How to breed rabbits

Learning how to breed rabbits can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be! There are many steps you can take to be successful in rabbit breeding. These include choosing the right rabbits, ensuring they are correctly prepared to breed, and having the right feeding regime. Preparing a nest box well and providing the right care when the kits are born while having a plan in case something goes wrong will increase the chances of kit survival.

Choosing the right rabbits - how to breed rabbits

Choosing the Right Rabbits

Finding the right rabbits to breed is a crucial step when learning how to breed rabbits. You will want rabbits that are going to meet your goals. This could mean meat production, hides/pelts, showing, pets, etc. 

When you have decided what your rabbitry goals are, your best interest will be finding someone already raising rabbits with the same goals. That way, you can be a step ahead and have a good direction to work towards. It is also important that the rabbitry you purchase from has healthy rabbits. 

Before acquiring your rabbits you should have a rough plan for future breedings. If you’re breeding for meat production you may not worry much about the rabbits being purebred or the same breed. But, you should keep in mind that your buck should not be significantly bigger than your doe. This could result in difficulties during birth.

Ensuring the rabbits are ready to breed

Ensuring the Rabbits are Ready to Breed

The next step when learning how to breed rabbits is making sure the rabbits are ready to breed and reproduce.

Age and Size

How old does a rabbit have to be to breed?” is a common question. The answer depends on the breed size of the rabbit. Large rabbits should not be bred until later because they are still growing into their adult (senior) weight). 

The Standard of Perfection (SOP) lists the senior weight for each breed of rabbit. It is not recommended to breed before this weight because the rabbits are still maturing. 

Breeding age will vary depending on the breed of rabbit you are raising. It is important to familiarize yourself with the breed or breeds that fill your rabbitry.

Conditioning

Once your rabbits are the correct size, the next step is verifying conditioning. Conditioning refers to the amount of flesh covering on the rabbit’s bones. For example, a skinny rabbit, where you can clearly feel the spine, has poor conditioning. You want to be able to feel the spine, but it should not be protruding. If you can not feel the spine, the rabbit is overweight.

Rabbits typically lose some conditioning while pregnant, because they are using their nutrition for growing kits. So, it is crucial that they are not bred while in poor condition. Each rabbit will have a different recovery period after they give birth. How often you breed your rabbits can differ quite greatly between each rabbit and rabbitry.

Health

Checking the rabbit’s health is also imperative when learning how to breed rabbits. The rabbit’s eyes should be bright and clear of discharge. Droppings should be normal, with nothing unusual. Activity and behavior should also be typical. 

You should not breed any rabbit you might think could be sick or unhealthy. This would be very stressful on the rabbit’s body.

Bring the doe to the buck, how to breed rabbits

How to Breed Rabbits: Bring the DOE to the Buck

Part of rabbit breeding basics is always bringing the doe to the buck. Rabbits can be very territorial, especially does, and they will protect their cage. This can result in fights. 

When you bring the doe to the buck’s cage she is less likely to be territorial in the new space. The buck is normally more interested in breeding than protecting his cage from the doe. 

If either becomes aggressive in the buck’s cage you can try breeding in a neutral area, like an empty cage or a playpen. This will lessen the chance of aggression, but sometimes certain rabbits are just outright aggressive to others. This may be grounds for culling. 

Occasionally certain rabbits are just not fit for our breeding programs. How to know when to cull rabbits, whether soft or hard (selling or butchering), can be difficult. To make your rabbitry as efficient and productive as possible you must make hard decisions to only keep the rabbits that are helping you meet your goals.

Feeding the doe while pregnant and nursing

Feeding the Doe While Pregnant and Nursing

Pregnant does need extra nutrition while they are growing the kits. They should be free-fed a high-quality diet throughout their pregnancy. 

Additionally, you can add block oil sunflower seeds (BOSS) and oats to increase fat content. These extras will also help increase milk production when the doe is nursing. 

When changing a rabbit’s diet in any way you should make the change slowly. Rabbits have delicate digestive systems and sudden changes can easily make them bloat. 

Preparing a nest bow - how to breed rabbits

Preparing the Nest Box

First, you will want to get the right sized nest box. It should be big enough for the doe to move around in. You can buy nest boxes at most farm stores, they are usually made from metal or wood, or you can make your own. 

Metal nest boxes are easier to sanitize which is vital for minimizing possible disease and sickness spread. Wooden boxes can be cleaned too, but metal is most effectively sanitized. 

You will then need nesting materials. Straw and hay are common choices, but straw tends to be better. Straw holds less moisture than hay and sometimes hay encourages the doe to eat the nesting materials. The nest box should be added to the doe’s cage around day 28.

Caring for newborn kits

Caring for the Newborn Kits

Learning how to breed rabbits includes knowing what to do after your rabbit gives birth. It is good to check on pregnant does often when they are close to their due dates, but be careful not to disturb them too much. 

Sometimes first time mothers’ instincts don’t kick in right away and they have trouble knowing how to care for their young. If the kits are born outside of the nest or get cold you will need to have a plan to warm them up. They can not be cold for very long or they will die. There are many ways to warm the kits including skin-to-skin contact, placing them in an open bag in a bowl of warm water, and putting them on a towel on a heating mat. 

Your doe should pull fur to line the inside of the nest. If she has not you will need a substitute to mimic the fur. You can gently pull fur from the does belly. It will pull easily because she just kindled. Other alternatives include saved fur from when a doe pulls more than enough, wool, and small pieces of a blanket.

How to breed rabbits conclusion

Conclusion

There is a lot of information included in learning how to breed rabbits. Choosing the right rabbits, the right time, and setting the doe up for a successful birth with increase the kit’s odds of survival. While your doe is pregnant and as the kits age you will want to keep detailed records. Everbreed allows you to track breed dates, nest box dates, and birth dates while also getting notifications when these actions should take place. Not only that, you can track weights, photos, finances, health reports, and so much more! By keeping accurate, in-depth records, you can better make choices for your rabbitry to encourage efficiency.

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