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Is there a better way to sex rabbits?

 
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The wife and I love our little rabbitry operation. We do have a fairly high standard for their quality of life though, and one almost died of heat stroke in the hutch last summer. After trying fans and frozen Gatorade bottles (to only mild success) we started to think more along permie design principles and realized rabbits have a great defense against heat and cold already built in - tunnels! So we decided to keep the ramp down and give them full time pen access.  

So I dug 2 feet deep around the fence at the back and all the white fencing I put in for the rabbit pen. Then I stapled a 2-3' tall barrier of chicken wire to some 2x4s, stapled them to the bottom of the fence, and buried everything back down to stop them from digging out. And I buried some additional wire with 2x4s on both ends under the gate. We've had this set up for almost a year now and we are very happy with it. They lose far less of any new litter now and overall they seem much happier! It's actually really fun, cause if you don't notice that a rabbit is pregnant one day you'll just have extra mini bunnies popping out the ground like fairies! A delight we did not predict, but great all the same. Just one part is not great - catching them!

We've been able to corner a couple and get them for butchery. That's alright cause you obviously only have to get one bunny once. The part that is really annoying is sexing them - as far as I know, the only way to do this is to catch them and flip them over to check for what parts pop out. Yet this has to be done for each rabbit at least once, whether or not it's on the chopping block. And some are much harder to catch than others.

So is there anyway to tell sex externally? Certain traits or characteristics? We can kind of tell from the more aggressive behaviors, but the females will hump faces too (a fairly aggressive behavior if you ask me lol) so nothing is clear cut. Seems like maybe bigger ears or longer faces? Have any of yall found anything that can kind of tell them apart with out catching em and flipping them?

We've assessed 6-8 adult rabbits is about right carrying capacity for that area (gotta keep it looking good for the suburbs you know) and we'd like to keep 2 bucks at any given time, so we tend to cull the males out first. Especially the fighters. But I am afraid I might end up with no males... and that would bring the meat and fur supply to a quite a halt eventually.

Thanks for reading my wall of text!
IMG_8232.jpeg
Another view of the hutch
Another view of the hutch
IMG_8233.jpeg
Here you can see the holes they've dug
Here you can see the holes they've dug
IMG_2692.JPG
The hutch when we started
The hutch when we started
 
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Location: Ohio
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So, not really. Honestly most animals are very androgynous prior to puberty - even humans. As adults rabbits have some sexual dimorphism in head shape, body shape, dewlaps, but until they grow into that you just gotta have a look see.

Instead of looking for another way to sex them, consider another way to CATCH them. How are you feeding them? I feed into bowls 1-2xs a day. Because of this I get hands-on interactions with each rabbit daily (albeit mine are in cages not roaming).

If you feed once a day, you can easily get every rabbit in the pen into the same spot every day. You can even still give hay free choice all day anywhere in the pen, just give pellets and veggies once a day.

From there it's much easier to, say, have them all eat in an area that's easy to partition off like a dog playpen and when they all run in to eat you just close a door behind them. Suddenly it's much easier to grab them than if they're running loose.

You could also consider some sort of fine net on a pole, or herding them into chutes.
 
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Welcome, Ben.
I love your setup, I have way too many predators for that, I think (particularly with young bunnies involved), but I love the idea.
I find my rabbits love digging, whether in dirt or sand, it seems to be really enjoyable to them.
I found a sexual dimorphism only visible once the girls get their dewlaps. I've got Brazilian rabbits, and just after that the body shapes seem to shift as well- the male has a more angular head (almost ratty) and the female is more rotund. But that is from at least 1 year old, which is too late. I think C Mouse's idea of using feeding to capture the rabbits is the best, have a restricted feeding zone where you put the special treats (in the hutch with the ramp up?) and then take it from there.
 
Ben Lynde
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C Mouse wrote:How are you feeding them? I feed into bowls 1-2xs a day. Because of this I get hands-on interactions with each rabbit daily (albeit mine are in cages not roaming).




We tend to throw the greens or pellets over the fence. We used to use hoppers but the squirrels kept getting into them. But this is a good idea! We can start centralizing the feeding location to one easy to reach corner and get them used to that. We also have a professional rabbit catcher (just kidding, it's a 2' by 4' tubberware) that we can drop over the desired rabbit, and have one person put some weight on the top until the other can get in the pen and scoop it up. It will at least work until they start looking for the tupperware... but it is a good idea none the less! We'll have to try it.

A chute may not be worth the effort right now though cause we're hoping to move soon. But this is a big help, thank you!

 
Ben Lynde
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Tereza Okava wrote:Welcome, Ben.
I love your setup, I have way too many predators for that, I think (particularly with young bunnies involved), but I love the idea.
I find my rabbits love digging, whether in dirt or sand, it seems to be really enjoyable to them.
I found a sexual dimorphism only visible once the girls get their dewlaps. I've got Brazilian rabbits, and just after that the body shapes seem to shift as well- the male has a more angular head (almost ratty) and the female is more rotund. But that is from at least 1 year old, which is too late. I think C Mouse's idea of using feeding to capture the rabbits is the best, have a restricted feeding zone where you put the special treats (in the hutch with the ramp up?) and then take it from there.



I have noticed the ratty face on the males too. I didn't know only females got dewlaps though! Our first doe is just getting hers now (she was the first so she get to retire in peace).
 
C Mouse
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Some bucks are permitted dewlaps in breed standard but they're usually smaller and less prominent. I've had bucks with dewlaps but it's like a hen that crows, it's just super uncommon.
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