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A small breed doe is normally ready to mate when she is 5 months old, and a buck is ready at 6 months. The medium size doe is ready to breed when she is 6 months old and the buck at 7 months. The heavy breed doe is ready at 8 months and the buck is ready at 9 months.
It's usually a good idea to select rabbits to breed whose ancestry has evidence of good productivity and good genetics. That's where productivity records and pedigrees listing show winnings come in handy. Keep productivity and show records of your herd just for this purpose.
You may keep a ratio of one buck to 10 does if you wish. The buck may be bred up to 7 times a week effectively. Sometimes, you can use the buck twice in one day. The most I use a buck is twice a week.
Keep the following principles in mind when you want to breed your rabbits:
Never breed brothers to sisters. Other combinations are fine: father-to-daughter, mother-to-son, cousins, etc. Until you gain some knowledge as to how genetics works with inbreeding, I would recommend your not breeding closely related pairs.
As mentioned before, mate the same breeds together unless you are trying to get meat rabbits with certain characteristics or you are doing genetic experiments or you don't care about the fate of the offspring. You cannot sell the offspring as pedigree if their ancestry is not of the same breed going back four generations.
You may mate rabbits of the same breed having different colors. Keep in mind, though, that there are many combinations of possibilities when mixing colors. Some of the offspring may have colors that are not recognized by ARBA. It is usually best to mate rabbits having the same color to start off with until you know more about how the colors interact. See the section on genetics for more information on colors. Also, join the national specialty group for the breed you are interested in raising. They usually have literature on how to develop the best color, size, and shape of your rabbit.
Avoid breeding rabbits that have genetic defects such as tooth malocclusion (wolf teeth) or moon eye (cloudy cornea), or produces offspring whose skull does not come together (except in dwarfs, where approximately 25% are born too small with deformed head or legs - the offspring are called peanuts). Determine whether the sire or dam is responsible for passing the genetic defect and eliminate it for breeding purposes.
Strive to meet the perfect standard for the breed you are mating. Order the ARBA Standard of Perfection Booklet to know exactly what is expected of the breed. Also, join the national association for that breed to get their manual on the breed. Check out the ARBA web page for a list of associations. This will show you how to improve your herd.
A rabbit may normally start breeding at the age of 6 months for the small to medium size breeds and 8 to 9 months for the heavy breeds. The gestation period (time between breeding and kindling) is 31 days. After the doe has kindled, I normally re-breed her at 6 weeks and wean the litter at 5-7 weeks. This cycle continues until she is about 4 years old or until her production is unsatisfactory.
I review the herd records every quarter to determine which rabbits are not producing up to par and eliminate them. In October through December, some rabbits go into what is called moulting. At this period, many do not conceive. If you have lights on all the time in your rabbitry, this will help. Rabbits are like chickens that lay eggs only if there is enough light. Raising most of my rabbits outside, I take this problem into consideration when evaluating them. Also, if it gets too hot in the summer, especially for those who live in the Southern U.S., the buck produces less viable sperm and the conception rate goes down. Some people keep their bucks air conditioned to keep the conception rate high.
My minimum standard for a doe is that she produce at least the following number of rabbits per year all the way to weaning:
Keep good records of your herd. You can obtain the materials you need for dirt-cheap prices from:
Ask for the rabbit records order form.
I have developed a Breeding Schedule for my rabbitry that you may wish to use. I have presented the schedule in the form of a flow chart. This flow chart is followed by the same information in a detailed instruction format. To get a permanent copy, you may print the page by going to it and pressing [Ctrl-P].
Good luck in your endeavors to produce fine rabbits!
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