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Rabbit infertility...Frustration ensues!

 
Lauren Dixon
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Location: Kalispell, Montana
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We are making our first attempt at breeding meat rabbits, and so far, we're not doing all that great! Whoever coined the phrase, "screwing like rabbits" apparently never had anything to do with real rabbits.

We were given a breeding pair of New Zealand rabbits by a friend who was moving away and couldn't take them. The doe came with a litter of 6 babies, so obviously, she and this buck were able to reproduce just fine. The babies are weaned (we've eaten a few of them so far), and we have tried unsuccessfully to breed the doe twice now. The first time we put her in with the buck, he immediately got down to business. We watched them breed 5 or 6 times over a 15 minute period and removed her back to her pen. 30 days passed and no babies arrived. We tried again, this time leaving her in with the buck for about three days. Waited 30 days again, and still no babies. What are we doing wrong?!
 
kadence blevins
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i went through rabbits who refused to breed myself.

first things....
light, are they getting enough light because lighting for rabbits is as essential to light for chickens in winter to continue egg production. need at least 14hrs. personally i am working on getting lighting into my rabbit barn for this reason.

did you change the feed from what your friend used? might the rabbits be fat? does will get fatty inside and it can keep them from concieving. and a fat buck isnt much help either. i just switched feeds to see if that might help my rabbits.

how old are the rabbits? does loose fertility with age, bucks tend to go alot longer then does and still be fertile.
 
Lauren Dixon
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Location: Kalispell, Montana
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Hmmm...Strange that in all my reading about rabbits, I haven't yet run into the issue about light. My rabbits are getting VERY little light right now. Really, we are all light deprived. Winter time in the forest is dreary. Would a small household light bulb be enough for them?

I am not sure what my friend was feeding. He kept them in a semi-wild colony set-up, where they did most of their own foraging. I have been feeding a hay that consists of wild oats, alfalfa, plantain, dandelion, etc, along with some fresh stuff from time to time. I don't feed pellets, and would like to continue to develop a line of rabbits that require no commercial feed.

The doe isn't very fat, but the buck is quite squishy. Maybe I should cut him back on food a little bit. None of them are getting much exercise right now. During the summer we gave them an outdoor play area, but right now, they are in hutches as we have over a foot of snow on the ground.

The rabbits are both 3 years old, according to the previous owner. How long do they typically remain fertile?
 
Jay Green
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They both are getting in the far end of infertile and if they haven't been bred consistently~and I'm betting they haven't by the size of her last litter~they will not breed well. Sort of like us humans...the more we have it, the more we want it. The more you breed your doe, the better she will regularly come into cycle. Because she is older and has not been bred consistently, you are likely to get poor results in your breeding program.

This site said they don't come into heat but the cycle they describe is typically called a "heat" whether it is a true ovulation cycle or not...

http://www.threelittleladiesrabbitry.com/breeding.php

Rabbits do not ovulate on a regular cycle, as a result they do not actually go into heat. The mating of the rabbit will cause the doe to produce the eggs necessary for fertilization, usually 10-13 hours after breeding has occurred. Although the does has no actual heat cycle, she will only accept the buck in about 12 out of every 14 days . When she is ready to breed her vent area will be a dark pink, red or purple.


I'd start out with a fresh pair of young breeders and breed the doe shortly after she has kindled and just keep doing that.

Caging them next to one another is also a good way to bring her into heat...the buck acts as a "teaser" in this manner and his spraying his urine into her cage and his behavior can heat her up. When you try it again, check her vulva to see if she has good color there and then put her in with him two nights in a row and do just what you did...see if he is successful before removing her. If he just mates and gets off, it's likely it wasn't successful. If he squeals and falls off of her in a comical way, it is likely that the act has indeed been completed. Wait 4 days, do it again. If the breeding was successful the first time, she won't let him breed her on the second cycle of breeding after that 4 day interval. At least that's been my experience.

The link below has some great info:

http://agritech.tnau.ac.in/animal_husbandry/animhus_breeding%20of%20rabbit.html




 
kadence blevins
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Location: SE Ohio
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jay greene isnt exactly correct...

rabbits are fertile for quite a while. bucks usually until they die (~6-9 yrs) and does depends on breed but typically for meat rabbits not bred back to back constantly about 6yrs. i had an 8 yr dutch doe that produced some good litters for me. usually litter number will get smaller and smaller then just no litters at all or the doe will die.

nonpellet diet is great! i wish i would stop procrastinating and get mine at least to minimal pellet diet.

if the rabbits were in a colony type set up before and are now in hutches then that would be my first bet to why no litters. can you setup a small colony area for them? or perhaps put them in a barn stall or something for a while and watch them run about and breed a few times then send them back to the hutches.

i believe any light should do it.

