Breeding English Angoras
Breeding English Angora Rabbits
This page was designed to help teach about breeding English Angora rabbits. No matter what breed of rabbit you want to own or breed, there are similarities and lots of things that are exactly the same.
Angoras are a wool breed so you have to take into account that there are extra precautions in breeding a wool breed of rabbit.
#1 Reason anyone stops breeding or owning Angoras: GROOMING! If you are not prepared to learn how to groom your Angora, start looking for a groomer immediately and schedule grooming for your rabbit(s) ahead of time. Financially, it is most economical to learn how to groom your rabbit yourself. If you do not want to or cannot learn to groom an Angora, or in some cases, cannot find a groomer, you will probably want to rethink owning this breed.
Where to Start
Begin with Finding the perfect breeding pair. What seems perfect to you, may be far from perfect to another person. If you want to breed to the standard you need to follow the ARBA guidelines. When you are breeding according to the ARBA guidelines, certain colors should not be bred to certain colors and patterns because not every color or pattern is acceptable in the ARBA rules. Keep in mind that because a color or pattern is not showable, does NOT mean there is no purpose for these rabbits. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Since there are so many uses for this breed, you will find a purpose for every color of Angora. Do your research and check with your choice of group you want to show with (4H or ARBA, etc…) We are not covering colors on this page.
- Look for English Angora colors on our English Angora Colors & Genetics page.
- To learn about the Standard of Perfection per the ARBA, please visit ARBA.net and purchase the SOP book. It is copyright infringement to copy any content from the SOP book and post here. I cannot stress enough that you should own this book if you want to breed and/or show any ARBA pedigreed rabbits.
It is an awesome idea to learn colors and genetics before you breed but I would be a hypocrite if I were to say that it is required to get started. I learned colors and genetics hands on from all of the crazy breedings and pairings we put together from day one. Some people are book smart and can learn easily from reading about it. I, unlike my daughter Kelsi, who helps and has studied genetics in college, am one to learn by getting knee deep in the project. Whichever way you choose to begin, take notes and learn as you go because the colors and patterns can seem to be endlessWe
Moving forward, you should have a male (buck), and a female (doe) of breeding age (6+ months) and begin by putting the pair together. Breeding age for English Angoras can begin as early as 6 months. Do not put the buck in the does cage. Always bring the doe to the buck. She won’t be as territorial and does are more prone to fight when breeding. You can choose the bucks cage he lives in or you can use a playpen/x-pen (pictured) where you can get in and assist if needed.
One thing you will want to do is watch closely for a rabbit “fall-off”! We were told about this but had no clue what it meant. So we turned to YouTube and of course found several videos showing what a fall-off was. It makes it simple to know if the buck actually bred the doe when you see a buck fall-off of the doe. It looks like the buck is paralyzed and literally falls over after mating. He may make some odd noises that can be from mild to loud. It can last all of one second up to several seconds. Regardless, once the buck finds the right spot on the doe, it is an extremely quick process. Don’t turn your back or you may miss it. This is crucial in. knowing if your rabbits bred.
Above is one of our bucks breeding a doe. He did have a fall-off and she had a successful pregnancy. Excuse the messy floor, this video was taken in the wash room of the old barn.
Some does are difficult to breed.
They may not accept a male and they may drop their rear end. We have experienced many of these problems, including grunting and fighting. We have fortunately been able to come up with solutions for all of these issues. One photo posted is actually a holland lop (we no longer raise this breed). You can see how the doe is trying to escape the buck. This happens when the doe does not want to breed as well.
Grunting and fighting – never leave them alone together.
Try caging the animals next to each other so they start to get acquainted. Put the doe in the bucks cage, not the other way around. Try this once a day or more (whatever you have time for), until they start to get friendly with each other. Normally it is the doe who is mean. If she has daily interaction with the buck, she will grow to like him or at least accept him. Never leave them together unsupervised if you notice any fighting. A doe will kill a buck!
Unsucessful breeding: add a small amount (teaspoon) of ACV (apple cider vinegar) to the water.
This may or may not work. We have been told by many that it will bring on fertility and willingness to breed.
Female not ovulating: check the vent of the doe.
If it is light pink to whitish in color, she is not ready. Rabbits tend to ovulate on demand so this should not be a problem for more than a couple of days. If the vent is pink to red (not irritated or infected), the doe is ready to breed. Try to breed a few times a day for a few days and you should get a successful breeding.
Failed breeding: if you see a fall off and the doe does not get pregnant, there are a few different reasons for an unsuccessful pregnancy.
One, she may have absorbed the pregnancy, aborted without you knowing it, or she just didn’t take the first time. We breed for three fall-offs. If you do this and still do not have a litter, try breeding three times a day for three days in a row. We started implementing this into our difficult to breed does and finally had success! Warning, you may have larger litters doing this, so be prepared to help!
