Rabbits may be prolific breeders, but that doesn’t mean that keepers don’t have to put in some effort along the way.
From logistics to health concerns, there are a lot of details to cover if you want to figure out how to breed rabbits like a pro.
In this post, we’ll go over how and when you can breed rabbits. We’ll also answer some questions that might be running around your mind regarding their reproductive patterns.
While breeding rabbits isn’t rocket science, there are a few common mistakes that novice keepers make.
Here are five simple steps to help you make sure that the process goes smoothly:
One rookie mistake to avoid here is bringing the male rabbit (buck) into the female’s (doe) cage when you should be carrying the doe to the buck’s cage.
It might sound like such a minor difference, but it can backfire quickly if you’re not careful.
Well, does can be rather territorial, and they won’t hesitate to show aggression to a buck that wanders into their space. Plus, the whole cage will smell like the doe, which might distract the buck.
Usually, rabbit keepers leave the couple to mate for about 30 uninterrupted minutes.
The buck will likely mate with the doe more than once during this period. You’ll know that each attempt is over when the buck falls to the side for a moment.
Some keepers go the extra mile and check if the doe’s tail is wet. This might indicate that the breeding wasn’t successful, and the rabbits need to try again.
Either way, you should wait patiently on the side. Don’t leave the cage unattended because the buck might get aggressive with the doe.
Sometimes, a keeper will choose to take the female rabbit away after one mating and bring her back to the buck’s cage after 10 hours or so for yet another breeding session.
This might work, too.
After all, the act of mating itself is what stimulates ovulation in rabbits. So, the goal behind the first copulation round is just to get the hormones going, while the second one will be for fertilization.
There’s no surefire way of confirming that the breeding was successful. Ultimately, you’ll have to wait and see.
That said, some experienced rabbit keepers can examine the doe’s abdomen after 10-14 days to check if she’s pregnant. If you’re not sure how to do this, we’d recommend getting a vet to do it to avoid hurting the fetuses.
If the doe isn’t pregnant, you can try breeding her again right away. However, if the vet feels babies inside the doe’s belly, you can jump to the next step to get ready to care for the kits.
Female rabbits need to nest before giving birth. You can help by getting a box ready for the kindling with hay bedding.
Sometimes, the expecting does will pull their own fur and add it to the nest to keep the kits warm. They might even break the cardboard box and use the material to build a nest from scratch.
You don’t have to rush, though.
You’ll get at least 28 days after the mating session before the doe is ready to give birth, but it’s still better to give the doe the box a week before the due date.
Just keep in mind that you’ll need to separate the male and female kits once they’re 8 weeks old. So, now might be the right time to think about the logistics of how many rabbits you’ll keep in new cages and how many you’ll sell or slaughter for meat.
Now that you know how to breed rabbits successfully, you might be wondering when you can actually start doing it.
Well, not all breeds reach sexual maturity at the same age. The smaller the rabbits, the sooner they’ll be ready to mate.
For one, you can breed Polish and Dutch rabbits (which are fairly small breeds) when they’re around 4 months or so. Meanwhile, larger breeds need 6-9 months to reach sexual maturity.
That said, it’s important to note that does will typically mature faster than bucks of the same litter.
Unlike many other animals you might be raising at home, female rabbits don’t go into traditional cycles of heat.
Instead, they’re pretty much receptive to breeding all the time once they reach sexual maturity. However, the stages of ovarian follicle maturation can affect rabbits’ willingness to be bred.
Here are some signs that indicate that your doe is ready to be bred:
- Chin rubbing around the cage
- Restless behavior
- Vulvar swelling
Interbreeding rabbits might work in some cases. For instance, it’s possible for a domestic rabbit to breed with a European wild rabbit.
Meanwhile, breeding mountain cottontails with domestic European bunnies won’t work because they’re different species with different numbers of chromosomes.
Some people crossbreed local and exotic rabbit species to produce a litter with better economic traits like size, weight, and survival rates.
However, if you’re wondering if inbreeding happens between related rabbits, then the answer is a resounding yes. Rabbits, like most animals, don’t mind mating with their siblings or even their parents.
That’s why you need to separate the bucks and does early on before they reach sexual maturity. If you can’t identify the sex reliably, it’s better to put each weaned kit in a separate cage.
While some animals mate for life, rabbits don’t usually exhibit this monogamous behavior.
