to Kindling: The Top Tips for Ensuring a Healthy
biggest excitement in a rabbitry is the time between
when a doe is bred and when she kindles her litter.
I think what makes the 31 days until kindling exciting
is the uncertainty. Is the doe bred? How many babies
will she produce when she kindles? Will the babies
be all right or will there be problems? These are
just some of the problems that can't be answered
until kindling occurs.
to Tell if the Doe Has Been Bred
I think it's the waiting that holds the suspense for
a lot of rabbit people. This starts right after the buck
and doe mate. A little thought starts nagging the rabbit
raiser. Did the doe get bred by the buck? There are a
variety of methods to use to see if this has happened.
Some of these methods are more accurate than others.
In my rabbitry I use about six different ways to tell
if a doe is bred. Actually, it's seven if you want to
wait until the kindling date.
A common method people use is test mating. Test mating
is when the doe is put back in the buck's hutch 15
days after being mating. If the doe is already bred,
most times she will refuse the buck by growling at
him or running around the cage. Rabbit raisers use
test mating to save time. Instead of finding out in
31 days that doe is not bred, they find out in 15 days.
Test mating, however, isn't highly accurate. A doe
that's bred may let the buck breed her again. Or a
doe that isn't bred may refuse the buck, giving the
appearance she is bred. Also, test mating can be dangerous
to the doe, buck, and the rabbit raiser. The doe and
buck may fight one another and injure each other during
test mating. The rabbit raiser may get bit when trying
to break up the fighting rabbits. An angry doe may
take her anger out on the hand of the rabbit raiser
trying to help.
This is the most common method rabbit raisers use to
see if the doe is bred. Palpating is usually done
about two weeks after breeding. Basically, you
try to feel the babies in the rabbit's abdominal
region with your fingertips. At this stage, they
will feel like marbles to your touch. If you never
palpated a rabbit, get someone who is experienced
to show you how or read a detailed book describing
the method. You run the risk of hurting the babies
if you do it wrong. For that reason, gently feel
with your fingers and don't prod or poke the rabbit.
As you get more experience, this method can be
a very accurate tool to see if the doe is bred.
I like to palpate just before putting the nestbox
in the hutch. The doe may have lost her litter
since I palpated her last.
Some does really increase their feed intake after they're
bred. Remember, if the doe is bred, she's not only
eating for herself but six to eight babies growing
inside of her. Usually this method can be used only
later in her gestation period-- about the last two
weeks before kindling is when you often see the doe's
feed intake really increase. However, you won't notice
much a of difference in appetite for some does, so
this method doesn't work every time. I have also found
that some bred does like to dig the feed out of the
This is another hit-and-miss method to tell if the
doe is pregnant. If you have a lot of does that produce
very large litters of babies, this can be a very accurate
method of determining pregnancy. But if your breed
of rabbit kindles a small number of babies, this method
may be almost useless. A doe that's going to have 10
to 12 babies will have a very large abdominal size.
But doe who has only three to four babies inside of
her may not show much of a change in her abdominal
size. Also, the size of the babies also has to be taken
into account. A litter of large-size babies is going
to produce a bigger abdominal than a litter of tiny
This test is done when the nestbox is put in the cage.
Throw a handful of hay in the cage and watch what happens.
If the doe is bred, she will pick the hay up in her
mouth and start looking for a place to build a nest.
Most of the time she'll carry it to the nestbox because
that's where she'll create her nest for her babies.
The hay test is very accurate in determining if the
doe is going to become a mommy. The only drawback with
the hay test it's only accurate just a few days before
Some does get a major attitude towards everything once
they're bred. If you have a bred doe that suddenly
starts growling and complaining when you touch her,
she may be bred. Some does can be real sweethearts
but will start growling at their owner when touched.
This can indicate the doe is going to have babies.
A rabbit that growls at her owner when bred can be
dangerous. If you try to handle her, she may bite you
without meaning to. It's just her way of protecting
the cargo of babies that are inside of her.
have described six tests to determine if a doe is
pregnant. By using all six you can pretty much tell
if the doe is bred or not. Just remember that some
tests are more accurate than others. Also some tests
have drawbacks if you do them wrong. I always put
the nestbox in the cage no matter the outcome of
the tests. It's better to be safe than sorry. There
is a seventh method to see if the doe is bred. Wait
until she kindles! But that would be too nerve wracking.
