How to Breed a Rabbit
Breeding rabbits is a fairly simple, and greatly rewarding, activity.
The steps are quite simple:
- Ensure the doe is the proper age and in good health.
- Take the doe to the buck’s cage, or to a neutral area. Does are territorial about their own cage and will defend it, sometimes badly injuring or even killing a buck if he is put into her cage.
- Observe the interaction. You will be able to intervene if either one injures the other. If they are shy or nervous with you watching, you can step several feet away so long as you can still see them.
- Wait until the buck is able to mount successfully and ejaculate. This is often called a “fall” or “fall-off” because the buck will stiffen and topple over sideways before recovering his wits. My bucks usually perform twice in quick succession, and then dash around the cage stomping their feet in a fit of male pride.
- The doe can be removed and placed back into her own cage.
It can sometimes help to reinforce a breeding by performing it a second time, either one hour after the first, the next day, or both.
Unlike confirmation breeding (below), these additional breedings are done within a very short period of time, so there is no danger of a double litter. If she is impregnated a second time, it will only add to the existing litter, not create a separate one that risks the first.
Some breeders believe in a practice where after some time (often around 2 weeks), the doe is returned to the buck. Their intention is to “confirm” whether the doe is pregnant by interpreting her actions and demeanor.
Just as with reinforcement breeding, a doe who believes she is pregnant will typically spurn the buck’s advances. Often, she will growl or grumble, and refuse to lift and provide access to the ardent male.
There is a very great risk to this practice, however, and it is one that I feel outweighs any potential benefit that could be gained.
Simply put, something could go wrong. Maybe the buck catches her just right, or maybe her hormones don’t trigger her to be successfully evasive. If she is pregnant, and if only one horn of her uterus is being used by that litter, a doe can potentially be fertilized a second time.
In some of these cases, the doe’s body will terminate one of the two litters, and reabsorb the nutrients without problems.
In other cases, the doe may carry both litters to term.
Besides being increasingly stressful to the doe, as she would be pregnant for a 6 week period (something her body is not designed for), a rabbit’s milk production typically stops approximately 2 weeks before giving birth. This allows her body to prepare, and in the wild would force any kits from her last litter to leave the nest and seek independence. In the case of a double litter, a doe often has little to no milk for the first litter, and she will abandon or scatter them.
Just a final thought, and an important one.
If you are thinking about breeding your rabbits, please do so responsibly!
Whether you’re breeding for show, commercial production, or for the improvement of your breed, you should not begin until you have planned for what you will do with the offspring you are not going to keep.
Because rabbits breed like… well, rabbits. Unless you have unlimited space, you will need to make [sometimes tough] decisions as to the disposition of the offspring you produce. If you are a homesteader, this probably means they will be used to feed your family. If not, you will likely want to establish an outlet to sell your “culls” to.
There are many folks out there who will buy live animals and process them for restaurants or specialized grocery stores, or for high-end domestic dog and cat food.
If one of your rabbits becomes badly injured or very ill, you may need to compassionately dispatch it. If you can’t stand the thought, it’s probably best to enjoy your rabbits as they are, without breeding them.
Please do not, under any circumstances, release domestic rabbits into the wild! They are not native (being European originally) and they are not adapted to life in the wild. Just as you wouldn’t release a chihuahua and expect it to thrive, neither will a pet rabbit be anything other than a terrified meal for a coyote. It sounds good in theory, “Free Willy” and all that, but please do not contribute to this problem!