For those of you that are new into breeding rabbits, first we always suggest that you take
the doe to the bucks cage, so the buck feels more in charge and then be ready, the buck is going to look like something is
wrong with him. I have put a video below for you to watch. It is not graphic but shows you what to exepct.
click here to play VIDEO OF BUNNIES BREEDING
BREEDING TIPS by Ellie Bonde
You have made the decision to raise Netherland Dwarfs. With a little preparation and TLC, you are in for a marvelous experience.
Thoughtful selection of the breeding pair is the first step. The buck (male) should be healthy and could range in age
from 6 months to 3 years of age. The age of the doe (female) is more important. She should be at least 24 weeks of age (5
1/2 months), and if this is to be her fist litter, she should not be over 8 months old at the time of breeding. I usually
suggest that a beginning breeder get an experienced brood doe to start with, one who has successfully mothered a litter or
two. She should ideally be between one to tow years of age, although many does continue to raise litters until they are five.
Before purchasing the rabbits, check both potential parents' teeth. The upper teeth should be in front of the lower teeth.
If this is not true, your rabbit has a genetic fault which may pass on to its babies. Do not breed an animal with bad teeth.
If you are considering a colored rabbit as opposed to a white rabbit, check it for white spots or white toenails. Again, this
animal should not be used for breeding, as these disqualification's can be passed on to its offspring. Do not breed the rabbits
if either one of them is sick. Colds, eye infections, etc., can be transmitted to the babies. If the two rabbits are not the
same color, do some research or talk to a breeder about whether the two colors are genetically compatible.
Talk to as many breeders as you can about what they consider to be excellent Netherland Dwarf type. Then familiarize yourself
with your animals' faults. You should attempt to compensate for a fault in one parent by selecting the other parent on the
basis of a corresponding strength. For example: if your buck has narrow shoulders, breed him to a doe with wide shoulders.
If both parents have the same fault, you will likely continue to produce animals with that fault.
When you are ready, to breed the rabbits, first check both buck and doe for the presence of diseases, particularly sexually
transmitted disease. In addition, you should be sure that both animals are in reasonably good condition overall; a rabbit
in a heavy molt is already somewhat stressed by the physiologic energy requirements caused by replacing its fur. You may not
want to incur the additional stress of breeding when it is in this condition. when the doe is ready to be bred, the vulva
and vagina have a dark red or purple color and may appear slightly swollen. When these conditions are present, she will be
very receptive to the buck's advances. If these conditions are not present, you should attempt breeding anyway, since frequently
an attempted, but failed breeding, will induce the doe to achieve more ready conditions in the following days.
Place the doe in the buck's cage. This places her in new territory and the buck will be dominant. If you take the buck
to the doe's cage, she may become protective of her environment, and attack the buck, or may simply become unreceptive to
mating. In addition, a buck in unfamiliar surroundings may become distracted, and forget the task that you intend for him.
Stay and monitor the two animals. They will probably breed within a few minutes. After first sniffing each other, the doe
will sit still and raise her tail. The buck will mount her from behind and will fall off to the side or back once penetration
has occurred. Rarely, there is an ear piercing scream; do not become frightened by this, this can be normal. Sometimes the
doe will back herself into a corner and you will have to move her to the center of the cage. Occasionally the doe will not
sit still to accommodate the buck. I have had success by holding the doe's head gently to restrain her. Always place your
hands in the cage cautiously as the animals may bite.
After breeding one time, lift the doe gently out of the cage and cradle her on her back. This makes her tighten her muscles,
causing the semen to be drawn up into her body. After a couple of minutes, place the doe back into the buck's cage to allow
for a second breeding. This will hopefully insure a pregnancy. the pattern can be repeated 8-12 hours later, since the first
mating may induce ovulation. Always return the doe to her home after breeding. If the pair is left together, they may fight.
