Breeding of Rabbits

Rabbits are known as prolific breeders, a reputation well earned. When it is time to breed the female rabbit, put her into the cage with the male in the early morning or evening. After they have mated, put her back in her own cage. Her litter will be born about a month later.

At mating time, the female rabbit becomes restless, loses appetite to eat, and the genital is inflamed. Put the female rabbit in the pen of the male. If the male rabbit is placed in the females pen, the male might be killed because the female does not want to be disturbed in her place.

The best time for mating rabbits is early in the morning (5:00 am – 8:00 am) or about 4:00 pm -7:00 pm not less than twice. Do not leave the female rabbit overnight in the male rabbits pen.

About a week before your rabbit’s babies are born, give her a nest box where she can give birth. The nest is also a warm, dry place for the young rabbits. There are 6 to 10 babies in a litter. Their eyes will not open until about two weeks after they are born. Do not touch any of the baby rabbits until they are 7 days old. If you do, you will change the way they smell, and the mother will not feed them. If you need to check the baby rabbits, rub your hands over the mother first. Then the babies will smell like their mother instead of smelling like your hands.

When they are two months old, baby rabbits should be weaned from their mothers. You can breed the female again once her litter has been weaned. Feed them for another two months. Then, when they weigh about 4.5 lbs, they are big enough to eat or sell.

Rabbits can give you and your family meat and earn you extra income. And since they are small and easy to feed, they adapt well to city conditions.

Selection of Breeding Stock

The selection of breeding buck and doe is very much important aspect of breeding since good progeny is expected from good buck and doe. One has to consider the breeding stock in terms of fertility, maternal instinct, milk yield, growth rate, fecundity and viability.

Buck – The male rabbit is known as buck. A buck develops its breeding capabilities at the age of 8 months. An ideal buck should continue to maintain its reproductive ability at least for 2 to 3 years. A young buck may be allowed to mate one doe at an interval of 3 to 4 days. But, from 12 months of age onwards it may mate 4-6 does in 7 days. A buck beyond 6 years of age should be culled since semen quality declines. In order to keep the buck healthy additional protein, vitamin and minerals are to be supplemented in diet. Two breeding bucks should not be kept in same place as they will fight each other and cause injury.

Doe – The female rabbit is known as doe. A doe should have the perfectability to reproduce. A doe becomes capable to reproduce based on breed,nutritional status and seasons. The smaller breeds attain sexual maturity earlier than larger breeds. A small breed may accept mating at 3-4 monthsof age whereas the larger breed may accept mating at 8-9 months of age.A doe can be used for breeding up to the age of 3 years and culling shouldbe made afterwards.

Reproduction

1.  Ovulation

The rabbit belongs to a group of mammals which do not ovulate spontaneously. There is no oestrus cycle. Ovulation requires stimulus of mating and thus induced in nature. Sexual stimulation with copulation or in response to exogenous, gonadotropins, ovulation takes place. Sometime females may stimulate each other to the point of stimulation. This type of ovulation is expected in does becoming pseudo pregnant or sterile for few days. Ovulation is apt to occur within the range of 9-13 hours. But, generally it takes place at 10 hours following mating.It is thought that does may remain in constant heat throughout the year or in breeding season. But, it is known that follicles develop and regress in cycles of 15-16 days. There is a lack period when the doe may loose interest for the buck. Ovulation can also be induced through mechanical stimulation of vagina.

2.  Mating

A doe whether is in heat condition or not is difficult to recognize outwardly. But, does may show some manifestations like restlessness, nervousness, rubbing of head and chin on the side of the cage or other objects. The vulva becomes swollen and purple in colour. But, acceptability of the does to the bucks or does reaction to bucks should be taken as a criteria for heat. Therefore, detection of heat through buck should be made before allowing for copulation.

The approximate age of first mating is around 5-6 months of age. As a rule doe should be taken to the cage of buck but never be done vice versa to avoid fighting. Early morning and early evening are the most conducive time for mating. A receptive doe will lift her tail and allow mating. Males vary greatly in their sexual drive. A buck may be slow in performing the service to a strange cage. If a buck is virile and doe in perfect heat, mating will occur almost immediately. After successful mating the buck usually produces a typical cry and falls down to one side of the doe. One mating is usually sufficient. If a female does not allow in that case keeper should wait for 3 to 4 days or assist in mating holding the female. After mating the doe should be returned to her cage.

