Rabbit Math

We know rabbits breed, well … like rabbits, but what does that actually mean in terms of numbers? How many breeder rabbits do you need to start with? How often will you need to breed them to get the number of rabbits you want?

rabbit trio
It’s all about the math. 🙂

How Many Rabbits Do I Need?

I’m going to show you a simple equation for getting (an average of) 56 rabbits in a year. This will give you a bit more than one rabbit meal a week and it all starts with a trio of rabbits. (It’s always good to start small, learn the ropes, and then decide where to go from there.)

rabbit trio
Start with one buck and two does.

Some simple factors to take into account.

  • When a doe becomes pregnant, she will give birth in 31 days (give or take).
  • You can safely wean kits at 4 weeks. They are drinking water and eating adult food (though they may continue to nurse longer if given the opportunity).
  • Does can get pregnant again the day they give birth (I’m not recommending this, BTW).

What this means is that you can breed quite a few rabbits from just your three breeder rabbits. The thing to consider here is the health of your does. You could quite literally have a litter each month from each of your does (and a dang lot of rabbits), but that would put a strain on their overall health.

I’m going to suggest that breeding a doe about the time the kits can be weaned is a good time. Getting pregnant again will help dry up any milk supply and the doe will have around a month without kits before giving birth again. That gives her time to rebuild her physical reserves to birth and nurse a new litter.

If you breed your doe at weaning time (when the kits are four weeks old), each doe could have a litter every two months. And again, is that a good idea? This is where to some degree preference steps in. Rabbits are breeding machines. For me, the bottom line is the health of your does. How do they handle kindling and nursing? Do they rebound well? Many does do just fine turning out a litter every couple of months. Others not.

My personal take is that doing this year-round is a bit much. And given that having babies in significant heat or cold can be rough, I give my rabbits a small break in the heat of the summer and in the cold of winter (I live in Washington state and we have a few weeks of really hot weather in the summer and a couple of months of serious cold in the winter). I do two litters in late spring / early summer and two more litters in late summer / early fall. (I’m going to call 7 a litter average for the purposes of our math equations, though I have had litters of 1-13.)

So the math would look something like this.

Two does each having 4 litters is 8 litters.  2 x 4 = 8
Eight litters with an average of 7 kits is 56 kits. 8 x 7 = 56
two does
eight litters
Wow! That’s a herd of rabbits! (also called a fluffle)

You can expect approximately 56 kits a year with moderate breeding from 1 buck and 2 does.

Now you will have litters of more and less than 7. You will occasionally lose a kit or even an entire litter. What I have suggested here is an average and a reasonable estimate.

Real Life

Here are some real-life numbers.

Last year (2020) I bred three does and had a total of 56 kits. It was actually kind of a bad year (other years I’ve done much better). I had several small litters, one doe didn’t take, and I lost much of a larger litter. (I didn’t breed Cedar a fourth time because I was concerned about the large litter with losses.)

Willow – 4+5+5+3 = 17
Cedar – 9+7+(13-9) = 20
Licorice – 3+0+9+7 = 19     17+20+19=56

Given that I was breeding three does, I expected more rabbits. I’m upping my rabbitry to four does this year. I would like a few more rabbits and four will easily give me that.

4 does having 4 litters is 16 litters.  4 x 4 = 16
16 litters with an average of 7 kits is 112 kits. 16 x 7 = 112

If I start having too many rabbits, I’ll just drop one or more of the planned breedings or sell a few more bunnies.

So How Many Rabbits Do You Need?

Consider why you are raising them. How many rabbits do you want for your dinner table? Do you want to sell a few rabbits to help pay for the cost of feed? Do you want to experiment with breeding a particular rabbit breed? After you do a little dreaming, take your final plan and work backward.

Let’s say, for example, you are a family of four and you want two rabbits a week for meals. You’d like to sell a couple dozen rabbits at the local animal swap to help pay for feed.

That’s 2 meals x 52 weeks = 104 for meals
24 to sell.
You have a rabbit goal of 128 rabbits.