 
Jay Green
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The male rabbit is known as buck. A buck develops its breeding capabilities at the age of 8 months. An ideal buck should continue to maintain its reproductive ability at least for 2 to 3 years. A young buck may be allowed to mate one doe at an interval of 3 to 4 days. But, from 12 months of age onwards it may mate 4-6 does in 7 days. A buck beyond 6 years of age should be culled since semen quality declines. In order to keep the buck healthy additional protein, vitamin and minerals are to be supplemented in diet. Two breeding bucks should not be kept in same place as they will fight each other and cause injury.


Of course bucks will stay fertile well past 3 years, but will they perform and breed well into their old age enough to produce a goodly amount of offspring for meat? Pet rabbits just producing small litters for selling aren't usually performing on the level of meat producers. Just as with the does, fertility diminishes with age, so to insure good breeding and to make productive use of the stock, it's best to keep young and vigorous bucks that are up to the job. No need to keep ancient bucks when you are constantly producing young ones that can take his place.
 
Saybian Morgan
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Before you give up or spent weeks hoping a shift in lighting alone will make your rabbits umph, check out this thread from another user about infertility and how they solves it in a few short days!

https://www.permies.com/t/12864/rabbits/Rabbit-breeeding#128955
 
Jay Green
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ACV is a regular part of rabbit husbandry in my neck of the woods as well. Prevents eye infections in kits, causes more female offspring to be born and keeps the rabbits healthy....and, yes, good ovulation and large litters are also a great side effect.
 
kadence blevins
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Jay Green wrote:
The male rabbit is known as buck. A buck develops its breeding capabilities at the age of 8 months. An ideal buck should continue to maintain its reproductive ability at least for 2 to 3 years. A young buck may be allowed to mate one doe at an interval of 3 to 4 days. But, from 12 months of age onwards it may mate 4-6 does in 7 days. A buck beyond 6 years of age should be culled since semen quality declines. In order to keep the buck healthy additional protein, vitamin and minerals are to be supplemented in diet. Two breeding bucks should not be kept in same place as they will fight each other and cause injury.


Of course bucks will stay fertile well past 3 years, but will they perform and breed well into their old age enough to produce a goodly amount of offspring for meat? Pet rabbits just producing small litters for selling aren't usually performing on the level of meat producers. Just as with the does, fertility diminishes with age, so to insure good breeding and to make productive use of the stock, it's best to keep young and vigorous bucks that are up to the job. No need to keep ancient bucks when you are constantly producing young ones that can take his place.


the ones i had that were about 8yrs old were dutch. i bred for meat. consistant litters of 8. dutch usually have tops of 5 per litter. that same buck even bred to some minirex does (minirex usually have litters of 3-5) gave a litter of 7 and a litter of 9. so i think they did fairly well.
 
Joseph Pierce
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Lauren Dixon
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Location: Kalispell, Montana
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I read the other thread about breeding problems, as suggested, and will try the apple cider vinegar before making any other sweeping changes. Right now, we are not able to keep the rabbits in a colony setup, but we will be changing that when spring arrives. We probably shouldn't have taken these rabbits so late in the year, before we were able to build an ideal environment for them, but the offer was too good to pass up, and I knew that these rabbits had been bred for a few generations to thrive on native forage in a colony system; exactly what I wanted. All the other breeding rabbits I've come across advertised locally came from highly managed, commercial-fed populations. I want our rabbits to be as close to natural as possible, and we will continue to select for these traits. However, with no reproduction happening, we can't select for beans!
 
kadence blevins
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Lauren Dixon wrote:I read the other thread about breeding problems, as suggested, and will try the apple cider vinegar before making any other sweeping changes. Right now, we are not able to keep the rabbits in a colony setup, but we will be changing that when spring arrives. We probably shouldn't have taken these rabbits so late in the year, before we were able to build an ideal environment for them, but the offer was too good to pass up, and I knew that these rabbits had been bred for a few generations to thrive on native forage in a colony system; exactly what I wanted. All the other breeding rabbits I've come across advertised locally came from highly managed, commercial-fed populations. I want our rabbits to be as close to natural as possible, and we will continue to select for these traits. However, with no reproduction happening, we can't select for beans!


ahh that makes sense. i think one of your problems then might be that they have been bred to eat forage for several generations and might just not be doing as well on the feed because of that. good luck (:
 
Jason Guerard
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Do you have an update?
I bought some cheap LEDs from Tomtop.com
Added an old PC power supply.
After about a week of sun plus light for 14hrs a day, they were ready to "go".
32 days later out popped 8 from one doe and 7 big ones from the other.
 
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