Commercial breeding of rabbits


Allthough I prefer French Lops for private production, I would recommend NZ whites or Californians for commercial meat production. All three breeds have good body form, good bone to meat ratios and good growth rates, but French Lops are considered too big to sell as fryers.


Rabbits can be housed indoors or outdoors, whichever is more convenient. If you choose to set up your rabbitry in an enclosed building, be sure you have proper ventilation. Ventilation is crucial because rabbit urine produces ammonia fumes which affects the lungs of the rabbits and lower their restance to disease. Rabbits are very tolerant to cold, as long as there is no draught, so heating is not necessary. On the other hand, rabbits are not very tolerant to heat, so in warm climates a cooling system may be warranted. If you want to increase indoor production, you can install lighting and maintain the herd on a year-round schedule of 12 hours each of light and darkness to keep the rabbits breeding throughout the year.

Many different types of cages can be used. However, all-metal cages help prevent unsanitary conditions (by reducing th workload for cleansing the cages) that can lead to health problems. The cages should be made of 1" by 2" mesh for the sides and top and 1/2" by 1" mesh for the floor. Hanging the cages from the ceiling in single layers makes management easier for the producer. For medium breeds (Californians, NZ Whites), mature bucks and does should have individual cages at least 75 by 75 cm wide and 50 cm high. Junior does, fryers, and Angora woolers may be kept in small groups in one pen. Each cage should have a feed hopper and a watering system attached to the outside of the cage. Remember to keep the watering system frost free during winter.

A breeding doe should always have access to a nesting box. The size of the box depends on the breed, but the box should provide enough room for each doe and her litter, while ramaining small enough to keep the litter close together. The box should be enclosed except for a small opening on top for the doe to enter. Nest boxes can be made of nontreated wood or sheet metal. Plastic is not an acceptable material, as the rabbits may chew the edges and plastic can do horrible tings to the intestines.

Maintaining a sanitary operation will help you prevent disease. If the cages are kept outdoors, most of the sanitation is automatic. The best indoor waste management system is to have porous pits under the cages with layers of sand, gravel, and drainage tile. Earth and concrete floors are acceptable, but require more frequent cleaning. You should have concrete walkways between the cages, and should remove accumulated manure at least twice a year.


Medium-weight breeds (9 to 12 pounds) are able to start breeding at 6 to 7 months of age, with males maturing one month later than females. Because outward signs of heat are not always evident in mature does, you should follow a strict breeding schedule. One buck can service about 10 does, but no more than two to three times a week. Place the female in the buck's cage for breeding. Never bring the buck to the doe's cage, because she will fight to protect her territory. Mating should occur immediately, and the doe should then be returned to her cage.

The average gestation period lasts 31 to 32 days. Twenty-eight days after breeding, place a nesting box in the doe's hutch. The average commercial litter consists of 8 to 10 kits. Forty-eight hours after birth, you should observe and count the kits, removing any dead animals. Remove the nesting box 15 to 21 days after birth. The young should be weaned in about 30 days and the doe rebred so that the doe will produce five litters a year.


Commercially available pellets meet all of a rabbit's nutritional requirements, but you I prefer giving my rabbits a mixture of pellets and crushed barley, supplemented with hay and greens from the garden. In order to keep their teeth from growing too large, give them a few branches to chew on. Pregnant does and those with litters should receive all the feed they can eat in a day. Bucks and does without litters need 170 to 225 grams of pellets a day, depending on breed. When raising Angora rabbits, you should avoid feeding hay because the dust will contaminate the wool and lower its quality.

Rabbits require fresh, clean water every day. Automatic watering systems offer a continuous water supply while reducing waste and contamination. A doe and her litter need 4 liters of water a day in warm weather.


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Updated 00-12-17 at 16:54