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SilverStar Polish Rabbitry

Breeding Info

RABBIT BREEDING

INTRODUCTION:

WORDS YOU SHOULD KNOW:

Kit--baby rabbit
Kindle--to give birth
Nestbox--the box a doe makes a nest in.
Proven--a "proven" doe is one that has raised a litter before.
miss--to not take to a breeding.
foster--to give a litter to another doe to raise.

"I started out with 4 rabbits in one cage and soon i had 50" Is something i am often told by ex-pet owners. But i don't beleive it. That 4 to 50 jump is much harder then one could think. "Breed like rabbits", Right??? WRONG!! It can be amazingly hard to get a healthy litter out of a healthy doe. And, in many cases, not all of the litter will live for one reason or another.

Breeding animals is a big responsibility. Make sure that the kits won't end up mistreated or in a shelter. Use them for meat or sell or keep them--i don't care! Just make sure that they won't suffer from abuse. Some breeders, especially of marked breeds, will dispose of kits as soon as they are born if they are miscolored, mismarked, or have a DQ. I am not sure how i feel about this, you'll have to take your own stand on it.

Being stuck with a lot of bunnies is not the only risk you are taking by breeding rabbits. Nestbox fatalities (newborn deaths) are very common, almost expected. I often say, if you are going to breed rabbits, you just have to get over dead kits. sure, its sad, but part of rabbit breeding.

If your doe is having her first litter, she and her kits are more likley to have problems. around 50% of first-time litters die, often for no apparent reason or because the doe doesn't know what to do. (this percentage varies from breed to breed) Once in a while a doe dies after kindling. If you don't have another doe to foster to, you will have to raise the babies yourself, which is aften unsucessful.

Your breeding pair should be purebred. crossbreds can be hard to sell, and it is better all around to get a purebred, showable pair. the purebred rabbits from a respectable breeder will often be healthier, as for many generations a breeder has bred out diseases. the bacteria a pet rabbit carries is often much different and more than what is found in the show world.

while many people's first rabbits are a dwarf breed (holland lops, netherland dwarfs, polish, dwarf hotots, jersey woolies, lionhead, etc) a dwarf breed may not be the best choice. Dwarf breeds carry the dwarfing gene, resulting in mutants called peanuts that inheirited a double dwarf gene and die usually within a few days. dwarf breeds are also more prone to large heads and fetal giantism, sometimes causing stuck kits. Netherland Dwarfs often carry a gene called the max factor gene, that causes deformed kits. Dutch, Himalayans, or Mini Lops are a good choice if you like a small rabbit that doesn't carry the dwarfing gene.

But don't let what i have said discourage you! Breeding can be fun, rewarding, and (once in a while) profitable. And i don't care what anyone says, there is NOTHING cuter than a 3 week old bunny wondering if it should venture out of the nestbox!

BREEDING PREPARATION: before breeding, give each rabbit a thourough health check. Check for signs of pasturella, vent disease, or diareeha. Make sure the genital organs are normal looking and clean. Rabbits should be between 5-12 months for their first breeding.

TIPS FOR GETTING A DOE TO TAKE: Does will breed easily in the spring and summer, however, in the fall and winter it can be hard to get a doe to take. In the summer, excessive heat can make bucks temorarily sterile. however here in michigan that is rarely a problem.

Does should be of a healthy weight when they are bred. Fat does have trouble concieving. you should be able to feel every ridge in her backbone from the shoulders to the hips. Does should have 16-24 hours of light a day for best conception results. They also should be in temperatures of 60-70 degrees for 4-7 days prior to breeding for best results. A doe's vulva should be bright red or real bright pink when she is in heat. However, does can take when not in heat, as the action of breeding stimulates the doe to go into heat. This process takes about 8 hours, so it is recommended that you breed a doe 8-10 hours after the first breeding. I also like to breed 24 hours later as well. But don't breed again after 24 hours later, as the doe can become "double pregnant" and carry 2 litters at once. I've had this happen before. Once one of my does actually had 4 kits one day and 2 kits 2 days later, but usually the second litter will be born with the first one. The second litter will be undeveloped and will die. this is also hard on the doe. During breeding, let the buck get 3-4 good mounts. this will increase litter size, preventing problems like giant kits. Breed at hour 0, 1 hour later, 8 hours, and 24 hours, letting the buck get 3 good mounts every time. Sometimes a buck will not breed a doe more than once, so seperate them for a minute then he should do it again.


THE ACTUAL BREEDING: Take the doe to the buck, never the other way around. I prefer to breed on a table rather then in a cage, as i can seperate them more easily and it is easier to force breed. However, some bucks may not breed on a table, so you will have to do it in his cage.

Put the buck and doe together, and don't leave them alone!! even if they seem nice to one another they can get nasty really quickly! they might chase eachother around, sniff at each other, or the doe might mount the buck. THey might grunt and squeal or the doe might run away, or they might get right down to business. If the doe runs away from the buck and gets really nasty, she does not want to be bred, so try again later. if after a few days the doe still won't cooperate you will want to do a force breeding.

