|Posted by Layla on March 26, 2015 at 9:00 AM||comments (1)|
Rabbit Care Guide
• 1st few days: feed straight from the original bag
• Next few: Mix original food half way with new food
• After: Gradually add less of the original food and more new, until you’re feeding purely the new food
• I feed one full bowl of food per day. If you notice the rabbit is gaining too much weight, cut back the food a bit.
• Give unlimited timothy hay.
• FOR BABIES: Give 1-2 gas drops per day orally for about 5 days or longer if symptoms persist to prevent gastric upset.
• NO VEGETABLES OR OUTSIDE TIME FOR BABIES under 4 months old because it upsets their digestive system
• Best feed is a plain timothy-based pellet such as Oxbox ($14.99 per 5 lbs. bag) and Timothy Complete by Kaytee ($18.99 per 9.5 lbs. bag). Avoid Alfalfa-based because there is too much calcium.
• Avoid food with colorful pieces in it because they’re high in sugar
• Put water in a heavy ceramic or plastic crock or water bottle.
• If outside, bowls are preferable because the bottles freeze in winter
• If outside, pack tons of hay into the nestbox so the rabbits can nest
• Water bowls will freeze, but rabbits can still lick the ice to get water
• Any temperature over 85 degrees is potentially life-threatening
• If it’s 85 and over: buy 2 liter soda bottles, dump soda, fill with water, and freeze. Put 1 or 2 bottles in the rabbit’s cage. The rabbits will lay against it and lick it
• Over 93 degrees or warmer temperatures with high humidity is very dangerous for rabbits, and they should be brought inside in the morning to avoid heatstroke and taken back out late at night when it’s cooler
• An outdoor hutch should be higher off the ground and provide adequate protection from the elements. Can be found at most bigger pet stores. (average $150 and up)
• An indoor cage requires litter (usually $12.99 per bag). Avoid “starter kits” because they’re usually too small for the rabbit. (average $50 and up).
• Rabbits can be easily litter box trained to cut back on litter expenses.
• Grunting and circling: A sign of dominance in does, and hormonal activity in both does and bucks.
• Soft teeth grinding: Usually happens when being pet; a sign of contentment
• Loud teeth grinding: Rabbit is in pain, goes along with injury or disease (distinctly different sound than soft teeth grinding). Rabbit may be in a hunched position and refuse to eat. Vet should be contacted immediately.
• Licking: Rabbit really likes you, and is showing affection
• Scream: A sign of extreme pain or fear; should be taken very seriously
• Growling: Rabbit is angry; so watch out!
• Suddenly flopping on side: No the rabbit isn’t dead! It means they’re content and want to relax
• Jumping and twisting in the air: Known as a “binky”. Rabbit is very happy!
• Flattened ears: Rabbit is defensive or preparing to attack
• Swatting or “boxing”: Rabbits that are feeling territorial or startled will swat with their front paws, usually accompanied by a bite.
• Thumping: Rabbits that are surprised, annoyed, or scared will stomp their back feet on the ground to say “watch out!”
• Head swaying or “scanning”: Rabbits have a blind spot directly in front of their face, so if you stand in this blind spot they may sway their head from side to side to be able to see you better. Ruby eyed white rabbits do this more often because they have poor eyesight.
• Rabbits-especially does-are territorial and will most likely attack anything put in their cage, including your hand. Never put your hand directly into a doe’s cage without first letting her know you’re there and petting the top of her head. Take care to avoid putting your hand in front of the doe’s face or you will probably get bitten or swatted at.
• Gastric Upset: Common in baby rabbits, it’s caused from the stress of being weaned and moving to a new home. Symptoms include lethargy, not eating, and distended stomach. Causes death within 24-48 hours. Give tons of timothy hay to babies and 1-2 infant gas drops per day for the first few days to prevent this.
• Mucoid Enteritis: Baby rabbits weaned from milk to pellets may develop bacteria in their gut, causing their poop to be covered in mucous, shortly followed by diarrhea and death. Strict regimented diet and antibiotics may save the baby if caught in time. If diarrhea is onset, death is unfortunately imminent within one or two days.
• Snuffles: Rabbit has thick white or yellow snot, snorting when breathing or breathing with mouth open. Paws will be covered with the snot. Very contagious and can be deadly if not treated. Cannot be cured but symptoms can be suppressed with medicine from the vet.
