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The Best Rabbit Breeding Tips – Step By Step Guide

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Rabbit breeding might sound easy but I want to give you a heads up before I jump in that it’s defiantly not easy. Some rabbit breeds are easier than others but they all have their quarks.

There are so many things that can go wrong and sometimes you might not have any idea why. You will just have a season that goes not so great…

You just have to stick to it.

Getting good at raising rabbits and having successful litters takes time. Even experienced rabbit breeders have issues.

One of the biggest factors in having trouble with litter is age. 

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What age can a female rabbit (Doe) begin breeding?

A doe can become pregnant by 12 weeks, but this is not recommended. She should be allowed to reach full maturity to decrease any health risks, which is around 6 months. Source: northernnester.com

For larger breeds, they need to reach their minimum breed standard weight before breeding. For french lops, that’s around 10 months old. With this breed as well as others I would not recommend waiting past 12 months old. 

Due to winter coming at the same time the doe reached maturity I decided to wait until spring. The deliveries don’t go well and it’s rare that the problems are corrected.

In short, what are a rabbit can have babies is going to differ on the breed of rabbit she is.

A rabbit with the minimum ARBA (American Rabbit Breeders Association) standard eight of 10-11lbs will need to be about 10 months old before breeding. 

If they are less than that then they can be bred around 6 months of age. 

What age can a male (buck) rabbit begin breeding?

French Lop Buck Rabbit

The fellas, well that’s a whole other story.

According to northernnester.com A buck can become fertile at between 8 and 12 weeks. He should not be allowed to breed, however, until at least 6 months. 

While they might have the right things happening to breed by then the larger breeds still won’t have a clue what to do until they are at the very least 7-8 months old. 

Assume that they can by 5 months old but don’t expect to get to use a new buck until he is over 7 months old. Even then his swimmers won’t be as good at such a young age. 

How many litters can a rabbit have in a year?

Let’s get one thing straight. Can and should are two different things. 

Before you breed your doe make sure she is in good physical condition. She should have all her weight and fur back from her last breeding. 

The Time Frame Of One Litter

A rabbit’s gestation can be between 28-33 days but 31 is typical and ideal. A domestic rabbit nurses her litter to about three weeks old but should stay with the doe until they are at least 6 weeks old. 

Large breed rabbits can be separated into different cages at 6 weeks so the babies don’t have to compete for food. This will also give your female rabbit (doe) a chance to recoup. 

That being said one litter can take up about 13 weeks total. 

A doe could deliver up 3-4 litters’ a year. 

Depending on the purpose of your rabbits 1-2 should be more ideal. If you are raising meat rabbits then having more litters in a year is not quite as big of a deal however I do think it’s wise to be on the conservative side.

If your doe is run down she will not be able to raise the litter as well. 

When to breed

If this is your rabbit’s first litter. Look at the age of your breeding rabbits before you decide anything. You want to put the best the time for them physically is the most important decision-maker. 

Then look at what the potential weight might be at that time of the year. 

Is it extremely hot, cold, do you have bad storms in your area? I talk more about planning your breeding season in this post so make sure to read that. 

Sometimes you can’t have everything perfect so just be ready to deal with less than ideal weather if you have to. 

How To Choose The Right Breeding Pair

Rabbits are not paired for life or choose their mate. If you are raising rabbits to meet the standards of the American Rabbit Breeders Association you should choose the best animals based on body type. 

There is a pet peeve I have that rabbit breeders will choose a pair that have the opposite body type qualities. Assuming that the babies will get the best of both parents…. Like Hu?

That makes no sence at all.

Choose your buck and doe based on their own merit. Pair your best two animals together and always be on the lookout for breeding stock that is better then what you already have. Never buy breeding animals that are poorer quality then the ones you already have.

Pair of french lop rabbits

It Will Be Easier If Both Breeding Rabbits Are Interested 

The main reason a buck won’t be interested in breeding is if he is too young or he has tried and worn himself out. 

Clues that your doe is ready to breed:

  • The female rabbits (does) will get cranky or at the very least not super friendly.
  • She might grunt or even growl when you pet her on the head while still in the cage.
  • Does are often hard to get out of their cage and are fisty when you are trying to handle them.

You can test a does willingness to breed by putting her on a table and running your hand from the back of her neck to the top of her hindquarters. She will twitch her muscles or completely push flat if you try to pose her the way you would if she was going to be shown. 

Pro tip: Weather has a lot to do with a rabbit’s willingness to breed. If there is extreme heat or humidity then don’t waste your time. BUT if the temps suddenly drop and the air feels cool then your breeding rabbits will often start to feel frisky. This is the best time to try breeding them if you have been trying to have a successful breeding but had no luck. 

Don’t Worry If You See This During The Rabbit Breeding…

Rabbit breeding in cation. A doe flirting with a buck chasing each other.

Sometimes the doe can be a little bossy with the buck if she is in the mood to be bred. 