Eventually, the buck will mount the doe. He may mount her side, or her head, but should correct himself. If he doesn't, just push him around to the right spot. He may grap a mouthful of her fur to hold on to. The doe should raise her tail. Almost as soon as she does this, the buck will squeal or grunt and fall off the side. If the buck has not fallen off the side then mating has not occured and the doe will not get pregnant! He might get up and go right back at it, or he might loose intrest, or they might start to fight. Turn the doe upside down, and make sure she is "wet down there". turning her upside down also causes her to tense up and draw the semen into her body.

Say the doe just will not cooperate: You'll have to do a force breeding. Breed on a table. Put the buck there first, then take the doe to him. Let him get started then hold her rear end up from underneath and keep her tail WAY out of the way. Keep trying till the buck grunts/squeals and falls off. Untill then mating HAS NOT OCCURED and she won't take. Let the buck get a couple good mounts. After a successful breeding has occured then try again 8-12 hours later and she may be willing to lift her tail on her own one of those times. If not...do it for her! It'll take patience and practice but you'll get it down. You can also force breed by sticking the doe's rear in the buck's cage.

CARE OF PREGNANT DOE:

The most important thing to do for your pregnant doe is to keep a close eye on her. feed her just enough, don't let her get fat at all. clean dishes and the cage often. Keep her environment clean! Make sure she always has a fresh supply of water. if she goes off her feed put enough kayro syrup or white sugar in the water to make it sweet and she should start eating again. if not consult an experienced breeder. P.g. does don't really need any special care--just keep a close watch on her to catch any abnormal behavior quickly.

BUT ARE BABIES EVEN COMING? HOW DO YOU TELL?

there are ways to tell if your doe took or not, but whatever you do don't test breed. Some people will test breed by putting the doe and the buck back together 2 weeks later. they figure that if the doe refuses the buck that she is pregnant and if she accepts then she is not. WRONG!!! sorry, but just because a doe refuses a buck ABSOLUTLEY DOES NOT MEAN that she is pregnant! AND the other way around. sure, USUALLY a doe will not accept the buck if she took, but sometimes she might. The danger in test breeding is this: it is possible for a doe to become double-pregnant. I have had this happen before. she is already pregnant when she is bred again at two weeks. the second litter will usually be born with the first and will be undeveloped. besides it is hard on the doe. Once in a while i might put the doe back on a table with a buck, just to see how she reacts to him being there, but i won't let them mate.

Behavior--my first clue that a doe is pregnant is her behavior. sometimes from day one, she may grunt like crazy at you or any other rabbit. I like to think that she is telling me something. telling me that she has a surprise for me and she's not happy about it and its all you and that stupid buck's fault so there! She might snap at you, "swat" you, or refuse to come out of her cage. I like that when i see it!

But, the only sure way of knowing if the doe is pregnant or not is by palpating her. Palpating is something that is hard to describe, it is best learned by watching others do it. I have read many accounts of people's methods of palpating and am only now getting the hang of it, cuz i never watched anyone do it. see the purina mills website at www.rabbitnutrition.com for in-depth palpating instructions. Also see www.islandgems.net/palpating I don't do it quite like either of those ways: everybody's style is a little different. The way i do it is i face the does head toward me, and i feel around her stomach keeping my four fingers close together. i feel the kits between my fingers and thumb. you need practice, and need to be fairly agressive. their heads are the easiest to feel. I know someone who feels the whole abdomen between their thumb and fingers, sqeezing it. She doesn't feel the individual kits, but just can feel if there is anything in there or not. People really experienced at palpating can feel the kits at 10 days after breeding, however most people can palpate at two weeks. be very gentle palpating within a week of the due date so you do not risk injuring the kits.

GETTING READY FOR KINDLING

the big day approaches!

First of all your doe will need a nest box to build a nest box and have her kits in. YES, she does need a box, she can't just nest in the corner or the kits will scatter. the exception is if you live in the UK and use wooden cages. (note: you may want to put up urine guards or baby saver wire around the bottom edges of the cage to prevent kits from sqeezing thru the bars.) Nest boxes are wood, steel with a wood floor, or wire with cardboard inserts. The metal ones last longest and are easiest to clean. the wood boxes are warmest and can be made at home, and the wire ones are good for hot climates and are the most sanitary. Nest boxes may or may not have a partial cover. They can be purchased from equipment suppliers or at shows or can be built at home. make sure the front of the box is smooth and low enough for the kits to not injure themselves hopping out of it. The nest box should not be too large or the doe will sit in there and pee and poo in it. The box floor should be perforated for drainage. cardboard inserts can also be used in metal boxes during cold weather.

heat: the "core temperature" of the nest has to be close to 100*F at all times during the first 10-12 days of the kits life. if the doe has built a good nest and pulled a lot of fur, and the surrouning temperature is 50-60* the kits will probably be warm enough. Nest box warmers are sometimes used, or light bulbs hanging over the cage. I have a small electric heater that i use in an enclosed corner of the bunny barn. with any electrical heating element make sure that the cords are way outta the way, and that it is away from flammable material as much as possible and is not frying the kits! or of course, you can take the doe in the house. If you do move her inside take her in a week beforehand so she can get accustomed to her new surroundings. keep her in a quiet area (not the furnace room!) and away from all other animals. (Yes, young children are considered animals!)

