Kangaroos and Wallabies
For the feeding of joeys up to the emergence stage, refer to the section on Rearing Pouch Young.
As a joey gets older and begins to eat solids, the digestive system changes from a simple system called monogastric, like humans, to one dependent on fermentation carried out by bacteria. The bacteria for this fermentation process need to become established in the young animal’s stomach and hand raised kangaroos may have difficulty in establishing a functional system without contact with their mother or other adult animals. The failure to establish a satisfactory micro-organism colony is probably one explanation for the diarrhea that is commonly seen in orphan joeys at this time.
Joeys will start nibbling at an early age. Encourage them to eat by placing small pieces of native bush in their pouch, eg grevillea, banksias or woolly bush, picked only from safe sources and not from roadside verges where there is the possibility of spraying. Once the joey is showing an interest in solid food, introduce it to adult feed made from equal parts of:
Continue to provide native vegetation, but do not offer green grass, bread, apples etc. until the joey is well established on solid food and is forming adult faecal pellets. Then only supply these foods in moderation. Never offer meat, or any foods containing sugar.
At this stage, provide a bowl of fresh water at all times. Once the joey is eating well and lapping water, the number of daily bottles can be decreased. Ensure that the process is carried out slowly over a period of months and that the joey is maintaining its body weight.
During the weaning period the joey can start to go outside for short periods. Pick a warm, sunny day and stay with the joey. Have its pouch accessible for the first few outings and gradually increase the length of time it spends outside.
The outside yard should have adequate fences at least 1.8m high and be totally dog and fox proof. A frightened joey may ‘take off’ at alarming speed and run head-long into a fence or wall. Wire fences should be made more visible using shadecloth or strips of material. Never chase the joey as this can cause overheating and stress.
It is also very important to remember that many common non-native plants are toxic to wildlife. Azaleas, oleanders and hydrangeas in particular are extremely toxic.
Adult kangaroos have a similar digestive system to horses and can therefore be given the same feed. Some feed stores carry specially made up mixes for kangaroos.
Native vegetation, such as woolly bush, gravillea, banksias and wattle should be provided and kangaroos also enjoy eating the bark from native trees such as wandoo and jarrah. Treats such as apple and bread should be given in moderation and avoid giving too much green grass.
Weaning this species is similiar to weaning kangaroos, except that they mature at a much earlier age. Solid feed (small pieces of apple and peanuts) can be introduced at about three to four months. As they eat more solid feed, the number of bottles can be gradually reduced. Ensure however that they maintain their body weight. Being nocturnal, the midday bottle should be discontinued first. By six months a woylie should be eating a varied adult diet.
A suggested mix for adult woylies is muesli (for human consumption) with cat kibble, peanuts, fresh corn kernels, chopped cheese and cooked chicken, plus a variety of fruit. As they mature they will also eat kangaroo or pony cubes. In the wild, woylies eat an underground fungus and this can be substituted with field mushrooms.
Southern Brown Bandicoot
Bandicoots have a high metabolism and will start eating solids at an early age. As soon as the coat colour changes from a golden colour to the dark brown characteristic of an adult, introduce small amounts of chopped hard boiled egg and grated cheese. Gradually increase the amount and variety of solid feed as the animal matures. The number of milk feeds can be gradually reduced provided the animal maintains its body weight.
Adult bandicoots can be fed a variety of good quality canned dog or cat food, dry cat kibble, cooked chicken (chopped), grated cheese and soft fruits, eg apple, peaches, bananas, grapes. If available, bandicoots thoroughly enjoy mealworms and earthworms.
Common Brushtail Possum
Possums will start eating solid feed about the time they become fully furred. Bananas are good to start with and other fruits in season such as peaches, pears, apples, melon and grapes can be gradually introduced. Rose petals are also a favourite. The number of milk feeds can be gradually reduced provided the animal is eating well and maintaining its body weight. Possums are nocturnal and therefore the midday feed can be discontinued first.
Adult possums should be provided with a variety of fresh fruit. This can be supplemented with peanuts, muesli, corn and grainy bread with honey. As soon as possible introduce native plant blossoms, and young eucalpyt leaves.
As soon as the joey starts to fur, baby fruit gels, especially apple, can be tried by adding them to the bottle. Muesli (for human consumption), rose petals, flowers, eg bottlebrush, and apples can also be offered, but lots of fresh peppermint leaves are critical.
Ringtail possums are more difficult and fastidious than Brushtails to feed in captivity. Their adult diet consists almost entirely of the young new shoots of the peppermint gum. They can be offered a variety of soft sweet fruits, eg banana, melon, peach and grapes.
Pygmy Possum and Honey Possum
Most carers will only ever see furred independent pygmy or honey possums. A recommended basic diet is Wombaroo Lorikeet & Honeyeater Mix made up in accordance with the instructions for lorikeets. Fresh native blossoms should also be provided.
Adult quolls can be fed a mixture of raw chicken drumsticks, cat kibble and mice (defrosted). As these animals are endangered, the Department of Environment and Conservation should be notified.
Small Dasyurids (Phascogales, Dunnarts, Antichinus)
These are mostly nocturnal animals so food should be fresh at night. A basic diet is a balanced meat mix, eg lean beef mince sprinkled with Wombaroo Small Carnivore Mix, plus live insects such as crickets, mealworms cockroaches and moths. Remove any uneaten food each morning.
At all times — once an animal is beginning to wean — fresh, clean water should be made available in safe, appropriate sized containers.
For the feeding of a baby echidna (puggle), refer to the section on Rearing Pouch Young.
At about 500gm body weight, two parts meat mix can be added to seven parts milk formula and offered from a heavy shallow bowl.
By now, faeces should be real pellets. If weight gain is slow, there is usually a problem with the housing temperature. At approx. 800gm body weight, the echidna should be weaned onto adult meat mix and termites. Release can be considered from about 1kg onward if the animal is eating well.
Termites are the natural food of echidnas, however if these are not available in sufficient quantities, a substitute meat mix can be prepared as follows.
This mix can be made up into mince patties (each equivalent to the daily requirement) and frozen. After defrosting, mix the meat mix with water and blend to the consistency of thin porridge.
If termites are collected, make sure that no spraying has taken place in the area. The termites could be carrying a poison which could kill the echidna.