Here is a quick list of rabbit terminology you should know when raising rabbits.
I will be constantly adding to this list if you see something I missed please Email me email@example.com and I will add it in.
Abscess- collection of pus caused by infection
Agouti- A color pattern where each individual hair alternates dark and light bands.
Albino- a white haired rabbit with pink eyes.
Belled ears- Ears that lop over or droop, this is sometimes caused in growing rabbits in hot weather.
BEW- blue eyed white rabbit.
Birthing- see kindling
Breed- Group of rabbits that share the same characteristic’s such as color, size, and fur type
Breeding- When you mate rabbits.
Buck- A male rabbit.
Coccidiosis- Coccidiosis is considered to be the most common disease in rabbits and is very hard to cure. Coccidiosis is caused by a protozoan. There are nine species of this protozoa that can affect rabbits, only one affects the liver, while the other 8 affect the intestines. It seems that younger rabbits have a higher risk for this disease. The disease is spread as the eggs from the protozoa are shed in the rabbit feces, which is then transmitted to other rabbits.
Condition- the general health and appearance of a rabbit.
Colony raising- This system of management is the raising of multiple rabbits together in one area inside or outside.
Crossbreed- breeding rabbits of different breeds.
Culling- Culling is not just the killing of rabbits, but with that being said you do not want to breed or sell to potential breeders, bad rabbits these are to sold as pets only. Save The Best Eat The Rest!
Dam-The mother of a particular rabbit.
Dewlap- Fold of loose skin under the chin of female rabbits.
Doe- A female rabbit.
Dressed- Skinned and prepared for cooking.
Ear canker- Scabby conditions in rabbits ears caused by ear mite.
Enteritis- Is a Intestinal disturbance in domestic rabbits this is caused by stress and or other underlying diseases.
Foster- Fostering rabbit kits is the act of placing newborn baby rabbits with a different mother doe.
Gestation period- The period of time between breeding and kindling. Usually 28 to 31 days.
Heat stroke- Illness caused by exposer to high temperatures
Hock-First joint of the hind leg of the rabbit.
Hutch- Rabbit housing
Hutch card- Information card on cage that identifies the rabbit and contains breeding information
Jacket off – this means the rabbit will be skinned
Kits- A bunch of bunnies.
Kindling- when the doe is giving birth to young.
Lagomorph- There are about eighty species of lagomorph which include thirty species of pika, twenty species of rabbits and cottontails, and thirty species of hares.
Litter- group of baby rabbits born in one birth
Line breeding- this breeding system is usually the most satisfactory. Line breeding itself is a form of inbreeding, but is less intense. In line breeding, rabbits are mated together which are both descendants from a particular rabbit, but which are as distantly related as possible.
Malocclusion- The misalignment of teeth, this is genetic and rabbits that have this should not be bred.
Molt- Shedding fur
Mucoid enteritis- Disease that usually affect’s young rabbits, symptom’s are loss of appetite, increased thirst, and jelly like diarrhea.
Nest box- A box to provided for the doe so that she can make a nest and have kits in.
Nesting- when the doe starts to put nesting material in her box.
Outcrossing- is the breeding of two rabbits from unrelated lines.
Palpate- Feeling for the developing embryos within the abdominal cavity of the pregnant doe. This is said to be the most reliable way to determine pregnancy in the domestic rabbits.
Pedigree- Written record of an animals ancestors, going back at least three generations.
Pelt- skin and fur of a rabbit to be tanned.
Purebred- parents are of the same breed
Rabbitry- placed were rabbits are kept
REW- Red or ruby eyed white
Saddle- the meaty hind body and legs
Sire- The father of a particular rabbit.
Sore hock- a ulcerated condition of the undersurface of the hind feet of a domestic rabbit. Cause by sparse hair on the hocks, this could be genetics or some breeds like rexes have this naturally. Dirty wet conditions.
Tattoo- permanent mark in ear to identify rabbits.
Test breeding- At about two weeks following breeding, the doe is returned to the buck’s cage. If she is bred, she will whine, growl, and flatten herself against the cage floor. She will not be happy to the buck’s advances. This is often the case, but there are does who will breed if pregnant and those who will refuse the buck when they are not.
Trio- 2 does and 1 buck. They are usually matched for breeding to begin or expand a rabbitry.
Type- General physical make up of a rabbit.
Warren- Warrens are a large fenced enclosed area were rabbits can burrow and live as naturally as possible. This is equal to free ranging chickens.
Weaning- When you take young rabbits away from the mother and their transition to solid food.
Wool block- blockage in the digestive tract cause by fur
When you start with rabbits you should worry more about learning all you can about raising rabbits and not how many a year you can get, you will learn with your rabbits as they grow and go through their life cycles. Your rabbits will teach you lots more than I ever could!
Learn how to butcher, cut up a whole rabbit and the MANY rabbit recipes, find your favorite recipes and grow some of the herbs and other ingredients in them. Learn how to freeze, smoke, and even pressure can your rabbit meat. When you have all this information and experience under your belt, then you can worry about high production!
