Cover Image
close this bookBetter Farming Series 37 - Raising Rabbits 2: Feeding Rabbits; Raising Baby Rabbits; Further Improvement (FAO, 1988, 49 p.)
close this folderRaising your own baby rabbits
View the documentMating
View the documentHelping rabbits to mate
View the documentThe baby rabbits
View the documentWhen the baby rabbits are born
View the documentRaising young rabbits
View the documentHow to tell the difference between female and male rabbits
View the documentWhen should you mate female rabbits again?
View the documentWhen to replace your full- grown female rabbits
View the documentWhen to replace your full- grown male rabbit


160. Remember that female rabbits are ready to be mated when they are 4 to 4 1/2 months old, and male rabbits when they are 5 to 5 1/2 months old.

161. So, once your rabbits are old enough (and if they are not sick), you can begin to mate them for the first time.

162. The best time for mating is early in the morning, or in the evening when it is cool.

The best time for mating is in the morning or evening

163. When you mate your rabbits, always put the female into the pen of the male.

Put the female into the pen of the male

164. Watch to see what happens. Usually they will mate quickly. If the male mounts the female and in a short time falls off to one side, mating has taken place.

Rabbits mating

165. As soon as this has happened, put the female back in her pen and write down the date of mating. This way you will know when to expect the baby rabbits to be born (see Item 171 in this booklet).

Write down the date of mating

166. If the rabbits do not mate after about five minutes, put the female back in her cage and try again the next day.

Helping rabbits to mate

167. Sometimes when a female rabbit is put into a pen with a male rabbit she will hide in the corner and the male rabbit will not be able to mount her.

168. If this happens, you can help them to mate. To do this, hold the female by the neck with one hand.

169. Then, put the other hand under the female with one finger on each side of her tail and push gently backwards.

170. This will make the female lift her tail so that the male can mount her. The drawings below will show you how to hold a female rabbit for mating.

How to help a female rabbit mate

The baby rabbits

171. Baby rabbits are usually born about one month after mating. However, they may be born a few days earlier or a few days later.

172. About five or six days before you expect the babies to be born, put one of the nest boxes that you have built (see page 41 in the last booklet) in the pen with the female.

Put one of the nest boxes in the pen with the female

173. Cover the bottom of the box with sawdust or wood chips. This will help to keep the box dry after the baby rabbits are born. Put a little dry grass or hay in the box.

Dry grass or hey

174. The female rabbit will then make a nest in the box to protect the baby rabbits, using some of her fur mixed with the dry grass or hay.

The female rabbit will make a nest

175. The nest box is very important because baby rabbits are weak and helpless when they are born. Baby rabbits have no fur, they cannot see and they cannot walk. So, they must be well protected.

The baby rabbits in the nest

176. Soon after the female rabbit has finished the nest, you can expect the baby rabbits to be born.

177. Stay away from the pen as much as you can during this time and do not bother the female. This is especially true while she is having the babies.

When the baby rabbits are born

178. After the baby rabbits are born, look at them carefully to see that they are all well.

Look at the babies as soon as they are born

179. Here are some things that you should look for. You should see

· if they are lying close together or far apart
· if they are warm and well protected in the nest
· if they are alive and well
· how many baby rabbits there are.

180. One very important thing that you should always remember is never touch baby rabbits unless you must, and if you must, make sure your hands are clean.

Wash your hands

181. All of the baby rabbits should be lying close together. If they are lying far apart carefully move them together.

Carefully move them together

182. A female rabbit gives milk to her babies only once a day. If the babies are not close together, she may not feed them all.

183. All of the baby rabbits should be warm and well covered in their nest. If they are not, put the fur and hay in the nest all around them.

Put fur and hay around them

184. If any of the baby rabbits are dead or deformed, take them away and destroy them.

Take away dead or deformed babies

185. If there are too many babies for the female to feed, take some of them away. A female rabbit with eight teats can feed only eight babies.

186. You can move baby rabbits from one female to another one that also has babies. If you have another female rabbit with too few babies, you can give some to her to feed.

If one rabbit female has to many babies, give some to another

187. However, the baby rabbits that you give to another female should be no more than two days younger or two days older than her own babies.

188. Gently rub the baby rabbits you are going to move with some of the grass or hay of the new nest.

Gently rub the babies with grass or hay from the new nest

189. This will give them the same smell as the new nest so that the new female rabbit will be more likely to accept the new babies as her own.

190. Sometimes female rabbits will kill their babies and sometimes they will not feed them. This can happen if a female rabbit does not have enough milk.

Sometimes female rabbit kills their babies

191. It can also happen the first time that a female rabbit has babies because she does not know how to take care of them.

192. If she kills her babies or will not feed them the next time she is mated, do not use her for mating again. Replace her with a new female.

193. Look at your baby rabbits every day to make sure that they are all well. Take away any babies that die.

194. You have already been told that female rabbits with babies need a lot of food. They also need a lot of water to make milk for the babies.

195. So, be very careful with female rabbits when they are having babies. Be sure that they can get as much food and water as they want.

Make sure that they can get as much food and water as they want

196. At first, your new little rabbits will sleep most of the time and move very little. They will take milk once a day.

Baby rabbit sleeping

197. When they are about two weeks old their fur will begin to grow they will begin to see and they will start to move about.

