Successful rabbit breeding depends on the availability of the stock to produce good animals and on the breeder's selection of the best animals for breeding. Good records will help you make stock selections. The rabbit's size and average mature weight for the breed are important factors in determining breeding age.
Sexual maturity varies from four to nine months of age, depending on the breed. Smaller breeds mature earlier than larger breeds, with six months as the average first mating age for does. Eggs develop in the ovaries of mature females every 15 to 16 days. These eggs may be fertilized from the second to the 14th day of the 16-day period. Bucks usually mare about one month later than does. Young bucks should be mated only twice a week; older bucks may mate two or three days in a row, but not more than three times per week.
Natural mating provides the best conception rate. A receptive doe appears restless, tries to join rabbits in adjacent cages, engages in chin rubbing and exhibits a reddening of external genitalia. Does ready for mating should be placed in the buck's cage. A buck placed in a doe's cage may spend too much time examining the new cage, or worse, the doe might feel threatened and attack.
If the doe rejects the buck, she should be removed to be placed with the buck the next day. Does should only be left with bucks for a short time. If mating does not occur in five or ten minutes, the doe should be removed and taken to a different buck. The mating is complete when the buck falls over on his back or side after mounting.
Breeders usually keep one buck for every 10 does. Accurate records must be maintained to determine each buck's effectiveness. Some breeders use artificial insemination to reduce the number of bucks they need. With artificial insemination, the buck's semen is obtained, extended and introduced into does. Experience and training, however, are needed for this method to work.
Eggs are released from the ovary about 10 hours after breeding. If you practice double-mating, the second mating should occur within ten hours of the first. If conception does not occur, the doe goes through a 17-day false pregnancy. The doe may be re-bred on the day after kindling (or birthing) but most commercial breeders wait 14 to 21 days after kindling before re-breeding.