In fact, a doe can carry two litters from two different bucks at the same time. This phenomenon is called double pregnancy or superfoetation.
That’s not to say that rabbits are incapable of forming emotional bonds, though.
Anyone who raises rabbits knows that they are rather social creatures who benefit from companionship. However, many keepers avoid letting non-neutered rabbits of opposite sexes bond with each other in an attempt to control the breeding frequency.
If you’re raising the little furry fellows as pets, you can get them neutered and bond them for life.
So far, we’ve covered that does are almost always receptive to breeding, but how often should you actually breed your rabbits?
Well, some keepers follow intensive breeding programs. In these cases, a doe might deliver up to 60 bunnies in a single year!
However, giving birth and weaning the young kits can take a toll on the doe’s health. So, just because it’s possible to breed rabbits this often doesn’t mean you should.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when you’re setting a breeding schedule for your rabbits:
Technically speaking, a doe could get pregnant only 24 hours after giving birth, but you’ll want to hold your horses for a while.
Usually, a 35-day interval between birth and the next breeding attempt works just fine.
It’s perfectly okay to use the same buck to breed more than one doe each day.
However, if you mate the buck with multiple does on the same day, it’s good to set aside the next day for rest.
Yet another factor to consider when you’re trying to figure out the correct breeding frequency is your purpose.
The furry creatures can be raised for their meat, but they can also be pets or show animals.
People who breed rabbits for commercial reasons might mate their does 14-21 days after kindling. Meanwhile, someone who’s raising rabbits at home for meat will need to focus on breeding more fryers.
On the other hand, keepers interested in showing rabbits will care more about the stock quality. So, they’ll probably breed selectively only a handful of times each year.
The tricky part is breeding when you’re raising rabbits as pets. Bunnies will be so adorable that you’ll probably want more and more of them, but the issue is that they often end up in shelters.
In fact, there are over 6.2 million rabbits in shelters in the US alone. The majority of those were given up by owners.
So, if you’re keeping pet rabbits and can’t handle more than a pair, try neutering them to avoid breeding altogether.
No matter the breeding purpose, you’ll want to mate healthy rabbits only.
For one, you’ll want to make sure that your buck doesn’t pass on any diseases to the doe or vice versa to avoid outbreaks. This means that if one of the breeding pair has a transmittable disease, you’ll have to wait till the condition is resolved.
You’ll also want to check that your doe is generally healthy and free of diseases that could cause a miscarriage or compromise the kits’ health, like Listeriosis.
The reproduction patterns in rabbits are the main reason they are so notorious for their frequent breeding and birthing.
The fact that rabbits reach sexual maturity fairly early definitely plays a part in the high reproductive rate. However, they also don’t go through traditional heat cycles and have relatively short gestation periods (28-33 days).
All this means that they’ll breed way more than other mammals.
Although rabbits are avid breeders, it’s still possible to find that the breeding process has failed.
Don’t let that discourage you; you just have to figure out the root cause and try again.
Here are some of the plausible reasons to keep in mind:
- Overweight rabbits can have a lower libido.
- Prolonged exposure to high temperatures (over 85°F) can render bucks temporarily sterile.
- Inexperienced stocks take some time to get used to the breeding process.
- Sometimes, female rabbits just won’t be receptive to breeding, even though there are no health issues.
Generally speaking, rabbits are ready to be bred at 4-9 months, and they remain receptive to breeding pretty much all year round. However, you’ll want to adjust the frequency based on the date of the last kindling and the purpose of raising rabbits in the first place.
To boost the odds of successful breeding, avoid the harsh summers and keep your rabbits from being overweight. Taking your doe to the buck’s cage for a second breeding 10 hours after the initial mating might help, too.
Ultimately, knowing when and how to breed rabbits is only half the equation. To raise your bunnies properly, you’ll have a long road of feeding and vet check-ups ahead!
I have a bachelor’s degree in Film/Video/Media Studies, as well as an associates degree in Communications. I began producing videos and musical recordings nearly 15 years ago. I am a guitarist and bassist in Southwest MI and have been in a few different bands since 2009, and in 2012 I began building custom guitars and basses in my home workshop as well. When I’m home, I love spending time with my three pets (a dog, cat, and snake) and gardening in my backyard. I also like photographing wild birds, especially birds of prey.