Doe drops rear end: some does will do this to prevent breeding or because they are scared.
You can hold her still and lift her end so the buck can get to her for breeding.
Doe runs from buck: I use playpens and I will get in or lean over to hold the doe and the buck does not have to chase her.
Breeding happens very quickly this way. Cages are best for breeding if you have this problem.
Buck wears himself out: Prepare your set up so the buck does not have to chase a doe to breed.
If she drops her end, hold her up. Make the situation quick and easy or you will have to give the buck a resting period before trying again.
Doe rolls: I have a few does that do not want to breed and the bucks are very good at getting them.
The doe will flop on her side so the buck misses. Sounds funny but it is best to try again the next day to save you from the aggravation of fighting with that particular doe.
When we breed our does, we allow no more than just a few minutes for the buck to breed.
If he doesn’t get the job done quickly, we remove the doe and let him rest. They know what they are doing and they can get the job done in less than 60 seconds 99% of the time. If the mating isn’t happening fast, I remove the doe and go about my chores, then try again later. A lot of the time it works that day or one of the next few days.
Always Document Your Breeding Dates
Be sure to free-feed your pregnant does. They need extra food during their pregnancy.
Towards the end of the pregnancy we offer our does calf manna. Calf manna is supposed to help with milk production in livestock animals. We also give calf manna to our does after kindling for the first couple of weeks.
Prep for your first litter of kits. You need to be sure your hutch or cage is baby proof. We learned this the hard way!
Babies are the size of mice and can fall through cage walls if not small enough (example, wire dog crates turned into rabbit hutches). We used to have some converted giant dog crates that we converted into hutches with shelves when we first started the rabbitry. The wire in a dog crate is not spaced close enough together to keep baby bunnies from hoping through and out of the cage.
Kits can hop out of the nest box within the first two weeks of life and right onto the ground. This happened to us when we first started breeding. We used hardware cloth to cover all sides of hutches to be safe. Newborn kits cannot see and all they have for defense is to hop.
- Kits can look like popcorn when they feel threatened. We call our baby bunnies “little popcorns” until they get their eyes open and know where they are hopping.
- Newborn bunnies can latch onto momma when nursing and not release when she hops out of the nest box. From there, they could slip through the cage walls if there is a wide enough opening. Worse yet, can be fatally stomped or injured by mom.
Count 31 days from the date of mating for your due date. This is not set in stone just like any pregnancy. Your doe could kindle a few days early or a few days late. We had a doe kindle a week early and by the time we found the litter, there were no survivors. We haven’t had anyone kindle really late but have heard several stories of does having their babies 5+ days after their due dates. We have had a litter born two days past due date and the babies had fur on their bodies already!
We have also had a doe build a nest, kindle two kits and then several hours later she kindled 7 more! We had a first time momma doe kindle 5 healthy kits and 24 hours later she kindled one more kit. The first time this happened, we would have just thought we miscounted that litter that morning, but we took the nest box in the house, pulled all babies out for a newborn photo and there were only 5. The next day, there were 6 babies. That sixth kit that was born was healthy and survived! The most recent experience we have had was a doe kindled 5 healthy kits and two days later, kindled two additional healthy kits! These odd things happen more than we realize I suppose.
Make sure you put a nest box in the hutch for your pregnant doe at least three days before she is due. Sometimes they will build their nest two weeks early and sometimes they build it within minutes before giving birth. I have had several does build nests and not have any babies. I always give them extra hay for their nest building and most of the time they do not pull much hair if they aren’t pregnant. They can have phantom pregnancies just like other animals do. Some of my does pull very little hair before kindling. Each doe is different.
When the doe finally has her litter, you may find lots of pulled hair on top of her litter to cover them up. Make sure the hair is under an inch long. We learned this the hard way as well. The hair will turn into yarn and wrap around (strangle) the babies. When they are born, they have no fur and everything thing sticks to their bodies, especially hair/fur! We lost babies due to being strangled by the fiber spinning into yarn, wrapping around the neck. This was our very first litter we ever had. No one helped us or warned us of this possibly happening. We then learned to cut the hair in the nest box. Even if you cut the fur down to small lengths, you still need to check it multiple times a day in the beginning because of the skin sticking to it. We found it wrapped around a foot AFTER cutting it down one time. For this reason, we continue daily checks and cutting the hair. Don’t think that cutting the hair once is always enough.
