“Breeding like rabbits,” is an old saying because few things picture a prolific pair more accurately than a buck and doe! Why not capitalize on this and learn how to breed your own rabbits? After all, if it’s so easily done in nature, how hard can it be in your home?
If you’re looking into how to breed rabbits, then you’ve come to the right place. Our aim is to give you as much information as possible and answer all your rabbit breeding questions.
Why breed rabbits?
The first thing to discuss is just why someone would want to breed rabbits in the first place. Well, there are actually quite a few reasons. You might have your own ideas but if you’re new to the topic, these might inspire you.
To create more pets
If you have two amazing rabbits, why not have them breed together to create a long line of rabbit pets? Perhaps your sister has noticed how docile your rabbits are, or how cuddly they are. Maybe the next-door neighbor has become interested and is now spending every afternoon hanging out with your pets? Whatever the reason is, breeding rabbits is a good way to create more pet rabbits.
There are a few stipulations you’ll want to consider if you choose to breed rabbits for more pets. One is that rabbits like to procreate. So, if you only want one litter of rabbits, then you will need to either separate original two adult rabbits, or you will have to have at least one of them spayed or neutered.
The second stipulation is that you will want to make sure your original rabbits are not siblings. In-breeding can lead to a whole host of genetic mutations which isn’t fair to the animals. We’ll discuss this further in another section, as breeding is more than just a simple task.
To make an income
If you love animals and want to ear a bit of extra money in your spare time, rabbit breeding is a great opportunity. It doesn’t require too much time and while there are upfront costs, they aren’t very expensive. Furthermore, the time between spending on these costs and recouping your money is relatively short.
Our daughter was able to make a small profit from breeding and selling rabbits; after food and bedding costs, and selling the bunnies at $25 each, she’d make about $25 after 6 months off of one litter.
She could have made a lot more since she was breeding Lionhead rabbits, which typically sell for $50+ – but since we were the ones handling the listing online and the messages, etc. we priced them to sell fast – making sure they went to good homes of course!
As always, there are certain things to consider if you want to make money from breeding rabbits. The biggest is if you have the time, money, and space to provide accurate care for your rabbit breeding enterprise.
Rabbits are living animals. They deserve our respect. If you don’t have enough time to properly care for them, or enough money for their up-front vet bills, then this is not a good fit.
You should also look at your marketplace. Do you have buyers lined up? Is there a strong enough interest where you live? At the end of the day, you don’t want to have a litter of rabbits to care for. However, you should also be prepared for this worst-case scenario. Breeding rabbits is a business.
Create a business plan and prepare for all eventualities before undertaking it.
How to breed rabbits
So, you have a good reason for breeding rabbits and now want more information on how to actually achieve your plan.
Select two rabbits
Unless you’re unfamiliar with the birds and the bees, you will need a male rabbit and a female rabbit. Selecting the two rabbits is a procedure and needs to be fully understood.
Do not use siblings
You should not use two full sibling rabbits. The reason for this is that it causes in-breeding, where unwanted gene mutations can occur.
There is a good chance that you might already have two rabbits at home, at these were likely siblings from the same litter. If this is the case, you can use one of the rabbits, but I repeat, do not use both rabbits for breeding.
Other related pairs are ok
It may seem a bit odd for us humans, but breeding a mother rabbit to a son, or a father rabbit to a daughter is perfectly acceptable. It happens naturally in the wild, so is fine to be replicated in a forced breeding situation. Cousins can also be bred together.
It might seem obvious, but only select healthy rabbits for breeding. If a rabbit is sick or has an abnormality, then it might have a defective gene. You do not want to pass on this condition. Choose healthy, strong rabbits as they will have the best chance of survival for future litters.
Focus on one trait
Many rabbits are bred because of their positive traits. If you have a rabbit with cute, floppy ears, it’s nice to have this trait passed down. The opposite is also true. If your rabbit’s ears are not as floppy as you would like, pairing them with a rabbit with floppier ears should result in more desired ears. This might not always be the case, but the more selective you are about which traits you want to success, the more it will happen through successive breeding.
Stick to the same rabbit breed
People want rabbits that are of pure breed. Mixed-rabbits do not have much value. Furthermore, if too many purebred rabbits are mixed together, then the pool of acceptable bunnies to breed in the future will quickly become depleted. Take your time and find two rabbits that are the same breed for the best success.
When to breed
After you’ve established the two rabbits that will begin your breeding program, it becomes the task of deciding when to breed them. While rabbits do, indeed, breed a lot, they don’t actually just do it anytime. As with everything in nature, there is a time for everything.
What age can a male rabbit begin breeding?
A male rabbit can become fertile at between 8 and 12 weeks. He should not be allowed to breed, however, until at least 6 months. This is so he can fully mature and reach adulthood. Be sure to separate any rabbits by at least 4 weeks in case of premature breeding.
