Rabbits don’t do well with heat. They can handle very very cold temperatures, but when it gets above about 85 degrees they start to struggle, and if they cannot find a way to cool down they will die of heat stroke.
We do a couple things to help our rabbits cool themselves. First, we have a big fan that blows on the rabbitry area of the barn. And second, we take bottles of water, freeze them, and put them in the cages for the bunnies to cuddle up against.
Needless to say they are not really interested in breeding when it is hot and they are just focused on cooling off. Plus, the hotter temperatures make the bucks sterile.
We decided to keep trying to breed through the summer heat so we bred Arania to Peter a little over a month ago. Normally, we do two breeding sessions, one in the morning and one in the evening. During each session the rabbits will breed 2, sometimes 3 times. For a total of 4-6 breedings taking place. We have found that when we do two breeding sessions instead of one we increase our litter size.
With the summer heat, morning and late evening are still ideal times because that is the coolest times of day. But we found that Peter was still reluctant. After two breeding sessions we ended up getting only one breeding.
Arania kindled a few days ago, with only 4 live kits and 1 stillborn. It was disappointing since she has in the past given us litters of 10 kits. But we are guessing it is the heat and the single breeding. They are HUGE kits though. Twice as big as our normal kits.
Unfortunately, we had a kit die last night, we are assuming from heat stroke, so now we are down to 3. We removed a bunch of the fur from the nest, since it was feeling extremely hot in there. We are hopeful the other three will make it despite the heat.
Since there are only 3 of them, we will be selling them to the pet feed customer we have that requests 1 lb rabbits (which is at about 2-3 weeks of age) because it isn’t efficient for her to raise only 3 to weaning. We will then try to re-breed her, depending on the temperatures.
We are trying to figure out more ways to cool the rabbitry, The heat beats down in that area of the barn from the un-insulated roof, and there is very little cross breeze there. We are probably going to try to insulate the roof in that section, and add an exhaust fan in the top of the wall above the cages. Hopefully we can get their area cooled off a bit before next summer heat hits.
Breeding rabbits in the summer can be tough, but our temperatures will be dropping significantly by the end of August, so we should be back into our normal breeding routine this fall.