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The Breeding Process of Rabbits
Whether you breed rabbits as pets, for meat, or are simply interested in the "fast and furious" process, this article will provide you the information you need to know about breeding your rabbits, and what occurs from the time of the mating to when the litter of kits have been born.
Though it is not as detailed, there is also a video provided at the bottom of this article outlining the mating and preparation process.
After choosing which of your bucks, the males, and does, the females, you wish to mate, it is imperative to remember that you always bring the female to the male, and not the other way around. This reduces the risk of aggression on either party's behalf.
When the doe is brought to the buck it should not take long before the buck makes a move to mount the doe. The doe may make it easier on the buck by lifting her hips slightly for him, allowing for easier penetration. The mating can take anywhere from one to fifteen minutes to complete. It is easy to spot when the male has succeeded, as he will quite literally fall off the female and pass out for several seconds. If the male does not fall off in this way, he has not finished mating.
After the buck has finished mating with the doe, the doe must immediately be taken away from the buck. If this does not happen, the doe will soon attempt, and will usually succeed in castrating the male.
Note: Always supervise the mating process while the two rabbits are together to ensure the safety of both. Both the male and female will sometimes bite each other, and it is crucial to be present and watch to make sure that it does not get too out of hand.
Typically it is a good idea to allow the pair to mate once in the morning, once later that night, and even again the next day if you so choose in order to guarantee a pregnancy. After the mating it becomes a waiting game to see if it was successful; if it was, the doe will give birth approximately thirty days after the mating, give or take a few days.
During the gestation period the female should be given additional food and water. Later on, closer to the 27 day mark, a nesting box should be placed in the doe's enclosure. A nesting box is a metal or wooden box that can be filled with wood shavings or hay and provides a safe home for the kits when they are born. It replicates the burrow a doe digs in the wild when she is close to having her litter. Do not give the doe her nesting box until it is near the end of the gestation period, as she is likely to simply defecate in it any time sooner than that.
When the doe receives her nesting box she will begin preparing it for her litter by rearranging the material put in the box. She will also pull out the fur from her belly and line the nest with it. This is completely natural, and it should not cause concern to see this happening or if mild bald patches appear on her stomach.
The doe will generally have her litter of kits in the middle of the night. Unless only one side of her ovaries were inseminated, a typical litter will consist of eight kits. If that does happen, four newborn rabbits can be expected. These kits will be both blind and deaf, and extremely vulnerable to the elements. Lining the bottom and first two inches of the sides of the rabbit hutch with chicken wire is highly suggested in order to keep the kits from falling out if they escape the nesting box. This is especially important if the hutch is above ground, as entire litters can be lost to falls without this precaution.
A doe rabbit is ready to mate several hours after she gives birth to her litter. However, in order to give the doe time to recover and not over work her, an ideal waiting period of ten to twenty one days after a litter is born is ideal before mating again. If a doe is bred too soon too many times, it can negatively affect her health and cause a much shorter lifespan. Breeders suggest waiting two to three weeks as the preferred recuperation period.
When the doe is bred again she may still stay with her current litter. The mother and her kits are not separated until the kits are on average six weeks old. Given the waiting period between giving birth and being re-bred, this schedule would work well to time when the next litter is due and when the mother needs to be separated from her young.
(Note: the sale of any rabbit before the age of eight weeks is illegal.)
The mating process of rabbits, while simpler and more low-maintenance than that of other animals, is an exciting and rewarding time. When done right, it will yield many bundles of joy that come with many uses, whether it be for the simple happiness of companionship or the meat the feeds your family.