She might nip him (not bad enough to draw blood) or grunt and push him with her front feet and runoff. She is just flirting with him.

Not all does do it but it will make your life easier if she is just as willing as the buck.

But her hormones don’t always have the best timing. So you will just have to get the breeding done in the time that makes the most sense. 

Rabbit Breeding In Action

Getting the “deed” done doesn’t take long at all. (We’re Talking 3-5 seconds if the buck is in the right position) 

But getting the rabbits to get it right takes a few tries. Which is why it’s best to have your own buck. You will have a lot of wasted time if you try to use another rabbit breeders buck.

First Steps To Breed Your Rabbits

Always take the doe to the bucks cage when doing the rabbit breeding if you are going to do it in the cage. Or you can take both animals to a neutral territory like a table and lay carpet out and do the job there.

Either way, make sure your rabbits have a good grip where ever they are standing. 

Even if the buck is experienced it is likely that you will see him try several “not so good angles at first.

Depending on the breed you only have so much energy to work with so don’t let him waste it on the wrong end or of to the side. Get in there and put him in the right place.

The Doe Has To Be Lifting For The Breeding To Work

It is not going to work unless the doe is lifting her hindquarters. You can place your hands under her hips and lift her up some to help the buck get into the right place. You may even have to pull up slightly on her tail to get… ahem… things to be in the right place.

If your buck does his job he will almost freeze then fall off the doe in a rolling manner. Keep in mind that some bucks have their own quarks so one might look different than another.

But NEVER count it as a successful breeding unless you get a fall off. If you didn’t see some form of that. He likely didn’t get it right.

Best Tips to Make Sure Your Rabbit Breeding Worked

If the buck has the energy, try to get him to do it again the second time. If not you can bring the doe back in about 12 hours and do it again. If you are passed 24hrs just let it go and see what happens.

The babies grow in the does uterine horn then come down to the uterus to be born. it doesn’t always happen but the doe can have two different age babies inside if you wait too far apart to do a second breeding. 

She will deliver both at the same time causing issues all around.

After breeding, regardless of the method you use, check the doe’s vent to make sure the semen was deposited in the correct place. If the mating actually took place, you will find her vent wet. If you find a wet spot on her back or tail and the vent looks the same as before breeding, then the breeding probably didn’t work.

Wait a few minutes and try again.

Many people rebreed (I do as well) after an hour to increase the number of eggs released to increase litter size. The times I only get one fall of from the buck the litter does seem to be smaller.

However, I don’t breed any more than 5-8hrs apart.

Couple day old rabbit litter.

Your doe’s mood should start to get better the closer she comes to delivery. Some does might stay a little grouchy until after she has delivered.

Either way, your pregnant doe should start getting wider after about 14 days. If this is her first litter you might not notice for another week. 

Palpating Your Doe

I am flat out not good at palpating mainly because I raise such a large breed the babies can be almost anywhere.  

That being said here is a good explanation of how to do it from Quality Cages.

It can be frustrating to find that you waited nearly an entire month, and your female rabbit was never pregnant!  You can avoid some of this wait time by palpating your doe 10-14 days after mating to see if you can feel any babies. 

Learning to palpate takes a little practice. Older does are easier to practice on than first litter does, as their muscles are a bit more relaxed, and they are generally more patient. Take the doe out of her cage and place her on a carpeted table.  

With one hand, grasp the doe over the shoulders and take the other hand with the thumb and fingers opposing each other push up into the abdomen just in front of the pelvis. This can feel awkward at first, and most people don’t want to push hard enough to actually feel anything.  

Enough pressure can be used to raise the doe’s hindquarters nearly off the table. People who fail at palpation usually do so out of fear of hurting the doe her babies. The chances of that happening are very slim. Each embryo is cushioned in its own amniotic sac, so what you are actually feeling is the fluid-filled amnion-not the embryo itself.

Once you are secure in your position, move your hand back and forth along each side of the abdomen and slightly towards the middle.  

At 10 days, the embryo feels like a firm blueberry.  At 12 days, they feel more like marbles, and at 14 days, they should feel more like large grapes or olives. Once you feel an embryo or two, it is wise to stop and pet the doe, and let her go back to her home.  The entire procedure takes only seconds to perform once you know-how. 

A common palpation mistake occurs when people confuse the round fecal pellets for embryos. Confusion can be avoided by remembering that the fecal pellets are small, very hard, and are found closer to the backbone, while embryos are found about midway into the abdominal cavity. If you squeeze these pellets instead of embryos, they will feel very hard, almost like rocks.  Developing babies have more of a firm-fruit feel.

Watch Your Does Behavior To See If The Breeding Worked

Personally, I like to watch my rabbit’s behavior and see how she changes. I am a natural observer so I can spot it pretty early. Like anything it takes practice.

Watch her behavior, midsection to see if it starts to look like its own entity. It’s hard to explain but once you “see it” for the first time you will know what I mean.

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