The selection of breeds is a matter of personal preference. For the beginner, selecting good healthy breeding stock is more important than the fine points of difference between breeds.
Once the breed has been chosen, the selection of animals of good quality and type, free from disease is important. Probably the most convenient place to purchase animals is from a reputable breeder in the locality of the purchaser.
Hutch & Equipment:
The hutch should be constructed in such a way as to be easy to clean and disinfect and to provide comfortable quarters for the rabbits. 5/8-inch galvanized 16 gauge hardware cloth is satisfactory for the floors. Hutch sizes vary with the breed of the rabbits; small breeds (3-6 lbs.) hutch size should be 2½ feet deep, 2 feet high and 3 feet long. For larger breeds use the same height and depth but add length. Doe’s require hutch 5 feet long. Giant breeds will require a hutch 2½ feet deep, 2½ feet high and 6 feet long. The design of the hutch will depend upon whether they are to be double or triple decker, inside or outside buildings, et.
A good size next box is 12 inches x 24 inches with a 6-7 inch opening in one end. This opening should be high enough from the bottom to prevent the little ones from leaving the nest too early. The lid should be hinged to easy opening.
Care of Stud Buck
Keep Bucks in good vigorous condition, not too thin, but not too fat, and they will sire large vigorous litters. Young Bucks should be separated into individual hutches at approximately 4 months of age.
Bucks of small and medium type may be used for breeding service at 6-7 months of age. Giant breeds should not be placed in service until 8-9 months of age. A young Buck should be used only once or twice a week at first. After maturity, a Buck may be allowed to serve 3 Doe’s a week. You should allow one mature Buck for each 10 Doe’s. Bucks should be kept as cool as possible in the summer to prevent breeding failures.
Care of Breeding Doe’s
Doe’s should be fed so as to be in medium flesh; over fat causes breeding failures and thin doe’s will have weak litters.
Young doe’s of small breeds may be bred at approximately 6 months of age and large breeds at 8-9 months of age. Keep doe’s in separate hutches at least 18-20 days before mating. If a doe is too fat, too thin, or is in molt, she should not be bred. She should be discarded as a breeder if she fails to conceive and continues to have trouble in spite of the use of the best breeding methods.
Rabbits differ from other animals in that they have no regular heat cycle and may be bred at any time.
A doe may have a maximum of 4 litters each year and should remain a good breeder for at least 3 years. Doe’s should not be bred until the young ones are at least 4 weeks old. The doe should be taken to the buck’s hutch because she is more inclined to fight when bred in her own quarters. If the doe is ready, the mating will occur immediately. When mating is complete, the buck will usually fall over on one side. The doe should then be returned to her hutch. If the doe does not readily accept service within a few minutes, she should be returned to her hutch and tried again later.
Tests for Pregnancy
One way to test-mate the breeder is by returning the doe to the buck’s hutch on the 18th day after mating. If she avoids him and will not take him, very likely she is pregnant.
The normal gestation period is 31 days from mating. However, doe’s may vary 1 day either way and kindle a healthy litter. Nest boxes should be filled with clean straw and placed in one end of the hutch the 27th day. Just before kindling, the doe will make a nest, lining it with fur pulled from her belly. The hutch must be protected for if she is frightened just before kindling, she may scatter the young about the hutch and cause their death. Provide plenty of water after kindling. The milk flow will start a few hours later.
Healthy does should kindle from 6-10 young and they should be reduced to 8 by the time they are 3 days old. Most rabbits have 8 nipples and a doe should not be allowed to keep more young than she has nipples. When several doe’s are kindling at the same time, extras may be given to those with small numbers of young. Baby rabbits are born naked and blind. Their eyes will open about 10 days after birth. Doe’s that desert or destroy their young should be butchered.
Most people wean baby rabbits from doe’s around 28 days. Normally, they begin eating solid foods at three weeks along with the mother’s milk. This way, they are gradually adjusted to the solid food.
Scrub water and feed containers daily.
Clean hutch floors daily with wire brush to remove droppings.
Clean hutches thoroughly once each week, remove hair, dust, etc.
Clean nest box before kindling time.
Burn all dead rabbits in incinerator immediately.
Isolate all rabbits showing signs of disease, returning from shows, or newly purchased.