One of the fun things about having rabbits is breeding them, however before you
even think of breeding, you need to make sure you know what to do, and are
prepared for it. You want to make sure that you, and especially if you have kids, are
able to deal with the death of baby rabbits. Not all rabbits keep their litters,
especially if it's their first litter. There is also always the chance of losing the mom
if there are complications. You also want to make sure you know what you're
going to do with the babies that live, that you aren't going to be keeping.
Make sure to fully research breeding rabbits. This is not just something to jump
into to have cute baby rabbits or to give the kids the “experience”. It’s not as easy
as just putting two rabbits together and having babies born. Go to the library and
get books on rabbits.
Search on the Internet. Email breeders and ask questions. Please note though,
that there are many different methods, and not all are right so you will have to
figure which to use and which to not.
When to Breed
Keep in mind that the rabbits must be at least 6 months of age before being bred.
For larger breeds (breeds that have an ideal weight of 10 pounds or more), they
should be at least 8 months of age. If it’s an older doe over 2 years old, and has
never been bred before, I recommend not breeding her. Older does who’ve never
had a litter before usually have more trouble than if they were younger. It’s best to
breed the doe for the first time at under a year old.
Even though rabbits should not be bred until 6 months of age, they can get
pregnant as young as 3 months, so make sure that bucks and does are
separated by 8 weeks of age, as to not have any accidents. It is not good for a doe
to have a litter before she is fully grown, which the smaller breeds are fully grown
at 6 months of age.
Rabbits do not go through heat cycles like most animals. To be able to tell if the
doe is ready to be bred, check her genital area. Does who are ready to be bred will
be really pink, almost a reddish, purplish color down there. Also, when petting
them over their back and bottom, they will stick their bottom up in the air. They are
setting up, showing they are ready to submit to the buck.
Picking the Date
A rabbit’s gestation period is 30-32 days. Before breeding, pick a date on the
calendar that you want the litter to come on. You want to make sure it’s a date that
you’ll be home on. You then count backwards 31 days, which will be the date you
breed your doe.
Once you decide you do want to breed, you need to find a buck to use, if you don't
have one. I recommend breeding rabbits of the same breed together, as
purebreds are easier to find homes for than crossbreeds. When looking for a
buck, keep in mind that most breeders do not allow their bucks to be bred out to
other people’s does, because diseases can be spread through breeding, and
they don’t want to risk it in their rabbitry.
Those that do breed out usually charge a fee of $10-30. However, I have seen
some people advertise prices a lot higher than that. In my opinion anymore than
$25 the buck should be a Grand Champion buck with many big wins to it’s name
and a proven producer. Also instead of charging a price, some breeders want pick
of the litter.
If you bought your rabbit from a breeder, you could check with the original breeder
to see if they’ll let you breed to one of their bucks, as some breeders allow people
who have boughten from them breed back to their bucks for no charge or a
discount price. If you’re breeding for show, ask to see rabbits that the buck has
produced to see how he produces.
|2 week old Dutch litters (more than one litter)
Weaning age is between 6-8 weeks of age. When selling the babies, keep in
mind that some states have laws how about how young you can sell baby
animals (dogs, cats, rabbits, etc). Some say that you can’t sell younger than 8
weeks of age. Not all states have these laws. Washington state does not have
this law, however it has become a rule at most shows here that no rabbits are
allowed in the showroom that do not make their breed’s minimum junior weight.
This means you can not sell any rabbits that do not make the weight. Most breeds
do not make their minimum weight until 8-10 weeks of age.
By 8-10 weeks of age, all the rabbits should have their own cages. Does can
usually stay in the same cage together from 2-4 months, unless you see fighting
which means to separate them. I, myself, prefer all my rabbits to have their own
individual cages by 8 weeks of age.
That's just the way I do it, everyone else has their own way. If you have any
questions about breeding, don't hesitate to email me
Copyright © 2001-2011 Double Dutch Rabbitry. All rights reserved.
