Housing male and female rabbits together is a sure way to guarantee offspring.
How old to breed
Spring is the best season for breeding rabbits; you must make sure that your Doe (female) is at least six months old before breeding. Females reach sexual maturity at 4-5 months old and males 5-8 months old.
Some smaller breeds of Rabbits may reach sexual maturity earlier. The doe has to be in season before the mating can commence, you can tell this by her behaviour of digging, nest building and very hectic behaviour.
The actual mating process only takes about 15-20 seconds, (try to take note of the date of this). Do not let an unknown ram into the doe’s hutch as they will fight, try to build up the relationship by placing their hutches together and slowly introduce the pair.
The ram will try to win over the doe by begging and such behaviour, licking and sniffing. The ram will run around grumbling and lifting up the doe’s tail.
When the female is ready she will press herself flat to the ground with her hindquarters raised, thus starting the mating process.
Once the mating process has been successful, it takes approx 10 hrs for the fertilised egg to settle into the uterus. The whole pregnancy can take anywhere from 31-32 days depending on the breed of your rabbit.
Preparing the nest
The female will instinctively know to prepare a nest of grass, hay, and her own fur which she will pull out to line the nest. She will need lots of rest during the pregnancy and will eat extra food and need sufficient minerals. A lick stone is good for this.
The birth will normally proceed smoothly? And the mother will eat the after birth as instinctive behaviour. It gives her extra nutrients and protects her and her babies from predators which may smell the blood.
- Three to four babies are common, but can be up to eight or twelve per litter.
- Try not to touch the young as the mother will detect the scent and may abandon them.
- Carefully check for any stillborn, and remove them, not to upset the doe who may become aggressive and protective.
- Keeping the male separate after birth, as in some cases the male can attack, trample or eat the young.
- Leave the nest alone for a few days, checking occasionally that all babies are in the nest, and have signs they have eaten.
- If you notice the young are very thin or not feeding the mother may not have enough milk or is not looking after the young. The young can be bottle feed, through small bottles of milk from a pet shop, or rabbit rearing milk powder.
- Rabbits bottle feed and very quiet and affectionate, but it is a constant and time consuming process. The mother if feeding is going well will feed two to four times a day, after feeding the mother will lick the young’s bellies and genitals to encourage digestion.
- Please be responsible with your breeding, as your pet rabbits will continue to breed as long as you have a male and female together, the best for long term housing is a neutered male and neutered female.
- Neutering a female will prevent the sexual hormonal behaviour such as aggression, mood swings and nesting.
- Males neutered will eliminate behavioural changes through hormones. Urine spraying and aggression.