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Keep bunnies together or separate?

Addressing the special needs of the breeding doe and her kits. Includes nutrition, gestation, nest boxes and materials, and tips to ensure survival of the young.
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Keep bunnies together or separate?

Post Number:#1  Unread postby mishabelle » Thu Jan 23, 2020 3:45 pm


Good afternoon! I am brand new to rabbit breeding and I live in Southern California. I have been in research mode for several months trying to learn what I could on the internet before getting started. My husband then build a large walk in enclosure/habitat for the future bunnies. Once finished I headed to my local shelter only to find one 4 month old buck and an elderly (3-4 year old) doe. I had wanted to get a male and female around the same age so I could start the breeding process relatively soon. But when I saw the sweet lumpy brown lop eared girl who had to be given up cause her owners apartment wouldn't allow her I couldn't leave her there all sad at the shelter. So for several months I've had the white fur red eyed male (New Zealand White?) and the old brown lop housed together. Once the buck came of age he started "trying" with the doe. She had none of it, and he eventually seemed to give up. They've been living in peace for several months. Just this week I finally found a 7 week old baby girl (listed as a holland lop, but I don't think she's pure bred). I picked her up and began introducing her to the other two bunnies. She is very wary of them and they are very curious about her. My question is, should I keep her separated for a while? She's far too young to breed, so is it bad to have her around the male when she's not ready? I asked the breeder I got the newest girl from and she said the boy won't try to mate till he "smells" that she's ready (is that even a thing?). Is the concern more with how the older female will react to the baby? I've read that females are the more territorial. But so far neither have seemed aggressive with the new baby. I just want to make sure the bunnies are happy and relaxed. I'd be interested to know if there are any "pet" breeders who pretty much keep their bunnies together till the doe kindles and needs to be moved. I am hoping this is an option. My husband will be building an add on nursery to the habitat so we'll be ready when we eventually get some kits. I could have been more succinct I suppose, but brevity isn't my strong suit. Sorry for the lengthy explanation, and thank you to anyone who actually makes it all the way through!

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Re: Keep bunnies together or separate?

Post Number:#2  Unread postby michaels4gardens » Thu Jan 23, 2020 4:07 pm


First, - about having them together - all rabbits are different so you need to watch and see if they are getting along.
With the size/age difference, it is unlikely the older doe will see the youngster as a threat.-but still watch...
Second, - about breeding, -- the "smells", she is ready thing, is nonsense.
If you don't want her bred early, then you need to separate her from the buck.
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Re: Keep bunnies together or separate?

Post Number:#3  Unread postby mishabelle » Thu Jan 23, 2020 4:57 pm


I figured the "smell" thing was rubbish, ha. Thanks so much!

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Re: Keep bunnies together or separate?

Post Number:#4  Unread postby Zass » Fri Jan 24, 2020 2:53 pm


A female can actually get pregnant again the same day she gives birth, so if you don't want back-to-back litters, it would be a good idea to separate her out before she kindles.

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Re: Keep bunnies together or separate?

Post Number:#5  Unread postby hotzcatz » Sat Jan 25, 2020 3:55 pm


I don't know if you want to use the term 'breeder' to describe your ownership of rabbits. Even 'pet breeder' since there's enough folks out there dissing breeders and having a 'pet breeder' doesn't help. Basically when you breed shelter pet to shelter pet all you get is more shelter pets. Sounds harsh, I know, but (IMHO, Hmm, maybe IMNSHO) there's a different mindset to breeding than pet ownership.

If you're going to breed rabbits, what's your goal for breeding them? Breeding a 'pet' bunny isn't going to pay very many bills, it may not even cover the costs of producing them. If you were to breed pure bred rabbits, then you *might* be able to sell them at a profit. Not guaranteed, but much more likely. If you just want more rabbits for yourself, then it doesn't really matter.

At the moment, you've got a fairly young New Zealand buck but only one buck. So, all the offspring will be at least half siblings and half New Zealand. That's a large breed and usually raised for meat and usually offspring sell for between $15 to $30 each. Not a lot of profit there unless you're doing economy of scale and raising them by the multiple dozens if not hundreds. Holland lops usually sell for a lot more, so breeding Holland lops might show a profit. But if you have a NZ buck, you don't get Holland lop offspring. Not even sure what you'd get as a cross between those two breeds.

You've mentioned two unknown breed 'maybe Holland lop' does. I'd guess the older one is too old to breed, especially since she's been around the buck for seven months and no offspring. She may be significantly older than the 3 or 4 years they said she was, but not a breeding prospect in any case. The younger doe at seven weeks old shouldn't have been sold yet. I think federal law is eight weeks. But, that's a side issue. Also, don't most shelters spay their animals? At seven weeks, she is too young to be spayed, one would think. Maybe she came from somewhere other than the shelter?

A Holland lop is around 4 pounds when full grown. A New Zealand is around 9 pounds when full grown. IF you had a NZ female and a Holland male, then there would be less likelihood of birth complications. There's enough difference in size that you may lose the doe from being unable to birth a kit that's too large? I don't know, but it might be something to look into.

