To achieve success, purchase the best quality animals that you can afford.
Only purchase animals from reputable breeders. When purchasing breeding stock, try to obtain rabbits that are close to six weeks of age so they can acclimate to their new environment before going through the stress of birthing. If older stock is obtained, true breeding success may come with the second generation.
Have a good breeding system in place and a market for all animals you raise.
When breeding a rabbit always take the doe to the pen of the buck.
Rabbits are induced ovulators; breed each doe twice at one hour to four hour intervals for a larger litter size. When breeding rabbits, if the doe does not accept the buck, consider this a red flag that the doe is in poor condition or health. Does that are “force bred” will become pregnant less then fifty percent of the time, while “accepted breeds” will conceive close to one hundred percent of the time.
Watch the doe for signs of problems throughout her pregnancy.
The gestation period of a rabbit is 29 to 32 days. When the doe is close to kindling, it is common for the doe to reduce its feed intake. If you are control feeding, there may very well be some feed left in the feeder the last four to five days prior to kindling.
Increase feed gradually at kindling. Best practice is to maintain the amount of feed offered for days 1 and 2 after kindling, and slowly increase feed offer for the next five days, so the rabbit is not on full feed until day 7.
Check nest boxes every day for dead kits and remove all dead kits and debris immediately. The nest should be clean and dry.
Separate the litter from the doe at approximately 3 to 5 weeks of age.
In general, sire and dam are equally important in inheritance, the exception being that a sire can have many more offspring in a given period of time.
General experience is that parent and offspring or brother and sister matings should be risked only when the stock is unusually good. Some breeders inbreed as a way to check for weaknesses in various bloodlines.
Only animals with sound genetics, which are resistant to disease, have a good disposition, and good reproductive capacity should be considered for addition to your herd. If your stock has bad dispositions or are poor breeders, eventually you will become very frustrated. Nobody enjoys getting bitten or fighting an animal to feed it. Don’t be afraid to cull problematic animals. Some rabbits become very aggressive after kindling, wanting to protect their young from outside harm. This behavior can be corrected by holding a piece of cardboard (3” x 12”) on the doe’s head with your hand. Keep the cardboard in place until the doe becomes tired and no longer fights.
Now you can approach the rabbit and pet it, showing the rabbit you mean it no harm. Four to five days of this can convert a once aggressive rabbit to one that looks forward to your attention. This can save time and dollars already invested in an otherwise very good breeding stock.
Feed a high-fiber diet to help maintain digestive health.
Do not overfeed or underfeed.
Feed each rabbit once a day the amount it will consume in 20 to 30 minutes.
Provide clean, fresh water at all times. This may require providing fresh water several times a day if water bowls are used, since water consumption will increase in hot weather, and bowls can freeze over in cold conditions.
The nutrient requirements of the rabbit vary based on age and function. For example, the requirements are different for a herd buck versus a lactating doe. Each group should receive a specific diet. To confirm that each animal is properly nourished, it can be palpated over the back and hips to determine the level of fatness. This will allow you to assess whether the animal is thin, fat or well-nourished. Then the diet can be changed as needed.
Feeding rabbits to maintain the proper body condition is the best objective. For the inexperienced rabbitry manager, obtaining the weight of rabbits on a weekly basis can be quite helpful and more indicative of body condition. Then, as experience grows and the manager becomes more skilled, obtaining the body weight can be reduced to a monthly basis. This is also more practical in larger rabbitries.
Rabbits are creatures of habit and they usually eat at the same time each day. To help prevent obesity and avoid overfeeding, it is recommended that you provide an adequate amount of feed at the same time each day.
Limit feed all young stock to allow them to grow. Then slowly increase the amount of feed provided on a daily basis to prime them for the show.
To decrease disease problems, do not overcrowd your rabbitry.
Having a good sanitation program is one of the most important things you can do to keep your rabbits healthy.
Use a disinfectant such as bleach to clean the pens, but wash it off after several minutes. It is recommended that a disinfectant like bleach have a 15-minute exposure time for proper disinfection.
Have a program in place to keep the rabbitry free of pests and rodents such as flies, spiders, mice, and rats.
Haul the rabbit droppings away from the rabbitry so flies do not find the rabbitry as easily. Droppings make great compost for vegetable and flower gardens.
Have a weekly cleaning plan, and stick with it year round.
Keep animals out of direct sunlight, as rabbits cannot tolerate the heat, and the sunlight will fade their coats.
If you provide proper housing, good ventilation, maintain sound genetics, keep good records, have a sound nutritional program, have a good sanitation program, a good pest control program, and isolate sick or new stock, then you increase the chances of having a fun and healthy rabbitry.
Provide fresh feed and water each day to every rabbit. Dispose of old feed that remains in the feeder or feed bowl, so each rabbit has clean feed each day. Wash each water bowl daily to decrease buildup of algae.
Do not house male rabbits together once they reach sexual maturity since they will fight.
Female rabbits can be housed together in small groups and will usually not fight.
In hot weather, frozen plastic bottles can be placed in the cage to help keep the rabbit cooler.
Aluminum cans and small pieces of untreated wood can be placed in the cage for toys.
Do not make the nest box too big or the doe will use it for a bedroom and a bathroom. The nest box should only be big enough for the doe to get in and take a rest, and then get out.
If a resting board is provided as a place for the rabbit to sit off the wire, then the resting board should be cleaned and disinfected at least twice each week or as needed, to decrease disease problems.
Have a quarantine area for new purchases and for sick animals.
Always feed, water, and treat the quarantined animals last.
Keep air moving in the rabbitry at all times. Remember that hot air rises, so have a ridge vent to allow hot air to escape.
Rabbits enjoy cold weather and a cool breeze.
The key to preventive medicine is sanitation!
Have a veterinarian available that you can consult when needed.
A sound pest control program is needed. This includes a program to control spiders, flies, rats, mice, dogs, and any other pest that may bother your rabbits. The key is to eliminate the potential food sources and breeding sites for the pests. Keep the rabbit area clear of any unnecessary debris. Each week you should throw away any trash or useless items, since pests may think they make a fine home.
When respiratory problems such as snuffles occur, isolate the sick animals from the healthy animals for treatment. Evaluate the ventilation and sanitation systems to correct the problem.
If you leave a radio on in your rabbitry, the rabbits will be less excitable and more relaxed.
Each month, check the teeth of each rabbit to detect dental problems such as buck teeth. If dental problems are not corrected the rabbit will not be able to eat properly.
When diarrhea problems occur, provide fresh water and grass hay (not straw) to the affected rabbit for 24 hours. In the meantime, determine the cause of the problem.
Keep all breeding stock in good health and flesh condition. Avoid overfeeding, as overweight animals are harder to breed and have more problems at delivery than thin animals.
A program to control ear mites, fur mites and coccidiosis must be developed and maintained to ensure the health of the animals in the rabbitry.