FAQ: Breeding Rabbits

What should I look for when choosing rabbits for breeding?
Most people choose to keep either a single buck (male), or a pair of does (females). However, if homes can be found for the plentiful offspring of their rabbits, owners are likely to be successful in breeding them. The most important thing is a record of good health for both potential parents. It is also preferable if their parents lived long and healthy lives. Look for good eyes and coat, quick alert movements and a healthy appetite.

How old should a breeding pair be?
Small breeds may reach sexual maturity by the age of 4 months, large breeds may take six months or so, but it is advisable to delay breeding until around the ages of six or ten months respectively. Females should usually be retired from breeding at the age of about 2 or 3 years.

What sort of cage is best?
One feature of a professional breeding hutch that can be incorporated into a pet doe’s hutch at breeding time is a shelf. When the young are born this simple feature will allow the doe to get away from her babies for some much needed respite.

Mini Lop Rabbit

When will the female be ready?
The remarkable proliferation of rabbits is partly due to the fact that the female does not have a true estrous cycle. She is able to conceive at any time, even almost immediately after giving birth. This is why the buck should be separated immediately after mating, since it would be unfair to expect her to produce a continual stream of offspring. Certain factors such as molting, lactation, underfeeding, and the seasons may limit her potential to be on heat for long periods.

How will I be able to help?
Do not handle the doe too much before birth. If you need to lift her, make sure you support her very well. The doe’s diet must be adjusted for her pregnancy: Gradually increase the volume of food given to her until she is being fed approximately double the quantity as before at the time of giving birth. Continue to feed her as she requires, and she may need up to three times her regular amount by the time the young are 3 weeks old.

Should the father be present?
The buck should be removed immediately after mating to allow the doe to maintain her strength and provide peace and quiet. This is also to avoid subsequent matings.

How long is the gestation period?
The length of pregnancy varies between 28 and 34 days, but is largely reckoned to be 31 days. Add 12 hours to this for larger breeds. Young rabbits (kittens) are normally born at night and litters can reach up to 24 on rare occasions, although between 5 and 12 is more common.

How do I know that the young are healthy?
Kittens could weigh 30g or less for small breeds or large litters or up to 70g from a large breed or small litter. Kittens are born helpless with no fur and with their eyes and ears closed. By the end of the first week the fur will begin to grow, sometimes a little fur is apparent even after 2 days. The eyes and ears open by the end of the second week, usually around the tenth day. During the third week the young will begin to leave the nest and to take their first solid food.

How long are the young suckled for?
The usual length of time is around 6 weeks, and possibly as long as 8 weeks.