Raising Rabbits for Beginners

Raising rabbits for the first time is a fun and rewarding experience.

  • Good ventilation will help keep your rabbits healthy and happy.
    Photo by iStockphoto.com/Malerapaso
  • Be sure there is plenty of airflow, either by natural breeze or with the help of electric fans.
    Photo by Lynn Stone
  • If summer temperatures are expected to spike, try placing frozen bottles of water in the cages.
    Photo by iStockphoto.com/Laures
  • When the doe approaches the kindling stage, make sure she has access to a nest box that she can begin preparing using her own fur and other materials.
    Photo by iStockphoto.com/Emmahopson
  • Raising rabbits is a rewarding homestead endeavor.
    Photo by Janet Horton
  • Accurately identifying the sex of your rabbits early on will help avoid unexpected litters.
    Photo by Callene Rapp

Rabbits are one of the most rewarding livestock species to raise. They are quiet, don’t require large tracts of land, and can consistently produce high quality food for the table. But they do differ from other livestock species in some pretty significant ways. If you are thinking about getting into rabbits, or are just starting up, here are a few things to keep in mind as you go down the rabbit trail.

Rabbit Math: 1 + 1 = 42

Okay, that’s a little extreme, but there is a reason rabbits are the poster children for being prolific and reproductive efficiency. A young litter of rabbits grows up fast, so make plans to separate the litter by sex at weaning.

Learn to sex rabbits when they are as young as possible, and separate them early on. This saves you the frustration of finding out the hard way when a promising young doe is bred by her brother. These sibling love litters will often not survive, or will be poor performers. And if the doe was not as physically mature as she needed to be, it can be hard to get her rebred to the buck of your choice later.

Does can begin to cycle at 4 months of age, but should not be bred until they reach about 75 to 80 percent of their mature weight. For example, the mature weight of an American Blue doe should be 10 to 12 pounds, therefore she shouldn’t be bred until she’s around 8.5 pounds.

Sexing rabbits can be tricky, but with a little practice, you can become a pro. Grab the kit firmly by the scruff of the neck. Don’t be too delicate or hesitant. Grasping the kit firmly will reduce the amount of wiggle room the kit has, and reduce the potential for injuring itself. Turn the kit over. It will take a little practice to feel comfortable here, but you can hold the kit by the scruff and balance the hindquarters on your palm and wrist. Place the fingers of your free hand on either side of the genitals, and spread them apart. The external genitalia should stand out then, and the shape will tell you whether you are holding a male or female kit.

With a little practice, you will become fairly comfortable with your accuracy. If you have any doubts, mark the kit in the ear with a permanent marker with your best guess. Come back in two or three days, no longer, and see if you still agree with yourself. If you still have doubts, repeat in a few more days.

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