Breeding rabbits isn't as easy as everyone else thinks it is. Breeders know better. Females rabbits, called does, breed when they're ready. Males, called bucks, are usually always ready. When you want to breed rabbits, the first thing you need to do is make sure both the buck and doe are both healthy. Both animals should be of healthy weight, no fleas or mites. Check genitals for any signs of sores. If a doe is ready to breed, her genitals will be deep pink, not pale.
You'll want to take the doe to the bucks cage. Does can be territorial over their cage and may attack the buck. A successful mating will be when the buck mounts the doe, then you will hear a "sneeze" and he'll fall off. I like to make sure there are at least 3 successful fall offs, then put the doe back in her own cage. You can put the doe back in with the buck later in the day for a rebreeding.
Rabbits are induced ovulators. They do not go into heat, like cats or dogs. Rabbits will release eggs 12-24 hours after mating. Gestational period for a rabbit is 31 days.
Pictured below is a pair of rabbits. The black and white one (Vienna Marked) is the doe, the white is the buck. The doe is willing to be bred in this case. She was actually mounting him.
A doe will lift her tail when she is receptive, some will even raise their pelvis as well.
If a doe is not receptive, she may attack the buck, growl, grunt, and run away. Her tail will be firmly planted on the ground and she may back herself into a corner. Remove her immediately before she injures him. Try again later.
Rabbits seem more receptive in the spring, when days are getting longer. Sometimes you may need to table breed a pair. This is when you have to put your hand under the does hips and lift her up yourself so the buck can mount her. These breedings don't always take.
Not only is it hard sometimes to get a pair to breed successfully, but even when you do, the breeding doesn't always take. Shorter days make some does not want to breed at all. Hot weather can affect a buck's fertility. I've had one doe that carried full term, but her pelvis wasn't wide enough to kindle (give birth) to them alive. After several tries, it just got harder on her so I sold her to a pet home. Another doe had a stuck kit that she tried to remove herself. I had to help, and the remaining kits were all born dead. My very first doe actually died from a breech birth and I didn't get there in time to save her. Hidden vent disease (syphillis) can cause a doe not to convince at all and will need to be treated with antibiotics.
Rabbits don't usually abort their pregnancies, their bodies actually absorbs the fetuses. Sometimes they don't absorb completely, and will end up sort of mummified. This will cause future fertility issues.
Rabbits have two uterine horns, meaning they can get pregnant twice at the same time. If a mummified fetus is present on one side, she may very well be able to still conceive on a the other. But this is one reason you shouldn't leave a buck and a doe stay together after a breeding. Carrying two litters is very dangerous for both the litters and the mom.
There are other things to consider when breeding rabbits, like fetal giants, max factors, hippos, and peanuts. I have an article on Max Factors that you can read, I'll touch on the others in another article. Be aware that fetal Giants, and hippos may not be born alive, but max factors usually are and sometimes peanuts are as well. These will normally need to be humanely euthanized, as they won't live long or won't have any quality of life.
When it's time
About 3-4 days before the due date, you will need to give your rabbit a nest, or at the very least, nesting material. Nest boxes come in all styles, but I prefer wooden ones with solid bottoms. I put shavings in the bottom for absorbency and hay on top for the mom to use to build her nest. I give extra hay incase the doe doesn't think there's enough in the nest, or incase she wants to eat it. She may start pulling fur for her nest right away, or she may not do it until she's actually giving birth (kindling). When I see fur, I usually stick my finger down inside to see if it's warm. You'll know there are babies there. Mom usually will not need any help and will will deliver the entire litter in about 10 minutes, usually early in the morning, or some other time you're not around. After babies are discovered, pull the nest box out and remove all the babies. Check them over to see if they're all healthy and that they're bellies are fat and round from being fed. Discard any placentas she hasn't eaten, and any bloody hay. Also, a lot of peanuts are born dead, so you'll want to remove those, too. Carefully place the babies back in the middle of the fur, they will dig down themselves.
The doe will only feed her kits once or twice a day, and you may never see it. As long as the kits are fat and growing, you've nothing to worry about. She will do the rest. She may also wean them herself, or you may have to do it for her.
My next rabbit blog post will be about raising them from birth, so keep an eye out! 😊