How long to keep breeder rabbits?

Firemenlovechicks

Songster
10 Years
Jan 5, 2010
178
4
113
Medina, TN (near Jackson)
Hey all,

I have ordered "Storey's Guide to Raising Rabbits", but it won't be here for a few days...... I am sure this question is probably answered in the book but I am impatient, sssoooooo.......

How long can rabbits reproduce? I mean, I know you want to keep young, healthy stock for breeding, but at what age are they considered too old to breed?

(I am getting an AlTex buck, a New Zealand White Buck, a California Doe, and 3 New Zealand Does..... picking them up tomorrow from a lady who is getting out of breeding......... These will be bred for meat)

Jeff
 

chinbunny

In a hutch
10 Years
Aug 24, 2009
661
9
131
Quote:
I have had does go as far as five years and were still breeding. I think it all depends on how you take care of them, and how often you breed them. Animals that aren't bred back to back and made to have one litter right after the other tend to have a longer productive life then others who are bred consistantly. Breeding heavy can burn them out an an early age. It also depends on how you feed them too. Overfed does tend to have fat develope around their ovaries and it can sometimes cause some problems with them taking after they are bred. I feed my new zealands/mixed meat rabbits about a cup of pellets day, plus a little bit of grass hay. I never self feed, or over feed them. i don't even self does when they are pregnant, because again, you take chances of running into the overweight issue and birthing complications.

Since I show, I keep back rabbits that consistantly good breeders, mothers, and show well. Both bucks and does. The average breeding span of a doe is about three years. That of a good buck is much longer.
 

Bunnylady

POOF Goes the Pooka
11 Years
Nov 27, 2009
18,762
9,775
641
Wilmington, NC
Because rabbits occupy a very low link on the food chain, they are designed to breed early and die young. It's tough on those of us that love them as pets, but there you are. Part of that design is a reproductive system geared toward very early, very rapid reproduction. One of the downsides of rapidly reproducing cells, is CANCER. I have heard that an estimated 80% of rabbit does will have cancer, somewhere in their reproductive systems, by the time they are 3 years old. These cancers are often relatively slow-growing, but they act almost like IUD's, and are the reason that most does are effectively sterile by the time they are 4 years old. I too, have had a few does that were still producing at 5 or even 6 years of age, but they are uncommon. Most does will show a noticeable decrease in the number of kits per litter when they get to be 3, regardless of how much or how little they were bred.

Although rabbit does are often capable of conceiving at the tender age of 12 weeks, most people will tell you to wait until a doe is at least 6 months old to breed her (even later for giant breeds). Between litters, it is very important to make sure that the doe doesn't get too fat. While rabbits don't do a typical "heat" cycle, they do have hormonal ups and downs, and the hormones produced by fat cells can mask them (a fat doe may not want to breed as a result). Fat also gets deposited on the liver, and a fatty liver is less efficient at its job. There is a condition, known as Young Doe Disease or Fatty Liver Disease, that kills many does (usually a few days before or after kindling) and is completely avoidable by maintaining the doe at the correct weight. The rule of thumb that I have always used is: one ounce of pellets per pound of (normal) body weight per day, as a maintenance ration. This may need to be adjusted for a particular rabbit, but it's a good place to start.

Working with good stock is probably the most important factor for a successful rabbitry. Most does manage to mess up on their first litters, some get better as they go along. If you have a doe that does everything right from the get-go, she's GOLDEN! I give daughters of such does extra consideration when looking for replacements, because they are more than likely to be good mothers as well.
 
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gypsy2621

Songster
11 Years
Jun 29, 2008
3,409
3
201
New Hampshire
Quote:
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I have been raising, breeding for 20 years and showing for 7 years, I have 5 year old does who still throw large litters of 8 to 10.
I breed them once a year, watch their diet and maintain their cages for max health.
I dont know where you got the information about cancers from but in 20 years I have yet to have a doe die from cancer. its usually old age.

There is a lot of misinformation out there on the internet ,the Original Poster has the correct Idea of getting Storeys Guide to Rabbits.
 

RabbitMage

Songster
10 Years
Mar 27, 2009
974
1
141
Not to kick up a debate, but how many of us have had a necropsy done on a rabbit after a 'normal' death. The signs of old age can also be caused by cancer.
 

Bunnylady

POOF Goes the Pooka
11 Years
Nov 27, 2009
18,762
9,775
641
Wilmington, NC
I have been breeding rabbits for more than 20 years, and have only had access to the internet for the last few. I first came across the information about the high uterine cancer rate in rabbits way, way back, when I was first getting into rabbits, so I don't remember the (published) sources of it. I just did a google search on uterine cancer in rabbits and, while I don't know what gypsy2621's rabbits are dying of, a lot of rabbit "experts" (including some vets) are taking it as a matter of fact, not speculation.

A couple of the things that I came across in my search (online sources, so admittedly questionable) seemed to suggest that certain breeds are more prone to uterine cancer than others. That would make sense. Heaven knows, there is ample evidence in humans of increased susceptibility to certain cancers in certain bloodlines!
 

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