One of the things about raising rabbits that everyone takes for granted is that they will, well, multiply like rabbits! Believe it or not, getting your rabbits to reproduce consistently, when you want them to, can be quite the challenge.
First and foremost however, you want to be able to choose which rabbits reproduce and which ones don’t. In order to control that, you have to be able to sex, or determine the gender of, your rabbits.
At what age rabbits are sexed is largely personal preference, but many rabbitry owners will agree that separating by gender at weaning, typically between 4 and 8 weeks of age, is the most convenient.
I personally sex rabbits at birth, and then again at 14 days when each kit, or baby rabbit, gets an ear number and I start tracking growth. I recheck sex every two weeks thereafter when I weigh kits, and separate by sex at weaning if I have cage room to do so, but by 12 weeks at the latest.
When sexing kits, or determining the gender of baby rabbits, hold them on their back between your left arm and left side, with their hindquarters supported in your left hand, and raised slightly higher than their head.
When held properly in this position, with the head slightly lower than the hindquarters and on their back, rabbits enter a state of what is called tonic immobility; essentially, they are temporarily unable to move. While there is some debate about whether tonic immobility is dangerous or stressful in rabbits, my view on it is that tonic immobility allows you to quickly perform an exam or task without the rabbit injuring itself. Good enough for me! Your rabbit should not struggle in this position at all, although often they will have minor twitches when you touch their feet or nose.
With the rabbit held as I’ve described, use your index finger to apply downward pressure at the base of the tail, and use your thumb placed directly ahead of the genital opening to press, gently but firmly, downward into the rabbit’s abdomen to expose the genitalia. Apply more or less pressure several times until you’re satisfied that you’ve gotten a good, clear view.
Females, known as does, will have a flat, slit-like opening that extends nearly to the anus,
where bucks will present a raised, donut shaped penis.
At or near sexual maturity, the penis will change in appearance,
but does will still have a slit-like opening.
Now that you can differentiate between genders, you can better determine which rabbits to remove from the gene pool and which to keep as potential breeding animals. Just as importantly, however, you can separate your young rabbits by gender and prevent unexpected or undesirable litters!
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