Learning how to breed rabbits can be intimidating, not to mention knowing how to tell if a rabbit mating is successful. This article discusses how to breed rabbits, what to do after breeding, and how to tell if a rabbit mating is successful.
How to Breed Rabbits
There are many details to learn when it comes to breeding rabbits and how to tell if a rabbit mating was successful. Fortunately, we are here to help in your rabbit breeding endeavors. A few key factors will greatly help when you start rabbit breeding.
Preparing the Rabbits
Before you bring your rabbits together to breed, you must make sure they are old enough and their bodies are adequately prepared. One of your first questions may be “How old does a rabbit have to be to breed?”. The answer to this question is somewhat complicated depending on breed, growth rate, and a few other factors. In one of our other Blog articles, we go into depth on how old rabbits have to be to breed.
We also have articles on how to breed rabbits, how often you can breed your rabbits, and rabbit breeding basics. We explore numerous perspectives and factors that can influence your rabbit breeding experience in each article.
If your rabbits are not properly prepared, their chance of a successful mating will be lowered. The rabbits must be in good condition, eating a complete diet, and be of the correct age, so their bodies can adequately withstand reproduction.
Bringing The Rabbits Together
The most important thing to note while breeding rabbits is that you must bring the doe to the buck, or bring both rabbits to a neutral area. Rabbits can be very territorial and bringing the buck to the doe could cause her to become aggressive. The buck could also be distracted by being in a new area and not focus on the doe. If your buck is territorial you might have to bring both rabbits to a neutral area. But, it could take longer for the rabbits to mate because they will be interested in exploring the new space.
Signs to Look For When Rabbits are Mating
Determining whether rabbits have mated can be challenging, as the actual act of mating typically occurs quickly and discreetly. However, there are several signs you can look for to assess if rabbits have successfully mated.
The male rabbit, or buck, initiates the mating process by showing courtship behavior. This behavior includes chasing the female, nudging her, and circling around her. The buck may also emit soft clucking sounds to attract the female.
Once the female, or doe, is receptive to meeting, the buck mounts her from behind. He places his front paws on her sides and holds onto her. This act is relatively quick, often lasting only a few seconds.
During the mounting, the buck will quickly thrust his pelvic region against the doe’s to achieve intromission. Rabbits have a unique reproductive system where the male’s penis remains hidden within a sheath-like structure called the prepuce. The act of copulation involves the buck extending and inserting his penis into the doe’s vagina.
Ejaculation and Fertilization
Once the buck’s penis is inserted, ejaculation occurs. During the act of ejaculation, the buck’s body will tense up and he will “fall off” the doe. Oftentimes, bucks will have multiple fall-offs during one mating session. Rabbits have internal fertilization, meaning the male’s sperm is released into the female’s reproductive tract. The sperm travels up the reproductive system to fertilize the eggs.
After mating, the rabbits may separate, and the buck might exhibit territorial behavior. The doe may groom herself and if the rabbits are left together too long the doe could also become territorial.
What to do After Breeding
Some breeders choose to mate their rabbits multiple times to increase the chances of pregnancy. This could be throughout a couple of hours or over a day. After your rabbits have achieved multiple fall-offs, there are a few things you should do afterward.
Separate the Rabbits
If you do not want to breed the rabbits further, it is crucial to separate the male and female immediately after mating. This prevents territorial behavior and possible injuries. It will also help keep the kits safe when they are born because the close buck presence could cause the doe to eat her kits.
Provide Proper Care
Ensure that both rabbits have access to fresh water, a balanced diet, and a clean living environment. The doe should be in a cage with plenty of space for when the kits are born. It is essential to maintain their health and well-being during this time, especially since the doe is growing the kits inside of her.
Monitor the Female Rabbit
If you suspect the female rabbit is pregnant, closely observe her behavior and physical changes. Pay attention to such things as weight gain, increased appetite, visible abdominal enlargement, and eventually, nest building.
Prepare a Nest Box
A suitable nest box should be provided for the doe when she is nearing birth, around 28 days. The nest box should be filled with soft, safe bedding and be protected from wind. Everbreed has a few Blog posts about rabbit nest building: “How to Prepare A Rabbit Nest Box” and “When Do Pregnant Rabbits Start Nesting?”.
How to Tell if a Rabbit Mating is Successful
Rabbits are one of the most difficult animals to tell if they are pregnant. Unfortunately, it does take time. But, there are a few signs that will show that your rabbit is likely pregnant.
Before palpating, your doe must be a certain amount of days past breeding, so you can feel the embryos. This usually takes place around 10 to 14 days after mating. The rabbit should be set on a flat and stable surface, such as a table. You must handle the rabbit calmly so she isn’t constantly tensing up. Place your hand under her abdomen and gently apply pressure, or “pinch”. Be careful not to apply excessive pressure. As you move your fingers along the abdomen, you may be able to feel small grape-sized masses if the rabbit is pregnant. These masses indicate the presence of developing embryos. However, it can be challenging to distinguish embryos from other abdominal structures, so it is important to be cautious. Knowing what the embryos feel like will come with practice.
Change in Behavior
Oftentimes, does have a behavior change as they advance in their pregnancy. This means some does may become more calm and others could become more aggressive.
Individual does will start nesting at different times. Some does are overachievers and will want to build their nest weeks ahead of time, and others wait to build their nest until after their kits are born. With that being said, most does will begin nest building within a week of birth. This behavior typically looks like collecting materials within their cage and perfecting a nest for them to give birth in. You should provide your doe with a nest box and plenty of nesting materials.
Although “breed like rabbits” is a common saying, it can be challenging to understand all of the factors. Learning how to tell if a rabbit mating is successful is one of the most difficult things to catch on to. Thankfully, this skill can be practiced and perfected with time.