After10-12 days, try palpating the doe (using your fingers under her belly to feel for the presence of babies) to see
if she is pregnant. If you think she is not pregnant, put her in the buck's cage again. If she is pregnant, she will growl
and will not cooperate with a breeding. If she is not pregnant, and breeds again, you will not have spent the entire 31 days
gestation period waiting for nothing! with experience, you will become confident in your ability to palpate.
In the next three weeks, you will need to acquire a nest box. This can be purchased or made of scrap lumber. Plywood
which is 1/2 inch think is the easiest material to work with. The base dimensions should be 9 x 13 inches for a Netherland
Dwarf. the back and sides should be 9 inches tall, and the front should be 4 inches tall to allow for entry. A roof can be
put over the top. You will find the doe enjoying her own little perch on this roof, away from the demanding babies as they
grow older. The opening should be big enough for her enter easily, and low enough so she does not scratch her belly or injure
her nipples. You do not want her to develop any infections. The nest box should be open enough so that you can check the babies
daily. Nest boxes should be sterilized between uses. This is most easily performed using a solution of bleach in water (1:5
ratio). Rinse and dry thoroughly before the next use.
You will need a record-keeping sheet in your rabbitry. Many beginners use a calendar to keep track of breeding with a
small herd. On the 27th day, place the nest box in the doe's cage in the corner opposite the one she routinely uses to defecate.
You do not want her to use the nest box as a litter pan. Fill the box with nesting material such as pine shavings for a base
covered by straw, grass hay or shredded paper. Avoid sawdust or other dusty nesting materials. (NO CEDAR)
During the gestation and birth, the doe should be kept in a quiet environment. Annoyances such as dogs, loud noises, mice,
etc., may cause her to be concerned and not take proper care of her litter.
The act of giving birth is called kindling. The doe may kindle as early as the 29th day or as late as the 33rd day, but
most rabbits kindle on the 31st day. After arranging the straw to her liking, she will pull fur from her belly to line the
nest. This accomplishes two things; as well as making a warm nest, it removes the fur from around her nipples, making it easier
for the kits to nurse. The doe will likely not eat for the last few hours before the birth. When the babies are born, she
will wash them, feed them, and be immediately ravenous. Have her feed and water bowels clean and filled for her. After kindling,
the mother should be given ample feed and water until the babies are weaned.
As soon as you discover the new litter, you should lift eh nest box out of the cage and check the newborn kits. Remove
any dead babies, and count the live ones. Occasionally the mother will be defensive and growl at you, but pursue your task.
You do not want to allow a dead baby to stay in the nest very long. Be sure to reform the nest to keep the babies warm.
It is okay to check the babies every day. they become used to being handled, and you will be sure they are growing normally.
The mother will learn to welcome your visits.
A rabbit feeds her babies by standing over them in the nest box. She does not lay down beside them for nursing. The baby
bunnies will jump up and latch on to her nipples, obtaining a large amount of milk in an amazingly short time. A rabbit will
feed her newborn babies only twice a day, and only once as they grow older. you may never see your bunny feed her babies until
the babies are old enough to leave the nest box and pester their mother. Baby bunnies grow at the same rate as kittens. they
are born hairless, blind, and deaf. Within 24 hours, they begin to develop hair and grow very plump. their eyes will open
at about 10 days, and 2 1/2 to 3 weeks they will leave the nest box to investigate their world and take a nibble of pellets.
Leave the babies with the mother for at least 6 weeks, as they will continue to nurse while their systems adjust to the pellets
and water they are learning to eat. Young rabbit will wean themselves.
If a doe has a large litter, remove the litter a few at a time so her mild production can taper off. I remove the two
largest first, keeping them together for warmth, then the others come away one at a time. Most baby bunnies can live on their
own by the age of 8 weeks.
