We are continuing our series on Getting Started with Meat Rabbits. To read previous posts in the series click below:
Now that you have your breeding stock purchased and settled in, it is time to breed them.
Breeding rabbits is pretty straight-forward and easy. There is one major rule you need to follow:
ALWAYS bring the doe to the buck’s cage. Never the opposite.
But we are getting a bit ahead of ourselves. First things first…at what age can you breed rabbits?
Most rabbits are mature enough to breed between 5 and 6 months of age. Larger rabbits usually take longer to mature. We usually just wait until they are fully 6 months and then give it a try. It can be more challenging if you are working with first-time rabbits. It is usually best if you can pair up a first-timer with a more experienced rabbit for their first breeding. But two first-timers can figure it out as well, it just might take a little longer.
You need to check your buck and be sure both testicles have fully descended before breeding him. They can be kind of hard to find because they do not hang down like other animals and they aren’t together. There is one on either side of the penis and they are more like lumps, not dangling. If he doesn’t have them both down he is not ready or able to breed successfully. We once had a buck with only one down, he did successfully breed but the litters were always small with just a few kits in each litter. We didn’t keep him as a breeder.
With rabbits you don’t have to wait for the female to go into heat like other livestock. She is receptive almost all the time. Sometimes they wont be cooperative, in which case we wait and try again in a week and they usually are ready at that point. If you are wondering or concerned about your female you can check her. If her vulva is pink and swollen she is receptive. If it is pale and dry she is not.
As I said before, you always take the female to the male’s cage. Put her in and watch to be sure breeding occurs. You need to know so you aren’t waiting on a pregnancy if they didn’t even breed. They will run around the cage for a bit, sometimes this can be quite comical. Then usually the female will settle and lay out and the male will mount her. Of course it doesn’t always go smoothly, she might park her rear in a corner, making it impossible for him. She might not lay out. He might have trouble figuring out where he should be. It can take some time for them to figure it out. But they will and then when he is finished he will stomp his feet and fall off somewhat violently. It is often described as him popping off her. Sometimes he makes a noise as well and lay there like he is dead. If he doesn’t “pop” off then it wasn’t a successful breeding. With first-timer this can take 10-15 minutes to get figured out. With our experienced rabbits it often takes less than 2 minutes. We usually try to leave them together long enough for two breedings (6-10 minutes or so for our experienced rabbits). Then we put her back in her cage.
Once you have had a successful breeding (or two) and put her back in her cage, you put them back together for another breeding 12 hours later. So ideally you have 1-2 breedings, then 1-2 more breedings 12 hours later. This is said to increase the litter size.
Most of the time it is very simple and goes smoothly. The saying “breeding like rabbits” didn’t come from nowhere. They are pretty easy to breed.
Occasionally there can be trouble. What do you do if it is not working?
If the female is not receptive try again a week later. If it still isn’t working, she is tucking her bum under, or continues to put herself in the corner you can try to help. Pull her out of the corner and hold her so he has access. If she still tucks under and wont allow him try again a week later. If she is young (5-6 months) give her another month or two and try again. You could also try her with a different buck. But if she continues to refuse you need to reconsider her as breeding stock.
If the male can’t figure out what he is doing, or doesn’t finish, he probably needs some more time to mature. If he is over 9 months and still can’t successfully breed a receptive female, he needs to be taken out of your breeding stock.
As I said before, most of the time everything works out fine and then you are ready to take your doe through pregnancy and kindling (giving birth) which we will talk about in the next post of our series.