Simple Tricks To Overcome Winter Breeding Problems

Simple Tricks To Overcome Winter Breeding Problems

Winter breeding problems. It comes with the territory, but there are ways to get around it. Do you struggle with getting your does bred in the colder months? Then read on!

What Influences Breeding?


It’s been found that giving rabbits 12-14 hours of light will help a lot in winter. Long ‘daylight’ hours stimulate the pineal gland that helps rabbits to think that it’s spring and time to mate. Another way to look at is that a doe’s internal clock is regulated by daylight length, and 12-14 hours of light is optimal for breeding.

But, sometimes there is nothing like natural light. Some does simply will not breed until February or March when the daylight hour change is really noticeable.


Cold can be a killer for kits. Some does seem to know this and either a) refuse to breed or b) breed and make amazing nests. Below freezing temps can cause problems for does with litters as does cannot drink enough water to maintain milk production. This can lead to freezing kits, starvation for smaller kits and low weight gains.

Small litters have trouble staying warm compared to large litters. Dwarf breeds tend to have small litters – 2-4 kits – which makes them susceptible to litters dying from cold. Meat breed litters of 8 or more tend to not have this problem.

Heat, 30*C and up, can cause temporary male sterility, cause does to abort and heat strokes for all ages. Some does can become temporarily sterile from heat as well.

Genetics / Breed

Genetics, as well as breed, play a huge factor in winter breeding problems as well.

Some breeds simply do not like breeding in the winter or are just hard to get bred.

Holland Lops are often touted as a hard-to-get-bred breed. Meat breeds tend to be easier to breed – they are selected for it. Holland Lops are not selected for large, prolific litters.

Within each breed, there are lines or rabbits that are hard to get bred to. Some does are simply hard to breed, while others try to get anyone and anything to breed them! It’s an inheritable trait and can be worthwhile to select for.


Pellets. What brand do you use? Nutrients play a huge role in rabbit health. Maybe try a different brand.

Some breeders swear by BOSS (black oil sunflower seeds) and say it helps change a doe’s mind about breeding. Others use a small amount of wheat germ oil on feed and a few oats.

Tips to Try

  1. Check your gals vulvas before you attempt to breed. The more reddish or purplish she is, the more hormonally ready she will be to breed. If she’s white or light pink, she most likely will not be receptive. Click here for pictures and descriptions.
  2. Switch cages with the buck – let the doe stay overnight in the buck’s cage while he’s in her’s. The smell and the change of location can make her more receptive.
  3. Don’t breed your buck too often as it can affect their performance and sperm count.
  4. Don’t let a doe sit too long without breeding her.
  5. Fat bucks and does are hard to breed. Plus fat bucks don’t have the energy to chase down does.
  6. Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) can help put your rabbits in the mood. Red Raspberry leaf is good for does as well.
  7. Remember: some does simply refuse to breed in the winter. Not everything works for everyone. Find what works for you and have fun!

What I do

I do not supplement light or heat in the winter. My Hollands grow lovely winter coats and handle cold well. Rabbits can handle cold as long as they are dry, well-fed and out of the way of drafts.

Simple Tricks To Overcome Winter Breeding Problems

I do select for productivity. Does who refuse to get bred or constantly lose their litters are sent to pet homes.

For food, I use Masterfeeds 16% protein, rolled oats & barley and plenty of grassy hay.

My gals are given a break, generally from October through December. I begin breeding again in January and February.

I don’t have all the reasons as to why, but I rarely have trouble getting does bred. A huge part of that, I believe, is genetics.

Winter breeding can be hard, and there are a lot of pieces to the puzzle. Work through them, try one thing at a time and find what works for you! I hope this gives you some hope and inspiration to keep going. Comment below and let me know if it does!

And don’t forget to share it with a friend who would love it read it.

Till next time!


Simple Tricks To Overcome Winter Breeding Problems

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