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Breeding rabbits is very exciting for both young and old alike. Proper planning will provide greater chances of success, and less chance of disappointment. This article does not consider every possibility, but we hope it will be a help to you.
Choosing the right rabbits is one of the keys to a good breeding program. Although this may be obvious to most breeders to new breeders the next statement may not be quite as obvious: always breed rabbits of the same breed. Mixed bunnies have little value, and they deplete the stock of quality rabbits. A couple of our first few rabbits were very poor in quality and probably not pure bred Holland Lops.
When establishing a breeding program, only look to correct or improve upon one trait at a time. For example, if you have a nice Holland Lop that is a little narrow in the shoulders, and a little weak in the crown, look to fix one of those weaknesses at a time. If you decide to breed for better shoulders, find a rabbit with good shoulders to breed to your existing stock. Once you have offsprings with good shoulders, then move on to the crown.
Make sure you are familiar with color genetics. Not, only can you breed to obtain specific colors, but knowing color genetics can also help you reduce the likelihood of obtaining kits that have faults in color. As an example, in Holland Lops, two brokens can be bred, but a high percentage of the kits will be "charlies" which are a color fault. Once you understand the genetics, select rabbits that will help you obtain the colors and patterns you desire. Having a pedigree of each rabbit will assist you in this process.
Inbreeding of rabbits is an acceptable practice. A father can be bred to a daughter, a mother can be bred to a son, two cousins can be bred together, etc. Breeding a bother to a sister should not done. Although the inbreeding can be done, doesnt necessarily mean that it will work with your pair. Understanding the genetics of inbreeding will assist you in making that decision.
Only use healthy rabbits. Check rabbits for vent disease prior to breeding. Make sure the overall condition of the rabbits is good. Check for loose droppings near the rabbits cages. If you suspect any illness in either rabbit, wait until they are healthy. Aviod using rabbits with genetic defects. Such rabbits will often pass those defects to their offsprings.
The age at which a rabbit can be bred depends on the size of the breed and the sex of the rabbit. In small breed rabbits the doe is normally ready to mate when she is 5 months old, and a buck is ready at 6 months. In medium breed rabbits the doe is ready to breed when she is 6 months old and the buck at 7 months. In large breed rabbits the doe is ready at 8 months and the buck is ready at 9 months.
Rabbits do not ovulate on a regular cycle, as a result they do not actually go into heat. The mating of the rabbit will cause the doe to produce the eggs necessary for fertilization, usually 10-13 hours after breeding has occurred. Although the does has no actual heat cycle, she will only accept the buck in about 12 out of every 14 days . When she is ready to breed her vent area will be a dark pink, red or purple.
Now that you've decided which rabbits to breed, and you have determined them both to be healthy, its time to actually breed them. There are several ways to do this, but we prefer the method we're about to describe for several reasons.
When breeding, always take the doe to the males cage. Males placed in the females cage tend to be to inquisitive about their surroundings to notice the female. Once in the cage observe the rabbits until mating has occurred. It is not unusual for the excited buck (male) to mount the doe (female) at the wrong end, or even for the doe to mount the buck. When the doe is willing to accept the buck she will lift her hind end. The buck may have to mount the doe several times before she accepts. They may even spend some time chasing each other around the cage.
When a successful connection happens, the buck will literally fall to its side, and will usually let out a grunt. At this point the doe can be returned to its cage. Since ovulation wont actualy occur for several more hours, we rebreed the doe to the same buck about eight hours later to insure that a successful breeding has occurred and to maximize the litter size.
The best way to determine if the doe is pregnent is to palpatate the doe. Some breeders will try to rebreed the doe at 14 days. This practice is dangerous. Generally a pregnent doe will refuse a buck, but this is not always the case. A doe has two uterine horns, and can become pregnent in each horn from seperate breedings. This can cause several problems during the pregnancy and during the delivery. Kits from the second breeding can be born premature, and kits from both pregnancies could be still born.
Palpating the doe correctly to determine pregnancy takes practice. Its best to have an experienced breeder show you how to properly complete this task. Place the doe on a solid surface facing you. Hold her near the base of the ears with your left hand. Gently place your right hand under the rabbit, palm up near the back of the cervical area. Gently push up with your right thumb and index finger and slowly rub the doe from back to front. If the doe is pregnant you will feel the grape sized kits between the thumb and finger. Palpitating should be done on the 12th day. Doing so later than the 12th day can cause damage to the kits.