How I choose replacement breeding stock

how I choose replacement breeding stock

Choosing the next generation of rabbits to breed can be challenging.

At what age do you pick out the best of the litter? What should you look for? How long should I hold a rabbit back? How many should I keep? Do I keep one from every litter?

So many questions swirl around this topic!

Today I’m sharing my tips on how I chose replacement breeding stock… and to go about this tricky job 🙂

How I choose replacement breeding stock

The most important thing when choosing replacement breeding stock is to know how your lines develop. This takes time, and for the first bit you’ll end up holding back rabbits for a couple of months to figure this out.

At the time of this writing, I’ve been breeding Holland Lops for 12 years, and tris/harlequins for 7 years. I know how my lines develop. And don’t worry! You’ll quickly learn yours as well.

how I chose replacement breeding stock

I watch babies closely once their eyes open and they start hopping around. At 4 weeks of age, I want to see wide heads, wide crowns, and a nice overall balance to their body. For my lines, I find that what they look like at 4 weeks is a pretty good indicator of what they’ll look like at 4-5 months old.

I’m also looking for natural posers, short, wide back feet, and outgoing personalities at this age. To the right (or below if you’re on a phone) is an example. This is Morning Hope at 4-5 weeks old.

At this age, I start to pick out some favourites.


how I choose replacement breeding stock

The next phase is weeks 6-8. This is often where Holland Lops go from adorable balls of fluff to awkward teens heading into the ugly months.

At this age, I want to see crowns staying in place. I find that if a crown looks good at 4-5 weeks, but isn’t actually a good crown, here is where that will show.

To the left (or below 🙂 ) is American Rhythm at 7-ish weeks. He’s still looking pretty good, and that’s what I want to see.


Next is Brie, a harlequin doe. Want to see how much a rabbit can change? Take a look!

In the first picture, she’s around 6 weeks old. In the second, she’s 2 1/2 months old. Take a look at her crown. It slipped. But I still really like her body.

The Uglies

This is basically 2 1/2 – 4/5 months of age. In all honesty, do not select rabbits to sell in the age bracket. Stick them in lower cages and don’t look at them.

Holland Lops are notorious for getting incredibly ugly. But can (and will) mature into gorgeous 6-month-olds. And honestly, I don’t have too many pictures of my rabbits in this age bracket…Brie in the above pictures is the closest I have.

I will show you, though, that some Hollands handle it with amazing grace. Check out Tiddlywinks at 2 1/2 months and again at 5-6 months.

I love this girl 🙂

how I choose replacement breeding stock
how I choose holland lops

Afterwards

If at 5-6 months, I still don’t like a rabbit or feel like they aren’t a good fit, I will then sell them. But, this doesn’t mean they’re a cull. I do sell older rabbits that, – if I had more space! – I would keep. At this age, it often comes down to very little things that I have to choose between. Keeping a small rabbitry means I have to be very picky about who stays and who goes.

And it’s HARD. Really hard!

Ages 6+ months: how long I keep a rabbit depends on many factors. How they fit into the breeding program, personality, what quality of kits they throw, how many daughters or sons I retain, etc.

Notes

I don’t always keep a baby from each litter. I’ve also kept whole litters. It totally depends on their quality, bloodlines, and personalities. I try to retain juniors for at least 4 months. When trying to choose between littermates, I go with my gut feeling. No one else can tell you what baby to keep, especially online, because no one knows your rabbits or goals as well as you do. Hands-on is the best way to choose. That doesn’t mean asking for opinions is wrong though. Especially when starting out, it’s a great way to see your herd’s overall faults and strengths.

What do you look for? How do you find your lines develop?

Comment below! I’d love to know 🙂

Till next time – Megan


How I choose replacement breeding stock

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