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The Dogmother

Bunny breeding – please read

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We’d like to ask all bunny keepers to think very carefully before mixing any bunnies of opposite sexes without them being neutered, and to think even longer and harder before allowing them to breed; breeding rabbits can be more complicated than it sounds and is potentially fraught with complications and problems. Bunnies get pregnant (and bonk!) easily enough, but that’s the easy bit…. You would need to think (as with any other animals) about the necessity for extra, separate, housing for the daddy, and the mummy with her kits, plus the extra care that the mother and babies will need, which leads us to the need to find homes for the babies and to segregate them before they reach sexual maturity and/or you sell them.

 

The most responsible way to keep bunnies is to have them neutered as soon as they reach sexual maturity - 12-16 weeks for a male and 5-6 months for a female (please keep them separate until this age, if they are of opposite sexes as they can be ready to breed alarmingly early) An ideal pairing for company would be a NEUTERED boy/girl pair, but a neutered female pairing works just as well. Make sure that the buck is castrated IMMEDIATELY he reaches puberty, i.e. as soon as his testicles appear. We advise neutering for both sexes as it helps to calm their behaviour, stops the bucks from spraying, and the does from suffering from uterine cancer (this sadly has a high rate of incidence among un-neutered females). Please be aware that a castrated male can remain fertile for up to 4-6 weeks after the operation, so if your female hasn’t been spayed, you will need to house them separately until that time has elapsed.

 

Rabbits are easy to sex from an early age (especially if you are buying from a reputable breeder rather than a pet shop), so mistakes should be few and far between, if you are at all unsure about the sex of your bunnies, please keep them separate until you have seen a bunny-savvy vet for it to be confirmed. While there are few, if indeed any, medical advantages in castrating a buck there are significant behavioural benefits – improved litter-training, no spraying and a more settled and generally happier pet. Spaying a doe has definite medical advantages: unspayed and unbred does are prone to becoming overweight (although spayed females can also become fat without adequate exercise).

 

Spaying will also prevent uterine cancer which is said to be fairly common in older rabbits. Some reports quote up to 80% of older does (i.e. aged over 4 years) contracting the condition although this is not necessarily matched by the experience of Veterinary Surgeons or rabbit owners. However, the risks must be considered and an informed decision made. Spaying will minimise or totally eradicate phantom pregnancies in does.

 

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IT IS NEVER ADVISABLE TO TRY TO RESOLVE NATURAL MATING INSTINCTS IN A FEMALE BY SAYING "Oh, I'll just let her have a litter to be kind to her". IN PRACTICE, THIS MAY SIMPLY WORSEN THE SITUATION AND CAN BE IRRESPONSIBLE IF THE YOUNGSTERS DON'T HAVE GOOD HOMES TO GO TO, OR ARE SOLD TO THE 'LESS-REPUTABLE' PET STORES.

 

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We hope these notes will have given you an insight into what breeding involves in terms of the time commitment and dedication required.

 

Owning any pet animal is a responsibility and we strongly feel that the pet should enjoy the best life possible. Usually, this will involve living as a member of the family, either indoors or outdoors, ideally neutered with a bonded opposite-sex partner to provide companionship for the life of both animals.

 

Casual breeding is not in the best interests of most pet animals and can put their health at risk. Similarly, suitable homes are not always available for their offspring and with hundreds of unwanted bunnies already sitting in re-homing centres, longing to be wanted and loved, there is also the moral issue of bringing yet more bunnies into the world.

 

Also, if you are breeding rabbits to sell, you may need a Licence to do so, even if the breeding is just a ‘back garden hobby’.

 

So, please think very carefully before making such an important decision on behalf of your bunny.

 

Please see the following link for further information:

 

http://www.rabbitrehome.org.uk/care/breedingrabbits.asp

 

With especial thanks to Karen Wren of Ross Rabbits for her help and information

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