Keeping accurate records of your breeders and breeding schedules will help make the job a little easier when you start breeding multiple pairs of breeders at the same time... Speaking from experience, no matter how good you may think your memory is, a written record must be developed and maintained when you are cross breeding rabbits to help you keep up with all the variables you are introducing into your bloodline, even if these records are in the form of an online Blog.
Knowing the bloodline of the breeders you intend to introduce to each other is a big help, but if you aren't sure, repeated breeding will usually show traits of the entire bloodline of the pair of breeders you are using. Introducing a new doe to your buck and comparing the litters will often tell you a lot about the bucks bloodline as well.
These records are fairly easy to develope over time once you understand the genetics involved in cross breeding. When you take into account that there are over 450 named breeds of rabbits in the world, you start to understand how difficult it can be to know exactly which of these breeds are in your breeder's bloodline if it comes from a mixed breed rabbit.
Dominant traits in your breeders will be apparent in just about every litter such as color or pelt, but every so often some hidden traits in the bloodline will show. Most of my rabbits have green or brown eyes, but every once in a while I will get a few with blue eyes because these traits in my bloodline are not dominant. By breeding two rabbits with blue eyes, you will increase the chances of creating a dominant trait in your bloodline which is "Blue Eyes".
I always start with a written record at the breeder hutch which tells me which pair of breeders were introduced, the date they were introduced, the kits date of birth, & the number of kits. You can write this information down on a durable card and some type of permenant marker, then attach the card directly to the breeder hutch for a quick refference.
Here is an example :
|Intro. Date||04 / 12 / 10|
|Birth Date||05 / 12 / 10|
|Number of Kits||8|
These cards can be hand written with the information... This is only an example of the information you need to provide at the breeder hutch to help insure you are aware of your breeder's needs. The card should contain the Buck's name as well as the Doe's, and the date you introduced them to start with... The rest of the information will need to be updated as needed, such as Date of Birth and Number of kits. I often wait to enter the number of kits until the time they ween so I can be sure they have survived and are actually a part of my herd.
After breeding, your doe will require extra feed and water while the kits are developing. Often times she will slow her eating habits a week or so before the actual birth because the kits are taking up space and she won't be able to hold as much. I often offer my pregnant breeders apple slices, carrot pieces, or cut up celery when they reach this stage of their pregnancy to help insure she keeps her strength up.
You will also need to supply plenty of Bermuda Hay in the nesting area in the last week of her pregnancy, and these cards you have placed on your breeder hutch will help remind you of when to expect the birth. When you feed and water your rabbits twice a day and notice changes in their eating habits, check the dates on your Breeding Cards to see if she is in her last week of pregnancy... If this is not the case and she is not eating properly, check to make sure her water bottle is despensing properly. Sometimes these despensers will stick because they need cleaning, and your pregnant rabbit will require plenty of fresh clean water as well as feed.
I recommend to anyone that may be considering "Breeding Rabbits" as a hobby to have the proper space available before starting your project. The minimum requirments would be one Breeder Hutch, one pen to house your buck, and two aditional pens for the kits once they ween. Feed and water dishes will also need to be provided for all four pens.
The "Breeder Hutch" will become your Doe's new home at all times. By keeping her in the same pen, she will become comfortable and feel safe in her environment. Making her feel comfortable and safe will often lead to larger and healthier litters. Remember, this is her home, so when you introduce her to your Buck, always take her to his pen to breed. Usually a 24 hour visit is more than enough time to insure she is bred, but I recently started leaving the pair together for 48 hours and saw a large increase in the number of kits per litter.
Another Pen will be required to house the Buck at all times... This is your Buck's home and the place where he breeds the Does. Male rabbits can be a bit territorial and try to mount any other rabbit introduced to his Pen whether it is male or female. Introducing another adult male to his home may cause a fight between the two resulting in injury to both Bucks. Always make sure you are introducing a Doe when placing another rabbit in his Pen to avoid injury.
I recommend two additional Pet Pens because as much as you love to hold and cuddle the baby rabbits, they will mature quickly and need to be seperated. Bucks in one of the Pens and Does in the other to avoid uncontrolled breeding. All the freshly weened Bunnies can be housed safely together for the first 90 to 120 days, but after that the males will mature and start trying to mate. The females will mature and be ready to breed between 5 and 6 months of age.
Even though you have seperated the bucks and does, you will find that the bucks will become more and more agressive and trying to ride one another. Selling the young bucks or giving them away as soon as possible will help to avoid confrontations. I personally raise rabbits for meat, and by the time they reach 4 to 5 months of age, I will put them in my freezer or sell them for meat.
Selling your rabbits at a very young age is recommended to avoid having a lot of older rabbits that no one wants for pets. If you do find you have a lot of older rabbits that you need to get rid of, local livestock sale barns hold auctions on a weekly basis to help you get rid of them.
As a hobby, selling the young kits will help pay for the feed and equipment, but you won't make much more than that. You need at least ten female breeder rabbits and a market for your rabbits to actually start seeing a profit.
Here at Jones Road Farms, I try to sell a minimum of forty Rabbits per month, but it's not all that easy at times... There is actually a lot of hard work involved when it comes to creating a market for the rabbits you produce. I implement constant ad campaigns on the internet and keep my prices as low as possible. I don't try to sell Pedegre Breeds because of the paperwork and tatooing... Most people just want a Pet Rabbit & by offering them mixed breeds of healthy rabbits, I can afford to keep my prices reasonable. It's not uncommon for me to sell 4 or more rabbits to a single customer so all the kids can have their very own rabbit instead of sharing one rabbit. Marketing and price will determine just how successful your venture will grow.