Rabbits aren't quite gremlins if you take proper steps to control their breeding. This story will help you know how to breed rabbits.
Rabbits are naturally wild creatures and are prey. As they haven't much defense-mechanism to save themselves from predators, Mother Nature seems to have generously endowed them with the faculty of breeding, as this is the only way to keep their species alive. It's a great thing in the wild to keep the balance of nature; but when rabbits are domesticated, and when you aren't really planning on having too many, you're just inviting trouble if you've recently got a doe just because you thought your buck must get lonely.
It is most important to make sure that you have enough space and an environment where these creatures feel most stress-free. Open spaces are something rabbits instinctively love, instead of being cooped up indoors. They don't venture too far away from the house once they're certain that they're protected where they are. This is one of the best ways to make sure you have healthy bunnies.
When to breed?
Small breed: Doe - 5 months and Buck - 6 months Medium Breed: Doe - 6 months and Buck - 7 months Large breed: Doe - 8 months Buck - 9 months
The selection to be mated, depends upon their health and their breed. It is best to see to it that the pair you're going to breed isn't suffering from any illness or genetic defects, such as tooth malocclusion (where the jaws are uneven, and the teeth don't coincide ).
And also buphthalmia (cloudy eyes, protruding eyeballs, keratitis, ulceration in the eye), splay leg (legs are adducted), and hydrocephalus (vitamin A toxicity, skeletal abnormalities, convulsions, and running around in circles).
Make sure the doe is in good health. Just like with humans, they go through a lot of stress, and can have complications during kindling (the time when the doe gives birth).
Breed and Size
There are different breeds. It is preferred that they should be bred within their own breed, especially when it comes to pet breeds. A very large buck and a small doe wouldn't be a good combination, as the doe stands the risk of dying while giving birth. Other things to be taken into consideration based upon the genetics are, if you already have a lot of rabbits, it is best to breed ones that aren't too closely related by blood so that you can have babies that are born healthy and grow up healthy. Color-combinations play quite an important role.
The Doe's Biology
Understanding the doe's biology will help you understand when is the best time for breeding. Rabbits are induced ovulators, which means, unlike in humans where the woman releases an egg once a month, the ovum (egg) in the doe is released within 10-13 hours after copulation. Domestic species do not have a regular oestrus cycle; but may have a period of anoestrus (sexual inactivity between two periods of oestrus) and one or two days of non-receptivity every week or two. So you can stop worrying about the best time for breeding.
Sometimes, it may happen that the doe goes through something called a pseudopregnancy. If the doe isn't fertile or if the buck hasn't passed sperm while mounting, she releases an egg due to which certain hormones are released - the mammary glands are active and her uterus may enlarge. She starts behaving as though she is pregnant. She may build a nest. But since she isn't fertile, there are no kits on the way. This period of pseudopregnancy might last up to 18 days.
However, when the doe does get pregnant, her behavior changes a bit. Just like human mothers, she faces a great amount of stress and strain too. Make sure you feed her well, and she's kept healthy. Keep her in a stress-free environment, and avoid handling her or picking her up as much as possible unless you really need to. If you have a lot of rabbits, keep her away from them. If your doe is young, she may have only a couple of kits. Mature ones have more.
Introducing the male and female
When it comes to introducing the male and female to each other in the rabbit-hutches, always introduce the doe in the buck's hutch. When you introduce a buck into a doe's cage, he starts sniffing around busily, and doesn't pay much attention to anything else. If you put the buck in the doe's hutch/cage, she tends to be a bit territorial and may get aggressive with the buck.
You can put the doe in the buck's hutch, and leave them in there overnight. If you're really serious about breeding, then hang around for some time, until you're sure they have mated. Get the doe out, and put her back in after an hour or two. It increases her chances of her getting pregnant, and the number of offspring she will bear.
Making a Cozy Home
The next step is to give your doe a nest box or a kindling box in order to ensure a safe haven for the doe, and the expected new arrivals. You can make it out of very sturdy wood and have a lot of straw and hay, or newspapers, and cotton or fluff (bedding material for hamsters) for insulation. Make sure that the nest box is a sturdy one, as you don't want your rabbit to nibble it until it turns to dust.
It should be large enough for her and the babies to have enough space and must be clean. Let the walls be not too high, so your doe can hop in and out easily whenever she needs to. If it is winter, a nest box that provides a lot of warmth is ideal. Your doe may even pull her own fur out to build the nest and make it warmer. Put the nest in a dark area, and in a place where other animals cannot go.
Kindling and Kits
Some do have their litter early, while others get late. Generally, on day 31, the gestation period comes to an end. You can expect your doe to have kindled her litter. Usually, there may be around two to eight babies in a litter. The kits, when they arrive, are pink and look naked, blind with their eyes closed and helpless. Check to see if there are any stillborn babies.
Your doe may feed her kits for a bit, and then hop out of her nest, returning to it much later. She doesn't sit around with her kits for too long after she has fed them. Don't feel that she isn't caring enough for her babies.
If in the next day or two, you notice that your doe isn't feeding some of her kits, try to hold her up, and stroke her gently and lovingly; and make sure that the kits are fed when she is calm, and she might just accept them. If not, it means that she has rejected them. Separate them from their mother, and feed the babies yourself.
I hope your lovely bunnies live happily ever after!