Care and Management of Rabbits/Chapter 16
A Good Utility Breeding Doe.
New Zealand Red.
Belgian Hare Doe Seven Months Old.
Ready to breed.
In breeding rabbits, always take the doe to the buck's hutch and put her inside. If she does not accept service, but fights or runs and squeals, take her out and try her again next day. If the doe proves persistent over a long period of time, it is well to dispose of her for meat stock, as she certainly will not prove to be a desirable breeder.
The doe and buck should be about the same age. By that I mean do not breed excessively young does to old bucks, although you will find some people advocating breeding old bucks to young does and young bucks to old does. There may be something to be gained by this in some instances, but it is far better to breed animals in their prime. In the long run you will get better results from the mating.
As soon as the doe has accepted service, remove her to her own hutch and let her alone. She should be kept quiet and handled according to the suggestions set out elsewhere. There is nothing to be gained by permitting the doe to have more than one service. I have found that just as large litters come from a single service as from several.
It is best to always watch your does when in the buck's hutch, for then you know for sure as to whether service has been had or not. Some breeders put the doe in the buck's hutch at night and take her out in the morning. This is not only a poor policy but entirely unnecessary. You will soon have a poor buck on your hands if you follow this policy very long.
Haphazard breeding is the reason why so many blood lines constantly dwindle out and why so many breeders of live stock are constantly on the down-hill side of business success. You must have some plan of breeding and follow it out intelligently if you are to succeed.
The old statement that "like begets like" was never truer than in breeding rabbits. You will get just exactly what you have to start with, unless you have a system of breeding which makes it possible to advance a step at a time at least.
The usual system of breeding is what is known as cross-breeding. By that we mean that unrelated animals are bred together each generation. This system has just one advantage and that is that it keeps up the constitutional vigor and stamina of the offspring to a remarkable degree. There certainly is no danger of your stock "running out," under this system.
But it has its disadvantages as well. It does not preserve the other qualities in the offspring such as type, color, characteristics and station. It merely increases constitutional vigor. It also has the disadvantage of making it necessary to get new males each mating or season. That is not only expensive and troublesome but oftentimes a serious problem for the small breeder. It is, at best, a haphazard sort of breeding system. It looks merely to the present generation and it does not even lay a good foundation for future generations.
Line-breeding is not in-breeding, as so many people seem to believe. It is true that inbreeding is practiced in the first cycle, of operation, but there is not enough in-breeding to cause any harm. Line-breeding is a systematic form of breeding which preserves the excellence and characteristics of the parent stock. In other words, it perpetuates the blood of both sire and dam so that it is not eventually lost as is the case in cross-breeding. By this system of breeding the excellence in modern animals has been accomplished. Line-breeding is practiced by every live stock breeder of repute, for the simple reason that it enables him to make progress in his work.
By starting out with two specimens as nearly perfect as possible according to their Standard, they are mated together and the offspring contains just one-half of the blood of the male and one-half of the blood of the female.
The next mating, the father is mated to his own daughter and the mother to son. This gives a generation having three-fourths of the blood of the original sire and only one-fourth the blood of the original dam. It also gives a generation having three-fourths the blood of the original dam and only one-fourth the blood of the original sire.
You will note that by each mating a point is either gained or lost in the blood of the stock. In fact two separate blood lines are quickly established, a male and a female line. If you will carry out the system as shown in the accompanying chart, you can soon have your males all looking like the original male and the females looking like the original female of the line.
The advantage of the system is such that it achieves this very purpose. It loses nothing and enables the breeder to preserve the characteristics of an especially valuable specimen.
The dotted lines signify that a female is taken from the mating and mated to a male in the mating to which the arrow points. Straight lines signify that a male is taken and mated to a female in the mating to which arrow points.
This chart shows six generations, or two cycles of line breeding.
Do not shun line-breeding because you think it will be injurious to the constitutional vigor of your stock. Such is not true. If you will study the chart carefully you will soon notice that it is not in-breeding in its true sense. And we have only to add that if you want to get anywhere you will have to come to line-breeding. That much has been proved again and again.
Now a few more points about breeding. Do not allow your bucks to serve more than three does a week and it would be better to cut their service down to two. It is as important to preserve the vitality of your bucks as it is of the does.
In carrying the does to the buck's hutch, grasp her by the loose skin back of the ears and place your other hand under her hind quarters. Never carry rabbits by their ears merely because it is easy to do so.
Bucks should not be kept too long. They generally produce inferior offspring after about three or four years of age and it is not good business to keep them, after that. And do not seek to breed them too young. It is just as important to be careful in this respect as it is in not having them too old.
A buck should be at least seven months old and it is better to have them eight or nine months old before attempting to breed from them.
Five days after breeding a doe, take her back to the buck's hutch to test her. If she runs, fights or squeals you may be reasonably sure that she is bred. If she accepts service it is a good indication that she was not in heat at the first breeding. This is done to save time in finding out whether the doe is bred.