The Buck & the Doe
Most people think that you have to leave the two rabbits in a cage together for a
couple of days. It's a 10 second job, so there's no reason to leave them together
in a cage. Plus, sometimes when you leave them unsupervised, one rabbit might
bite the other or worse. When you breed them NEVER put the buck in the doe's
cage! You always put the doe in the bucks cage, because the doe can become
territorial over the buck, and may attack him. If it doesn't work in the cage, you can
try putting them on a table (make sure you put the buck on it first), and see if that'll
work better. Sometimes you might have to hold the doe still for the buck. Make
sure her tail is up. When the two have connected, the buck will fall off the doe.
Sometimes he’ll make a grunt sound or even scream. The buck usually starts
thumping after breeding. Take the doe away and hold her on her back. Check her
genital area, you should see the sperm there which will show that they connected.
Continue holding the doe on her back for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes put her back
in the cage with the buck to follow the same procedure again. This is to ensure
that they have connected, and also helps the litter size. If the buck is unresponsive
to the doe, try cleaning the doe’s vents, and wave the q-tip in front of the buck’s
Test Breeding and Palpating
On the 14th day of the pregnancy, some breeders test breed to ensure that the
doe is pregnant. They put the doe back in with the buck. The theory is, if the doe
refuses to be bred that means she’s pregnant. If she accepts the mating, that
means she was not pregnant. The problem with this though, even when pregnant,
does can still accept the mating and when not pregnant might refuse to be bred.
Rabbits have two uterine horns, meaning the doe could already be pregnant in
the first one from the first mating, and become pregnant in the second one with
the test breeding resulting in the doe carrying two litters at the same time. This
can be very dangerous for the doe and the litters. This could cause mummified
fetuses and could kill the doe.
A more accurate way of telling whether the doe is pregnant or not is by palpating
her. Palpating is a skill that not everyone has. I know of a breeder that can palpate
and tell you exactly how many babies the doe will have, how big they are, and how
far along the doe is. A rabbit can be palpated as early as 10 days into the
pregnancy. The larger the breed, the easier it is to be able to feel them. For
learning how, I recommend having an experience breeder show you how.
The Nest Box
On the 28th day of the pregnancy, you put a box in their cage, like the one above.
It's to be made of either wood or steel. You can buy the steel kind from cage
vendors. The wood kind, you can build yourself. The size of it matters on the size
of your rabbit. I use the size above for my Dutch. It's 15" by 10", 10" high. The front
goes up 4" high, which is high enough, so the babies won't start jumping out at a
very young age, and freeze to death. Then the top is 6" long. That is for when the
babies do start hopping out of the box, it gives the mom a place to go, to get away
from them. You don't put the box in before the 28th day, only because the doe will
then use it as a bathroom.
You will want to stuff the box with straw or hay. I prefer to use straw, as it’s more of
a bedding than food, so the does won’t eat as much of it as they would with hay.
Some people put shaving at the bottom of the box before putting the straw in.
When you put the box in, the doe usually immediately starts throwing the straw
around to put it in how she wants. Most experience does will immediately start
pulling their fur to line the nest. However some does will wait until right before they
give birth before pulling fur. Pulling fur helps expose the nipples for the babies to
nurse. The does put it in the nest box to help keep the babies warm.
Born on the wire
to see if they’re fully gone. If they’re dead they won’t do anything, however if they’re
still alive they will start slowly kicking, and moving their mouth, making little
squeaks. If they do start moving, bring them into the house to warm them up. You
can take a heating pad, lay a towel over it, then put the babies on it. After the
heating pad gets warmed up, keep it on the lowest setting, as to not burn the
babies. Keep a constant eye on them, so they will not crawl off the heating pad or
get burned. Once they feel warm enough and are kicking a lot, you can remove
them from the pad and put them back in their nest box. You do not want to leave
them on the pad too long as it can kill them. If the doe did not pick any fur to line
the nest, you can pick fur from her stomach. It should come off easily. Put that in
the box for the babies.