If you have a male rabbit that you decide is not fit for breeding, then you will want to have him neutered. While this can happen any time after 12 weeks, or once the testicles have descended.
What age can a female rabbit begin breeding?
A female rabbit can become pregnant by 12 weeks, but this is not recommended. She should be allowed to reach full maturity to decrease any health risks, which is around 6 months. For larger breeds, over 10 pounds, wait until she is 9 months old.
If you’re familiar with other species of animals, you may be wondering, do rabbits go into heat? The answer is no. While some animals, such as cats and dogs require the female to be in a sexual cycle, or ready to accept a male partner. Rabbits do not have this period, and thus should be ready to be bred at any time of the year.
The process of breeding
Once your rabbits have reached a mature age, it’s time to start breeding them. While the actual deed is over quite quickly, it’s important to understand the mechanics to know just what is happening and if everything has been successful.
Getting to know each other
Location is always important and with rabbits this is especially true. Be sure to take the female rabbit to the male rabbit’s cage. Male rabbits are very territorial. If you put them in a strange place, they will want to assert their dominance. If the mating can happen in his own territory, then the male rabbit will focus more on the task at hand.
A quick dance
Because female rabbits don’t need to rely on a heat cycle, they are pretty much ready to mate at any time of the year. And with male rabbits, they are always ready. Be prepared for the male rabbit to mount the female rabbit almost instantly.
A precursor might be a bit of smelling or re-positioning, but essentially, once the male rabbit is comfortable, he will move around to the back of the female rabbit and mount her. The actual act will take but mere moments so pay close attention to ensure it has been done.
After successful copulation, a most peculiar act happens. The male rabbit will grunt and then fall off of the female rabbit. Why do rabbits fall off after mating? Well, it’s a sign of success. Unless the grunting and falling have happened, then copulation has not actually occurred. Again, this is why you will want to pay attention once you place the two rabbits together.
Even if a successful mating has been performed, it’s best to wait another 30 minutes and allow a second round to occur. Much like other animals, the more you try, the better the odds. A second mating often leads to a higher chance of pregnancy as well as a larger litter size.
Despite their habitual need to breed, not all rabbits are successful. Some rabbits will decide to play with each other instead of mating. Sometimes, while the male rabbit is interested, the female rabbit is not. The female rabbit needs to raise her hindquarters to initiate mating. If she doesn’t, the male rabbit won’t be in the right position.
You can wait up to 20 minutes with both rabbits in the same cage. If success has not been found, then remove the female rabbit and place her back in her cage. Wait at least 12 hours before trying again to improve the odds of conception. Do not try to force mate rabbits. Like any other animal, this is disrespectful and inhumane.
Signs of pregnancy
Now begins the waiting game. There is always a chance that while the male rabbit was successful in his endeavors, his aim was not accurate. After copulation, check the female rabbit to ensure there is no discharge on her fur or underneath her.
After two weeks of a successful mating, you should be able to tell if a rabbit is pregnant. She won’t have any outward signs, so you will have to feel if there is anything internal. The way to tell if your rabbit is pregnant is by gently palpating her stomach. You want to be gentle, so if this is your first time and you are nervous, it’s best to visit a vet to have them show you how.
Inside a rabbit’s abdomen, you should be able to feel the embryos. They will be about the size of a grape at this point, and there should be multiple embryos.
Before you start mating a rabbit, be sure to weigh them. Then, two weeks later, weigh the female rabbit again. If she is pregnant, she will be heavier than before.
If you’re still not sure, bring your rabbit into a vet. They will be able to perform an ultrasound for accurate information. While this is an added expense, it is a solid step to make if it’s your first foray into rabbit breeding.
Rabbit gestation period
The gestation period for a rabbit is 31 to 33 days. This is both a short gestation time and a short window of opportunity for a litter to be born. Count your days and do not lose track. If a rabbit goes longer than 33 days, a few things could be happening. First, check to make sure she really is pregnant as it could have been a false diagnosis.
Second, something could have happened to the litter in utero. If it has been more than 33 days, bring your rabbit to the vet. They will be able to perform an ultrasound to see what is happening. They might also try to induce your rabbit. The longer it takes for baby rabbits to be born, the greater the risk of complications.
Preparing for delivery
Between mating and delivery, you really only have a month to prepare. Add in the fact that you can’t confirm if your rabbit is pregnant until the halfway point, and you’ll realize that things need to more quickly.
Make sure your rabbit is properly cared for. It’s easy to think only about the impending litter and forget about the rabbit that is making it all possible. Give her extra food to eat as she has a lot of work to do. Fresh, clean water is also important. Extra alfalfa hay will provide the necessary nutrients she needs.
Make sure your rabbit has a large enough space for her to give birth in. This is called a nest box. It should have fresh, clean hay in it. You don’t need to do much aside from providing this clean place for her.