So, let's work this through. Your young maybe Holland lop doe gets old enough to breed, she meets the NZ buck and manages to have a litter without excessive complications. Six months later, they're adults (providing they survive, of course, newborn baby bunnies are extremely delicate). Half of those adults are male and the best genetic match among the available does would be the older doe, but she's not breeding. So they'd have to be bred back to the young doe who is their dam. That's extreme 'linebreeding' (I consider it inbreeding, but not all breeders think that way), but for one generation is sort of acceptable - if you have a good reason to do it. The offspring would be 3/4th Holland and 1/4th NZ, although if the young doe doesn't look purebred, the offspring will look even less Holland. The young females can be bred back to the buck for one generation, although that would make the offspring 3/4th NZ and only 1/4th Holland and Holland would be the ones that could be more pet market, one would think?

So, use the NZ buck once to get some offspring. Breed the most Holland like buck offspring back to the dam. Do that again and you'll eventually get more and more Holland like offspring, but they're gonna be terribly inbred and you'll start getting inferior stock as the recessives start matching up. You could reach the point of lethal recessives matching up. It really doesn't work to start a breeding program with only one pair. You also aren't going to get much more Holland like than the original doe and you'd mentioned she doesn't seem pure Holland.

If you're going to breed, getting good breeding stock of some sort of purebred type may be very helpful. To start with, replace the NZ buck with something Holland lop-ish. Since the buck breeds more than one doe, the quality of the buck is more important than the quality of the does. Go find a purebred and high quality Holland lop buck, preferably one with a pedigree, but if he doesn't have one, start one. Breeders are always much more likely to sell off a quality buck than a quality doe since half the offspring are males and males need to be kept in separate quarters. Two breeding males will fight with each other and can even kill one another. If you want males for pets, get them spayed, but that costs $$$ so most breeders are always trying to sell off bucks. Even if you get them without a pedigree, you'll still be way ahead of using a NZ buck.

The non-bred does can be kept in a communal space, but they should have a separate space when they're nesting. Baby bunnies are seriously delicate and with other adult rabbits around, the newborns can get stepped on and crushed.

Because of your very limited genetic pool, start a pedigree on the bunnies even if you don't know much about their background just yet. When you get several generations down the line, being able to know their relatives will be important. Try to keep the coefficient of inbreeding to less than 25% if you can. Kintracks is an inexpensive pedigree program that is free to try out and has a handy 'coefficient of inbreeding' button on it.
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Re: Keep bunnies together or separate?

Post Number:#6  Unread postby squidpop » Mon Jan 27, 2020 2:52 am


About keeping your rabbits apart or together:
If you want to be safe and practical and avoid extreme vet bills- keep them apart. I would remove the young female right now to keep her safe. You may not realize it but rabbits when they fight are worse than cats and dogs. Male bucks will try so hard to get onto that young doe that they will bite her ear to hold on etc... and if he does she will be traumatized and also might get an infection or worse. I only put my doe and buck together while I am watching so I can separate them if it goes wrong. I've read posts where bucks got there penises bitten by the doe because he got turned around the wrong way- so that's why I stand and watch. Also, if a rabbit bites another rabbit its really bad- if its a puncture wound and it gets infected it is really hard to treat even with a vet and antibiotics- rabbits don't heal as well as cats or dogs- so you don't want injuries.

About pet breeding:
I am sort of a pet breeder my self. I started out eight years ago and I started out all wrong. I sort of did what you are doing (no offence) :pancake: I started out thinking I will just breed the cutest rabbits that make good pets in colors people like- my mistake was I bought two super cute breeds— a fuzzy lop and a jersey woolly and some netherland dwarfs. Well the fuzzy lop was the cutest thing ever but he was huge and I soon found out that of all the breeds of rabbit they where the hardest to groom- harder to groom than angoras because the fur would just mat as it grew in. Also he was twice as big as the Jersey woolly who was small for her breed and might die if she had babies with this big fuzzy lop. Also, I wouldn't want to sell pet rabbits to people who probably wouldn't be able to groom them. .... So... to make a long story short.... I did a ton of research and decided to only breed the Female Jersey woolie - and I got a really nice quality Jersey Wooly buck. And the fuzzy lop and the netherland dwarfs just became my pets. I even got them nuetered. Now all I breed are Blue eyed white Jersey Woolies and Vienna marked Jersey Woolies- and its not to make money its to enjoy my hobby and keep the blue eyed white jersey wooly color going in New Zealand because there aren't many breeders here and the color would disappear completely if I stopped breeding them I only have 2-3 litters a year.

So my advice to you is just save your female lop and find her a really great lop buck (so purebred) in a really great color, like fawn, or broken spotted, and breed that pair. Focus on breeding less bablies but good quality and healthy— It will make everything more enjoyable for you because you will always be able to find homes for them.

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