• Sore hocks: Bottom of the rabbit’s feet are bare and raw-looking and may bleed. Put Neosporn on the blisters twice a day until they’re gone or spray Blu-Kote. Wrap in bandages if you can.
• Fur mites: A parasite that comes from straw. Rabbit will have an almost V-shaped trail of scabs and dandruff down its back and itch a lot. Very contagious to other rabbits, dogs, and cats. Can be cured by rubbing baby powder in the rabbit’s fur every other day for a week or until symptoms clear, or a dosage of Ivermectin from the vet.
• Fly Strike: Mostly occurs with outside rabbits in warm weather. Flies attracted to the smell of urine or poop and lay eggs on the rabbit’s bottom. Within 4-12 hours maggots hatch and start burrowing into the rabbit’s body. Immediately take the rabbit to the vet, because the maggots release a toxin that causes shock and death in a few hours. If you can’t make the vet trip immediately, soak the rabbit in a basin of warm water, and pick off as many maggots as possible with tweezers. Spray infected areas and maggot holes with hydrogen peroxide and thickly apply Neosporin. Check every few hours to remove any more maggots.
• Nails should be cut once or twice a month. Cut a little in front of the red line (quick). Black nails are a little harder, but you can see the quick if you hold a flashlight against the nail. If quick is accidentally cut, put flour or corn starch to nail and apply pressure.
• Check teeth once or twice a week for chips and misalignment. Misaligned teeth are very painful and can be corrected by a vet trip unless they are genetic.
• Rabbits go through a teenager stage at around 5-8 months old (females especially). They won’t want to be social and may get a little aggressive. Males start humping and spraying. This stage will most likely result in a permanent temperament change. Spaying/neutering will eliminate these problems.
• A list of healthy vegetables and fruits is found here: http://www.rabbit.org/care/veggies.html
The Rabbit Handbook- Karen Gendron. Found at Petsmart
Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits- This book is great for general care info and expert advice. *Note that it’s a livestock book and meat rabbits are discussed. Found at Tractor Supply
Rabbits USA- Annual magazine that has great tips for training and care advice. Found at Petsmart
Heavy food bowl
Cage (indoor or outdoor)
Litter for cage (indoor only)
|Posted by Layla on March 12, 2015 at 11:50 AM||comments (0)|
With Easter right around the corner, I've gotten numerous requests for rabbits as Easter presents. Here's a list that explains what to expect from impulse buying.
1. Many impulse-bought rabbits end up in shelters, returned to the breeder, or on the streets because people are not prepared for the care required.
2. Rabbits live for 5-12 years; a child could easily become bored of a rabbit within a year or two, leaving the parents frustrated and wanting to get rid of the rabbit.
3. Rabbits are territorial and can be hormonally aggressive, especially does around 6-8 months old. People buying on impulse do not realize thsi and think the rabbit is mean. The rabbit is surrendered to a shelter or let go on the streets.
4. Rabbits cannot survive in the wild like their wild counterparts; it's the same as letting a dog go and expecting it to survive like a wolf. People tired of rabbits often assume their rabbit will live, when in reality the rabbit will die from starvation, poisoning, disease, predators, or cars.
5. Rabbits can't be left outside all the time. They're very sensitive to extreme weather, particularly heat. Care must be taken to protect the rabbit. Indoor housing is preferable if possible.
6. Rabbits aren't great pets for young children; they kick, bite, scratch, are territorial, and skittish. They can be hard to pick up and hold, especially if they're scared.
7. Rabbits need their nails trimmed every other month or so, so their nails don't get uncomfortably long and cause sore hocks or broken nails.
8. Daily attention is one of the most important things for a rabbit. Antisocail bunnies develop behavioral issues which inclue extreme territorial behavior, fear aggression, and skittishness.
9. Rabbits hate loud, sudden noises and will become jumpy and stressed, leading to fear aggression. Bouncy, rambunctious children will cause a rabbit to bite and kick.
10. Owning a rabbit can get expensive; costs of feed, hay, chew sticks, vet bills, and general care can add up. If you're looking for a cheap pet that won't cost any money, perhaps waiting until you have enough is the best option.
|Posted by Layla on August 19, 2014 at 11:00 AM||comments (0)|
I have gotten many questions lately about why I breed Mini Lops, Silver Martens, and Himalayans, as well as occasionally having other breeds. The general answer to this question is simple: I love the temperaments! What I look for most in my rabbits is a lovable, friendly temperament that will be suitable for a family life. Of course, the most popular pet bunnies are my lop eared ones; Mini Lop babies are usually all sold in a week! However, there are also some other breeds that I raise that are less well-known yet just as friendly and adorable!
