Rabbit Litter numbers

Bunnylady

POOF Goes the Pooka
11 Years
Nov 27, 2009
18,763
9,783
641
Wilmington, NC
Oh, man, there are so many factors that come into play when it comes to litter size. 7 is a decent sized litter for a Mini Lop, but whether your doe would have more or less this year is hard to say.

Basically, rabbits are induced ovulators (but you probably know this). They ripen eggs, and hold them in readiness until the act of mating causes the release of a hormone that triggers the release of the eggs.

Just how many eggs a rabbit ripens at one time can vary quite a bit. Part of it seems to be genetic - some rabbits just have bigger litters. Larger breeds usually have larger litters, and some animals within a breed almost always have more kits than others of the same breed.

Some of it has to do with the doe's condition - the amount of hormone that causes the ripening of the eggs can vary; a seriously overweight doe may not be ripening eggs at all. As a doe ages, her litter sizes tend to drop; many does are basically sterile by the time they are 3 or 4 years old.

A doe's hormones can get out of whack, and she may only be ovulating on one side at a time, so conceive a smaller litter just on that one side.

A doe may breed readily for a while, and when the owner gives her a break, refuse to breed or fail to conceive forever after - Netherland Dwarfs are notorious for this.

Even though a doe's eggs wait on mating to be released, they still age after ripening, so the viability decreases. Rabbits have a hormonal cycle that ripens new eggs about once a month; if a doe is bred right after a new set of eggs have ripened, she will have a larger litter than if she were bred a week or two later. This is why we check a doe's vulva color before breeding her; a bright red color indicates a hormonal peak and fresh eggs.

The amount of egg-releasing hormone can vary. When the doe is mated, she releases the hormone, which hits a certain level in her bloodstream then gradually decreases. Some people will put a doe back in with a buck to try to get a second breeding and (hopefully) more eggs released. A study has shown that the optimum timing for that second breeding is about an hour after the first; that results in a doubling-up of the hormone and the highest hormone peak, so hopefully the maximum number of eggs released.

Interestingly, one of a doe's most fertile periods is right after kindling. Her hormones are all in sync, and typically she will ripen the most eggs at that time. Even difficult does are often eager breeders then. Normally, I would never breed a nursing doe at that time, but I have bred does that have lost litters for one reason or another, and usually get the largest litters ever from those does.

Good luck!
 

oldhenlikesdogs

Grateful
BYC Staff
Premium Feather Member
5 Years
Jul 16, 2015
45,463
79,207
1,462
Wisconsin
Oh, man, there are so many factors that come into play when it comes to litter size. 7 is a decent sized litter for a Mini Lop, but whether your doe would have more or less this year is hard to say.

Basically, rabbits are induced ovulators (but you probably know this). They ripen eggs, and hold them in readiness until the act of mating causes the release of a hormone that triggers the release of the eggs.

Just how many eggs a rabbit ripens at one time can vary quite a bit. Part of it seems to be genetic - some rabbits just have bigger litters. Larger breeds usually have larger litters, and some animals within a breed almost always have more kits than others of the same breed.

Some of it has to do with the doe's condition - the amount of hormone that causes the ripening of the eggs can vary; a seriously overweight doe may not be ripening eggs at all. As a doe ages, her litter sizes tend to drop; many does are basically sterile by the time they are 3 or 4 years old.

A doe's hormones can get out of whack, and she may only be ovulating on one side at a time, so conceive a smaller litter just on that one side.

A doe may breed readily for a while, and when the owner gives her a break, refuse to breed or fail to conceive forever after - Netherland Dwarfs are notorious for this.

Even though a doe's eggs wait on mating to be released, they still age after ripening, so the viability decreases. Rabbits have a hormonal cycle that ripens new eggs about once a month; if a doe is bred right after a new set of eggs have ripened, she will have a larger litter than if she were bred a week or two later. This is why we check a doe's vulva color before breeding her; a bright red color indicates a hormonal peak and fresh eggs.

The amount of egg-releasing hormone can vary. When the doe is mated, she releases the hormone, which hits a certain level in her bloodstream then gradually decreases. Some people will put a doe back in with a buck to try to get a second breeding and (hopefully) more eggs released. A study has shown that the optimum timing for that second breeding is about an hour after the first; that results in a doubling-up of the hormone and the highest hormone peak, so hopefully the maximum number of eggs released.

