Physiology of rabbit reproduction

Physiology of rabbit reproduction

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In rabbits, sexual maturity occurs after 4 months in the female and after 5 months in the male with a large margin of variability depending on the breed and size of the animal. Generally speaking, giant breeds tend to be later than commercial breeds. In the breeding of meat rabbits, on average, the female tends to mate around 4.5 months and the male 5.5.
The rabbit is an induced ovulation species which means that ovulation is induced by coitus.
The natural mounts foresee that it is the female to be brought by the male and if it is receptive it will assume a lordotic position and allow itself to be covered easily. It is preferable to have the rabbit paired when the genitals take on a color that varies from internal red to bluish: in that case the female will be more receptive and will accept the male more willingly. In the best conditions, the mating lasts for a few moments and at the moment of ejaculation the male will fall on his side emitting a cry. Within a few minutes he will be able to cover the female again and it is good practice to allow the male to perform the second jump to have a greater chance of the female becoming pregnant.
After mating, the rabbit will be returned to its cage and left quiet throughout the pregnancy.
The duration of gestation is 29-31 days with an average of 30 days depending on the number and size of the young. Within the 5th-6th day of mating, the fertilized embryo will be implanted in the uterus while the formation of the placentas will begin around the 8th-9th day and will end around the 12th day. Between the 10th and the 14th day, the diagnosis of pregnancy is performed, which is carried out by transabdominal palpation in the antero-posterior direction (Fig. 1) in order to check the presence of fetuses that, at this moment, measure between 10 and 15 mm. Palpation should be performed by experienced personnel as it is easy to cause abortion. If the female is empty in this phase, she can be re-paired immediately.
Around the 26th-27th day, the nest will be added to the cage, the bottom of which will be filled with straw or shavings on which the mare will deposit a good amount of hair shortly before delivery (Fig. 2) which will tear from your body.

Fig. 1 - Diagnosis of pregnancy by palpation

Fig. 2 - Nest with bunnies

Fig. 3 - Bunny at birth

The function of the hair is to maintain the temperature inside the nest around 30-35 ° C. It is good to prevent the female from entering the nest before giving birth because she may not recognize it as such and dirty it with feces or urine.
Childbirth is a very delicate moment as the female needs a lot of tranquility and in fact it occurs mostly at night or in the early hours of the morning.
Barring complications within 1 hour all fetuses will have been delivered, cleaned, breastfed and covered with fur.
At the time of birth, the young are inept, that is, deaf, blind and hairless (Fig. 3) and the eyes will open around the 8th-10th day. A female can give birth to up to 14 babies. Shortly after giving birth it is necessary to verify the number of births and to register and eliminate the dead to avoid that, due to the bad smell and the rotting of the corpses, the female cannot refuse the brood.
Adoption is a widespread practice that involves moving bunnies from one mare to another in order to even out the broods and make them homogeneous in number and size of the young. Adoption is practiced at least once (generally at the time of birth) as not all females give birth to the same number of offspring and not all broods have the same survival rate. In general, attempts are made to equalize 8-9 offspring per brood.
After childbirth, the rabbit does not give much care to the offspring except breastfeeding them 1-2 times a day and covering them with fur at the end of breastfeeding. For this reason, scheduled breastfeeding is common, i.e. allowing the female to access the nest only once a day (generally in the morning). Many nests are equipped with a door that is left closed all day and open only when breastfeeding is to take place and closed a few minutes later. This prevents the rabbit from entering the nest and crushing the young and also allows the breeder to check that the bunnies do not leave the nest because, especially in the first week, they would not be able to return and the female, it certainly could not help them. Breastfeeding lasts a few minutes.
Weaning occurs around 28-35 days by removing the young from the mother and placing them in a separate cage.

Dr. Cristiano Papeschi - University of Tuscia (VT)

Professional breeding of rabbit for meat and affection
Angeli Gamberini - Edagricole
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Video: Raising Meat Rabbits - Nesting and Delivery (June 2022).