If you have a crazy work schedule (like me) there are ways to help with this so your does will kindle on certain days of the week.
If you breed your does on the weekend (do not forget to mark that day on your calendar) 28 days later put in the nest boxes. The 28th day should fall on the weekend again, this works out well if the weekend is when you do your weekly rabbit chores (cleaning cages, emptying drop pans, bleaching crocks and bottles etc.) and since you are working in the rabbitry is also a good day to put in the nest boxes. The doe should have her litter during the week on day 30 or day 31 after breeding (remember you marked the breeding date on the calendar!). This should be on a Tuesday or a Wednesday. Rabbits will usually kindle at night so if you work days you should be home in time to check on the new litter. If doe doesn’t kindle by day 35 you should breed her again. This again should fall on a Saturday or a Sunday.
I breed my does on a Wednesday. This is because I work during the week and never know what time I will get home. This way the does will kindle on the weekend when I am home working on the homestead.
When I first started with rabbits feed was cheap and everyone was using pellets. I could breed some of my high production New Zealand’s to get 8 big litters a year. Now I am looking to be more self sufficient with my life and my rabbits. With this new change I raise less rabbits (easier to grow and harvest food for 10 rabbits than 50) and a more natural feeding program I am happy with 5 to 6 litters a year. The litters may be a little smaller but the cost and sustainability is priceless!
How many litters a year can I get from my rabbits? This question I get asked all the time. There are many factors including types of feed and hereditary factors. Here is a breeding schedule for the amount of litters a year you want. Remember raising rabbits is not perfect you many get a doe that misses, or loses a litter.
LITTERS A YEAR-
4 Kindle litter- Rebreed 60 days after kindling- Wean kits at 60 days- Kindle next litter 91 days
5 Kindle litter- Rebreed 42 days after kindling- Wean kits at 56 days- Kindle next litter 73 days
6 Kindle litter- Rebreed 28 days after kindling- Wean kits at 42 days- Kindle next litter 59 days
7 Kindle litter- Rebreed 21 days after kindling- Wean kits at 35 days- Kindle next litter 52 days
8 Kindle litter- Rebreed 14 days after kindling- Wean kits at 28 days- Kindle next litter 45 days
4 to 6 litters a year are more likely with a natural feeding program, 6 to 8 litters a year will require more management and the need for a high protein production pellet.
You should have a calendar in your rabbitry or a calendar in the house just for your rabbits, I have a large calendar hanging in my rabbitry so I can see when to put in a nest box, I put the cage numbers on the date when the nest box should go in and when they are due. Here is a gestation chart that I use all the time.
31 Day Gestation Chart
5 5 8 8 9 9 10 10 10 11 11 12 12
6 6 9 9 10 10 11 11 11 12 12 13 13
7 7 10 10 11 11 12 12 12 13 13 14 14
8 8 11 11 12 12 13 13 13 14 14 15 15
9 9 12 12 13 13 14 14 14 15 15 16 16
10 10 13 13 14 14 15 15 15 16 16 17 17
11 11 14 14 15 15 16 16 16 17 17 18 18
12 12 15 15 16 16 17 17 17 18 18 19 19
13 13 16 16 17 17 18 18 18 19 19 20 20
14 14 17 17 18 18 19 19 19 20 20 21 21
15 15 18 18 19 19 20 20 20 21 21 22 22
16 16 19 19 20 20 21 21 21 22 22 23 23
17 17 20 20 21 21 22 22 22 23 23 24 24
18 18 21 21 22 22 23 23 23 24 24 25 25
19 19 22 22 23 23 24 24 24 25 25 26 26
20 20 23 23 24 24 25 25 25 26 26 27 27
21 21 24 24 25 25 26 26 26 27 27 28 28
22 22 25 25 26 26 27 27 27 28 28 29 29
23 23 26 26 27 27 28 28 28 29 29 30 30
24 24 27 27 28 28 29 29 29 30 30 31 31
25 25 28 28 29 29 30 30 30 31 1 1
26 26 29 29 30 30 31 31 1 1 2 2
27 27 30 30 31 1 1 1 2 2 3 3
28 28 31 1 1 2 2 2 3 3 4 4
29 1 1 2 2 3 3 3 4 4 5 5
30 2 2 3 3 4 4 4 5 5 6 6
31 3 3 4 4 5 5 5 6 6 7 7
To use this chart, find the month and day that the breeding occurred and then straight across to the next column on the right to determine the due date, this is based on a 31 day gestation. Remember that 31 days is the normal gestation time for most rabbits, but it’s not uncommon for does to kindle their litters from day 28 to day 32. I always put my nest boxes in at day 27 or 28.
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Fostering rabbit kits is the act of placing newborn baby rabbits with a different mother doe. Before fostering always give the mother of the litter a chance to care for her kits.