And remember some rabbits kindle earlier than their
due date and some are later.
to Prepare for Kindling
Being prepared for kindling is an important rule to follow
in a rabbitry. Too many times people have let kindling
sneak up on them without being ready. This is a big mistake.
Preparing the nestbox before kindling is very important.
First of all, disinfect your nestboxes before you put
them in the hutch with the expectant mother. You don't
want the new babies to be exposed to any harmful germs
or bacteria. I disinfect my nestboxes with hot water
and bleach and give them a good scrubbing with a wire
brush to make sure I get them good and clean. I know
a lot of people with weld wire nestboxes also sear
them with a torch to destroy the germs. It's always
a good idea to wash your nestbox down after you're
done disinfecting. That way the rabbit can't lick the
disinfectant off the nestbox. If you have weld wire
nestboxes, now is a good time to replace the old cardboard
nestbox liner with a new one.
I like to put the nestbox in the cage with the doe
four to five days before she kindles. If you put the
nestbox in the cage too soon, the doe will use it as
a toilet. A nestbox full of manure is the one of the
results of a nestbox placed in a cage too soon. If
you put the nestobx in the hutch too late, it can have
bad results, too. A doe needs some time to get acquainted
with the nestbox. She may not use it if you put it
in her cage too close to kindling. I have always had
good results with my rabbits putting the nestbox in
four to five days before kindling.
I always have hay for the nestboxes. Use good clean
hay with no mold in it. Also, make sure the hay that
you use is weed-free for the rabbit's safety. Check
the hay to make sure there's no foreign objects in
the hay that will harm the rabbit. I like using hay
that is fine and very soft. My rabbits don't like hay
that is very coarse or straw-like. When putting hay
in the nestbox, I like to use a moderate amount. The
rest I put in the cage on the floor. That way the rabbit
can carry the hay to the nestbox and create the type
of nests that she wants. Some rabbits hate it when
you put the hay in the nestbox for them. They will
sometimes take it out of the nestbox just to spite
During the time before kindling, I don't like having
strangers in my rabbitry. My rabbits know when there's
a stranger in the rabbitry, and it makes them very
nervous. When my rabbits hear a stranger's voice, they
go into a panic. They race around their cages, looking
for a way to get away from the unfamiliar sound. A
doe carrying babies can do damage to her babies when
she's in a panic. That's why the rabbits I have for
sale are in an area away from the rabbitry. I like
to keep my rabbits as calm as possible.
Rabbits like their peace and quiet. This is very true
for does who are going to kindle. Inform anyone
working around your rabbits to use a low, quiet
voice and make slow, deliberate movements. A loud
voice or a quick motion can startle a rabbit. You
want to avoid this around a rabbit that's close
to kindling. Also, try to avoid moving the expectant
mother to a strange cage too close to kindling.
This can be upsetting to the rabbit. When moved
to a strange cage, a rabbit needs time to adjust.
Being moved too close to kindling may not give
her the time that she needs.
Make sure you get plenty of sleep before kindling begins.
You're going to need it! When kindling occurs in my
rabbitry, I get very little sleep. A lot of problems
during kindling can be avoided by hourly kindling checks.
If you see a rabbit is really close to kindling, you
may want to check her every 10 minutes until she kindles.
Always make sure you don't have any social activities
planned when the rabbits in your rabbitry start to
kindle. Your rabbits are depending on you to help them
if they have any problems with kindling, and you don't
want to let them down. Hourly kindling checks can save
babies kindled out of the nest. Or babies that are
kindled on the floor of the hutch.
in your rabbitry can be as exciting as Christmas
arriving if you put in a lot of effort getting prepared.
But kindling can be your worst nightmare, if you
do little to get prepared for it. You owe it to your
rabbits to be there for them when kindling takes
place. A lot of babies can be saved by being well-prepared