|1 week old Rhinelander litter
Babies born during colder weather
During the winter or cooler weather, I bring my babies in at night. If it’s really cold
out, I’ll bring them in during the day too, and only put them outside once a day for
10 minutes to be nursed, then bring them back in. Rabbits only nurse once a day,
and it’s not for very long. After putting the babies out with the mom, leave her
alone. Most does do not like people standing around watching them nurse. It’s a
natural instinct of not wanting to lead predators to their nest. Even though you are
the owner and they know you, they still do not want you standing around.
After a week, when they have fur, you can start leaving them out during the day,
and after two weeks leave them out during the night. However, if you feel it’s still
There are times that does will build their whole nest, picking fur, etc, however end
up not having any babies. These are called false pregnancy’s or phantom
pregnancy’s. I usually give the doe up to the 35th day of the pregnancy before re-
breeding her, as sometimes they can have the litter late.
|Riley the Rhinelander nursing
Does not nursing
To be able to tell if the doe has nursed the kits or not, the kits’ bellies will be solid
to the touch if fed. If they were not fed, it’ll be soft and they’ll look puny.
If you suspect that your doe has not been nursing her litter, what you can do is
take her out of the cage and put her on her back in between your legs like you
were to clip her nails. Then you let one baby at a time on her belly to nurse. When
kit’s nurse, they normally turn onto their backs, to nurse upwards. Even though the
doe is on her back, the kit’s usually still try to flip over. Just to warn you, they do not
stay on the same nipple for very long, and are usually moving back and forth
between nipples. If she’s a jumpy doe, it’s best to have someone else hold her
ears so she does not accidentally try to flip over and hurt the baby. Even though
you are hand nursing the babies, still leave them in with the mom.
|Ella with her foster children- 1 Blue Dutch and 2 Blue Tans
When breeding, it’s best to breed all your does on the same day, if you have more
doe, you’ll have other litters to foster the babies to.
Does do not care if you foster babies into their litter. I have never had a problem
with a doe rejecting a baby or litter just because they were fostered. My Dutch, in
addition to fostering other Dutch into their litter have had Tans, Silver Martens,
Havanas, and Polish fostered to them without any complications.
When fostering litters, if you’re mixing more than one litter make sure you know
what kits are from what litters. Mixing different breeds or varieties together makes
it easier to tell them apart. However, if they’re different breeds, make sure they are
similar to the same size when fully grown, as a larger breed will push the smaller
breed off the nipples when nursing. If they are all the same breed and variety, you
can mark the back of their ears with nail polish, a different color for each litter. You’
ll have to repaint the ears every few days though, as it wears off after awhile.
Rabbits open their eyes at 10 days old. If by day 12 they’re still not open, you’ll
want to take a damp wash cloth and gently wipe their eyes to clean any gunk that
is causing the eyes to remain close. You will want to do this a few times a day,
every day, until they’re open. If they still do not open on their own, you’ll then want
to gently pry them open. Be very gentle, as it can scar the eye.
|2 week old Black & Tortoise Dutch
Jumping Out of the Box
Between 2-3 weeks of age, the kits will start jumping out of the nest box. They will
start experimenting with solid foods at this time. You want to make sure that the
feeder is always filled with food (they can and will climb out of the cage through
the feeder, if it's not full) and the water bottle is always filled for them. You’ll want to
make sure the water bottle is down low enough for the kits to reach.
You’ll want to keep an eye on the babies as they first start jumping out of the nest
box, so their legs do not get caught in the wire. You can put a board in the cage in
front of the box for them to sit on. Mattering on the weather outside, you can take
the nest box out once you see them staying out of the box more so than inside of
it. This is usually at about 3 weeks of age.
Sometimes they like to pop out of the box when they're too young, and can't get
back in. When this happens, I flip the box on it's side, so they can come and go as