The first is the Silver Marten Rabbit. It comes in four colors; black, blue, chocolate, and sable, with black being the most common. These striking rabbits have a line of silver ticking going around their sides and rump as well as a white underbelly and white eye circles. They weigh in at about 6.5-8.5 lbs, making them a medium sized breed. They are mostly used for showing and as pets, though they are sometimes used for meat or fur. However, they're not entirely economical for meat because they do not grow as fast as a Californian or a New Zealand. Silver Martens became a breed in 1924 by crossing Standard Chinchillas and Tans. They are friendly if socialized from a young age. I noticed if they're not socialized from birth they tend to be skittish.
The second is the Himalayan Rabbit. This interesting breed is relatively small at about 2-4 lbs, and known for its unique body shape, called cylindrical type. They are the only breed with this shape, which is akin to a tube sock. They come in four colors as well; black, blue, lilac, and chocolate. They were one of the first rabbit breeds. No one is sure of their origin, though theories suggest they did not actually come from the Himalayans. Their unique colored markings are located on their nose, feet, tail, and ears. The markings are temperature sensitive and get darker in cooler weather and lighter in the heat. This is by far one of the friendliest breeds of rabbits and are often used in 4-H for young children who might not be able to handle a more active rabbit.
The third breed I mainly raise is Mini Lops. This popular breed is a medium sized rabbit with an ideal weight of 6 lbs. They became a breed after Bob Herschbach travelled to Germany and discovered a rabbit called the Klein Widder. They weighed about 8 lbs and were not popular when brought back the US because of their big size. So, Herschbach downsized them to the Mini Lop we know today and they became a breed in 1980. They come in numerous colors including solid-or self (black, chocolate, lilac, blue, and white), agouti (chinchilla, chestnut, lynx, and opal), broken (blanket pattern, patches pattern, &spotted pattern), tri colored (black, blue, chocolate, & lilac), pointed white, shaded (frosted pearl, sable, sable point, seal, tortoise), ticked (silver/silver fox & steel), and wide band (cream, fawn, orange, and red). They are known for their laid-back and friendly personalities, and are one of the most popular rabbit breeds.
|Posted by Layla on June 8, 2014 at 12:05 AM||comments (0)|
One of the most commonly asked questions that I get is, "What's the friendliest breed of rabbit?" Though all rabbits have individual personalities, certain breeds are predisposed towards bad tempernaments. Here, I'll lay out some of the friendly (and not so friendly) breeds based off of my experience with them and talking to other breeders. If you have a question about another breed not lsited here, send me an email and I'll help out the best that I can!
|Posted by Layla on June 7, 2014 at 11:50 PM||comments (0)|
Congratulations! You just brought your new baby rabbit home! Now, there are a few things you should understand about baby rabbits.
1. They will be nervous
It's normal for a baby rabbit to be scared of you at first; they're in a new environment, they don't know you, they're separated from their siblings. It's a scary world. Continue to give them affection and reassure them you don't intend to hurt them.
2. They may not eat
Rabbits by nature are insufferably fussy eaters, and may not like a new food they're introduced to. So what will they do? Ignore it, dig it out, flip the bowl over. Basically anything to say, "I don't want to eat this!" Eventually, they'll get hungry enough to start eating the food, but be prepared to see it untouched for the first few days you bring a new bunny home.
3. They may kick you
A rabbit, especially a baby, that feels insecure when it's being held or gets scared may suddenly flail its back feet around in an effort to get you to put it down. This is why it's very important to hold a baby rabbit correctly and establish that you're not going to drop them. Never tlet a baby bunny jump from your hands into its cage; this will encourage it to struggle when it wants to be put down.
4. They have delicate digestive systems
Baby rabbit's digestive systems are still very unstable at the time you bring them home. Any variation in their diet; vegetables, fruit, grass, can cause gastric upset and lead to death. It's important to have Infant Gas Drops on hand in case you notice diarrhea and don't feed your new baby fruits, vegetables, or let them in the grass until they're 4 months old.
5. They have delicate bones
A rabbit's skeletal system is fragile, and a baby rabbit's is even more so. One bad fall can result in a painful break and a powerful kick will result in a broken back. Please handle your bunny carefully and don't allow small children to hold a wiggly baby.
