Whether you want your pair of rabbits to breed, or just to inform you about it, know that breeding these animals is harder than it looks. Indeed, while rabbits breed easily, giving birth to young rabbits and letting them grow is a whole different story. A small thing can bother a couple, and the mother may end up abandoning her cubs or even killing them. Let’s move on to breeding rabbits.
When can rabbits breed?
A pair of rabbits can breed from the moment they reach sexual maturity. In the male, puberty occurs at the age of 6 to 7 months. The female needs to wait only from 4 to 6 months, depending on the breed. Small rabbit breeds reach sexual maturity earlier than giant breeds. However, it is recommended to wait until 8 months of age to breed rabbits.
As soon as the male reaches puberty, his testicles descend from the abdominal cavity to the scrotum. Then they are perfectly visible. This makes it easier to distinguish males from females. However, from the age of 5 weeks, the male develops a small tube, and the female has a small gap.
If males are able to breed throughout the year, females usually have to wait for estrus periods. The strong breeding season for this species begins in January or February and ends in July. During this period, the female is in heat in cycles lasting from five to ten days with breaks of two to three days. About every two weeks, the female becomes restless, becomes more aggressive, and arches her back, ready for fertilization.
It should be noted that females are fertile on average up to 4 years of age, against 5-6 years in males.
How does mating and gestation take place?
In order for a pair of rabbits to breed, it is advisable to place the female in the male’s cage, and not vice versa. If the conditions are favorable, the operation is very fast. The female raises her croup, and the male sits on her. The act lasts only a few seconds, after which the rabbit falls on its side with a piercing cry, which is completely normal. Since the female does not menstruate, it is mating that causes ovulation.
Pregnancy in rabbits lasts from 28 to 34 days. From the 15th day, the pregnancy of the female is clearly visible and palpable by palpation of the abdomen. This palpation is useful to ensure that the female is indeed pregnant. It also happens that ovulation does not cause fertilization, but causes bloating and milk production. The females then prepare their nest for the babies they think they are expecting and can constipate themselves by swallowing the hairballs.
Little by little, the pregnant rabbit prepares the nest for childbirth, tearing out the hairs at the level of the abdomen. Her behavior changes about 10 days before delivery. Be careful, because she sometimes forgets to eat when she gets excited.
How does whelping happen in rabbits?
Childbirth usually occurs at the end of the night, at dawn, and lasts from 30 minutes to an hour. The female, who must have been separated from the male long before birth, controls the whole process by herself. Count about 10 minutes per baby, knowing that a female can give birth to an average of two to four babies in a dwarf rabbit and up to six or ten in the largest.
Rabbits are born blind, with closed ears and a naked body. They weigh between 20 and 40 grams. The mother cuts the umbilical cord with her teeth and devours the placenta before cleaning each of her babies by licking them.
If the attention of the female is important at birth, the connection quickly disappears and the young leave the nest after two to three weeks. Very early, she leaves the chicks in the nest, only to return a few times a day, as mothers do in their natural state. After about six weeks, the rabbits are completely weaned. Able to eat solid food and provided with wool, they can be adopted ideally at eight weeks of age to complete feeding.
It should be noted that cannibalism exists in domestic rabbits. It happens that the rabbit devours the newly born cubs. This behavior can be attributed to several reasons, such as extreme stress leading her to kill her young, an environment that she considers unsafe for her litter, the proximity of other rabbits that makes her fear they will attack her rabbits, or even the unfortunate when she cuts the umbilical cord. So be vigilant because this type of behavior is not uncommon.
Likewise, don’t handle cubs during their first week of life, unless the mother leaves them. Indeed, your smell can disturb the female and make her drop the litter or devour her.