As the expression is to breed like bunnies, it is little wonder that rabbits are prolific breeders.
They produce multiple litters in a short space of time.
How Many Litters Can a Rabbit Have In a Year?
While I was separating our most recent litter into bucks and does, I began wondering just how many litters can a rabbit have in a year?
Rabbits can have a staggering 12 litters per year, though this is the maximum number of litters, and most rabbits have fewer litters than this per year. Factors like the rabbit doe’s age and health, as well as the availability of a suitable buck rabbit, can all influence this number.
Factors Influencing the Number of Litters a Rabbit Can Have in a Year
There are several factors that influence just how many litters a female rabbit can have in a year.
These factors include the doe’s age, her overall health, whether there’s a buck rabbit of breeding age near her, and even the weather.
The Doe’s Age
When a doe is becoming mature, she reaches breeding age.
There is no hard rule on when a doe will mature. Some rabbits mature at three months, while others only reach breeding maturity at six months.
This can influence how many litters a doe can have in her first year as an early-maturing doe will have more litters in her first year than a late-maturing one.
The Doe’s Overall Health
Healthy rabbits breed more successfully, but when a doe has been sick, her fertility rate will decrease for a few weeks or months.
The decrease in fertility will influence how many litters the doe can have in that particular year.
If the doe is malnourished, her fertility rate may also drop, equating to fewer litters.
Buck Rabbits for Breeding
It takes two to tango, or make litters in this case.
So if there is no sexually mature buck rabbit handy, the doe will not be able to breed and produce as many litters in a year as the maximum.
Weather Influences on Breeding
The last factor is an environmental one. When it is really hot, the rabbit’s internal body temperature regulation is compromised.
Extreme heat leads to a decrease in fertility in the does, and this may stall the breeding cycle until the temperature returns to normal.
How to Increase the Number of Litters Per Doe Per Year
If you’re a new rabbit breeder like me, then you may have the same questions I had when I started out.
- How do I get my doe to breed more often?
- What is the maximum number of litters a doe can have in a year?
- Just how do I increase my doe’s fertility to ensure healthy litters?
As a maximum, a rabbit doe can have 12 litters a year. This figure is fixed and dependent on the doe being covered and fertilized within 24 hours of kindling her litter or giving birth.
Does are fertile almost immediately upon giving birth, and if the doe in with the buck, she will be covered and conceive the next litter.
A litter has a gestation period of 25-28 days, which means a rabbit is pregnant for almost a month, can conceive again immediately, and is able to sustain a full pregnancy again for another 25-28 days.
This cycle repeats until the doe is four years old, depending on her breed. Large breed rabbits may remain fertile somewhat longer than smaller breed rabbits.
To increase the number of litters per year, you would have to ensure the doe has a successful pregnancy.
The number of kits (rabbit babies) in a litter is also something to consider as a healthy rabbit may have anything from 1-12 kits at a time.
Hence, a healthy and fertile rabbit doe may produce up to 144 kits in a year.
For rabbit breeders like myself, the real danger is whether the kits will survive.
Rabbits such as the cottontail rabbit have a high mortality rate, and 44% of the kits don’t survive past their first month.
Frequency of Healthy Rabbit Breeding
Rabbit breeders may wish to increase the number of kits that a rabbit doe produce in a year.
They can do this with special feeds that increase the litter size and also by breeding the doe within 24-48 hours of having kindled.
I was horrified when I first discovered this, and I wondered why anyone would want to have more kits and why they would breed their doe so frequently.
Since a doe is only fertile for roughly three and a half years, rabbit breeders wish to optimize on the number of kits they can get.
Rabbit breeders who breed for meat production wish to have many rabbits for slaughter, while those who breed for pets may be more discreet and only breed their doe every two to three months to ensure healthier litters.
When a rabbit doe is bred consecutively for 12 months, it will take a toll on her body, and she will likely not remain healthy for long.
The Alternative to Rabbit Breeding
Since a single rabbit doe and one buck can produce upwards of 144 kits in a year, it is a serious problem for those who keep pet rabbits and don’t want to have that many kits.
Keeping the doe and buck separated when you don’t want them to have litters is one way to address this. Unfortunately, this can be challenging.
Additionally, a rabbit doe doesn’t come into season like a dog or cat, and they can get pregnant whenever they are near the buck.
The best option is then to have a few litters if you choose while your doe is fairly young. Any age from 6-12 months is suitable to have your doe covered.
Once you have enough litters, the best option is then to spay your doe or neuter your buck.
If you don’t do this, you will have to find space or homes for as many as 144 baby rabbits per year!
Some FAQs about Rabbit Litters
Can an older rabbit have babies?
Older rabbits can also conceive and still have litters, though the norm is for rabbits does to remain fertile up to age four to six.
How do I prevent rabbit breeding?
The only surefire way to stop rabbit breeding is to spay your does and neuter your buck rabbits. However, a vet may not want to perform the procedures until the rabbits are somewhat older, and by then, your rabbits may already be pregnant.
So, when your rabbits are four weeks old, you should have your vet sex your rabbits, which will help you tell the bucks from the does.
The does and bucks should then be separated to prevent breeding until they are old enough to spay and neuter.
What is a responsible rabbit breeding cycle?
Depending on the reason for you wishing to breed your rabbits, you may choose to follow a commercial, natural, or restrained breeding schedule.
A commercial schedule is to wait 14-21 days after the doe kindles before having her covered again. This produces a sustainable stream of healthy kits and larger litter sizes.
In nature, a rabbit doe may be covered as soon as she has kindled. The litters may be smaller with a greater mortality rate among the kits.
A restrained breeding schedule is to only breed your rabbit doe four to six times a year.
Rabbits will breed if left to their own devices, and they may breed frequently, producing a huge amount of offspring.
As a responsible rabbit owner, you should keep your unspayed doe and unaltered rabbit buck separated to prevent breeding when you’re not ready to deal with kits.
If you don’t, you may face a doe and a buck having 12 litters each year with as many as 12-14 kits each.
Having 144 rabbits join your family every year will prove challenging; plus, all the kits will also start breeding when they come of age.
Other articles you may also like:
- Can You Touch/Handle a Baby Rabbit?
- Can You Adopt A Wild Baby Bunny
- What To Do with a Wild Baby Rabbit? Do’s and Don’ts!
- When Can You Separate Baby Rabbits from Mother?
- When do Baby Bunnies Leave the Nest?
- What to Feed Baby Rabbits Without a Mother?
- How Much Does It Cost to Neuter a Rabbit?
- How to Induce Labor in Rabbits?