6.They must be trained
A baby rabbit isn't going to know right off the bat that it's not okay to nip and dig at clothes or skin, pee and poop on you, or jump off your lap. You must gently and kindly teach them these things. One of the most common problems is an impatient baby pulling and biting at your clothes. Clap your hands loudly and firmly, without yelling, say "NO." If that doesn't work, the next time time the baby bites or digs squeal loudly to let the baby know that hurt. You'll most likely get a mortified look and they'll stop. Bladder control just comes with age; as soon as the baby pees or poops put them back int heir cage. Eventually they'll the message that you're not a bathroom.
7. They're easy to mold
A baby rabbit will become what you make it, meaning if you give it lots of attention and love all the time, they will be super friendly and happy to be around you. On the flip side, if you ignore it and treat it poorly you will have a fearful baby that will turn into an aggressive adult.
|Posted by Layla on June 7, 2014 at 11:45 PM||comments (0)|
All rabbits love vegetables and fruits, however, these should be given in moderation as too many will cause an upset stomach.
^: Give tiny amounts
*: Extra good!
|Posted by Layla on June 7, 2014 at 11:30 PM||comments (0)|
Usually when people think of an adorable, sweet small animal pet they think of a rabbit. Rabbits are adored for their cute faces, soft fur, and funny personalities. However, many people impulsively buy a rabbit without doing the crucial research first. After reading this, you may realize rabbits are not what you previously expected. Here are some little known facts about rabbits that may surprise you.
1. Rabbits must be with their mom for a minimum of 8 weeks to ensure they get all the nutrients they need from their mom's milk. Separating them any sooner could result in gastric upset, immune disorders, and death.
2. Baby rabbits should not eat vegetables, fruit, or roam in the grass until they are a minimum of 4 months old, because they have delicate digestive systems and are suseptible to disease.
3. Rabbits need something to hard to chew on to keep their constantly growing teeth down.
4. Sexual maturity for does is about 5-6 months of age, while it is 4-5 months in bucks.
5. Rabbits, especially does, go through a "teenager" stage at sexual maturity and may become territorially aggressive, grouchy, and not want to be held. They usually outgrow this phase after getting bred or fixed.
6. Rabbits are highly territorial and you should never stick your hand directly in a rabbit's "house".
7. Rabbits have two blind spots; one directly in front of their noses and directly behind them. Coming at them from these areas could result in a bite or scratch.
8. Some rabbits don't like to be held. It all depends on the individual and how much time you interact with them.
9. Rabbits need Timothy Hay more than anything to keep their digestive system healthy.
10. Rabbits don't need baths; they usually keep themselves neat and tidy.
11. Rabbits need their nails clipped periodically to keep their nails from getting painfully long.
12. Rabbits aren't a good choice for little kids, because they're territorial, may kick and bite, and are skittish by nature.
13. Rabbits can be litterbox trained with persistence on your part.
14. Rabbtis enjoy being in an outside pen to run arond in grass untreated with chemicals.
15. Rabbits can and will breed with their parents and offspring.
16. Rabbits make a variety of sounds including squeaks, grunts, growls, snorts, thumping their feet, and chattering their teeth.
17. Does can hump other rabbits as a way to show dominance.
18. The average rabbit will live 5-7 years.
19. A rabbit that flings its feet in the air after being put down is expressing happiness in a movement called a "binky".
20. A content rabbit will suddenly flop on its side (much to the shock of the owners!). This is a harmless, normal behavior.
21. Two bucks will fight to the death if they're put together, even if they're brothers.
22. Rabbits will lick you if they really like you.
|Posted by Layla on January 20, 2014 at 12:55 AM||comments (0)|
Everything is going well; you just brought your new bunny home and go to pet her or pick her up when BAM, you get a nice bite on the hand. Now you're wondering, what did I do wrong? Is the rabbit mean? 9/10 times, no the rabbit is not mean! Rabbits will bite for a variety of reasons, including fear or surprise, territorial, hormonal, and illness. Find out here why your rabbit may be biting and what you can do to help.
*How to curb aggressive behavior
If you're dealing with a hormonal or territorial rabbit, there are steps you can take to let your bun know you're in charge. Press down on the top of their head; not hard enough to hurt, but firm enough to push their head all the way to the ground. Dominant rabbits will pin the submissive one down in much the same fashion. Hold this position for a few seconds then release. Continue to pet your bunny on the top of their head. If they start being aggressive again, repeat the dominance process. Trust me, it works wonders! The key is to be consistent and never let your bunny get away with aggressive behavior. As a final note on the dominance process, using it on a fearful/nervous bunny will most likely calm them down. This lets them know that you're in charge and you won't let anything hurt them.
