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The Wild Side Of Rabbit Breeding

3 November 2013 6 Comments

Barney the senior buck

I had a friend come over today to have a rabbit “serviced” by one of my bucks. She was borrowing the doe from a friend; she’d raise a litter of little bunnies, return to the doe, and be on her way to her own meat rabbit herd.

We put her in the cage with Barney, my senior buck, since she hadn’t been bred before. He knows what he’s doing.

As soon as the doe saw Barney, she tried to mount him!

“It’s OK”, I said confidently. “Sometimes females do that to try to show dominance. She’ll settle down and he’ll do his job in a sec.” Because, you know, I’m such an expert.

Something didn’t look right.

I lifted the doe off Barney, and held her upside down. Turns out she was a he! I said, “Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side.” (Somewhat topical for this week – RIP Lou)

My friend was quite embarrassed and disappointed (as was I!). Neither of us had thought to actually check the rabbit, we just took it on faith that her friend had lent her a doe.

It turned out OK in the end. I sold her a couple of my 2-month-old does that she can eventually breed from. I think they’ll serve her well.


  • Henry James said:

    Haha great story! Poor old Barney must have gotten a bit of a surprise! At least your friend got set up for breeding now, and knows at least one thing what not to do!

  • Janie said:

    Hehe, love this! Janie x

  • Jen's Rabbits said:

    Thanks so much for posting about meat rabbits. Lovely to hear it all worked out in the end, with your friend going home with 2 new females.

    I’m just starting out with raising rabbits for meat, so your website has been very interesting.

    Can I ask something about breeds? It appears yours are Rex or something similar — is that right?

    I’m starting out with 2 Flemish girls, but have yet to source a buck (I was looking for NZW or Californian but they seem surprisingly scarce nearby). However there are a few rex rabbits in my area.

    Do you feel this would be a useful cross? Thanks very much, Jen.

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Jen: From what I’ve read online, everyone seems to be saying you have to breed New Zealand Whites with Californians for meat. However, I think that only really applies to those growing meat rabbits commercially – in order to make a profit, you really need to optimise for growth rates, final size, feed conversion ratio, litter size, pelt colour, etc.

    For us backyarders, there’s a lot more flexibility. I think my rabbits are Rexes, but I’m really not sure. They have been good for me, though. They have good litter sizes (I’ve been getting 6-12 kits per litter), do well with grass and other vegetation in their diets, and I’m happy with their final size and growth rate.

    I’ve read that Flemishes, although very large, take longer to grow and have larger bones. That makes them less viable economically, but we all know economics isn’t the only reason for breeding your own meat rabbits. I’d give them a go with a Rex buck, and see if the offspring are suitable for your needs. Meanwhile, you can keep an ear to the ground for availability of other breeds you’d like to try. It might take years to find what you’re after in your area – meanwhile, you’re still getting rabbit experience and putting meat on your table!

    Please let me know how it goes!

  • Jen's Rabbits said:

    Hi Darren, Thanks so much for that detailed response. Very helpful! I’m going to do what you suggest — if it takes longer, I suspect the meat will surely be better flavoured anyway. (It definitely works that way with chickens.) Many thanks again, I’ll let you know how it goes. 🙂

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Jen: No problem! I’ve found the same with chickens – some of the slower growing breeds taste a lot better than the super-fast-growing “meat” birds. It also helps if you can get your rabbits eating grass regularly – whether you’re bringing it to their cage or “tractoring” them in a movable pen on the ground. Introduce it gradually though, as rabbits take some time for their digestive systems to adjust to changes in diet.