I suppose that coming into spring awakens natural instincts in all of us. This time of year I get queries on how to breed angora rabbits. So this is the method I use.
Firstly please remember that the angora naturally has low fertility and small litters. Yes, I have my supermoms that give me 8 or 10 in the litter, but most produce 3 to 5. I think it has a tie to wool production, as the higher a wool producer the angora is, the lower the fertility is. I am happy with a 30% to 50% fertility during a breeding season.
I breed once a year, in winter/spring with my highest wool producers given a maximum of three “chances” to conceive during a breeding season. If they do not conceive in that time then I simply wait till next year. I don’t breed my does after they are 3 years old, unless they are an exceptional bloodline or colour, and then will often breed them in combination with shorthair breeds so I can foster out the babies if it is too much for the old girl.
Once you have selected your best combination of buck and doe, check them closely for any health issues. I deworm before I start my breeding programme. Breed after moulting so that the wool is not too long, and clip the wool short around the lower belly and genital area of the buck. This makes it easier for them to mate, and you don’t get wool acting as a giant condom.
Clip the remaining hair all over the body and belly of the doe down to 1cm – 2cm long. When she gives birth, she will build her nest out of a combination of hay and wool that she has plucked off her own belly, armpits and sides. Any long hair in the nest will twist around the babies, and can cut off circulation to legs or even round the neck, strangling the babies. Her plucking ensures that the teats are open for the kits to drink when she feeds. Unlike the predators we keep as pets, a rabbit does not cuddle her kits. She will approach her nest a maximum of twice in 24 hours to stand over and feed her kits for 2 minutes. They must find a teat and fill their tummies in this time, so it is essential that there is no long hair to tangle them.
As my rabbits are tiny, around 3kg in size, I use a nest box of about 30cm cube, or an open box of about 30 x 40cm. Fill the box with soft hay, and, 28 days after she was bred, put it in for the doe. She will re-arrange this bed to her satisfaction, and about 30days after breeding will present you with a nest box gift. In her enthusiasm she may empty the box, so just keep filling with hay till she is ready to litter. Some does use the box as a toilet, so be prepared to scrub out and replace the grass as needed. If for some reason she litters next to the box, then move the babies into the box during the post littering inspection.
Taking into account that my rabbits are use to me, and not inclined to panic, and that I move very quietly and gently around them, my post littering checkbox is as follows: 1/ check for any afterbirth or stillbirths within an hour or so of littering, 2/ record the litter size on the mothers computer card, 3/ check the milkline on the babies belly about 4 hours after littering to make sure they are fed, 4/ give the mother some raw pressed oats to help the milkflow, 5/ Make sure the nest is warm enough and cover the babies with a handful of short clipped wool (that you had kept back for this purpose when mom was clippedJ) if necessary, 5/ leave well enough alone, peeking into the box daily without disturbing it unless you find a problem.