Palpating Does To Determine Pregnancy
Palpate your does 11-14 days after breeding. Even if you don’t think that you feel anything, get into the habit of palpating so that you can eventually learn how. I’ve seen videos that teach you to reach your hand between the front paws. Place your thumb on one side of the abdomen and your fingers on the other. Gently knead your finger and thumb closer together until you can feel your own fingers through the doe’s body. Then gently feel around until you find little lumps that can pass through your fingers as you gently probe and search. They will be the size of a pea.
I place the doe on the table in front of me with her face toward me. I use both hands to feel her abdomen, first finding my own fingers through the doe’s body. When you locate a kit, you can feel a small lump pass between your fingers.
If the doe palpates negative, you can rebreed her at this point. Although there may be a small risk of a doe being pregnant and getting pregnant again with a later litter (there are two lobes to a doe’s uterus and she can get pregnant separately on each side), you may want to rebreed if you are unable to determine her status.
[Remainder of this page written by Ellyn of Rabbit Smarties, not Laurie Stroupe]
Check out this great video by my friend Lindsey on how to palpate! Also if you search YouTube, Purina Mills put up some good videos on the subject. ARBA District One published a PDF that you can find here. E-how also has an amusing article, but don’t bother looking for it. It tells you to turn the rabbit upside down. That will not work! Many people fail at palpating because they do not squeeze hard enough. It is very difficult to injure the kits at the 10-15 day stage when you should palpate.
Is change in behavior a sign that your rabbit is pregnant?
Well, yes and no. Some female rabbits that are usually kind and tame will show signs of aggression when pregnant, sometimes as early as the next day after breeding. I’ve had at least one doe that would growl and swat at me every time I touched her, from the day after I bred her till the day after she kindled. After that she would be fine. So with some does, behavior change is a pretty sure indicator that she’s bred. If you have a doe that grunts, bats you with her front paws, doesn’t want to be touched, nips, bites, or is defensive when otherwise she’s sweet, it’s a pretty good bet she’s pregnant. However, it’s unreliable on the whole, as some does will not show any change in behavior — not even eat more — when they are bred.
Sometimes does will show aggressive behavior when they are not bred, but they really want to be.
Should you do a trial mating to test whether your doe is bred?
In my opinion, taking the doe back to the buck to tell whether she is pregnant is not the best idea. For one reason, it’s unreliable. Some does will accept the buck even if they are pregnant. Some does will refuse the buck even if they are not.
Secondly, as mentioned above, a doe has two sections of her uterus and can get pregnant in both sides at different times. This could cause obvious problems if one litter is 1-2 weeks older than the other.