* What makes a bite a bite?
There is a major difference between a bite and a nip; if it draws blood. A nip may hurt and even leave a mark. However, a serious bite will draw blood and be quite painful. Rabbits will nip you to get attention, get you out of their way, when they want to be put down, or if you aren't feeding them fast enough. Though you may be startled, don't panic and think your rabbit is mean. This is how they're communicating with you. However, nipping should not be allowed! If your rabbit nips you, squeal loudly and high-pitched. This sounds like a bunny scream and will let them know "hey, that hurt!". You'll probably see your bun freeze and look mortified. If nipping becomes a huge problem, you can accompany the squeal with clapping loudly. Now that I discussed nipping, let's talk about why a rabbit may seriously bite you.
Though many people think rabbits are sweet, lovable little fluffy creatures, in reality they are highly territorial and would live by themselves in the wild. When a rabbit reaches sexual maturity around 6-8 months for does and 5-8 months for bucks, they may start to not like having other things in their house-AKA your hand. A territorial rabbit will flatten itself low to the ground and may follow your hand with its eyes. The next step is the rabbit will growl and lunge at you, often accompanied by swatting your hand with its front paws.
A rabbit will charge and bite at the back of legs if they're allowed free reign in the house; sometimes you can get a nice bite from this! It's for this reason that a territorial rabbit should be confined to a smaller space if you let them run around the house, so that behavior can be controlled.
Does are more likely to be territorial than bucks. They can be really scary if it's your first bunny! I recommend that if you want to reach into your rabbit's house, you come at them from the top of their head, not their front. If they spin around really fast, growl, or exhibit any aggressive behavior, use the dominance process a few times. Your rabbit should get the message soon enough. Again, be consistent and don't be timid with them!
Another common reason for biting, rabbits go through what's called the "teenager phase" or as I call it, the "bad girl phase" around sexual maturity (6-8 months). I call it the "bad girl phase" for a reason; almost all the time, does are the ones who will exhibit this type of aggressive behavior. Basically, they're trying to be in charge of you and be the top bunny. If you purchase a baby doe, you may have to deal with this as she gets older. Use the dominance process with the rabbit whenever they're aggressive. Your bun should grow out of the "bad girl phase" by the time it hits a year old. If not, you may be dealing with a territorial rabbit.
Rabbits are prey animals, and are skittish by nature. This is why I generally don't recommend them for very little, boisterous kids. Loud noises, sudden movements, and picking the rabbit up too quickly will result in the rabbit kicking out or biting. Never yell at or hit a fearful rabbit; this will only make them more afraid and aggressive. Using the dominance process on them should calm them down if they've already accepted you as the leader. However, there a few precautions you can take to avoid fear related aggression entirely.
First, it's never a good idea to come up to your rabbit yelling or approach them too quickly. Loud noises and sudden movements will terrify them. Also, touching a rabbit without letting them know your there first will also result in them lashing out in defense. One thing you should be aware of is rabbits have two blind spots, directly in front of their nose and directly behind them; just like a horse. If you come at them from these areas, expect to be swatted or bitten because the rabbit can't see you. Always talk to your bunny softly as you approach them, and I recommend petting them from the top instead of the front.
Rabbits tend to hide illness and injury as a defense mechanism, which is why it's important you're attuned to how they normally. An injured or sick rabbit may grunt and grind its teeth, hunch in the back corner of its cage, and lunge at you if you try to pet them. If your usually docile rabbit suddenly turns aggressive, a trip to the vet may be in order. Broken bones, bladder stones, intestinal block, misaligned teeth, and flystrike could all cause aggressive behavior.
In a rare case, a rabbit could just be plain mean. I have only dealt with a few truly aggressive rabbits in all my years of owning them. Usually this is a result of genetics and/or poor breeding. Certain breeds are pre-disposed towards aggression; Netherland Dwarfs, Dwarf Hotots, Brittania Petite, and Mini Satin are included. A truly aggressive rabbit could be a buck that is over a year old, baby rabbit, and persistently aggressive doe. Before determining if a rabbit is nasty, make sure you rule out all the other possibilities. If you determine your rabbit is truly aggressive, there is unfortunately nothing you can do. No amount of the dominance process will help. If I find a rabbit is my rabbitry is truly aggressive, they end up right in the cooking pot. As cruel as this sounds, aggressive rabbits are dangerous to keep around, especially if there are young kids. A serious bite could mean a lot of bleeding and stitches. I generally give my rabbit three strikes before culling them from my herd.
