Does, Breeding, and Babies

This photo taken in Zambia is of the babies in their designated room. They will be transferred to another room as they grow, until they are big enough to butcher.

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     The breeder room can contain as many as 10-12 does and one buck (male rabbit). The buck will breed each doe as she comes in season. Once bred, the doe will seek a place to nest and have her babies. She will pull the hair from her belly to put in the nest, along with dry material she can gather from around the room. Besides the fur being used as bedding material, the removed hair exposes her nipples and makes it easier for the babies to find them. When she does this, it is a clear sign that she is about to give birth. She and her nest will need to be left alone during this time and for the first few days after giving birth. If she is frightened she may kill and eat her babies. Wait two days after the babies are born before opening the nest box to inspect them. Count the babies and see if each baby appears healthy, removing any dead babies. Important note-If you are touching ANY newborn baby in a nest, make sure you touch EVERY baby to put your scent on them all. This way the babies will all smell the same to the doe. Otherwise, the doe may kill some of them.


    Babies, (called kits), are born without hair, and with their eyes closed. Having a safe, dry environment with the correct temperature is critical for the newborn babies. It is during the first week of life that most kits are likely to die from these issues. After a kit opens it’s eyes and starts getting hair, the environment is less critical, but still should be monitored. 


    A doe’s gestation period is 31 days. Within hours of having her babies (called a kindle), the buck will breed her again, thus insuring that she will produce another kindle 31 days later. The doe will nurse the kits frequently during the first few days after birth, and will spread out the nursing times as the kits grow. As the kits get older they will start to investigate their environment, even leaving the nest for short periods, usually at night. The kits should start eating dry food after two weeks. The doe will begin to wean the kits around two and a half weeks forcing them to get their food elsewhere. They will be fully weaned from the doe at three weeks.


    The older weaned kits should be removed from the colony and put in the #1 raising room before they are 4 weeks old, usually by 21 days. This allows the doe a week without babies to recover before giving birth again. As you remove the weaned kits from the breeding room to be placed in the raising room you should determine the sex and mark them for easy recognition later. We suggest you cut the tip of each rabbit’s ear off with a sharp pair of scissors, one ear for the female, and the other ear for the male. There is no lasting effect to this procedure and the ears will usually heal within one week. As the rabbits get older, we suggest separating the females from the males by putting each in it’s own room. This prevents any unwanted breeding between the growing rabbits. Rabbits mature at different rates and sometimes unwanted breedings can happen if the sexes are mixed.


    A good producing doe should birth 6-10 kits every month, for one year. If she does not birth and raise 6-10 kits each kindle, she is not a good producer and should be removed. A doe that consistently produces good kindles will start missing pregnancies and have fewer kits and kindles as she ages, usually around one year. Once you have realized a doe has stopped producing the required kits, she should be removed and replaced.


    As you maintain your breeding colony, it will be necessary to plan for your breeders to be replaced. As we previously stated the doe will most likely need to be replaced every year. So to prevent any lapse in production it is a good idea to stagger your replacements. Do not put yourself in a position where more than one breeding doe needs to be replaced at the same time. Also, you should start raising your replacement does well in advance of the need as the doe needs to be a minimum of three months old to start producing. When you remove an old doe you should have a replacement doe ready. The replacement doe cannot be a descendant of the breeding buck. Inbreeding will produce inferior and unhealthy babies and rabbits.

© 2017 Perfect Peace Ministries Inc.