After a couple of days we start to pay close attention to the nest bedding. If it is getting too soiled, we change it out. We use hay in our nest boxes and we always have extra momma fur bagged up ready to cut and replace what she pulled. When we first started breeding, we would groom a doe and make sure we kept back some of her fur in a bag with her name on it so we would have extra for when she had babies. We later found out that it doesn’t have to be hair from the momma doe. You can use any angora hair for nesting. Ours don’t seem to mind at all.
Video was taken of one of our does within minutes of her kindling. We let her clean herself up and then we covered her babies better with clipped wool to keep them warm.
Sexing Baby Bunnies
If you plan to try to sex the newborns, you have to do it early! Images below are to help figure out if they are male or female.
Sexing newborn bunnies is only useful for kits under a couple of days old. This is a screenshot of a forum online where a rabbit breeder was kind enough to show everyone how to tell the difference (we do NOT own these photos).
The next age to check a baby bunnies gender is about two and a half to four weeks. A nice lady who raised bunnies told me that she taught her two young daughters how to sex the bunnies by looking for a taco or a burrito. Females vents will be shaped like a taco and males vents will look like a burrito and flower out on the end. The older the bunny gets, the easier it is to identify the gender. There are lots of photos on the internet of sexing (telling the gender) bunnies at older ages.
- WARNING: Do not force the privates to pop out when they are this young. You can harm them permanently. I have no proof but once read that you can cause a split penis in a male by forcing or sexing a buck too young. I imagine it is because it was forced and human error damaged the vent. I’m not sure I believe this. However, I do believe a buck can be born with this deformity.
- We do not do early sexing of kits at birth because normally I forget and by the time I think about it, it is not accurate. I sex our kits anywhere from 2 1/2 – 4 weeks of age.
What is Shelving Baby Bunnies?
Shelving can be necessary for a few reasons. Keep in mind that momma does only feed their litter once or twice a day.
If it is too cold outside for the baby bunnies, you can bring the nest box inside and it will not disrupt the mother bunny at all. In shelving, you must take the box back out to the hutch with the mom a couple of times a day so she feeds the babies. She will hop inside the box when she is ready to feed. She will stay in the box for anywhere from 5 to about 15 minutes feeding the kits. You will know if the kits have nursed when their bellies are nice and round. If they are sunk in or shriveled up, that’s a sign of a weak bunny or one that is not going to thrive. You can hold momma and let the baby try and nurse without the other kits in the way. There are other options as well. If you have another doe with kits, you can add the weak bunny to her litter if she has less kits to care for. You can hold her and let the kit nurse then put the kit back with its own litter.
Supplemental Bunny Feeding
You can also supplement bottle feed kits that need extra milk. We have a picture posted below of the Miracle Nipple. We use goats milk (found in the baking section at Walmart) and it has always worked great for us. It is easily digestible and the powdered goats milk has a long shelf life. We also use the canned goats milk and keep it in the fridge for no more than a week. The amount of milk that a bunny needs will depend on how sunk in their belly is. We do not measure out an exact amount to feed. We just feed the bunny whatever it takes to get the belly to look like the rest of the litter mates that are full. Don’t over feed and cause the belly to stretch or tear (rare). I have seen some pretty fat tummies and never witnessed a bunny belly tear. Don’t worry too much about this. It is more concerning when the kit is a nipple hog when momma feeds. If this happens, you can remove that baby and withdraw feeding for 24 hours. More importantly, don’t underfeed your kit if it seems healthy and willing to drink. We help supplement large litters of 10 – 13 by doing this.
This is a video of us bottle feeding or syringing goats milk to a new baby bunny that needed that little extra help getting started.
By the time a litter of bunnies are two weeks old, we let them stay with momma at all times (no more shelving). They start to open their eyes and want to navigate outside the box. Once the babies all have their eyes open they will begin showing interest in eating hay. We turn our nest boxes on their side (see photo). This prevents a bunny from hopping out and not getting back into the nest. It also entices bunnies to go out and find the feed and water. We use water dishes and water bottles both. The white bunnies in the photo are four weeks old. You see how quickly they get out and are already jumping on top of the nest box to lounge. That used to be moms get away spot!
Occasionally we do have a bunny that is a little older who is not thriving and needs some extra attention. We will supplement the runt with goats milk like in this video. You do need to be extra cautious when using the miracle nipple with older kits. These nipples are pretty expensive for how little they are. We have had bunnies bite the tip of the nipple off and ruin it. It's not worth the hassle if its old enough to drink water and eat hay. Runts will catch up on growth eventually.
Weaning A Litter Of English Angora Bunnies
We feed the litter the same as we do the mom. Whatever is put in for the doe, her kits will eat as well so there is nothing special about their diet.