Your 128 rabbit goal divided by 7 as your litter average = 18.3 litters

How many does will that take to comfortably have those 18 litters?

18 litters divided by 4 breeding times = 4.5 does

Five does with four litters would do it or four does with an extra litter or two. You are looking for approximately 18 litters.

Let's double check the math:
Your goal is 128 rabbits.

4 does having 4 litters is 16 litters. 4 x 4 = 16
16 litters with an average of 7 kits is 112 kits. 16 x 7 = 112

5 does having 4 litters is 20 litters. 5 x 4 = 20
20 litters with an average of 7 kits is 140 kits. 20 x 7 = 140

If you are just starting out, you may want to start smaller than your goal to get a feel for breeding, raising, and butchering rabbits. As you gain experience, add to your numbers until you have the rabbitry size that supports your goals. I’m a firm believer in baby steps because they are so doable and there is less overwhelm. If you make a learner’s mistake it’s usually a small mistake.

Double Up

I would also encourage you to breed your two does at the same time. Yes, it makes for a mess of kits all at once, but if there are any problems with the number of kits (too many) or mom doesn’t nurse well, you can take a few kits from one mom and “foster” them over to the other doe. It’s a backup system.

Buck Up

As an aside, as you build your rabbitry, you may also want to add an additional buck as a backup. While one buck is able to service many does, if something were to happen to your buck, you would be without a male breeder (which pretty much means no more babies). My DIL and I raise rabbits together and we each have a buck and usually another one or two. It gives a bit of diversity to our breeding pool and gives us backup safety if we should lose a buck.

We’re also starting to keep a couple of extra young does (we keep the best of our litters) as we go into winter. It is backup safety for keeping our doe numbers constant. It gives us a replacement doe if any of our does start to age out (kit numbers can decline as a doe ages) or if we lose one, and if we don’t end up using them we can sell them in the spring as ready-to-breed does.

Feed Them Well

When your does are busy making, birthing, and nursing kits, they need good nutrition. Your feed needs to have at least 18% protein and it’s a good idea to free feed them (always have feed and hay available) starting the last week of pregnancy through the 4 weeks of nursing. I do know that many people give their does a tablespoon or so of BOSS each day during this time because it adds a bit of fat to their diet. Most of my rabbits won’t touch it. (Sigh. Picky little boogers.)

Reasons to Breed Sooner

If your doe is bred and does not have a litter (by day 36 or more), she’s not pregnant and you can breed immediately. Occasionally a doe will build a nest and have no kits (a false pregnancy). It happens and is nothing to worry about.

If your doe has a litter and the kits do not survive, it is helpful to breed immediately. Becoming pregnant will help dry up any milk supply.

Reasons to Postpone Breeding

There are a few times when I would encourage you to postpone breeding. If your doe has a particularly large litter you may want to give her extra time to recoup and gain strength and energy for the next litter. And, of course, if your doe is sick (do quarantine her away from your other rabbits) or is battling pests (something like skin or ear mites), you don’t want to expose your buck and you want to give your doe time to heal.

Related Reading:
Ear Mites - (Or OMG what is that crud in his ear?!)

Rabbit Math Humor

You will hear rabbit owners talk about rabbit math. Yes, it’s about figuring out how many rabbits to breed, but it’s also about loving cute little bunnies. You go to buy one and you come home with three (or more). 🙂 I was going to just carry a trio, but now I’m looking to breed Giant Chinchilla rabbits. We’ve learned to cook with rabbit, so a couple more rabbit meals would be great. Selling a few more rabbits would help with the cost and then there’s that gorgeous tricolor bunny for sale … it’s just rabbit math.

Freebie Download:
Bunny Breeding Record - For keeping it all together.


Pinterest image for Rabbit Math article

Image credits
rabbit drawings © nekomachines / Pixabay
litter of kits © Lori / Dandelion Hill Homestead

Hi, I’m Lori and I’m delighted you stopped in for a visit. Pull up a chair and let me introduce you to NEWTON

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