Raising Dwarf Hotots: A Beginner's Guide, Part 4
In terms of breeding, Dwarf Hotots are difficult at best to get bred. Does won’t “lift” or be receptive to bucks during the summer (it’s hot, can you blame them? Who wants to labor in 90 degree temperatures?) or in the winter (why kindle babies only to have them freeze?) so you’re best time to put a doe in with a buck is in the early fall, late fall, and early spring. The tricky part is breeding your virgin does—a dwarf doe needs to have her first litter shortly after she turns six months old. Why the six-month target? A doe is considered an adult at six months old, and she is at that point mature enough inside to produce litters. She continues to grow in the hip region through six months and stops shortly after that mark—in other words, if she doesn’t pass a baby through her pelvis at around six months, her hips are liable to fuse. Once fused, they won’t be able to expand very much at all during the birthing process. A Dwarf Hotot doe needs to be “stretched” by passing babies through her birth canal because if she doesn’t, she may never be able to.
Your bucks are much easier to deal with. Not only are they very friendly, (“Hey human, my feeder friend! Do you have a doe for me today? Huh, do you? Please!) A buck is ready to breed physically at a younger age than your does, (although you can often tell which are the does in a litter of weanlings, because they are the ones that get those sexual urges first, and will be the babies mounting the others. That does NOT mean they are ready to give to a mature buck—not until that 4 to 6 month window!) I left my first litter of Hotots together until they were 10 weeks old—only 2 weeks longer than the normal 8 week weaning point. My lesson gained? Both mother doe and sister baby became pregnant from little boy Hotot. The mother had her litter; the sister almost lost her life. It was a hard lesson to learn, but a crucial one. Get those boys identified quickly, and get them away from the does before 8 weeks of age, because at that point they can reproduce! Once they are good old boys, they are good to go in the baby-making department until they are 4-5 years old. The only time that they may lag is in the summer. In temperatures over 85 degrees, a male rabbit can lose his viable sperm count—he becomes sterile! It’s ok though, in one month he’ll be as good as new.
Are you still treading water? If you have a doe on hand that is of age and is in heat, you can put her in with your buck. How can you tell she’s in heat? For one, she’ll be moody and stand-offish. Also, if you stroke your hand over her back and around her hindquarters, she’ll raise her back end up in the air. This is calling “lifting,” and if she does this in your buck’s cage, you’re on your way to a litter. So, take your in-heat doe to your buck’s cage, (never the other way around; does are too territorial to let a male visit them in their cage—fighting will ensue). Your doe will run around in circles, with the buck close behind her. Once he catches up, and if she lifts AND if she raises her tail out of the way, your buck will squeak (yup, squeak) and flip over backwards. It sounds too funny to be true, I know, but that’s what rabbits do. Below I've attatched a video of Angoras breeding--they aren't Hotots, but the fundamentals are the same. You can see the doe's tail lift when she swings around, and soon after the male mounts and you can see him kick up his feet and fall. You can't hear the squeak, but if this happens with your Hotots, rest assured that your buck has done his part.