At two weeks they will start to move

198. At about three weeks, the little rabbits will come out of their nest box and they will begin to eat food in addition to the milk they drink.

At three weeks they will begin to eat

199. From this point on, the little rabbits will eat more and more food. So, be very sure that there is enough food for all the rabbits to eat.

200. By the time they are six weeks old, the little rabbits will no longer take milk and they will eat all of the foods that full- grown rabbits eat.

At six weeks they will all their parents eat

201. However, you must be very careful with little rabbits. This is a very dangerous time for them. They often get sick at this age.

202. Make sure that their pen is always very clean. Make sure that the food and water is always very clean and fresh.

Make sure

203. Never move little rabbits of this age. Leave them with the female rabbit in the same pen. If you move them to a different pen they may get sick or lose weight.

Leave babies with the female until they are eight weeks old

204. When the rabbits are eight weeks old it is safe to move them. Then, you can take them away from the female rabbit and put them in their own pen.

Raising young rabbits

205. You can put as many as six to eight young rabbits in a pen of the size you learned to build in the last booklet.

206. However, it is best to keep all of the young rabbits from the same female rabbit together in the same pen.

207. Once they are in their own pen, you can begin to fatten them to eat or to sell. So, give them as much food as they can eat and plenty of fresh water.

Give your young rabbits as much as they can eat and drink

208. Young rabbits are usually big enough to be eaten or to be sold when they are about three to four months old.

209. After four months of age, rabbits begin to eat a lot more food. So, you should try to eat or sell all of your rabbits by this time.

210. If you keep rabbits longer than this, the male rabbits may begin to fight. So, it is best to eat or sell the male rabbits first.

211. You will next learn how to tell the difference between female and male rabbits.

How to tell the difference between female and male rabbits

212. It is not too hard to tell the difference between female and male rabbits after they are eight weeks old.

213. The easiest way to learn is to ask someone who already knows how. If there is no one to help you, the following items will tell you how.

214. Hold the rabbit in your arms or put it on its back on a table, as shown below.

Hold the rabbit in your arms or put on its back on a table

215. Notice that there are two openings just behind the tail. The opening nearest the tail is where the rabbit droppings come out. This opening looks much the same in ail rabbits.

216. However, the second opening of a female looks quite different from the second opening of a male. This is how you tell them apart.

217. Push down gently with your thumbs on each side of the openings. You will see that they are red and moist inside.

218. Look carefully at the second opening. Some rabbits have a slit and some rabbits have a circle with a small hole in the centre.

Look at the second opening

219. If you see a slit, the rabbit is a female. If you see a circle, the rabbit is a male.

When should you mate female rabbits again?

220. As you have already learned, rabbits can have babies often. Female rabbits can have babies six or seven times each year.

221. However, a female rabbit must be strong and healthy and be fed good food to produce healthy babies that many times each year.

222. When you first begin to raise your own rabbits, you should mate your females only four or five times each year (see the diagrams on pages 26 and 27).

223. After you have been raising rabbits for some time and you see that your female rabbits are strong and healthy, you may be able to mate them more often.

224. However, if you do mate your female rabbits more often, make sure that you feed them enough so that they do not lose weight.


Remember, if you mate all of your female rabbits at about the same time, ail of your baby rabbits will be born at about the same time. That way you can easily move them from one female to another if you need to (see Items 186 to 189 in this booklet).

225. Babies will be born four times a year if you mate your female rabbits when their babies are eight weeks old.


226. Babies will be born five times a year if you mate your female rabbits when their babies are six weeks old.


When to replace your full- grown female rabbits

227. If any of your full- grown female rabbits become sick or do not have healthy baby rabbits, do not mate them. Replace them with new full- grown females.

Replace unhealthy females with healthy females

228. As long as your full- grown female rabbits are healthy and have healthy baby rabbits, you can continue to mate them until they are three years old.

Change female rabbits after three years

229. However, after three years you should replace them with other full- grown females. You can either buy new females or you can use your own.

230. If you decide to use your own, choose one or two of your healthiest and strongest young females before you eat or sell any of your young rabbits.

231. That way you will always have a healthy young female ready to replace one of your old females or a female that becomes sick. You can also use a young female if you decide to mate more than two female rabbits.

When to replace your full- grown male rabbit

232. Male rabbits can be used for mating until they are about three years old, and even longer if they are healthy and the females that they mate continue to have healthy babies.

Males can be mated after three years if the babies born are healthy

233. However, you should not mate rabbits from the same family or your baby rabbits may not be strong and healthy.
234. So, after you begin to use your own females for mating, you should replace your male rabbit about once every year. That way you will be sure not to mate a father to a daughter.

235. You can either buy a new male or you may be able to exchange your old male rabbit for a new male rabbit.

236. Perhaps you can find another farmer with rabbits who would like to exchange male rabbits from time to time. However, be very careful that your new male rabbit does not come from the same family as your old male rabbit.

Exchange your old male for a new male


Remember to choose rabbits that come from big families of five to six babies that weighed at least 1 1/2 to 2 kilograms when they were three to four months old. In addition, remember that new females should have eight teats.