Before you begin breeding rabbits, you should make sure you do one of the following: have good homes lined up for the resulting offspring, show your rabbits, or plan on raising rabbits for meat. Excess rabbits to feed can result in more money spent on feed and less time to spend with the rabbits and providing them with proper shelter and hygiene.
Some people do breed rabbits just for pets. As long as there is a market for them and the rabbits are healthy, there is no problem with this.
If you breed rabbits to show, you may be creating your own market for your young rabbits when you do well on the show table and your stock becomes more desirable with other breeders. If you plan on eating rabbit as part of a healthy diet, raising your own stock lets you feel secure in knowing where your meat comes from and how it was cared for.
First of all, when breeding rabbits, you need a buck and a doe of compatible size. It is usually best to breed two rabbits of the same breed, but sometimes, such as in the production of meat fryers, you can get good results from crossbreeding.
Medium sized breeds like New Zealands and Californians should be at least six months old at the first breeding. Smaller breeds mature slightly earlier, while larger breeds will mature later.
Always take the doe to visit the buck. Does are very territorial and the buck may be lucky after leaving the doe's cage to be able to offer his services to another doe. If you take the doe to the buck, she will not feel the need to protect her space.
It is common for the buck to chase the doe around the cage when breeding rabbits . Sometimes, the doe takes charge and chases the buck. She may even mount him first, like she's showing him what to do. Sometimes the buck takes charge immediately and if you blink, you miss the whole thing. Your clue that the buck was successful is the way he falls backward after he finishes. This may also be accompanied by a squeal or other sound.
Many breeders will let the rabbits breed two or more times before taking the doe back to her cage. Some return the doe to the buck's cage an hour or slightly longer for a rebreeding. Some studies have shown this can result in a higher success rate for pregnancy and may increase the litter size.
Breeding rabbits do not come into heat like dogs and cats. While there are some outward signs that a doe may be more receptive at some times than others. She may be more active; she may rub her chin on the feeder more frequently, or she may seem more affectionate. Nevertheless, until the act of mating, the doe will not ovulate. Rabbits are induced ovulators, which means the doe must get the stimulation of mating before her ovaries will release eggs.
Two weeks later, some rabbit breeders will palpate the doe's belly to test for pregnancy. This is a learned skill; it is not all that easy to do, especially with a first time mother rabbit that has strong belly muscles. Feeling around the lower abdomen gently with a thumb and forefinger, if the doe is pregnant you should be able to feel marble-sized nodules.
Don't worry if you can't feel anything; you only need to wait two more weeks to see if there are babies or not. Some rabbit breeders will put the doe back in with the buck on the theory that a pregnant doe will reject him. However, in rare cases when breeding rabbits, a doe can get pregnant again in the second horn of the uterus, resulting in two litters that end up with deformities.
If you are breeding for show, it will be important to keep your colors as distinct and pure as possible. Read up on the recommendations by the breed club for your rabbits so you know what colors breed well with others and which ones don't.
Avoid breeding rabbits with genetic abnormalities like malocclusion of the teeth, cloudy eyes or other issues. Some breeders follow line breeding (breeding related rabbits to each other) to achieve specific traits.
You can do this if you have the guidance of an experienced mentor or when you have garnered the experience yourself. Otherwise, breed unrelated rabbits or rabbits that are not siblings. If you are raising fryers, it won't really matter since the young will end up in the freezer rather than in someone's breeding program.
You may also be interested in Tips for Breeding Rabbits
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