KINDLING DAY.
No, when your doe is going to kindle you don't need to be out there with her every moment. You don't even HAVE to go out there more than you do usually, but you might want to check on her every few hours if you can. That way if she is having trouble kindling or scatteres her kits on the wire or begins to hurt them you can catch it in time, but usually she will do a good job all by herself, and if you are out there constantly it may stress her out, which is the last thing you want to do.

Usually the first indication that she has kindled is fur flying around the cage and stuffed in the box. give her feed or a treat to preoccupy her and then take out the box. Stick a hand in first. It should be warm, wiggly, and even squeaky! Oh i LOVE that feeling! part the fur and take a peek. count the kits.

Feel free to handle them from day 1. You will have many ex-rabbit owners tell you not to touch the kits or the mom will kill them. THIS IS FALSE AND DON"T PAY ANY ATTENTION TO IT!!!!!!!!!!!! You need to handle the kits and check out the nest right away, for several reasons. You need to know how many kits there are so you can know if any are missing. You need to remove any birth material or blood that the doe did not clean up. You need to remove any dead kits. You need to check to make sure they are being fed. HECK, YOU NEED TO KNOW IF THE LITTER IS EVEN _ALIVE_ or NOT!!

Kits are born naked or with very little fur. their eyes are closed and they can hardly smell or hear at all.

If the doe kindles out side of the nest box then move the whole nest into a box and place the box where she built her nest. if the kits are not very warm to the touch, then you must warm them before putting them back in the box. Different people have different methods of warming them, but one of the best is just to put it down your shirt and share your body heat. Even a kit that seems frozen may be brought "back to life" by being down your shirt for 20 minutes! any longer than that and you can probably assume that it is dead. if a doe has one kit in a seperate part of the nest then put it back with its littermates. it needs them to stay warm and it will not get fed by itself.

It may be that the litter is stillborn or dies soon after birth. if it is the doe's first litter this is even more likley. Sorry, but it happens. it is sad but, not to sound harsh, GET OVER IT! it is part of rabbit breeding. you just can;t cry over every dead kit. If all of the litter does die all but take the doe off her feed to make sure she won't get mastitis. Remove the litter and the nest box and breed the doe back. Breeding back will make her forget about it and dry up her milk faster than anything else.

Limit the doe's feed after kindling as i said before. increase it as she needs it till by the 4th day or so she is eating all she can hold. Check her teats every day to make sure they are not hard, swollen, red, hot, or painfull. If they are try to sqeeze a little milk out. if it is yellow or clumpy call an experienced breeder or experienced vet immediatley. she may have mastitis which can kill quickly. if a doe has mastitis do not foster her litter to another doe as the kits can give it to them.

Every first-time breeder's fear is that the kits are not getting fed. You may very well never see them eat. Does will nurse only once MAYBE twice a day and usually at night so it is likley that you will never see it. the kits bellies should look round every morning. Kits can live 3-4 days without eating, but they will begin to look very shriveled (not just wrinkly). If the doe dies, develops mastitis, or you are absolutley sure that they are not being fed then you may have to feed them yourself. if you can, and the doe was not sick, the best thing to do would be to foster to another doe. if you don't have another doe with a litter then same age then contact another breeder to see if they do. Fostering can be easily done, just put a spot of vanilla on the doe's nose so that all the kits will smell the same untill the new kits smell like her own. If you have to hand-raise the kits then let me warn you this is very often unsucessful. Kits have been raised on fresh goats milk, cats milk, or a cow milk/egg/calcium powder mixture. Do not use puppy or kitten milk replacer. always wipe their genitals with a soft cloth after feeding to make them poo and pee. When a doe is feeding her kits she usually does this and if it does not happen then the kits will die. But, don't worry: Your doe is very, very, very likley feeding her kits.

Peanuts: Dwarf breeds such as mini rex, holland lop, Netherland dwarf, Polish, fuzzy lops, dwarf hotot, lionhead, or jersey wooly will have peanuts. Peanuts are rabbits that have inheirited the double dwarf gene. they are smaller than thier littermates and have enlarged heads. They are unable to digest milk and will starve. You can let them live till they die (usually about 3 days) or can take them out, but be prepared, it happens.

keep an eye on the doe and the developing litter. if you see any out of the nest box put them back in. remove any kits that die. if the nest box gets damp then change the bedding. above all KEEP THOSE KITS WARM!!!! brownbun.gif

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