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How do you breed rabbits?

Updated: Mar 13, 2022

The preferred method to breed your doe (female rabbit) is to put her in with your buck (male rabbit). It is important that you take her to him. Female rabbits can be territorial and can fight and hurt your male if you put him in her cage. It's not uncommon for rabbits to castrate each other in a fight. That is not something you want to happen. He will also be too interested in his new surroundings to focus on the task at hand.

Before you breed, it is recommended that your buck be around 6 months old and your doe to be 4 or 5 months old. It is also a good idea to breed two females within a day or two of each other so that you have a backup mom in case something goes wrong. If one litter is small and another is extremely large, you can get your doe with the small litter to foster some from the large litter. If a mom for whatever reason passes, the other mom can again step in to help out.

You will know if a breed is successful because he will "fall off" the doe. It's not a jump, it's a very visible fall. It's ideal to let this happen a minimum of 2 times but three is best. The mating lasts only seconds and all three matings could happen in just minutes. If after 2 fall offs the buck takes a break, you can leave her in there for an hour or so while you do something else and then put her back in her own cage. Chances are that while you were busy, so were they.

Mark your calendars for the breed date. You also want to mark 25 days from then. That is when you will want to give your doe a nesting box and fill it with hay for her and also give her extra to allow her to fix the best how she wants it. A day or so before she gives birth she will start to pull hair from her stomach and line her best with that as well. Her hair will keep the newborn kits warm, and the removal of stomach hair allows kits to find her nipples for nursing.

Nesting boxes can be purchased or built. They should be 18 to 20 inches long. At least 10 inches high at the rear and 6 inches in the front, and 10 inches wide.

On day 31 you should have a litter of kits (baby bunnies). Some mother's will let you touch them right away, while others are more protective. It is important to check for cold and dead kits and remove them from the nesting box. Daily handling is also important as you need to be able to handle them later on for processing and it's easier if they are friendly and used to handling.

Newborn kits in a nest made of their moms fur.
Newborn kits

Does are again very different from most other mothers. Kits are only fed twice a day, unlike most species that feed fairly regularly throughout the day and night. As long as the kits are warm, it's not uncommon for the doe to stay outside the nesting box the majority of the time.

Kits are born with their eyes and ears sealed shut. They will start opening between 7 to 10 days old. At 2 weeks you should flip your nesting box on its side to allow the kits to jump in and out. It can be removed completely at 3 weeks. Between 4 and 6 weeks you can start to ween them and remove them from their mother.

If you are moving your kits to a tractor for growing out, make sure you introduce fresh greens to them while they were still with their mom so they don't gorge themselves on all the greens and make it hard on their system. Upset stomach and diarrhea can happen if they go from no greens to full diet of it all at once.

Young rabbits getting used to eating hay and fresh greens
Young rabbits learning to eat greens

At around 6 weeks you can start sexing your rabbits. That means checking to see which is male or female. If you are processing the whole litter before 14 weeks, this isn't necessary as they shouldn't try breeding before then. If you are keeping or selling some, you will want to check the sex and seperate the bucks and does. You may have to check a few times over the next couple weeks to ensure you sexed them correctly.

This is a great video on sexing rabbits. They are mature rabbits in the video, however it still shows how to do it.

Depending on the breed of rabbit your raising and you preferred size for processing, between 10 and 16 weeks is generally when you would process your kits.

Also depending on your preferences and how many litters you want to have in the year, you can breed your doe 2 weeks after deliver or anytime after that. Some people like to breed back to back right away, while other like to give a bit of a break. Depending on your location and the temperature you may also want to take certain seasons off due to extreme heat or cold. Extreme heat can cause male rabbits to go temporarily sterile. This can last up to 3 months.

It's important to keep detailed notes do that you can remember important dates, figure out your costs, and keep track of your rabbits performance. If you need help doing this, there are books you can buy with already set up logs that you just have to fill it you can also design your own logs if you wish.

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