Heaton Rabbitry

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Breeding Rabbits in East Texas in the Winter
Here are a few of my ideas for breeding in East Texas.
Lighting is very important.  At least 2 weeks before you need to breed, you need to put a 40 watt light bulb in a mechanics clamp light and put this directly on the wire above the Does cage.  This will do two important things.  The first reason is she needs the light to think it is Spring.  The second is the warmth from the bulb.  The Doe does not need to be hot, just warm.
Wind.  If it is cold and windy, please make sure that you have plastic up to block the wind off the rabbits.  You have to leave room for good ventilation when you put up the plastic.  I start my plastic up about 18 inches from the ground.  This allows air into the barn but will not allow the wind to blow directly on the rabbits.
Feed.  I know that I always talk about feed.  The rabbits (buck or doe) should not be fat.  If you have over fed them through the summer, they may be to fat to conceive.  A rabbit is different than most animals in the way they store fat.  The fat does not marble in the muscle.  The fat goes over the shoulders and around the ovaries of the Doe.  If she is to fat she will receive the buck but will not conceive.  One way to tell if you are over feeding is to butcher one of your fryers.  If it has a lot of fat inside the body cavity, then you can be fairly certain the older animals do also.  I feed 1 cup of  16% feed once a day.  During the summer I cut down to 3/4 cup of feed and 1/4 cup of oats.  You may also want to put a few drops of peanut oil on their feed a week before you want to breed them.  This helps the Doe to be receptive to the buck.
Two days before you need to breed you can put the Doe in the cage next to the buck.  If this does not work, you may put her in the bucks cage and put him in her cage overnight.  Many times smelling him all night will make her want to breed.  You will still take her to him even though he is now in her cage.  On the way to his cage gently pull some fur out from the base of her tail.  If it does not come out easily, then just gently pull it as you take her to the buck.
Force Breeding, do not be impatient and do this.  Conception rate is LESS THAN 25% when you force them to breed.  You will be better to keep trying for several days and have babies a few days late than not having babies at all.
Last but not least you can call someone and say HELP!  There are some times that a Doe will receive another buck  but not the buck you have been trying.
Something that came up between some breeders the other day.  If you have a Doe that is constantly giving you a hard time getting her to breed.  CULL HER!!!!  I do not care if you have 3 Does or 100 Does.  It is not worth the cage space and your time to have a Doe that will not breed.  Yes, there are some Does that just will not breed.
TIP:  If the buck mounts the Doe and she is lifting but they do not breed quickly, gently push the buck off the Doe.  Then goose the Doe so that she will run around the pen a little and then let the buck mount her again.  Sometimes they just need another position.  If this does not work and the Doe is still lifting then try another buck.   NEVER  NEVER  NEVER leave the buck with the Doe and walk away.  If they do not breed within a few minutes then it is not going to happen that day.  If you get LAZY or desperate and leave the buck in with the Doe you will take the chance that she will castrate him for you.  Please take him out and try again the next day.
Kindling in East Texas in the Winter

We have to only deal with a few extreme temperatures in the winter. As I type this it is 82 degrees in January. So, be aware that we can go from the 80's to the 20's in a short time.

I do not use anything under the cage to warm the rabbits. My husband is an electrician and he says water, urine, and electricity do not go together and I have to agree with him. But there are many other things that we can do.

I use a 40 watt bulb in a mechanics clamp light. I put this directly on the wire above the nest box. Do not use a bulb any larger than 40 watt or you will take the chance of getting them to hot. Only use this when it is going to be in the low 30's or 20's. i noticed that the Does do not pull as much fur when you have the lamps on them. However, if the Doe builds her nest in the back of the box and the babies do not crawl back to the nest the light seems to be enough to keep them warm until I get there to check on them.

Now comes the fun part. If this is her first litter, then you have to really pay close attention to her. Many first time Does do not know how to be good MaMa's. If she starts to build her nest in another spot than where you put her box then, put the hay back in the box and move it to where she was building her nest. If she starts t build her nest in another spot after that I will give her two boxes. She will either choose a box or have the babies between the boxes. In either cases it will not matter because they are surrounded. After she kindles take the extra box out. If this is for your meat pen project and the Doe is gathering hay before you go to bed and she is trying to nest aynwhere but the box, I suggest staying up with her. You can save the babies if you are there quickly or set your alarm for a couple of hours. If you go outside and she is having them on the wire, let her finish kindling. After she kindles make a nest in the box, pull fur from the Doe and then put the kits in the box. However, if you go outside and she had them on the wire and they are cold don't give up.

Take the cold kits and the box inside the house. Turn your oven on or turn on a heating pad. Turn the hot water on and get it really warm. Then take a small shallow bowl and put water in it that is warm to your touch, not real hot. Gently take the rabbits and put them in the water holding their head above the water. Gently massage the rabbits chest while in the water. Do not let the rabbits head go under the water. You will notice the rabbits feet begin to kick. Do not get in a hurry, let him warm up thoroughly. many times you will hear him begin to cry. Gently dry him in a paper towel and then wrap him in a clean towel and put him on the heating pad or in a baking dish on the over DOOR. Do not put these babies in the oven. If it does not work on the first one try the others. Many times only some will "come back." Once they are warm usually an hour or more then take the box back to the barn and putll fur from the Doe and put the rabbits back with their mom.

 You have to check on the babies if she kindles in the box. You have to make sure all the afterbirth and any still born kits are taken out after she gets out of the box. If you do not get the still birth kits out, they will get cold and make the live kits cold. They will also start to decompose. This is not pleasant but someone has to do it. If you can not do it then get one of your parents to do this part. You need to note how many live kits are in the box and then check each day and make sure you have that many kits. Many times a kit will crawl to a corner of the box and die. Sometimes the kit will die and the others will continue to lie on it. Si, it is important to do this every day.

You must keep the nest box clean. Many times you will have to take out the dirty hay and put in clean hay. If the kits are very young you will have to pull fur from the mother again. (If the Doe pulled way to much fur, then put some of the dry fur in a brown paper bag in case you need it during the next 2 weeks.) The babies can get an eye infection. This is part genetics and part how clean the nest box is kept. The kits should have their eyes open at 10 days. on the 11th day if the rabbirs eyes are not open put a warm damp cloth on the eyes and gently pull them apart. If they are matted together the next day and appear to be infected contact your Vet. There is a medication you can put in their eyes. The eye lid sometimes roll back inside itself. You do not have very long before the kit goes blind in that eye. Keep working with the eye. Even if the eye goes blind the rabbit may still be ggod for breeding. To tell if the rabbit has gone blind, look at it once it has healed. If there is a spot on it or if it appears murky then it will be desqualified off the show table and probably is blind. Make sure that it is an excellent rabbit before putting it back into your breeding program because it may pass the gene that causes the eye lid to roll into itself.

Nest boxes are made out of several materials. I do not like the ones that are solid metal. However, a friend of mine will only use that type. If you do use the metal nest boxes make sure you buy the cardboard inserts. I prefer a wood nest box with a very small hardware cloth on the bottom. This allows the urine to go through the bottom and allows air to flow through in the summer. In the winter I put a large piece of sheetrock under the box. I read where another breeder puts an inch on sawdust then puts another piece on the 4x4 hardware cloth on the toop of the sawdust.

Make sure not to put any wood in the cage for them to sit on. This will allow them to get dirty. Never put a piece of anything that is real slick because they will go spraddle leg because they will not be able to get any traction.

If you put hay in th e cage to keep them warm make sure that you take out any hay that gets wet. Again we do not want them to get dirty.


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