent it from separating out. An electric whisk can be used for mixing larger quantities. Milk can be stored in the fridge for a day or can be frozen for up to two weeks. It is useful to make up milk in larger quantities and store it frozen in small portions (eg ice cube trays), so that the required daily feed volumes can be easily thawed out. Once thawed out, discard any unused milk, and wash feeding utensils thoroughly.
Warm milk to about 30°C and feed from the palm of the hand or a shallow rubber bowl. Thorough washing of hands and wearing of powder-free disposable rubber gloves may be useful to reduce the risk of contamination with micro-organisms. Echidna young suckle vigorously and milk can be consumed up to a rate of 2ml per minute. This rapid intake of milk with a high nutrient content means that young echidna feed infrequently. In the wild, burrow young (>50 days of age) are only suckled by their mother about once every 5 days. Digestion of milk is slow, so the contents of the stomach need to be fully emptied before the next feed. For hand-reared animals we recommend to feed at least 2 days apart. This time frame may be further extended as the animal gets older and well-established. Note that the Wombaroo Feeding guidelines give average daily feed volumes, so multiply this by the number of days between each feed.
If the young is showing signs of dehydration (eg during hot weather), give extra drinks of water between feeds. Echidnas dehydrate rapidly if not maintained under optimum husbandry conditions. In particular, carers often keep echidnas at too high a temperature, which can cause dehydration. It is important to provide housing where temperatures do not exceed 30ºC. Fresh drinking water should always be available once animals become mobile. Consult your veterinarian or specialist wildlife carer for further information about husbandry and feeding of young echidnas.
Once echidnas have emerged from the pouch (skin fold), average growth rate is about 50-120g per week. However this is highly variable between individuals and is dependent on the animal's sex, geographical region and health status. Weigh young regularly (before feeding) to verify weight gains and determine the volume of milk to feed. Overfeeding milk can cause diarrhoea so feed the suggested volumes in our tables.
At around 3-4 months of age start mixing small amounts of Wombaroo Small Carnivore Food into the milk. Slowly increase the amount of solids, while decreasing the amount of milk. During this time the mix should change in consistency from a thin porridge to a thick paste. This will prepare the young for introduction to the adult diet. Echidnas may be fully weaned at around 5-7 months of age. The body weight at this time may range anywhere from 700g to over 2kg.
Introducing Adult Diet
Mix about 9 parts Wombaroo Small Carnivore Food with 1 part of finely crushed termite mound, including some termites. Slowly mix with water to a thick slurry consistency. Echidnas to be released back into the wild should be fed as many termites and ants as possible to prepare them for their natural, wild-type diet.
* Feed volume now depends on quantity of other food eaten.