With some does it can take up to 48 hours for their milk to drop. Also remember does only feed their kits usually late at night, only once or twice in 24 hours, and at each feeding they feed for only a few minutes at a time. So you may not be at the right place at the right time to see if the doe is feeding her litter. You can tell fed kits by their plump bellies and they are warm to the touch, if the kits are shriveled and cold something must be done. Just make sure you are not fostering if you do not have to.
You can force the mom to feed the kits by placing the nest box on sturdy surface. Place mom in the box over the kits. Cover her and the box completely with towel. Leave her in the box for fifteen minute. Check the kits to see if they have been fed. If so return mom to her cage. Repeat in 12 hours. If they were not fed leave her for another 15 minutes. If she does not feed them return her to her cage and keep the nest box separate from her. Try again in 2 hours. Keep trying until she feeds them or at this point you should foster them.
I like using a nest box that is not part or attached to the cage. You can pull it to the front of the cage to inspect, remove, or place foster kits easily. it is much easier to disinfect between litters and can be replaced
I always try to breed at least two does at a time, this way you can foster their kits to each other if needed. When your breeding doe’s get older their litters will usually get smaller. These are great foster moms with experience raising young! So when breeding, breed a young and older doe on or near the same day. If you do not have two does, or you do not want to have two litters, then you will have to let the litter die naturally or bottle feed them if anything goes wrong. I did a post on FEEDING ORPHANED KITS- in the March 2012 Archives, Check it out for more information on this subject.
As a rabbit breeder backyard or commercial fostering litters is a very important skill to know how to do. Even if you have only a few rabbits you should know how to foster kits.
If you need to keep track of kits when fostering and they are of the same breed and color. A small tattoo needle will work by putting one or more dots in the kits ear, so that the fostered kits can be identified after weaning.
There are different situations where you would want to foster off kits to another mother doe those would be as follows.
If the doe is not feeding them and they are very skinny. The doe may not be producing enough milk to supply enough to her litter. If she is a fist time mom and needing some experience, let her raise some and foster the rest.
If a doe has a very large litter you can foster some to help them all grow equally and help out the doe. Sometimes does can give birth to a large number of kits that they can possibly not take care of. Some litters have been know to run as high as eighteen so be prepared to have a foster mom available.
If a doe dies while raising a litter or while giving birth. Never attempt to foster any kits from an obvious sick or diseased doe as this could very easily be spread to the new litter and the foster doe.
If the doe is mean to the kits, or if the doe is mean to you and you cannot remove the babies easily. If I have a doe like this I cull the whole line, I do not want this trait carried on in my bloodline!
If a doe ate all of the litter except one or two when they were perfectly healthy, Move the remaining babies, if any, to a new mother, If she is a first time mom I will give her a chance to re breed but if she repeats this do not use any of the does for breeding cull that line. (remember "Save the best, Eat the rest!").
Sometimes, I foster kits to even out litters, so they all will grow equally. If the doe has more than 8 kits, you might want to consider fostering one or two to another doe that has a litter of under eight.(remember a doe has only 8 teats). When raising rabbits for meat there is a advantage in reducing the litter size to a number that will develop equally. This way they will all be ready to process at the same time. Some show breeders will sometimes reduce the litter size to four to six kits. This will allow the kits to have the best chance to develop to the best of their breed and bloodline will allow.
If a doe has only a few kits you can re-breed her right away and foster her young to another does to raise the few with her litter increasing production. A single kit will often chill and die if left alone in the nest box without the added heat of its litter mates.
I always try to allow first-time does to nurse their litters to help them get the added experience of raising their own litter. I also try to foster kits to does who have had a dead litter. I think that it helps in the future by adding experience.
Many breeders claim to have to rub the kits or the nose of the foster doe with a scent. Some does can be hostile to kits that do not smell like them (I have yet to see this), so by rubbing a scent cover over the kits you foster, will cover their scent so they do not smell like the other doe. I have never rubbed any smelly substance on any of kits I have fostered, or to the noses of any of my does.
I have fostered MANY kits successfully. I just give the foster doe a treat (like a small piece of apple, or banana) to keep her occupied, and place the foster kits in the nest-box with their new siblings. I have never had a problem with a doe refusing the newly added kits or hurting them. This is most likely a hereditary trait. I do not even worry over destroying the scent of humans or other rabbits. Once the young are in the nest box and coming into contact with the young and nesting material all the scent will be destroyed. I feel that the doe’s do not count or notice a change of the new colored kits in their boxes they will raise them as her own.
I have fostered kits up to the age of 2 weeks(14 days) when fostering kits at a older age (something that is not recommended) I removed the doe from the cage and added the new kits to the box. I let them stay together for a little time, while I do my rabbitry chores, before returning the doe to the cage. Some doe’s will seem to be very curious that something has changed, but after sniffing around awhile, she jump into the box and feed the whole litter.
RABBITS UNWILLING TO BREED- Causes and Cures
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!