Before we get into our early experiences of breeding, here are some breeding basics.

  • Breeding age is  5 months for the doe and 6 months for the bucks.
  • Take the doe to the bucks cage.   
  • There are a few ways to go about the actual breeding.  Some people put a pair together, then wait and watch.  Then repeat either 1 hour later or 8-10 hours later.   Does ovulate upon spermination- my own technical term, thank you, so that is the reason for the repeat performance.  The other way, which we do, is to put them together and make sure neither looks like they will attack, then leave them together for 12 - 24 hours.  Early in the morning or later in the evening is better than starting mid-day.
  • You can palpate 10-14 days after attempt to check for pregnancy, but we tried and I couldn't tell anything from one to another.  Some people also think that it can damage the babies, but it doesn't matter because I can't do it.  So we just wait.
  • Put a nest box in at day 28 and they should have babies at day 31 or 32.  If nothing, then wait until day 35 and re-breed doe again.
  • You may wake up and see a nest box full of fur and a bit of blood below the cage.  The blood scared me at first but it wasn't too much and Jess reminded me about my own labor and though...duh, of course there is blood.

Our attempts went like this. 
Attempt 1 Lola was breed in November.  Put the nest box in and she hung around it.  Climbed in and out, but luckily never used it as a litter box.  I think she mostly slept in it.  Day 32 nothing, day 35 nothing.  So it didn't take.  I have heard that breeding during the winter is tricky as daylight is limited and males fertility may be on the lower side.  
We also breed Blossom at that time with Peter, who was the same age, which happened to be 5 1/2 months.  Well that isn't 6 months so it didn't take either.  I guess those 2 weeks really matter.  Same thing as about with the nest box, interest but no babies.

Attempt 2 In early January we try again.  This time Lola was with 2 different bucks (at a friends of ours rabbitry) and the second one did the job.  We tried Sabina, Blossom's sister, with Peter.  She seemed to like him much more than her sister.  She was snuggling him in the morning and protested with squeaks when removing her.  Come early February Sabina pulled hair and had a litter of 8 a few days later.  Everything was fine for her and she has been and excellent mom. 
Lola on the other hand seemed to be going the same route as last time and we were worried that she didn't take again.  Then the day after Sabina kindled something happened in Lola's cage...but it still wasn't good news.  A few hours earlier everything was fine and then in the afternoon I checked on her and Lola's cage looked like there had been a vicious rabbit fight with fur everywhere.  Not just the nest box, in fact mostly not in the nest box.  When we got closer she was running around frantic.  There in front of the nest box was a weirdly long and cool to the touch kit.  Inside the box there was one live kit and one cold dead kit that looked like its torso had been squeezed or smashed.  I tried to warm up the one born on the wire...didn't work.  We put a heat pad under the solo kit, but Lola kept digging at the bottom of the box and disturbing it.  She looked like she was still pushing a bit, so I waited and watched.  Nothing happened.  I thought maybe I was imagining that, as what does a rabbit look like that is pushing or having contractions?  This was my first go, well second, but I was not involved at all with Sabina's delivery.  The next afternoon I went out and there was another kit, dead on the wire.  It was cool and very smashed looking too.  I guess she had it stuck in there.  It happens but isn't normal, so I am told.  We could have fostered the solo kit with Sabina or put a few of Sabina's kits with Lola.  But Sabina already 8 kits and that is how many teats they have.  And Lola seemed unreliable at this point, we were unsure if she was nursing her kit and didn't want to risk on of the other kits that were doing well with their own mom.  We debated back and forth and came to the hard decision, since it was our first litter, that we would let the kit stay with Lola.  It died after 3 days total and I am pretty sure she wasn't nursing it.  Also, kits need other kits to help keep them warm, not just the fur.  So single kits often don't survive.  As hard as this was, maybe there was something wrong with the kits, as the others seemed larger than normal.  I have hear other horror stories of mothers eating their young, especially first time mothers or if they are scared/disturbed while delivering.  I am not looking forward to something like that happening. 

Sabina's litter all snuggled up. They are about 10 days old, so are slightly furred and no longer pinkies.

Attempt 3 We paired Blossom and Peter (as he is now at least proven once) and Jersey with our new to us 3 year old buck, Chum-lee.  Jersey had a miscarriage 2 weeks later.  There was blood below her cage and a large blob that was the size and shape of a big fava bean.  With research I found out that miscarriages happen but not commonly.  Since rabbits have 2 horns, there may still be babies on the other side, so back to the waiting game.  Jersey ended up using the nest box as a litter box and had no babies. 
Blossom on the other hand did a great job just like her sister and on day 32 had a litter of 8.  She pulled so much fur (but it was all in the box) that we had to dig deep to find out how many she had.  Another excellent mother, thankfully.  I think that she even counts the kits when we put back the box, or she at least smells to make sure they are in there.  Sabina never checked, she was too busy eating when we checked on her babies.  Boy can that girl eat.  Sisters, huh. 

Attempt 4 Lola is on strike 2 and has one more chance if this try is anything unsuccessful.  I know that is a lot of pressure for a rabbit, right.  I don't think she know, just suspect....just kidding.  Dark humor, I know, it is my way of coping.  Anyway, we re-breed her with Chum-lee.  The deed was done and after she groomed him and he returned the favor.  They looked like an old married couple.  I am really hoping it works and to have a nice healthy litter of pure Californians.  Both Chum-lee and Lola have nice dispositions, good body shape (in my novice opinion) and are easy to handle.  Lola is also the cleanest, most fastidious rabbit we have.  We also paired Pocket with Peter.  We are waiting to see how it turns out and should know around the 27 th of March give or take a few days.

So the moral of the story is... everyone says rabbits breed like crazy and nce they get going this is probably true.  There may be hiccups along the way and in my life the lessons of patience is ever repeating.  It must be my thing to work on? 
Anyway, fertility does run lower in winter and during hot summers.  But some rabbits are just broken- either they can't breed easily or are bad mothers.  If you are looking at long term goals then evaluation and culling needs to be done to have excellent breeding stock and help your rabbitry flourish.  Hard choices need to be made for the betterment of the whole herd.  The general rule is 3 strikes and your out.  Usually to the stew pot or freezer camp (again with the dark humor).  If that is too hard, you can look for a non-breeding pet home for your broken rabbits.  But keep trying and really assess your goals for why you are raising rabbits.  Good Luck!