When the litter turns 8 weeks old, they are normally ready to go to their new homes. We let mom wean the litter herself now. We used to follow strict guidelines on weaning because of a horrible experience we had when we first began raising EA. We believe we had a stroke of beginners’ bad luck and have learned much more now. We do not have any issues from removing bunnies from mom at 8 weeks to go to their new homes. If you fear that the bunnies will stress, here is an option for a weaning process.
- remove mom during the day and put her back in with juniors at night for a couple of days
- after 2 – 3 days of this, remove mom completely 24 hours a day and check baby bottoms for any sign of loose stool
- feel each junior to be sure they are not losing weight and eating well
- if any negative reactions, put any questionable or stressed offspring back in with mom then start the process over once symptoms clear up
There is something called weaning enteritis that we unfortunately are very familiar with now. It is when a baby bunny, usually starting around three weeks of age, starts to munch on pellets and hay. Their bellies are not used to anything but mommas milk and their gut flora may become disturbed and the gut flora becomes imbalanced. Something we have implemented recently is adding probiotics to their drinking water right when they start to come out of the nest box. It is also very important to keep fresh hay available for the babies to eat so their digestive system is moving properly and often. You can skip the probiotics and have no issues whatsoever with young kits learning to eat but at some point, every breeder will encounter weaning enteritis. It can happen at any age after they start eating solids. I have lost kits at 4 weeks and 9 weeks from this and it is no fun. It comes on suddenly and within 24 hours, they pass. Bunnies will become lethargic, you will see mucous diarrhea, and a sudden weight loss over a short period of time. Hypothermia sets in and they just give up. In my opinion, the safest thing to do is to add probiotics to their water and keep fresh, clean hay available at all times. I don’t want to contradict myself here speaking about hay. I don’t keep hay with my adult rabbits at all times anymore. I have learned that they do not require hay at all times. However, experience is a great learning tool and not keeping hay available to young bunnies can lead to losing them if they get digestive upsets.
If you wean your young juniors from mom and want to separate them, it is best to remove mom from the hutch rather than moving the babies to a new hutch if done at 6 – 8 weeks of age. Moving young juniors can stress them out so we recommend leaving them in the same cage/hutch and moving mom out.
Please remove mom from the litter immediately if she is mean to the babies and do not put her back with them. This has happened to us once with a litter only 4 weeks old. We ended up bottle feeding them until they started drinking well on their own. It became easier to put goats milk in a dish for them. By 5 weeks, they no longer need the milk and will do fine with hay, pellets, and water for their diet.
If you keep a doe with one of her offspring for too long, watch carefully on both of the rabbits’ behavior after removing them from each other. I have had the mother rabbit go into depression because she bonded with her daughter for too long. This resulted in the mom going off feed and refusing to eat. This has actually happened to us twice now. One daughter was a year old and they were a bonded pair. It took a month to get mom over the depression. The other momma doe took almost two months to recover. Her daughter was 5 months old when we removed her. They had obviously bonded as well. We never know if they are truly bonded until we remove one and see this reaction. Lots of fresh greens, oats, calf manna, and BOSS are what saved these momma does. Sometimes we put them in the yard to graze on grass and that helps as well. Never give up or you will certainly lose the rabbit to bloat brought on by depression.
Check Bunnies Daily
We pick up every baby bunny in the weaned litter each day to look at their bottoms. I watch for signs of bloat. If you see any wet, soiled bottoms, remove that bunny from litter and clean the cage with an ammonia/water mixture before returning litter. It is best not to move the litter to a new cage. Only remove the sick bunny. Diarrhea is the first sign of bloat, enteritis, or coccidia which can be brought out from stress of weaning. Always watch for signs of loose stool. Sometimes bunnies stress when moms wean them and you can still lose them no matter what precautions are taken.
We free feed our rabbits. Litters have pellets, hay and fresh water around the clock. Adult rabbits are fine without hay if fed a good balanced pellet diet. However, it’s a good idea to feed fresh hay to juniors daily.
Once mom has weaned her babies, she goes back to life as normal. We rest our does after they wean a litter. Typically they do not get rebred for several months. However, there are times where we can and do rebreed as soon as the doe is back in condition and doing well. There is nothing wrong with breeding a doe after she weans her last litter as long as she is not skinny, underweight or showing any signs of stress. A healthy rabbit is a happy rabbit. We do NOT recommend breeding a rabbit while it is still nursing another litter. That is not fair to the rabbit and it needs all the nourishment to produce milk to raise its current healthy litter.
We send home a gallon bag of our feed with each rabbit that leaves here. This is to help with transitioning to a new feed. If someone requests additional feed or treats, we do sell extras in our Bun Shop.
We share our experience but always recommend that you consult with your veterinarian for all medical advice and care for your English Angora rabbits and bunnies. We only document how we treat our problems in our own Rabbitry and are NOT veterinarians.