If you own more than one doe, I recommend breeding two or more does at the same time. Occasionally a doe will have only
one baby, or have only one live baby. If two does kindle on nearly the same day, the single baby can be "fostered"
to another mother and the first doe can then be rebred immediately. this keeps the does working to continue to produce babies
for you. This techniques is also useful if the mother dies, or will not take care of her young. To foster a baby to another
mother, just add the baby to the existing nest while at the same time putting a dab of vanilla flavoring on the foster mother's
nose. Rabbits cannot count, so she will not notice another baby in her nest. The vanilla on her nose keeps her from noticing
a strange odor the fist time she checks the nest. By the time the vanilla wears of, the new baby smells just like all the
others. Fostering should be done with babies of similar ages. Otherwise, the stronger kits will push the weaker, younger ones
In litters of Netherland Dwarf rabbits, you may experience the phenomenon of a live baby bunny that is about half the
size of the rest of the babies. this baby has received two dwarfing genes, instead of the one it should have. Its mouth is
too small to fit around the nipple, and its internal organs are improperly formed, so it cannot digest food. It may live for
a couple of days, but will eventually die. It is sometimes difficult for new breeders to become emotionally uninvolved in
this process, but it is a fact of life in raising Dwarf rabbits. A small percentage of these "peanuts" or "lethals"
are routinely produced.
Cleanliness is important in successfully raising Netherland Dwarfs. The nest box should be emptied and resupplied with
clean straw every couple of weeks. I try to retain the fur immediately surrounding the babies to keep them warm and comfortable.
Between litters, the box should be sanitized and thoroughly dried. Your bleach mixture works well for this. This solution
can also be used to clean the cages and bowls.
By following these simple suggestions, you can soon have many litters of baby bunnies to enjoy. It is a satisfying feeling
to have a bunny do well at a show and to know that it was born and raised in your own rabbitry.
I have stuck by a saying that
a breeder told me once "TYPE FIRST COLOR SECOND", so far it seems to be working. However you still want to have an idea on
colors that should not be mixed.......thanks for the info Getitia.
How many litters can a doe in good condition safely have per year if the kits are fostered
to other does?
Before I state my opinion here I want to remind all that we are discussing RABBITS not humans!
respond to this question, it is possible to get 6 litters (or more) from a doe in a year and still have a well-conditioned
doe, if she is not raising all of the kits. I have done it on two occasions. For example, I bred a doe each time when her
current litter was 4 weeks old, she kindled every time, and 4 of the 6 times raised the litters herself. The other two times
she had a single kit, which was
fostered. However, having said that, it won't happen very often, and it is not necessarily
the way to go. With the misses and lost kits, most does get a rest between litters whether planned or not. Some does can handle
a heavy breeding life without going seriously down-hill, but the breeding life of the doe will be shortened as she will have
produced that rule-of-thumb number of a lifetime maximum of
10-12 litters much earlier than a doe that is bred fewer times
in a year and is expected to breed up until she is 3 years old or so. I currently have a doe in the barn who was born in Feb
1999 who is raising her 10th litter. She has successfully raised 40 kits, plus a foster kit here and there. You would hardly
know it to look at her. She has it down to a science; never loses condition!
The main issue is not how many litters
but whether the condition of the doe is maintained across multiple breedings. Some does need a rest between litters, whether
they are raising a litter or not, and others can kindle every 8 weeks and hardly seem the worse for it. The
of the doe should be more of a guide than anything. And this does not mean that the doe should be brought back to 'show condition'
before they are re-bred. Most of the time we re-breed at 4 weeks, knowing that the does are more receptive then, and knowing
that out of
the 6 hoped-for successful deliveries in a year, about 3-4 actual live litters will occur.
Subject: Otters/Chestnuts, etc
Chestnut and Otter are VERY compatible colors to breed
together. In the first cross, you may get all Chestnut, depending upon whether the Chestnut is double-gene for Agouti
or not. If the Chestnut carries a gene for Tan Pattern (Marten - which the Otter is)then you may get Otters. There is also
a chance of getting Black, if
both carry the recessive for Self. But, in any event, this is a good cross. There is also
a chance of the dilutes of the above coming out, too: Opal, Blue Otter & Blue.
