The following is intended as a broad overview only. If you decide to move forward with the breeding of rabbits, you will need to conduct extensive research in the process and make sure that you have all the necessary supplies on hands. Little lives will be depending on you!
Breeding Angora Rabbits can be a wonderful experience but, unless you know the basics, it can be a bit of a challenge. In this article, you will learn the basics you need to know about how to breed Angora Rabbits on your own. Included is information about Angora Rabbit breeding habits, age of sexual maturity, litter sizes and more.
Basic Breeding Information
Breeding Angora Rabbits is not necessarily difficult, but there are a few things you should know before you set out to do it. One important piece of information you should know is that Angora Rabbits reach sexual maturity fairly quickly – in many cases, they can become sexually mature by the time they reach 4 to 5 months of age. This information is important for a number of reasons. First, if you plan to raise baby rabbits you will need to separate the sexes before this point to prevent unwanted breeding. Second, you should not attempt to breed an Angora Rabbit before it reaches this age.
Most experienced Angora breeders recommend that you do not breed an Angora until it reaches about 9 months of age. Bucks, or male rabbits, can be bred a little earlier but Does should not be bred before they are 9 months old. You should also be aware that many rabbit breeders state that, if you do plan to breed your Doe, you not wait longer than 1 year to do so. Another important thing to remember is that both Bucks and Does should be groomed and clipped prior to breeding. This is especially important in Does because the rabbit will pull out its own fur to line the nesting box and if the fur is too long, it could strangle the babies.
Experienced Angora breeders will recommend that you always plan your litters – the gestational period of an Angora Rabbit is about 31 days so be sure to mark the day on your calendar. Before breeding, it is important to feed your rabbits a healthy diet so they are in good condition for breeding. If either rabbit is not in optimal condition, it is unlikely to have much interest in breeding – if breeding does occur, it is also less likely to be successful.
The Breeding Process
The breeding process does not require much effort on your part – all you have to do is bring the Doe to the Buck’s cage when you determine that the pair is ready for breeding. It is best to bring the Doe to the Buck’s cage because the Buck will be less distracted if he is in his own environment. The best time to attempt breeding is in the morning. It is important that you do not leave the rabbits unattended during breeding for several reasons. First, you want to be sure that the act actually takes place. Second, you need to be around to separate the pair if one of the two becomes hostile or aggressive. After coupling the Doe a minimum of three times the Buck should be removed to his cage.
After introducing the pair, breeding should occur fairly quickly. Wait for the Buck to make a high-pitched squeal or grunt and to fall off the Doe – at this point, you should remove the Buck from the cage. How quickly you let them mate again is yet another personal choice. Some breeders advocate three successful mounts during this meeting and no further contact; others give a break of just one hour to ensure a successful mating, while others leave it until the following day to increase the chances of ovulation and a successful pregnancy.
You won’t be able to tell for sure that the Doe is pregnant until about 15 days later. Look for swollen nipples at this point and a hardened lower stomach area. Up until your Doe reaches the halfway point in her pregnancy (about 15 days), continue to feed her normal rations. After this point, however, you should increase her rations by about 50% to provide fuel for milk production. After about 24 days you may be able to feel the babies moving around inside the Doe’s belly – if you try to feel them, be very careful so you don’t injure the mother or the babies.
About 5 days before your Doe’s due date, place a nest box in the cage. Some Does will begin to build a nest before this point but you must still provide a nest box so the babies will be able to stay warm after they are born. Metal nest boxes are preferable to wooden ones because they can be easily disinfected and are less likely to harbor bacteria. Place the nest box in a corner of the cage away from the toilet area where your rabbit can access it easily. If you are using a metal box, remove the bottom and line it with 2 or 3 layers of cardboard then fill the bottom of the box with soft bedding that the Doe can arrange as she likes.
If you are worried about the temperature in your home, you might want to place a specialist low-wattage lamp about 12 inches (30.5 cm) over the box to keep your kits warm. Heat lamps with thermostats are available in a price range of $35 to $50 (£22.75 to £32.50) with replacement bulbs averaging $10 to $15 (£6.50 to £9.75). Ensure that you get a specialist heat lamp to reduce the risk of fire.
