If you are wondering about rabbit breeding, then you should understand that there is a good reason that the saying ‘breeds like rabbits’ means rampant reproduction!
In the wild, a single doe can mother a line of descendants that can number as many as eight hundred in a single breeding season! Of course, since rabbits are also at the bottom of the food chain, many of those offspring will not survive to adulthood, but there is a lot the commercial rabbit farmer can learn from rabbit breeding patterns in the wild.
The first thing you should understand about rabbits is that they need to be sexually and physically mature before they breed. In the wild, rabbits will not breed until they are about four to seven months old, depending on their species. Since they are likely to be too small and immature before then, it makes sense to wait a little longer, in order to ensure a quality litter.
Then there is the fact that rabbits are reflex ovulators. If a female rabbit does not mate, she will not ovulate. That is why it is important to monitor your breeding stock for signs of oestrus, and make sure that they are mated when they are receptive.
Rabbits will also naturally rest for about three months of the year, usually starting in late summer, before they recommence breeding. It is always wise, in a commercial setting, to ensure that your breeding stock, and particularly does, also have a regular rest between litters, as this will ensure that they do not burn out before their time.
Since you can control the climate to a degree, when you are running a commercial rabbitry, this rest period need not be during a particular season – you could stagger your breeding program to ensure that you always have new stock being born, while still resting your does for around three months of the year.
Then there is the care of the kits themselves. If you observe rabbits in the wild, you will notice that does are fiercely protective – particularly around males. That is because buck rabbits will usually kill any offspring they encounter – even their own. That is because they cannot be sure which young carry their genes, and that is why it is so important to keep commercial rabbits separate. Ensure that your does have nesting boxes in their cages too, and they will naturally pull out their own fur to line them, while at the same time exposing their nipples for the kits.
Rabbit breeding is certainly a lot less difficult than breeding many other commercial animals, yet there are tricks, like these, that will make your rabbit farming production endeavours a lot more successful.