There are several factors that go into determining if they are old enough to breed. The first is based on their breed and development. Generally, smaller breeds up to 8 pounds can be bred at 5 to 6 months old. These would include but not limited to Dutch, Netherland Dwarfs, Dwarf Hotots, etc. Examples of medium size breeds would be New Zealands, Californians, etc and can be bred around 6.5 to 7 months old. Your large breeds like Flemish Giants, Giant Chinchillas, etc should be bred around 8 to 9 months old. Please remember this is a general rule and you must learn your bred; example – English Lops don’t need to be bred until 10 lbs and 10 months old.
Growth is more important than age, you can stunt a doe’s growth if bred to early.
You always want to take the doe to the buck’s cage unless table breeding. Does can get cage aggressive and injury your buck.
If doe refuses to bred then try again the next day. There are also some great tips here. Once you see the buck fall off ( I will work on video to help explain this), this means a successful mating. The buck will mount the doe and if he ejaculates into her then he will fall to the side. All matings will vary – some will scream, some will grunt, and some just get stiff looking.
You will hear all kinds of methods, tips, and tricks. Keep great records so that you know what works best for you. Some say to only allow the buck to breed same doe twice. Some will tell you to breed buck to a couple does at a time. I will say that every time the buck breeds then it decreases size of litters.
Also remember that bucks do go sterile in excessive heat especially in the summer , this is nature’s birth control. If you want babies during the heat then make sure you have a cool barn.
Once you have your doe bred, then on day 18 try test breeding or palpate her. If she refuses buck, starts whining and attempts to escape then that is a good indication that she is bred. Palpating is an art that takes lots of practice and basically means that you are feeling for babies. They will feel like small marbles.
You need to put in a nest box on about day 25 after the doe has been bred. Kits are normally born between 28 to 32 days. Some does will go longer than others. This is another reason to keep great records.
Nest boxes are generally made of wood or metal but breeders have been known to use other items including cardboard boxes. You want to make sure you provide some sort of filler. I personally use hay, some use wool, shavings, shredded newspaper, etc – don’t use cedar shavings (it is too strong for them).
Once the kits are born then check the nest and remove all the dead ones. The general rule is don’t expect the doe’s first litter to make it. I am NOT saying that first time litter won’t live, I am just saying that don’t be devastated if it happens. She is a first timer. Check the nest daily and pull out any dead ones that may be in there. You don’t want them making a mess of the box.
Handling the kits from birth will not cause doe to abandoned them. You probably won’t see her nurse the babies. Babies nurse about twice a day. As long as the baby is plump, clean, and sleek then it is being fed.
To make sure that the doe is producing adequate milk you can help by giving full feed, oats, and calf manna.