Raising the Babies
The average litter size for Angora Rabbits is about 5 to 6 kits. As long as the Doe’s first litter is born before she is 1 years old, the birthing process should go smoothly. After this point, the pelvic bones may become fused, making it harder for her to give birth. After the Doe reaches 3 years of age, she should no longer be used for breeding.
Try not to disturb the Doe when she is giving birth, which generally takes place the early morning hours and then wait for her to rest a little bit and to calm down. After your Doe has kindled – given birth to her young – wait for her to rest a little bit and to calm down.
At this point you should carefully remove the nest box from the cage and open it somewhere safe to count the kits. Remove any afterbirth, soiled nesting material and stillborn kits. You should also take a minute to inspect the kits themselves to be sure there are no injuries or birth defects. Place the nesting material and the kits back into the nesting box and place it back in the cage. Be aware that kits sometimes spin in circles in the nest box and this can result in them wrapping the Doe’s hair around a paw. If the hair is not removed soon the results can be loss of the limb.
On a daily basis, it is suggested you check the nest to be sure none have died. At this time, the Doe can very protective and although she will know your scent and shouldn’t complain, she may jump at you when you probe the nest. I’d recommend you pay her some attention, pet her and perhaps give her a treat to divert her attention before attempting to remove the box to check on the kits. By handling and touching the newborn kits from the start, you will make them gentler and easier to handle.
While the Doe is nursing her young, you should continue to feed her at the increased rate for a few days. After the first few days following the birth, slowly increase the amount of food until the pellets are available at all times. You should always keep fresh hay available in the cage as well. Not only will the Doe eat it but the kits may nibble on it as well as they grow older and their digestive systems begin to develop properly. After 10 to 12 days, the eyes of the kits should begin to open. If they have not opened by day 12, use a damp cotton ball and gently wipe the eyelids from one corner to the other until the eyes open. It is not uncommon for the eyes to close again after opening, so simply repeat the process until the eyes stay open on their own.
By the time the kits reach about 3 to 3 ½ weeks of age they should be ready to live completely outside the nest box. There are conflicting opinions as to whether until that point the kits should be removed from the nest box for cleaning. The general view is that it is best not to disturb the kits as they are born they are virtually hairless so they depend on the nest box and their collective body heat to survive. If you move the baby rabbits from the nest box, they could die from exposure.
However, after several days, the nest box could become smelly and if you can smell urine, most people are of the opinion that you should clean the nest box as quickly as possible, reusing as much of the Doe’s fur and other nesting material as you can.
If after you 3 to 3 ½ weeks of age you feel like the babies still need a place to sleep you can place the nesting material in a corner of the cage but remove the box itself. If you are keeping your rabbits outdoors, you may want to clip a specialist low wattage lamp over the nesting area to keep the kits warm enough until they develop enough fur to keep themselves warm.
Once your kits reach 6 to 8 weeks of age, they are ready to be weaned. In many cases, they will naturally wean themselves by nursing less from their mother and accepting more solid food. If you need to wean the kits yourself, however, you can start by removing the largest 2 kits to a separate cage away from the others. After a few days, remove another pair to a separate cage and repeat the process as needed. By the time the kits are about 9 weeks of age you should separate the sexes to prevent unwanted breeding.
Baby rabbits can be free-fed pellets and hay until they reach about 7 months of age. During this period they should be given access to plenty of fresh water. You can begin to introduce small amounts of fresh vegetables (thumb size) once the kits reach 12 weeks of age. As detailed previously, when the kits reach 7 months of age, start to limit them to ½ cup (4 ounces / 115 grams) of pellets per 6 lbs. (2.72 kg) bodyweight. After they reach 1 year of age, you should cut back again to only ¼ to ½ cup (2 to 4 ounces / 57.5 to 115 grams) of pellets a day per 6 lbs. (2.72 kg) bodyweight. At this point, you should also begin to incorporate at least 2 cups (4 to 6 ounces / 113 to 170 grams) of fresh veggies per day in your rabbit’s diet.