Breeding rabbits is typically not too complicated. After all, The doe is the one that does most of the work. She gives her newborn kits all the nutrients they require by feeding them some of the richest milk in the mammal kingdom. The doe will feed her litter once or twice each day for about 2 to 5 minutes at each feeding. They continue drinking mothers milk until they are weaned at 6 to 8 weeks of age.
Rabbits are said to “breed like rabbits,” but this is not always the case with domestic rabbits in the rabbitry. Putting a buck and a doe in the same cage does not always guarantee a successful mating.

Before breeding your rabbits you should always do a pre-breeding inspection looking over both rabbits to make sure they are in good condition. I trim nails and do some preventive natural mite treatment and note any problems with the rabbit. I gradually increase the feed of underweight rabbits to get them in the ideal condition for breeding. Rabbits in good condition, and with the right nutrients can have up to 40 bunnies per doe per year (5 litters a year) or even more in a high production setup.

Pelleted feed is complete at the time of manufacture, but Vitamins A and E are vulnerable to poor or prolonged storage. Both are needed for the willingness and ability to breed. Instead of increasing the pellets, I suggest feeding about a tablespoon of black oil sunflower seeds for Vitamin E and a good handful of dark leafy greens (dandelions, plantain, raspberry,and Kale are fine) for Vitamin A. If the rabbits have never had greens, start with just a couple of leaves and work up to more.

If the doe runs around in a circle, this is not so bad. I’ll let her run a few laps then I’ll put my hand in the cage and stop her for the buck to breed her. Most of the time the doe will accept the buck.

There is a so called shy buck syndrome that happens to some bucks as they do not seem interested in mounting the doe’s, they just want to hang out and check out the the doe and her cage. Some bucks are just not aggressive breeders! The buck may have had some unsatisfactory experiences early on from being bred before he was mature enough. He may have had a mean doe attack him and did not get the reinforcement of a completed breeding, he may have lost interest or confidence. If you have one of these shy bucks, try to build up their interest and confidence by only breeding them with older willing does. After a few of these breedings, the shy buck is often ready to breed any doe.

Some bucks tire out too quickly. They just run out of energy before they can complete all of the running around and miss-mounts that may occur in natural breeding. They may be overweight or need a larger cage to get more exercise. Fat bucks tend to be less interested in the ladies. So give your bucks a bigger cage or put out on pasture for some exercise.

Another problem that a buck might encounter is vent disease. If breeding is uncomfortable for him, he is likely to not pursue it. Since you should be conducting a pre-breeding check, you would find the vent disease at that time. Check the doe’s vulva. We are looking for a pinkish red color to indicate she is receptive. A pale white color is not very promising. If the penis is red, swollen or blistered, do not breed at that time. Treat for vent disease and then retry the breeding. I would use Combi-Pen (Pen B), given subcutaneously at a dose of 1/10 cc per pound, once a week for three injections. Because vent disease can be symptomless except for infertility, you may not be able to catch all cases by examination. This is not to common of a disease but thought I might mention it, but you should ALWAYS do a pre breeding inspection.

I find that both bucks and doe’s are more reluctant to breed in the high heat of summer(July, August, September). You may get better results breeding first thing in the morning or last thing in the evening, in the really hot weather.

Some virgin doe’s take to being bred the first time like pros. But normally, virgin doe’s are much more difficult to breed. They may take a lot more interest in the buck’s cage or become very frightened to be in contact with another rabbit. Sometimes they can try to defend themselves. I will make breeding sessions short until she is bred or becomes more comfortable with the process.

One capful (1-2 tablespoons) of apple cider vinegar per gallon of drinking water may also help doe’s and buck’s get in the mood. Giving doe’s cider vinegar in each bottle of water for a week for a doe who is refusing to be bred should cure the problem. If you breed by moon phases it is said to breed stubborn doe’s just before and during the full moon.

