Before breeding your rabbits, you should have a nestbox. Nestboxes can be bought already made at some feedmills and from rabbit show vendors or you can build your own nestbox out of wood. There are a few kinds of nestboxes but I prefer the wooden ones with a top on them. 1 1/2 - 2 feet long X 1 foot wide X 1 foot high should be a good size. finish ____----
1:) Before breeding, give the buck and doe a health check and check their pedigrees to make sure they are not brother and sister. It's alright to breed any other together, including mother to son or father to daughter, but if breeding brother to sister it's possible for the babies to have problems. Check the ages of the buck and doe. Small breeds can be bred at 5-6 months, medium breeds can be bred at 6-8 months, and large breeds at 8-10 months. The buck and doe shouldn't be older than 5 or 6 years.
2:) Bring the doe to the buck's cage. You may not want to do it the other way around; that is, bringing the buck to the doe's cage, because if the doe is territorial she may attack the buck. The buck may also be too interested in the new scent of the cage and will not pay any attention to the doe. You could also try putting them in a neutral cage which doesn't belong to anyone. Or if you have a play fence you could corner off a smaller section of it and put them together in there. If they don't seem interested in eachother, try putting the buck and doe in separate cages that are right next to eachother for a while so they can sniff eachother through the wire. Then try putting them together a little later.
3:) If everything goes well, the doe will let the buck chase her around a little. They do this by instinct because in the wild the doe might be chased by a few bucks and will only let the fastest buck catch her. That way the babies will inherit the genes of the faster buck and will be more likely to survive. If any real fighting occurs like biting, you should separate the two.
4:) Stay by the cage and keep an eye on the bunnies to be sure they don't start fighting. After 2 successful breedings take the doe back to her cage for a rest and bring her back a few hours later for 2 more breedings. A successful breeding has the doe raise her hindquarters for the buck followed by the buck falling off onto his back and grunting or squealing a little bit. If you want to increase the chances and the litter size, bring the doe back for a second breeding 6-8 hours after the first breeding. Don't rebreed any later than 12 hours though because rabbits can actually get pregnant twice at the same time. If the doe gets pregnant twice you could end up loosing all the kits because the kits from the first litter will be too old and the kits from the second litter will be too young.
5:) After the breeding up until the kindling, be careful when handling the doe and try not to disturb her. If she gets frightened or stressed, she could actually re-absorb the litter.
6:) On the 25th day after the breeding, put the nestbox in the does cage with a layer of wood shavings (aspen bedding or pine bedding) on the bottom and some hay on the top. Put lots of hay on a mat in the cage for the doe to use to make her nest. Soon you will see her gathering hay in her mouth and arranging it in the nest box. She will also pull some fur from her dewlap and undersides to line the nest and make it comfortable for the kits. Some does pull a little bit of fur when they are making the nest and a lot more fur right before or right after the kits are born. You can save fur from the first litter or from when the rabbit molts to be used on other litters incase the doe dosen't pull very much fur.
7:) The kits can be born now anywhere from 28 days to 32 days after the breeding time. If this is the doe's first litter the kits may be born earlier in days rather than later. You might not get to see the actual event because kits are normally born in the middle of the night. Once the kits are born, give the doe as much pellets as she wants because she will need the extra food to produce milk for the babies. You can also give her a calcium supplement such as Tumms once in a while. The doe will seem very hungry all the time so make sure she eat's her pellets before you give her any treats.
8:) After the kits are born be sure that they will be kept warm. If the kits are not in the nest box don't be afraid to put them back in. A mother rabbit will not pick up her babies so you will have to. If you are worried that the doe might not be used to your scent, you can use gloves the first few days when handling the babies but anytime after that it should be alright to pick them up without gloves. If you have handled the doe a lot and she is used to your scent than you probably have nothing to worry about. You might hear the story from some breeders, usually from people who raise rabbits for meat, that if you pick up the babies, the doe might eat them because she gets scared when she smells human smell on her young. This does happen but only because the breeder probably never handles, pets, or plays with the rabbits, and therefore they are not used to people.