Caring for the litter
Once a litter of rabbits has been born, it’s important to give them and their mother enough space to bond. Keep your interactions to a minimum and provide plenty of fresh food for your rabbit as she will be hungry producing enough milk for everyone.
How many bunnies does a rabbit have?
You can expect between 1 to 14 new rabbits per litter. The average, however, is 6. If the litter is particularly large, you can also expect, unfortunately, that not all will make it, do to feeding restrictions.
When are rabbits weaned?
Baby rabbits will need to stay with their mothers for at least 8 weeks. At 6 weeks, they will be weaned, but until 8 weeks they will continue to take nourishment from their mother. This comes in the form of cecotropes, which disgusting as it sounds, is actually poop. The soft feces are rich in nutrients and have everything a little rabbit needs to grow and develop.
After 8 weeks you can start introducing rabbit food until they are fully weaned, from both milk and cecotropes. This is also the time that you can start selling your rabbits. Do not sell any rabbits until they are fully weaned. If done too early they will not have a proper immune system for survival.
How to make money breeding rabbits
Now that your rabbits have successfully been bred, a litter has been born, and the baby rabbits are able to leave their mother, it’s time for the selling aspect.
What breeds are best for selling
Selling rabbits is all about finding the right market. Current rabbit trends include those that are easily domesticated, sociable, and just downright cute. Some of the most popular rabbit breeds are:
- Dutch rabbit – energetic and sociable; loves children
- English Lop – adorable large floppy ears
- Lionhead rabbit – sociable, trainable; amazing furry mane – we have a whole article on Lionhead rabbits, here!
- American rabbit – calm and sweet; not recommended for children
- California rabbit – sociable and cuddly; thick fur is ideal for cold weather
How much to sell rabbits for
The cost of a rabbit varies greatly. You can expect to sell a rabbit for between $20 and $200. The rarer the breed is, and the more in-demand it is, the higher the price you can expect. While this might seem like a small profit, given all the costs, remember that you will be selling the entire litter. So, be sure to multiply your figure by an average of 6 rabbits to project your true profits.
Where to sell rabbits
The hardest part of this whole process might just be how to actually sell your rabbits. Online is your best bet. Look for livestock groups or pet owner groups to share your details. You can also try to establish a relationship with a pet store, or at least try to be allowed to post your information in the store. The trick is to target as many people as possible. If you can, have interest even before a litter is born.
What are upfront costs?
Unfortunately, you can’t just expect to walk away with $1,200 after selling your litter of rabbits. Even if you are able to charge top dollar for your rabbits, you still need to factor into the costs.
Just as you will eventually want to sell a rabbit, you will need to first purchase your rabbits. You might already have one or two, which is great. If not, factor in an initial $40 to $400 fee for the two rabbits. Thankfully, this will be just a one-off cost.
Rabbits need to eat. Your female rabbit will need more food than your male rabbit once she is pregnant and with her litter. Expect $25 per rabbit per month.
Unless you are a seasoned rabbit breeder, you will want to have your rabbit visit a vet at least once during her pregnancy. One visit is about $80. However, put aside extra in case of pregnancy complications or unexpected illnesses.
With each litter, you can expect to make between $300 and $1000. A female rabbit can produce up to 4 litters in a year. There is money to be made breeding rabbits but there is also time and energy that needs to be invested.
Here are few more common questions about how to mate rabbits you’re still wondering about.
What is a baby rabbit called?
A female rabbit is also known as a doe. A male rabbit is also known as a buck. As for a baby rabbit, it is called a kit. While a rabbit does give birth to a litter, kit is not short for kitten.
Can I purchase a pregnant rabbit?
Yes. If you want a bit of an easier start to breeding rabbits, you could just purchase a pregnant rabbit from a reputable breeder. This saves you from having an extra rabbit to care for and feed. There will be an extra cost to this, but if you’re not quite sure about where to start, it is a good way in.
How many litters can a rabbit have in a year?
A rabbit will need up to 31 days for gestation. Afterward, she will need 8 weeks to properly feed her litter and wean them. This amounts to almost 13 weeks. Once this cycle has been completed, you can begin to breed your female rabbit again, if it is to the same original male. You can then expect a maximum of 4 litters per year.
Do rabbits mate for life?
No, unlike some animals, rabbits do not mate for life. While some rabbits may seem more social with others, if you want to try different breeding partners, you will not upset any sense of relationship.
We hope that this article has successfully answered the question on how to breed rabbits successfully. While the act of mating is relatively short, there is a lot that needs to happen both before and after copulation. Rabbits are wonderful animals and are steadily increasing in popularity as a household pet. There is a good market space for properly bred rabbits. Take your time, understand all the risks and rewards. When you’re ready, treat your rabbits with respect and kindness and be sure to find good homes for them.