A rabbit meat producer will be concerned with those characteristics that are likely to result in the production of maximum amount of meat at the least cost. The commercial characteristic include;-
- Number of young rabbits born per litter
- Number of young rabbit reared per litter
- Number of litter per doe per year
- Number of young rabbits reared per doe per year
- Weaning weight
- Live weight gain
- Feed conversion rate
Does should be served at between five and six months. Bucks are ready to start serving from 7 months. During mating, the doe is taken to the buck’s hutch and this should only last for 30 minutes after which the doe is taken back to its hutch. Gestation period is 28 to 32 days. The pregnant doe should be well fed on balanced diet to enhance good mothering abilities increase birth weight of the young rabbits and the milk yield of the mother. Three days before kindling you should provide the doe with a nest-box together with dry beddings like hay or straw. She will line this with fur plucked from her rump, sides and teat area. In rare occasions the doe may not pluck the fur to cover the young. If this happens then the attendant should help in plucking since at this stage the fur is quite loose.
The kits are born naked without fur and with eyes closed. The fur begins to grow in a few days after birth and the eyes will open after 10 days. Little disturbance should be observed with the kits; otherwise regular checking of the nest is advisable to remove the dead ones.
Litter size ranges from 2 to 14 kits. The Kits need to suckle for at least two months before they are weaned. Ideally it is wise to serve two to three rabbits at the same time so that extra litter can be transferred to other does for suckling. Before this is done the kits have to be made to smell the scent of their foster mother. This reduces chances of rejection by the foster mother leading to kits mortality. The kits should be separated from the mother at three months and at this time the mother is ready for serving. At the forth month the male kits are separated from the female kits to avoid in- breeding. Though does can be served up to 8 times a year in large commercial production units in Europe, Kenyan farmers can serve their rabbits on average up to 4 times in a year. This gives the doe enough time to rest before the next gestation.