As for the Sable Marten, my opinion
is that a cross to a Himi is not the best choice. A better choice is a Siamese Sable or a REW that came from a Sable or Smoke,
or a Smoke Pearl itself. Dwarfs have so few kits in a litter that even getting one "himi marten" (Himi that gets a Tan Pattern
gene from the Sable Marten and is then non showable) is a disappointment. If you already have Himi, and don't
of the others mentioned (Sable/Smoke/REW from Shaded) then I'd grudgingly say breed to Himi, but that would be my last place.
And they are right, you don't want to fill up your barn with a bunch of Himi Martens - unless they have phenomenal type!
usually recommend that people wanting to breed Shaded Martens keep the 4 Shaded colors: Siamese Sable, Sable Marten, S Smoke
Pearl, Smoke Pearl Marten. Using a REW-from-Shaded breeding to keep the Shadeds from getting too dark, and selecting for the
medium color, will keep
you on track.
Genotypes of Color Varieties
The following list of all ARBA-approved color for the Netherland Dwarf breed lists the genotypes of the color varieties
as currently described.
Ruby-Eyed White ?? ?? cc ?? ?? ??
Blue-Eyed White ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? vv
Black aa B? C? D? E? VV
Blue aa B? C? dd E? VV
Chocolate aa bb C? D? E? VV
Lilac aa bb C? dd E? VV
Sable Point aa B? cchl? D? ee VV
Siamese Sable aa B? cchl? D? E? VV
Siamese Smoke Pearl aa B? cchl? dd E? VV
Chestnut A? B? C? D? E? VV
Opal A? B? C? dd E? VV
Lynx A? bb C? dd E? VV
Chinchilla A? B? cchd? D? E? VV
Squirrel A? B? cchd? dd E? VV
Black Tan aT? B? CC D? E? VV
Blue Tan aT? B? CC dd E? VV
Chocolate Tan aT? bb CC D? E? VV
Lilac Tan aT? bb CC bb E? VV
Black Silver Marten aT? B? cchd? D? E? VV
Blue Silver Marten aT? B? cchd? dd E? VV
Chocolate Silver Marten aT? bb cchd? D? E? VV
Lilac Silver Marten aT? bb cchd? dd E? VV
Sable Marten aT? B? cchl? D? E? VV
Smoke Pearl Marten aT? B? cchl? dd E? VV
Black Otter aT? B? C? D? E? VV
Blue Otter aT? B? C? dd E? VV
Chocolate Otter aT? bb C? D? E? VV
Lilac Otter aT? bb C? dd E? VV
Black Himalayan aa B? ch? D? E? VV
Blue Himalayan aa B? ch? dd E? VV
Chocolate Himalayan aa bb ch? D? E? VV
Lilac Himalayan aa bb ch? dd E? VV
Orange A? B? C? D? ee VV
Fawn A? B? C? dd ee VV
Tortoise Shell aa B? C? D? ee VV
Steel aa B? C? D? ES VV
Hard to breed does
If you come across a doe that is just
not wanting to breed here area few ideas.
1) check her for any disease first
2) make sure she is in good condition
3) not molting
4) make sure she is a doe, it does happen
*If all the above pass then you
can try moving her into a different cage, it is not a bad thing to move your bunnies around the rabbitry. I do not like to
do it if they are with in a week from kindling. It gives them a different view and also new neighbors.
*The next thing you can do is to put
her in a cage with a buck on alteast one side of her and if you can have a buck on either side of her. Leave her there for
about a week and then try again. This has worked for me.
*Take her to a show if you are going
to be attending one. The new smells and being out of the barn is a great way to get them to breed, even for a breeding doe.
You do not have to show them, just let them go and be in the travel cage for the day.
*If she is on the heavy side as in weight
then take some weight off her.