Before starting to breed any animal, make sure that you know exactly what you intend to do with the babies once they are born. If you are keeping the babies you will need extra hutches and will need to buy extra food. Also, be aware that there is always the possiblity of complications during the birthing process.
Male or Female?
It is not easy to tell the sex of a young rabbit. But once the sexual organs have developed it is quite a straightforward procedure. To tell whether the rabbit is a buck (male) or a doe (female), you must first sit down with your knees flat. Tip the rabbit upside down on your lap, using your knees to hold the rabbit in place if it wriggles too much. Then put a finger at either side of the genital opening, and push the folds of skin lightly. If the rabbit is a buck, a small penis will protrude from the opening.
When breeding rabbits it is best to wait until the doe is at least six months old, and the buck is at least four months old before mating, this way both rabbits will have reached sexual maturity. To put the rabbits together you should always put the doe into the buck’s hutch, if you try to put the buck into the doe’s hutch she will become aggressive with him and will not accept him as a mate. The buck will initially chase the doe around his hutch, sniffing her rear and lifting her tail with his nose.
When the doe is ready for mating she will lie herself flat on the floor of the hutch and will raise her tail. At this stage the buck will mount her and commence mating (which takes approximately 20 seconds). When he has finished mating, the buck will normally fall off the doe’s back with a mouthful of her fur in his mouth. This may seem quite aggressive behaviour, however it is entirely normal for rabbits.
When breeding rabbits it is essential never to breed brother and sister together, as this can cause congenital abnormalities. If accidentally a buck mates with a sibling doe, it is possible that young will not be deformed, but at the least they will produce smaller, weaker babies. It is possible however to successfully mate a doe with her father, or a buck with his mother, and this does not normally cause problems.
Pregnancy and Gestation
Not every mating results in pregnancy. Due to the fact that a doe must be in season to fall pregnant, sometimes it may take several mating attempts. If at all possible leave the buck and doe together in the hutch for up to 2 weeks, this way it will be highly likely that the mating will result in pregnancy.
Make a note of the date that you put the doe into the buck’s hutch in a calendar, diary, or notebook. That way it will be easier to work out approximately when the litter will be due.
The gestation period for rabbits is between 30 and 33 days, and when the doe is getting ready to give birth she will prepare a nest. This usually involves gathering the bedding into a corner of her hutch and a few days before giving birth she will pull some of the fur out of her stomach. This fur lines the nest for the babies, and also the process uncovers her nipples ready for feeding the litter.