Interestingly, one of a doe's most fertile periods is right after kindling. Her hormones are all in sync, and typically she will ripen the most eggs at that time. Even difficult does are often eager breeders then. Normally, I would never breed a nursing doe at that time, but I have bred does that have lost litters for one reason or another, and usually get the largest litters ever from those does.

Good luck!
Thanks, I'm hoping for an average litter and to not be overrun. So maybe mate her just one instead of two?

She repeatedly has false pregnancies, and she thankfully didn't get bred last fall when I accidentally left the males hutch door open while the doe was out because of a false pregnancy, but I was just guessing at the cause.

She recently pulled hair again within the last week, so I was thinking of letting the lops get together this week or the following week as I'm waiting on warmer weather.

Do you know the optimal temperatures so I don't need to worry about the kits being too cold? The hutch is well sheltered. Last year she had kits in June when it was warm enough not to worry.

I really appreciate any advice or thoughts as rabbits are a newer hobby for me and I'm still learning.
 

Bunnylady

POOF Goes the Pooka
11 Years
Nov 27, 2009
18,763
9,783
641
Wilmington, NC
She repeatedly has false pregnancies

She recently pulled hair again within the last week

Are these "false pregnancies" a case of going through all the motions but producing nothing after being bred, or just fur pulling out of the blue, without ever having been with the buck? If the latter, that's not a false pregnancy. Does have hormonal cycles, and it isn't unusual for a doe to pull fur at the peak of the cycle, about the time that she ripens a fresh set of eggs. Some does will also grunt and 'chin' things (scent marking) more at this time; it's analogous to heat signs in other species. Not all does will do it, but it's a good indicator of when to breed, if you have a doe that you want to get a litter from. (People who like to show are well acquainted with the doe that pulls her coat ragged just before a big show:barnie)

I've probably mentioned this, but my choice would be to not breed these two particular animals together. They are both broken pattern, and one of the possible results from that is babies that inherit the gene for the broken pattern from both parents. Such animals are called "Charlies" (because someone saw a similarity between the much smaller nose marking and Charlie Chaplin's mustache). Charlies typically have lots of white and very little color, and are born with barely functioning digestive systems. With good care, some lead relatively normal lives, but most suffer periodic, painful bouts of GI stasis and die young (some don't even make it out of the nest box). Lots of breeders (myself included) avoid the Charlie issue entirely by only breeding brokens to solids. Since a solid-colored rabbit doesn't have the broken gene, it can't give a copy of it to its offspring, so there won't be any Charlies in the litter. Just something to consider.:confused:

But as to your question about temperature, that's a tough call. I've heard people say they have litters year-round, with babies born during freezing temperatures, and they do fine; I just know that my experience hasn't been that rosy. Any time the temps get below 50, I worry. When I got to the point that I felt like I couldn't stand to see one more cold, dead litter, I started bringing my soon-to-kindle does inside when the temps dip into the 40's. Once the babies are born, the does go back outside, and the litters (in their nest boxes) stay inside, only going out to their mothers a couple of times for feeding. I know, that flies in the face of everything that a lot of people believe about rabbits, but most of my does have learned to deal with this program with no issues - though of course, I don't take it for granted that they will.
 

oldhenlikesdogs

Grateful
BYC Staff
Premium Feather Member
5 Years
Jul 16, 2015
45,463
79,207
1,462
Wisconsin
My doe pulls hair and makes nests about every 3-4 weeks without getting bred. She can see the buck and they interact through the hutch wire as I let a rabbit out to exercise every day. I had read that's a false pregnancy but I don't know for sure. One of her doe kit from last year does the same. It makes sense that it's from her cycle since it occur in a continuous pattern. All of mine chin mark when out for exercise, it's their main hobby. Sometimes she does get grunty.

On the topic of charlies which I've been trying to find more information I found only one reference to gut problems, and was wondering if it is just improper feeding and weaning. It is a subject that is taboo in mini lops? But fine in other breeds? I only have the 2 lops, so if I want lops it's my only option. My litter from last year was crossed with lionhead and they are a bit harder to handle where the lops are gentle. My other option is to cross my doe with her solid colored 1/2 lionhead son, not sure of I want that either though.

Really appreciate you sharing you knowledge and experience.
 

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