Breeding: How To

by T. L. Andrews, PhD, ARBA Judge

You get two rabbits and before you know it you will have hundreds. This is a standard comment or joke we have all heard. However, every Holland Lop breeder knows this just is not true. Raising good Hollands is our goal when we start, but what to do and how to do it takes knowledge and some planning.

Selection of breeding stock requires careful consideration and is very important in producing good quality Hollands. Before breeding those chosen, examine the buck and doe for signs of poor health. Do not attempt to breed unhealthy animals. When the doe is ready to breed, her vulva will appear to be red in color and moist. Take the doe to the buck's cage for breeding. This rule should always be followed since does may be aggressive and even injure a rabbit put in her cage. Mating should occur quickly and when completed, the buck usually falls on his side. This action is easily recognized. To insure conception, some form of "double breeding" is recommended. This may be re-breeding six to ten hours later or the next day or some other variation. If the doe refuses the buck, try several days in succession.

The gestation period for does is 30 - 32 days. This is the time from mating until kindling. Pregnancy can be determined by palpating the doe 14-18 days after breeding. To test, restrain the doe with one hand on the head while placing the other hand under the body in the abdominal area. The developing kits can be felt as you examine the uterus with the thumb and two fingers.

A nest box should be placed in the doe's cage about 28 days after breeding. A 10 by 16 inch box made of plywood is an ideal size for Hollands. One - fourth of one side can be cut out to allow the doe easier access. A top can be used on the box to encourage the doe to use it. The top, if used, should be removed after the kits are one week of age. The nest box should contain some nesting material such as straw. The doe will pull fur to complete the nest for the young kits.

After the doe has kindled, the litter should be inspected. All dead and abnormal kits should be removed. Fostering some of the young kits may be considered, if the litter is larger or smaller than normal. Normally, a Holland doe does well with four kits or no more than six. When transferring young to another doe, they should be marked for identification, unless they are a different color.

With a little luck and persistence, you will develop your own management practices for your herd. May all your nest boxes be full!

HLRSC Official Guidebook - 5th Edition 2002