I would say the black oil sunflower seeds works best and I would swear by it takes about 4-5 days of sunflower seeds and they change their minds. I have had success with a small amount of wheatgerm oil on the feed and a small amount of oats. You might also try a change of scenery. Put the rabbit in a dog pen on the grass to contain the rabbit. Be sure they have food, water, and shade out there, and hopefully cover from aerial predators (hawks).Many times the doe’s are so happy to have some running room that they will breed when they would not before. Some times I will put a stubborn doe in a carrier cage and take for a ride in the truck and try breeding when I get her back home.

Also take the buck to her cage but be careful (watch carefully as she may try to protect her territory) as this is not the normal practice, usally you only bring the doe to the buck but this will trigger natural instinct in the doe and may cause her to want to breed.

It has been found that giving the rabbit’s 12 to 14 hours of light will help a lot. This will trigger the pineal gland a may cause the rabbit to think its spring and time to reproduce.

Some people have reported that Celestial Seasonings Raspberry Zinger tea the day before mating has helped the doe get in the mood. It’s one of those “can’t hurt” ideas. I have no statistical information on the effectiveness of the tea, but several people who were having problems getting their rabbits bred are very happy with the results of using it.

Have you tried the cage switch? Put your doe in with the buck as per normal. If they still don’t breed, take the buck out and put him in the doe’s cage, leaving the doe in the buck’s cage. Leave them overnight. Next morning, grab the buck and put him back with the doe. She has by that time had the entire night to enjoy the aromas of the buck and get accustomed to it. Most times this works! (but not always!).

If the doe sits down or tries to climb the sides of the cage, I’ll wait for 5 minutes. If she won’t stand still and accept the buck, I’ll take the doe out and try her again in 8 hours or the next day. And the next day if necessary. If she doesn’t accept the buck, I will wait for a couple of days and try again.

If all else fails first time doe’s can be difficult to breed and some doe’s are forever that way. If you are trying to restrain then place your hand under the doe to lift her hips. There is also a spot on her back (kind of behind the shoulders) that causes a reflex of her raising her hips and lifting her tail. It’s tricky to find but it is there. I have found that most forced breeding do not work as the rabbit is a induced ovulator and the doe will not drop eggs to get fertilized during a forced breeding.

The biological time clock affects rabbits just like humans. Females typically can be bred for the first time at five months. Males usually reach sexual maturity by six months of age. However, these times vary. Larger breeds are slower to reach sexual maturity and smaller breeds sooner.

Research has shown the most common cause of breeding problems occur because doe’s and buck’s are under or over weight for their breeds recommended weight. Underweight rabbits may be physically incapable of breeding successfully. Overweight rabbits may not show any interest in mating and can have a hard time becoming pregnant if mating does occur. Establish a “target” weight prior to breeding according to the specific breed standards of your rabbit for greatest success. Adjust the feed intake of your rabbit to maintain an ideal weight.

Environmental temperatures can affect reproductive performance in buck’s. Temperatures above 85 degrees Fahrenheit can cause heat induced sterility. Keep buck’s in a cool area when used for breeding purposes. The buck’s may remain sterile for up to 3 months.

How much is too much? The active breeding life of a rabbit can range from 4-6 years. Females on a more intensive breeding program (more than five litters per year) will be productive for fewer years than those bred less frequently. Frequency of breeding can also affect the performance of males. When used in an intensive breeding program, keep one buck per 10-20 does. In cool weather, fewer buck’s can be used more often. Doe’s that are infrequently bred may become overweight which may lead to breeding difficulties. But most doe’s that are kept bred are the most willing to re breed.

Keep the amount of light constant for 14 hours each day to maintain constant breeding throughout the year.

Be sure your rabbits have reached sexual maturity and are the proper weight and condition for their breed prior to mating. Monitor the amount of food your rabbit eats to prevent overeating and excess weight gain. If a more intensive breeding schedule is desired, a high production pellet formula is recommended. Formulated with extra protein and nutrition it enables does to produce up to 64 bunnies per year (8 litters per year).