In a commercial rabbit farmers would like to have five or six litters per doe per year. This is possible only by weaning the litter at five weeks of age and mating the doe immediately following weaning. Each breeding cycle will take 65 to 75 days. This can also be achieved by mating the doe 21 days after kindling.

3.  Pregnancy

The gestation (pregnancy) period in rabbit ranges from 28-32 days (approximately 30 days). The nest box is to be kept within the cage to facilitate the doe for preparing bedding for the new born. The nest is to be provided at least 5-6 days before parturition. The nest box should contain nesting materials like straw, grass, wood savings etc. Saw dust should not be used as bedding material. A doe may pullout some of her own hairs to make nest for litters. Adequate measures should be taken concerning feeding and management during pregnancy period. Quantity of feed should be increased for 10 to 15 days of pregnancy. Plenty of fresh water should be provided.Environmental stresses should be avoided as far as possible.

Pregnancy can be detected by various methods:

  • Through palpation of abdomen by which embryos can be felt by hand. This is best done at about two weeks after mating. This technique can be perfectly done through experience.
  • Placing the buck near the doe for mating. A buck may not mate the pregnant one.
  • Uterine swelling-uterus may swell up to 12 mm at 9 days after mating. It may reach 20 mm at 13 days. Only experienced keeper may be able to predict the changes accurately.
  •  Changes in body weight-There are significant change in body weight from mating up to 30 days. Average gain of around 300-400 gm has been suggested from mating to 30 days in large sized rabbit.

4. Kindling (Parturition)

Process of giving birth of new baby of rabbit is known as kindling. It is a natural physiological phenomenon. The parturition very often takes place at late night or early morning. It may not require any interference by the keeper. The process usually completes within 7-30 minutes. Sometime all the litters may not be born on succession. Some may born after several hours or a day. The pregnancy may required to be terminated through injection of oxytocin.

Following parturition the does used to lick the young and may eat the placenta. The baby rabbits will try to suckle the mother. If the number of litter is eight, all may be able to suckle since doe has eight teats. The baby rabbits those will be unable to suckle may turn weak and susceptible to diseases. Many of them may even die prematurely. The does should not be disturbed during this time and be fed ad lilbitum. Adequate food and water should be provided so that optimum amount of milk is available to the baby rabbits. Rabbit used to nurse her young usually at night or early morning only for once. 6-12 baby kids may be barn from a single kindling.

5. Weaning

Immediately following birth baby rabbits are solely dependent on their mother. They are born naked. But at about 7 days, there is growth of hair and vitality of them. The eyes used to open after 10 days. The baby rabbits can lead their lives without mothers’ milk at about 21 days of age. The young should be removed from their mother not before 4th week. The doe should be removed from the cage. Foods like concentrates and grasses should be provided. The baby rabbits can chew and eat after 3 weeks of age. The does can be rebred provided the physical conditions of them are satisfactory in nature after one week of kindling.

6. Identification of Sex (Sexing)

Sexing is done at the time of weaning. The baby rabbit has to be placed on the hand and by the pressure of thumb and forefinger the sex organ is to be pushed on either side. In case of buck the penis will come out as a protruded mass having rounded tip. But, a slit will be located in case of Doe.

Summary

  1. The rabbits pregnancy is from 28 days (if young) up to 32 days if it is matured.
  2. When delivery time is near, the mother rabbit becomes jittery or upset — it scratches the floor of its pen, scatters or disarranges it, pulls it own fur, and lays it on her nest.
  3. At the time of delivery, the mother rabbit does not want to be disturbed. It becomes nervous, and so all disturbances must be avoided, like the presence of children, cats, dogs or others.
  4. Do not touch the small ones within the 24 hours after birth because when the mother rabbit senses that her kids have been touched, she will abandon them or eat them.
  5. If the small rabbits manifest restlessness, dissolve one-half (½) teaspoon Sulmet in a liter of water and let them drink this for 3 days. Terramycin powder will also do.
  6. After 10 days, the small ones will leave their nest and begin to eat vegetables; when these are three (3) weeks old, they will eat other foods.
  7. At this time, the mother rabbit can be mated again, and the small ones be fattened and eventually slaughtered — about five (5) months old. When raising rabbits, all important events must be noted, such as date of mating, delivery, nursing, first feeding of vegetables, and such others that will facilitate care.

More information available here: fao.org

sources: elgu2.ncc.gov.ph, thefarm.org, agritech.tnau.ac.in

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