|Breeding & Kindling
The basics of breeding & kindling rabbits
Breeding rabbits, especially dwarfs, can be a challenge! But plenty of patience and perseverance will be well worth it
when you see those beautiful little ones.
Dwarf rabbit does are generally ready to begin breeding at around 6 months of age - give or take a few weeks
depending on the size and development of the doe. Larger breeds mature more slowly and it can be up to a year
before they are ready to breed. Bucks are also generally ready to procreate at about 5-6 months of age or when the
testicles are descended.
Before you begin breeding, check the doe’s vent area and the bucks genitals. Check for sores or puss and discharge.
This is a sign of vent disease (rabbit syphilis). Do not breed these animals if you see problems, they must be treated
first! Vent disease can be latent and can also be passed down from the mother (who may not display symptoms), so it
can pop up at any time. Fortunately, it’s easily treatable -- contact me if you have questions.
If all is well but the vent area is white to light pink, chances are she will not be receptive. Keep checking each day . . .
when the vent area becomes bright red to purple, the doe is typically ready to breed. Sometimes does, especially first-
timers, are very unreceptive and it may take several tries before they will accept the buck and lift so that mating can
take place. Some strategies to get the doe interested would be to place her in a cage next to the buck or put her
actually in the buck’s cage (without the buck – switch them) so that she can become accustomed to the buck’s smell.
There are many other strategies to encourage a doe to become interested in breeding, but placing the doe in a cage
near the buck usually works for us.
Always take the doe to the buck’s cage, never the buck to the doe’s cage. Does can be very territorial and the buck
may also be so busy sniffing the new area that he won’t get the job done. Never leave a doe and buck unattended
during mating unless you are sure of their personalities. Some does may become aggressive and injure the buck and
likewise, there are bucks who can be cage territorial and may do the same. When bucks are cage territorial, you will
have to do the breeding in a neutral area.
Some people prefer "table breeding" – which is placing both the buck and doe on a grooming table or other surface.
This may offer more room for control and manipulation of the breeding pair. This is especially useful for “force
breeding”. Force breeding is holding the doe with her rear lifted so that mating may take place. While some people
practice this on a regular basis, I prefer to let things happen naturally. I believe the conception rate is higher when the
doe is actually receptive on her own. I will try several times a day or even for several days in a row to accomplish a
natural breeding. This usually works out great - however, if you choose to force breed because of lack to
time/patience, it is not harmful to the doe physically.
When breeding is accomplished, the buck will usually grunt and fall off the doe. Check the doe’s vent area again to see
if there is moisture to indicate that he did indeed “hit the mark”. I usually hold the doe cradled on her back a few
minutes after breeding to encourage conception. I typically breed a pair two times, with 10-15 minutes between
breeding. I have found this to produce a very good rate of conception and good litter size. However, some research
has shown that breedings an hour apart are the most conducive to conception. You can wait 2-6 hours between
breedings, but we have found the doe is more receptive with the shorter time frame.
Mark your calendar for 28 days after breeding. At 28 days, place a suitable nestbox in the doe’s cage and give her
plenty of hay to build a nice nest. Typically does will gather the hay in their mouth and take it into the nestbox, where
they will create a beautiful haven for their new arrivals. This is quite fun to watch! Babies usually arrive at 31 days post
breeding. The doe will typically pull fur from her belly to line the nest right before birthing. Babies will usually be born
fairly quickly and without complications.
Once the doe leaves the box and is done birthing, take the box out and examine the kits. Do not be afraid to touch the
babies! If the doe acts aggressive, offer her a treat to distract her. I usually pet the doe and talk to her calmly, then
remove the box so I can examine the kits. Remove any excess blood and birthing material from the nestbox. Check for
any severely injured kits and “peanuts”. Some people cull their peanuts at birth – it is your choice. I usually just leave
mine until nature takes its course. Count the babies and make a note of the number of normals and peanuts. Then
you can either place the nestbox back with the doe or in times of severe weather, bring the nestbox into the house for
warmth/coolness. Does will feed once a day for just a few minutes – typically when you bring them the box, they will
jump right in and feed the babies. We have successfully raised many litters “on the shelf” during winter.
You will then need to check the kits daily to make sure they are being fed. The babies should have bellies visibly full of
milk after a feeding. (Remember, if she feeds at 10 a.m. and you check the babies the next day at 8 a.m., they will not
seem full of milk by then! Best to check several times within a day if you have doubts they are being fed.) Sometimes
first time moms can’t seem to figure it out and you have to help her get started with feeding. You can attempt to hold
the doe in the nest box or what works best for me is holding the doe on her back and holding the kits on her so they can
suckle. This stimulation encourages milk production and once the milk gets going, she will feel the need to nurse the
babies every day and should take care of it on her own. If I have any worries about babies getting enough milk, I will
weigh them daily to make sure they are growing.
They will change so quickly! By two weeks, they are fully furred and should have their eyes open. If the eyes do not
open by 14 days, you will need to open them gently. The nestbox should be removed or turned on its side when the
babies get their eyes open to avoid eye infections. I line the cage with hay when the babies first start venturing out to
help keep them from getting their legs stuck in the wire. The nestbox should be completely removed by three-four
weeks of age. When you remove the nestbox, sanitize it by washing with bleach and water and sitting it in the sun to dry
if possible. It is then ready for the next litter.
Kits will start nibbling hay as early as two weeks old. I provide unlimited grass hay for them from this point. They will
then begin to taste mom’s pellets and drink from the water crock. My personal practice is to NOT to free feed a doe and
litter. I have noted that babies tend towards enteritis if they overeat pellets. You can provide 4-way Acid Pak in the
water at this point to help with the transition to solids and avoid “weaning enteritis”, but usually it's not necessary. We
have great luck with this plan and seldom having any problems with weaning.
Kits can successfully be weaned from 4 – 8 weeks of age. It all depends on your preference, but typically ours remain
with mom until they are at least six weeks of age. The mom is then moved to another cage and the kits remain in the
original cage for a few more weeks, to reduce stress. At this point, you can separate does and bucks if you like, but it’s
not necessary until about three months.
Babies should not be sold before eight weeks of age. With potential show bunnies, it is usually very beneficial to hang
on them and see how they develop. With the exception of obvious problems or DQ’s, I would not recommend selling
until at least 12 weeks of age or longer if you have room. Room for growing out juniors is very important. They change
sooo much! What you thought looked like a gangly, ugly bunny at eight weeks might be a showstopper at four
months. Some things to look for at an early age are short, wide feet, shorter ears, and thick bone.
Have fun with your new babies – play with them, love them! You will not believe how cute they are at 3-4 weeks of age.
They are simply irresistible!
*All information contained herein is based upon my experience and knowledge. No part of this information must be
copied or reproduced without written permission.* email: firstname.lastname@example.org
|Photos and Text Copyright 2007 Heidi Brashear of RoseLine Bunnies.
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