Hope this post helps you with any of your unwilling rabbits and may your rabbits breed and produce many litters!


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Posted on August 11, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. well it being nice knowing this site

  2. Thanks for this information. It’s really hard to get anyone to talk about breeding difficulties. Everyone insists they breed like rabbits. I’ve had two tries at breeding virgin New Zealand Red does with no luck. I tried again today, and the buck mounted about 5 times but I never saw that tell-tale leg up/fall over routine like he finished the job. I think the doe isn’t raising her hind end. I will try some of your tips.

  3. Hi, Enjoying the site, Passing on stuff I’ve read.

    It was said on another site that heat can cause fertility problems for 4 weeks.

    Since, I’m down south(ie Mississippi), I’ve recommended to my partner that we cool down the bucks. Dedicated Fan, moving him inside out of the heat for the summer. Ice Bottles can be used. Ice in his drinking container. Depending on the number of Does you have. You may just need to move him inside for just a week or two before letting him bred. I don’t know if it would help or not.

    Another Idea is the Introduction. His cage is doubled sized with a door between rooms. You close the door between rooms. Thus you put her in one side where his scent is, and then open the door between them when you are ready to breed. It also helps maintain his weight with having the extra area.

    I also have a portable Dog pen 6Lx7Wx4H chainlink that has the bottom wrapped with 2ft tall chicken wire. I use it for baby bunnies to run and play in a fenced area. Usually you can pick one up via craigslist for $75-100.

  4. i am having trouble with breeding a young doe she wont except the buck he chases her around the cage but won’t mate i like some of the suggestions above thanks

  5. We always take the doe to the buck for breeding. This avoids the distraction of him having to check out the new cage and urinate to mark his new territory. His attention will be focused on the doe rather than a new environment.

  6. I am just starting my rabbitry and ive been having some problems with breeding.
    We just bought a young buck (8 or 9 pounds) about 5 months old, we have tried to breed him to this huge (13 or 14 pound) doe. Here’s what happend: we put him in her cage(in hindsight we shouldn’t have done that) and she lifted her tail and got in the right position immeditly he started running around in circles and then she started chasing him (note he wasn’t trying to hump her or anything) and humping him, them she squished him up against the wall and he screamed so we took him out. he looked TERRIFIED . we know he’s old enough to breed because he was trying to breed our other doe but she wouldn’t lift(we’re going to do what you wrote in the article). and the big doe had already had a litter so we know she is fine. i have been looking all over and i havn’t heard anything about the doe humping the buck and freaking him out. Have any ideas?


    • A doe will mount a Buck to show dominance, she will also do this to other does. Most meat breeds are ready to breed at 5 to 6 months. Does mature faster than bucks. I would breed him with a willing doe to get his confidence back up and try again(brining her to his cage).

  7. Great article. I really enjoyed reading it. I haven’t had too much trouble yet with my 6 does, but I like the different ideas. At least I have some things I can try.

  8. Ashley Clark

    I just wanted to drop in and say I ran across your site after my female rabbit just “wasn’t having it” with our buck. She’d clamp up and hide in the corner. Well, I read your little thing about Raspberry Zinger tea and it worked! I put it in her water bottle yesterday, and this morning she jumped him and he actually finished the job. Thanks so much, this really made my family happy because she was looking like she was going to end up sold or in the freezer since she wouldn’t breed – and my kids have named her and gotten attached so it was going to be a sucky lesson. Problem solved!
    I knew Raspberry tea and all isn’t safe during pregnancy because it can cause uterine contractions, but never would have thought to use it on a rabbit to get her in the mood.

  9. Always enjoy your articles. They are very informative.

  10. I have 10 does 2 good bucks,they are good breeders.It is late February temp in 50’s,I have tried everything but the vinegar you mentioned,have 1 doe bred in a week.I’m starting vinegar today,thanks for the ideas

  11. Husseini Salihu

    It was really helpful, almost all I read in the post taught me a lot about breeding rabbits as a beginner. God bless you

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