With that being said, hopefully I didn't scare you away! Rabbits are truly wonderful pets and make great companions. However, they have to be trained just like dogs or horses if you want the perfect snuggle bunny you see in pictures. If you're dealing with a trouble bunny, contact me and I'll be more than happy to help you out and give advice.
|Posted by Layla on November 25, 2013 at 12:00 AM||comments (0)|
With everyone preparing for winter with down coats, hats, gloves, scarves, and hot chocolate, rabbits are also gearing up to stay warm during the cold months. Contrary to popular belief, rabbits handle the winter much better than the summer. However, steps will need to be taken to ensure your bun is as warm as possible.
*How rabbits stay warm
As the nights gets colder, you may notice your rabbit shedding more than normal. Their fur might come out in big puffs and even leave bald spots. This is completely normal and called molting. Molting takes anywhere from a week to a month, depending on how big the rabbits is and how much you brush them. Rabbits molt twice a year to prepare for the winter and summer. Their winter coat is considerably thicker and longer than their summer coat and serves as insulation against the cold. Because of their winter coat, rabbits manage in the winter months just fine. However, their ears can get very cold because there is hardly any fur on them and the night time can be brutal for even the fluffiest bunny.
*How you can help
Make sure your rabbit hutch has a nestbox to hide in. Most hutches come with a nestbox or have a removable one. However, if they don't, a nestbox can be made out of wood, just big enough for your rabbit to hop in and turn around. Any bigger and they may use it as a bathroom and it doesn't heat up as well. The nestbox should have a solid wood bottom, which can get dirty but is nessesary.
The most important thing to have in the winter is hay. Call your local farms and ask for bales of hay. Not only is hay an important part of the rabbit's diet, it helps keep them warm. Stuff a lot of hay in the nestbox every night. Your rabbits will hop in and snuggle in the hay, and the temperature in the nestbox will be very warm.
DO NOT use straw! Straw is a breeding ground for parasites which use the hollow strands to keep warm in the winter.
*Feed and Water
In the winter, rabbits burn more fat trying to stay warm, so it's important they get more food than normal. A skinny rabbit can't stay warm because it won't have any fat for insulation. Also give more hay than normal and maybe Cheerios or oats a few times a week.
Switch all water bottles to plastic or ceramic bowls, because bottles freeze quickly and the rabbit won't be able to drink. The water in the bowls will still freeze, but the rabbit will be able to lick the frozen water. Change the water at least twice a day so the rabbit gets a chance to have unfrozen water. Three times a day is preferable.
Rabbits are more suceptible to diseases in the winter, so keep any extra close eye on them. Clear runny eyes or nose is normal whent he weather transitions to the cold, just make sure the discharge isn't white or yellow.
Try to avoid breeding in the winter, because the babies will probably freeze to death. I've had to breed in the winter to get my doe's first litter out of the way, and it's stressful keeping the babies warm.
Avoid bringing rabbits inside for any length of time, especially at night, because the sudden change in temperatures can make the rabbit sick.
With certain steps taken to keep your rabbit warm, you'll have a very happy, very cozy bun that'll enjoy the winter months as much as you!
|Posted by Layla on September 2, 2013 at 1:05 PM||comments (0)|
After owning a rabbit, you might decide you want some cute, fluffy babies of your own! Breeding rabbits is a fun and rewarding experience, but can also be heartbreaking and disappointing. Before breeding, consider the following questions: Do you have the means to take care of a pregnant doe? Can you spend the time to take care of the babies? Do you know good animal midwifery practices and what to do in an emergency? Do you know what you'll do with the babies once they're born? Do you know basic medical care for the babies? Finally, are you prepared for the possibility of losing babies and the doe? Though this may sound like an intimidating amount of work, raising baby rabbits is a lot of extra time and responsibility.
Before breeding rabbits, here are some terms you should be familiar with:
~Doe: A female rabbit
~Kit: A baby rabbit
~Buck: A male rabbit
~Kindling: The time when a doe has her babies
~Palpating: A practice of checking the doe for pregnancy
~Nestbox: Where the doe should have her babies and where she builds her nest.
