Despite the old adage, breeding rabbits in your backyard isn’t as simple as it sounds. For starters, your city’s ordinances or homeowners’ association may not allow it. It also takes time, money and research to produce healthy bunnies in a responsible manner.
Things to Know
Decide why you want to breed rabbits, which serve multiple purposes. Like cats and dogs, well-socialized rabbits provide companionship for humans. Some breeders sell rabbits for food because they provide a low-fat, low-cholesterol source of protein. Angora rabbits are prized for their long fur because it’s softer and silkier than cashmere. Authoritative sources like the House Rabbit Society and the American Rabbit Breeders Association Inc., or ARBA, provide good starting points for beginners.
Don’t breed rabbits unless they’re healthy and sexually mature. Find a reputable veterinarian trained in rabbit care. Proper health care is essential to breeding healthy rabbits. Ask an experienced rabbit breeder to act as your mentor for another valuable source of support and information.
Smaller rabbits mature faster than larger breeds. Depending on the breed, it may take anywhere from four months to a year for a rabbit to reach maturity. Female rabbits, or does, don’t go into heat. Mating with a male rabbit, or buck, induces ovulation about 10 to 13 hours later, according to the Washington State University Extension’s “Raising Rabbits: Helpful Suggestions for Beginners.” One buck usually is enough to service 10 to 20 does, according to the extension’s guide.
Keep the doe and the buck separate. Check the doe’s external genitals, or vent, when you’re ready to breed the pair. You’ll have better results if the doe’s vent is a vivid red, pink or purple. Clean each rabbit’s genitals before mating them. Take the doe to the buck’s cage, which should be cleared of toys. If you bring the buck to the doe, he may become distracted by the new space or the doe may become aggressive. The rabbits may chase each other or take a few tries before the mating begins. The doe will lift her back end once she’s willing to accept the buck. Remove the doe from the cage after the buck falls onto his side.
Don’t put the doe in the buck’s cage if either one seems stressed. Breed the pair again a few hours after the first mating for a greater chance of success. However, treat the doe as if she’s pregnant after the second mating. Don’t try to breed her again a few days later, advises ThreeLittleLadiesRabbitry.com. Does have two uterine horns and can become pregnant in both horns. This increases the risk of complications and death for the mother and her babies.
Treat potentially pregnant does gently to avoid a miscarriage, recommends “Raising Rabbits: Helpful Suggestions for Beginners.” Ask your veterinarian or mentor to show you how to check the doe for pregnancy. This usually includes palpating the doe about two weeks after the mating. Place a nest box in the doe’s cage about 28 days after the mating. The nest box provides a safe place for the babies during and after birth.
Check the nest twice a day near the end of the pregnancy. A doe usually gives birth about 30 days after conception. The babies, or kits, won’t open their eyes for about 14 days. By 21 days, the kits begin hopping out of their nest box. They usually need to stay with the doe for at least eight weeks.
Don’t expect to make a huge profit breeding rabbits in your backyard, recommends Dana Krempels, Ph.D., of the University of Miami. It takes money to properly feed, house and care for rabbits. While breeders make money selling rabbits, the profits usually go back into their breeding programs.