Breeding Your Lionhead Rabbit

Nothing is more adorable than a little baby lionhead rabbit – except for maybe a whole litter of them! If you decided to buy two rabbits, for instance a male and female and keep them together, you should definitely prepare for the possibility of breeding, unless it’s the same gender, otherwise you’re going to be caught off guard!

If you are interested in breeding your lionhead rabbit, this article will give you a wealth of information about the processes and phases of their breeding and you will also learn how to properly raise bunnies on your own.

This not for everyone but if you want to have a better understanding about how to raise these rabbits, then you should definitely not miss this part! On the contrary if you are interested in becoming a reputable breeder, then this is a must read for you.

Basic Rabbit Breeding Information

Before you can breed your lionhead rabbit, you need to understand the basics of rabbit breeding.

Most rabbits are mature enough to be mated by the time they reach 4 to 4 ½ months old. Keep in mind that miniature breeds  or dwarf breeds like the lionhead becomes sexually mature at around 4 months old.

For the health and safety of your female rabbit, it is recommended that you wait until female rabbits of larger breeds are about 5 ½ to 6 months old. You can always ask your veterinarian if you aren’t sure about your specific lionhead rabbit.


Mating Behavior of Rabbits

When your lionhead rabbits are old enough for breeding, you can introduce the male and female to encourage mating.

The best practice is to take the doe (the female) to the male’s cage. If you do it the other way around the buck will probably waste time marking his territory in the new cage and the doe may even become aggressive and territorial toward him.

Once you introduce the female to the male’s cage, it shouldn’t be long before he makes a brief display of courtship behavior and then mounts the female. When the male grunts and falls backward or to the side, you know that the mating has been completed successfully.

To increase the chances of pregnancy, many lionhead rabbit breeders choose to mate their rabbits a second time after one hour. Other breeders prefer to breed the same pair about 24 hours later. It is up to you what kind of schedule you want to follow, but your chances of success will be higher if you allow the pair to mate more than once.

If you have multiple female rabbits you want to breed, you may really only need one buck, though it couldn’t hurt to have a backup. Just be careful about choosing your pairings because you don’t want to engage in any inbreeding.


How to Know if Your Rabbit is Pregnant

You won’t be able to tell immediately whether your lionhead rabbit doe is pregnant. You should be able to palpate her abdomen and feel the kits by about 14 days after mating. However, you can determine if she is, by doing the following steps:  Caution, be very careful as you do this to avoid harming the kits.

  • Hold the doe down gently with one hand and use the other to feel the belly just in front of the pelvis area.
  • If the doe is pregnant you should be able to feel several marble-sized embryos.
  • If the doe is not pregnant you can rebreed her and check again after 2 weeks.
  • If the doe is pregnant, wait about two weeks before adding a nesting box to the cage.

Nesting Requirements

After mating, the nesting box should be provided for your doe lionhead rabbit at about day 28, about 3 days before you can expect her to give birth. There is no reason to place the nesting box any earlier because the rabbit will either use it as a litter box or mess around with it so much that you need to replace the bedding.

The nesting box should be about 18 inches long, 10 inches wide and 10 inches high. Cut the front with a V-shape or taper it down to about 6 inches so the doe can easily climb in and out.

To prevent moisture buildup in the nesting box, keep the top open and line the bottom with ¼-inch mesh. Fill the nesting ox with soft straw, pine shavings, or hay. If you add the nesting box about 3 days before delivery, the doe will pull out her own hair and add it to the bedding to make a soft nest for her young.

Feeding a Pregnant Rabbit

Alffy rabbit pellets
Pellets for breeding rabbits and their babies

You should be mindful about feeding your doe a healthy diet so the nutrients are passed on to her kits. Breeding rabbits need a higher protein level than is in standard rabbit pellets.

See the page on rabbits nutritional requirements for information on how to feed your rabbit.

Labor Process of Lionhead Rabbits

The doe should give birth somewhere between 31 and 34 days after mating. Lionhead rabbits usually have 2 to 4 kits. The average litter size is 4 baby bunnies.

As soon as the kits are all born you need to check the litter and make sure to remove any that are still-born.

Lionhead rabbits are very small when they are born and because they have no hair and closed eyes, they are completely dependent on their mother. Their fur will start to grow in after 5 or 6 days and they will open their eyes after about 10 to 12 days. Sometimes the kits will have crust over their eyes that prevent them from opening – just wipe them carefully with a damp cloth.

Raising Baby Rabbits

Kaytee Juvenile rabbit pellets
Juvenile or baby rabbit pellets have a higher protein content

Unfortunately, the mortality rate for baby rabbits is fairly high – around 40%. To help reduce this number you should keep the nest box clean and dry. There is no need to clean the box after the first week, but do keep an eye out to make sure it doesn’t get too damp or dirty.

You should also be mindful about feeding your doe a healthy diet so the nutrients are passed on to her kits. Do not be surprised if the doe spends most of her time out of the nesting box – she will generally only return to feed the kits two or three times a day. After 3 weeks of this, the kits will start to leave the nesting box on their own.

Once your litter of kits has started to leave the nest box, you can think about rebreeding your doe.

Mother rabbits typically reduce their milk production at the 3-week mark but if you breed the doe again about 2 to 3 weeks after kindling you can extend milk production and start weaning the kits at about 4 weeks old. Just keep a close eye on the health and wellness of your doe and your kits to determine the best course of action.

Need more? Read the Ultimate Guide for Lionhead Rabbits

Book - Lionhead Rabbits: The Ultimate Guide for Lionhead RabbitsIf you’re still looking for more detail on breeding your rabbits, I’d recommend reading “Lionhead Rabbits: The Ultimate Guide for Lionhead Rabbits”. You can find it on Amazon in paperback or on Kindle.