~Dewlap: A flap of fur and fat around the doe's neck. When they have babies, they pull fur from it to make a nest.
~Skirt: A roll of fur on the doe's hindquarters. They pull fur from this to make a nest.
~False Pregnancy: When a doe isn't pregnant but thinks she is because of her body's hormone level. During this time she'll build a nest and pull fur.
After you know the terms, you're ready to breed the rabbits. Female rabbits can breed year round, but become more receptive to breeding at certain times of the year. A good practice is to breed the rabbits a few times over the space of hours, this makes sure an egg gets fertilized. A successful breeding is where the buck mounts the doe and falls over with a grunt. It's usually very quick and you may miss it if you're not watching. There are a few different ways to breed rabbits:
~Traditional: The traditional method is just putting the rabbits together and letting nature take its course. Always bring the doe to the buck's cage, never the other way around; does are extremely territorial and will attack the male if you put him in her cage. Leave the rabbits together for a little bit, and once they've mated put the doe back in her cage. Then a few hours later repeat the process.
~Table breeding: Another method, and the method I use, is called table breeding. I personally think this is the most effective method because you have control over the process. Bring the doe and buck on some solid surface like a table and put the buck on top of the doe. Let them breed a few times then put them back in their cages. At least 3 hours later repeat the process.
Whatever method you choose, after the breeding count 31 days later and mark that date, as well as the 30th, 29th, and 28th day. Normally rabbits have their babies exactly on the 31st day, but can give birth as early as the 28th day or as late as the 35th day. A nestbox and a ton of hay should be offered on the 27th day. Any sooner and the doe may soil the nestbox.
*How to tell if the doe is pregnant
~Digging out the food from her bowl: This is not the case with all rabbits, but can be a sign that she's pregnant.
~Scratches and bites at cage walls: Again, just a possible sign, but I notice it a lot with my pregnant does.
~Increased aggression: Some does get very grouchy and may not want to be pet.
~Palpation: Do not attempt this unless another breeder shows you how, you could injure the =doe and babies if this is done incorrectly. Between the 10th and 15th day of the gestation period, hold the doe with one hand and push the under hand gently up her stomach. Babies feel like tiny grapes on the sides.
~Gathering hay: When provided with straw or hay, the doe gathers a bunch of it in her mouth and caries it to the desired nesting spot. Does can do this as early as 21 days(if they're really prepared!) or leave it to the last minute. If you notice this with some of the other signs, this is a pretty sure sign she is pregnant! However, some does exhibit this during a false pregnancy.
All does build a nest for their babies, consisting of hay or straw and fur. The doe pulls a lot of fur from her dewlap, skirt, and stomach, so don't be alarmed if you notice your doe is bald on her neck and stomach. Does usually kindle at night though they can kindle in the morning. Usually they pull fur right before they give birth. The fur goes in a huge pile mixed with hay or straw and the babies go right in the middle. You'll probably miss the doe actually giving birth; it only take a few minutes.
If you notice your doe is in labor for a long time or is in obvious distress, it's important to find out the problem as quickly as possible.
~Breech birth: Normally kits are born head first, but sometimes they get turned around and are born feet first instead. Does can still pass the kit on their own, but sometimes they need help. Check the doe's bottom if she appears distressed; a breeched kit might be hanging out. Bring her in and take some lubricant like vaseline or olive oil and rub it where the breeched kit hangs out. Take a firm grip on the kit; don't worry about hurting it because it's already dead. Gently pull with her contractions. After you get most of it, the doe should be able to push the rest out. Put some Neosporin around her opening to prevent infection. She may or may not have live kits after the breech; depending on how quickly the kit was removed. It's important you remove the kit as soon as possible, because after a few hours the damage to doe will be irreparable. Take her to the vet if you notice listlessness or her ears feel very hot-symptoms of infection.
~Stillborns: It's very normal for a doe to have one or two stillborns in a litter. Sometimes the entire litter could be stillborn if she's a first-time mom. This happens for several reasons; the doe was spooked during kindling, the kit died in the womb, or it was not internally developed. Remove stillborns immediately or they'll attract flies and start to smell.
I don't recommend breeding rabbits unless you're experienced and comfortable with them. Also, doing a lot of research and talking to breeders if a necessity. Raising rabbits is a lot of fun but also a huge responsibility and takes up a lot of time!