9:) After you discover the babies, you should take the nestbox out to remove any afterbirth and count to see how many babies there are, then put the nestbox back in. Also if there are any dead babies, you should remove and burry them.
10:) The kits are born without fur. After the first couple days you will begin to see fur growing and they will feel very soft and velvety. At 2 weeks their fur is much longer but it is still growing. The babies eyes should open around 10 - 14 days. If it gets to be 14 or 15 days and some babies don't have their eyes open, you can wet a cotton ball or cloth with warm water and hold it on the eye for a few minutes. Then gently separate the eyelids. If there is crusty material in the eye, you can wash with an eye wash. Check daily to make sure the eyes stay clean. At 20 days the babies look a lot more like rabbits. They can run around easily and are much stronger.
11:) After a few weeks the babies will start coming out of the nest box. If you use a water crock for the mother rabbit, it may be a good idea to switch to a water bottle so the babies don't try jumping in it. Give the mother and babies all the pellets they want. Once the babies are out, you will notice them chasing the mother around trying to get milk. That is when it is nice to have a nestbox with a top on it so the mother can jump up there to get away from her kits.
Caring for a Runt
A runt is a baby that is quite a bit smaller than the rest of the litter. Sometimes runts don't make it because they're too small and the bigger babies get all of the milk. If you're afraid the baby isn't getting enough milk (you'll be able to tell because all the rest of the babies will be pudgy looking and the runt will be skinny and bony looking) you can try this to reassure that he's getting some milk.
Bring the mother and runt out of the cage and set the mother on a chair that she finds comfortable and would gladly sit there while you pet her. Make sure to keep the runt warm by wrapping him up in a little blanket. Then with the mother sitting down being petted you can find a nipple and place the runt on it and let him drink as long as he wants. Just placing the baby next to the mother and letting him find a nipple himself may not assure you that he's drinking because he may just simply be crawling under the mother for warmth because he wants to go back to sleep. Bring the baby out to be fed once everyday until he's bigger and you can see that he's getting along fine.
12:) When the kits are 6 to 7 weeks old and are eating pellets and drinking water on their own, you can wean them by moving them to another cage. If you have enough room you can start putting each of them in separate cages, but otherwise it's fine to put them all in the same cage. When the kits are 8 weeks old you should separate the does and bucks, if you haven't already done so. They are old enough to be sold at 8 weeks of age. Be sure to handle them often when they are young so they will already be used to being handled when they go to their new homes.
13:) Kits can be sexed when they are 6 weeks old (sexing means finding out if they are a boy or girl)but the older they are, the easier it is to tell. Bucks are a circle/tube and Does are a slit or raindrop shape. To sex them place your hand as the picture shows and apply some pressure.
14:) Once the kits are weaned, you can start feeding the mother her normal food amount and also breed her again.
15:) If the kits are purebred rabbits, you can make out a pedigree for them. You will need the pedigree of the Mom and Dad bunny. You can print out pedigree forms and fill in the information by hand or fill it in on the computer and print it out. Be very careful that you don't make any mistakes.
16:) For information on filling out pedigrees, you can go to this website: http://www.islandgems.net/pedigreesandregistration.html
17:) There are a number of places that you can advertise your bunnies at. You could try joining an internet group such as Yahoo! Groups for people that are interested in your particular breed or just rabbits in general and post an add on there. Lots of breeders that go to rabbit shows bring baby rabbits there and sell them at the show. You could also try making a rabbitry website and posting the babies on there, then spread your URL around so lots of people know about your site. If your baby rabbits are mixed breeds or not pedigreed, you could try putting an add in the paper or posting adds in pet shops.
18:) When you sell the kits, tell the buyers everything they will need to know to take care of the rabbit. It may be helpful to make a rabbit care sheet on your computer to print out and give to the buyer. You should give a container (such as a plastic zip-lock bag) of the pellets the rabbit is used to eating. That way if the buyer has a different brand of pellets, they can mix your pellets with their own so the change is gradual for the rabbit.