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Rabbit Breeding Tips

(courtesy of All-Star Rabbits)

Breeding Plan-Discuss This With Your Parents!

  • Determine the best time to start your breeding program!
  • Be sure your rabbits are healthy
  • Choose the rabbits you wish to breed

When To Breed

  • Larger rabbits need more time for their bodies to be able to produce young.
  • Medium rabbits are usually mature enough to breed when they’re about 9 to 12 months old.
  • Smaller rabbits should be mature by four months, and they should be able to breed at that age.

Health Check And Signs That A Doe Is Ready For Breeding

  • It’s important to check each rabbit before breeding to be sure that the rabbit is healthy and in good physical condition.  The weight should be appropriate for the sex and breed of your rabbit.  Never breed your rabbit if it shows signs of a sickness or illness.
  • If a doe is ready to breed, they will begin to rub their chin on their food dish to mark their territory.

Selecting Breed Pairs

  • You should know as much as possible about the rabbit you are choosing to breed. 
  • It is more likely to pass on good traits with two healthy and qualified rabbits.
  • Check the pedigree background for the rabbit’s strong points; such as strong shoulder, good body, and excellent type.

Mating Process

  • Because does are not as willing to breed and they are very territorial, you always bring the doe to the male’s cage.

    If the doe does not show interest in mating after ten minutes, you should take her out of the cage and try again in a couple days. 

After Mating

  • Always be sure to put the doe back to her cage where she is going to kindle.
  • After 14 days into the pregnancy, you can use a stethoscope to listen for the heartbeats.
  • If your doe is pregnant, you can expect the babies to be born in 28 to 32 days.
  • Palpating can be done 10 days after mating in her cage to make it less stressful.
  • At 3 weeks or more you may see an increase in the size of your doe’s belly.

Care Of Pregnant Doe

  • Make sure the doe has plenty of fresh water and food in a clean house.
  • Do not over feed your doe during the early stages of pregnancy.

Nest Box

  • Nest boxes can be made in a variety of sizes and types.
  • Nest boxes can be made of wood, wire, or metal.
  • Suggested sizes of the nest boxes are:

        Small breeds – 14” long, 8” wide, 7” high
        Med. breeds – 18” long, 10” wide, 8”high
        Lg. breeds – 20” long, 12” wide, 10” high  

  • Hay and straw is most often used for the nesting in the nest box.
  • You can use less bedding in the summer.
  • You need to use more hay and shavings during the cold winter months.

Pre Kindling Behavior

  • Before kindling, the doe will prepare a nest.
  • Some does will carry a mouthful of hay around to prepare for her new litter.
  • She may also pull fur form her chest and belly for nesting materials and to prepare for nursing.
  • Every rabbit is different in the way she prepares to kindle her kits.

Checking The New Litter

  • It is important to check the young when they are born.
  • It’s important to keep the area where the kits are quiet.
  • A nervous doe may protect her young by jumping in the nest box.
  • Kits are born without fur and with their eyes closed.
  • Eyes should open within 10-14 days.

Fostering Kits

  • When you have larger litters some of the kits are unable to get the amount of food they need.
  • To prepare for this, breeders breed more than one doe to kindle at the same time.
  • If a doe has an unusually large litter, they can move some kits to the smaller litter, and this is called fostering.
  • Fostering should be done in the morning.

Newborn Care And Checking The Litter

  • Most doe’s only feed once every 24 hours.
  • You will want to continue to check your newborn’s daily.
  • Be sure that all kits stay with the warmth of the other kits.
  • As the kits begin to grow, you need to check to be sure that their belly’s are round.
  • Baby rabbits begin to grow their fur within a few days, and by 2 weeks they are completely furred.

Hand Feeding A Rabbit

  • Sometimes a doe dies after her kits are born. If this happens you may wish to try to feed and care for the babies until they can care for themselves.
  • The formula for hand fed babies is:

1 pint skim milk
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons Karo syrup
1 tablespoon bonemeal (available in garden supply centers)

  • Use an eyedropper to feed the kits twice a day.
  • You must also be sure that the kits urinate regularly.
  • To do this, gently rub their genitals with a cotton ball after they’re fed.  Continue this procedure until they’re 14 days old.

 Eye Problems

  • Rabbits eyes open between 10 and 14 days
  • Sometimes help is needed to open a rabbits eyes
  • To do this, take your fingers and gently separate the eyelids, and then wash away any crusty materials.

Handling Kits

  •  At three weeks of age, kits begin to come out of the nest box.  No need to worry! They can now maneuver in and out of the box.
  • Kits begin to eats pellets and drink water at three weeks of age, even though they are still nursing from their mother.
  • More food and water should now be available to the kits. 
  • This is an excellent time to begin to handle the young.  They may be jumpy at first, but the more you hold them the calmer they will be.

Sexing The Litter

  • Kits need to be separated by sex around 6-8 weeks.
  • Making this distinction is called sexing and may call for an experienced 4H member or a breeder’s assistance
  • Sexing the litter Procedure:

1.) One hand restrains the rabbits head.
2.) Place your finger and second fingers of the other hand around the base of the tail.  Use your thumb to press down gently in front of the sexual organ.
3.) If a rabbit is a doe, you will see a slit like opening.  This opening will begin near your thumb and slope down towards the rabbit’s tail.
4.) If the rabbit is a buck, the opening will look rounded and protrude slightly.

Good Bye Nest Box

  • When rabbits are self sufficient, eating pellets, and drinking water, it is time to remove the nest box.
  • Leaving it in longer will allow them to use it as a litter box.

Weaning Bucks And Does

  • Weaning is changing the way a kit is nourished form nursing to eating other food.
  • Young are separated from their mother, and no longer nurse from her.
  • This is done in 6 to 8 weeks from birth.
  • A doe’s body needs to rest because producing milk is work for a rabbit’s body.  The doe needs a break before she can raise another litter.
  • Littermates will mature as they approach 8 weeks of age.
  • Rabbits have mature instincts about their territory and breeding.
  • Rabbits can mate and produce litters before they are full grown. (This would be very stressful on a doe if she is young.)

Tattooing

  • Tattooing is done at weaning.
  • It is done for identification purposes, and purebreds should be tattooed.

Pedigrees

  • All purebred rabbits should have pedigree papers showing that they are pure bred.
  • Try to complete your pedigrees as part of the overall weaning process.