Mating Siblings

by Zee

It may be a dumb question, but, can you mate siblings with each other?

*Moderator's Response:*
No, this is definitely not a dumb question, as the rabbit community has no consistent answer for it.

We think *Yes* ... maybe! Here's the genetics of our opinion, and see our Rabbit Genetics page for a refresher on the basics, if needed:

For every trait, the rabbit inherits two copies of a gene. These traits can be dominant or recessive. If the dominant gene copy is a healthy normal gene, but the recessive copy is flawed or damaged, you have no way of knowing about the presence of the flawed gene, because the normal dominant gene will completely override the flaw, and keep the animal healthy.

The more related the animal, the greater the chance that two flawed genes for a trait, already present recessively in both siblings, will match up and be unable to prevent an outwardly flawed or damaged offspring. A pairing of recessives is what causes albinism and various other recessive traits like color and size. No problem there. But it's very bad if that flaw is structural or metabolic, like buck teeth, a propensity to cancer or cataracts, or polycystic kidneys.

The inbreeding itself doesn't 'cause' these problems -- it is the pairing of already pre-existing genetic flaws that creates the problems, and inbreeding is the fastest way to reveal IF there are flaws hiding in the genetic code.

So... If you breed siblings together that are excellent genetically, you'll be pleased with the results. If you get 'freaks of nature,' well, now you know that you better not match that set of siblings again. :-)

--Breeding siblings results in offspring that carry 50% of the genetic material of each of the original parents.
--Breeding offspring with a parent results in a 75% - 25% split in genetic material of the original parents, and is a much closer pairing.

That was probably way more than you hoped to hear, but we at least hope it helps.

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Sep 06, 2017
by: Anonymous

I have a question. If I mate a father with a daughter, can I then mate a buck from that litter with a previous litter where the father that was bred also fathered the doe from the previous litter with a different doe? (i.e. the mother of the daughter that mated with the father.)

***** Karen Sez *****
So, if I followed your descriptions, you're interested in mating a buck which has 75% of his genes from his sire to a doe which has 50% of the same sire's genes AND 50% of the genes of her mate's mother's genes?

If so, I'd simply ask: Are these excellent quality purebred animals that conform well to their standards of perfection? And, how much additional line-breeding or in-breeding exists deeper in the pedigree? Because, it isn't the inbreeding that causes problems. Inbreeding reveals any flaws in the gene pool by exponentially increasing the chances of pairing flawed recessive genes, thereby exposing the existing flaws which were hiding behind normal dominant genes.

You're proposing breeding very tightly on two separate individuals: especially on the sire, but also on the dam of the sire.

Many very capable breeders may decide to conduct such "tight" breedings if they feel the two animals will complement each other. These same breeders will then observe the results of the breedings (any loss of size or vigor or poor health or deformities, etc.), and then enter the offspring in rabbit shows to get opinions from rabbit judges to help them direct their breeding program. There is nothing at all wrong with these choices when done wisely.

So, you'll have to find the ultimate answer to your question. Can you? Of course you can. Should you?? This will depend on the animals you are working with, which I cannot see and with whose pedigrees I am unfamiliar.

Hope this helps!

Aug 18, 2017
by: Chubby bunny

I have two siblings large breed rabbits which started mating at 4 months I'm scared the kits will be ill and not formed properly.

***** Karen Sez *****

Easy solution - separate the rabbits immediately. If what you thought was mating was just dominance humping, there may not be any bunnies. But keep them together, and bunnies will certainly follow.

Whether or not inbred bunnies are deformed depends on the underlying genetics. Better to separate the male and female, but if it is too late, time will tell if the babies are healthy or not.

Apr 21, 2017
Bloody hell!!!!!
by: Anxious bunny owner

So my 2 "female" siblings created a litter!!! I went to go feed them one morning and noticed blood and fur in their hutch on the bottom level! I initially thought they had been fighting so quickly grabbed one to check "her" over and then noticed movement in the corner where they toilet! I was scared at what I might find, thinking something had got into the cage and expecting a dying mouse or rat so grabbed the grooming brush and discovered 4 live kits and 1 dead! I separated dad straight away but obviously not soon enough!

All that litter died...I think from the low temperature so when she started to make another nest I bought an indoor hutch as I was scared of loosing them! Something more horrible happened and she gave birth to 5 stillborns on the cage floor and ate them!! I thought that was it, all gone but she was still protective over a hidden bed compartment so when cleaning her out I left it! 5 days later I heard noises and had a sneaky peak and there were 2 Netherlands dwarf babies!!

They have defied all I've googled, they were 7 months when they mated, they have been with me in the same cage from 8 weeks old! I've read that they don't move young but how has she had stillborn babies on the cage floor but live ones in the nest?! I'm proud of my little rabbit! The babies are now 14 days old and she will leave a tunnel open for them to come out of the nest when she wants them to or will block the door off with shavings to keep them safe inside! I love being a bunny granny!!

***** Karen Sez *****
Good job, Bunny Granny! No, I know of no instances where a doe moves a litter, but sometimes they DO end up with 2 separate nests. Then they will ignore one nest and care well for the other one. When this happens, it is probably smart to put all the kits in the nest that is being cared for. Except, of course, when the other kits don't make it.

Jan 07, 2017
Breeding Rabbits
by: Anonymous

I am wanting to start breeding rabbits. I am looking at rabbits that are around 10 weeks old. Do you recommend separating them in different cages from the very beginning until the doe is 6 months old? I don't want to put them together if the buck will try and mate with the doe before that 6 month mark? Naturally will they try and mate earlier than that?

***** Karen Sez *****
Yes, bucks and does will naturally mate with each other at the earliest possible moment. This is why caging them separately after 10-11 weeks is smart.

For the record, separate cages doesn't emotionally cripple a rabbit.

Nov 15, 2016
Consequences of rabbits mating too young?
by: Anonymous

I have recently gotten two mini satin bunnies. They are siblings and are both 7 weeks. I do not have the heart to separate them when they are 12 weeks. Will the doe be ok if she mates too early? Will she die because she is too young?

***** Karen Sez *****
Well, on the one hand, wild rabbits don't cage themselves in the wild when they reach a particular age. (But a community of wild rabbits does have checks and balances that prevent tight inbreeding, and the predators take care of the stupid rabbits.)

On the other hand, and I know you love them dearly and you want them to live happily ever after, why don't you have the heart to separate them? These are SIBLINGS. Willy nilly sibling breedings are not good for the offspring. I wonder if you are not familiar with rabbit reality? Have you been listening to the House Rabbit Society schpiel that rabbits can’t possibly live happy lives apart from one another? We all need a reality check on the HRS.

If you don't have the heart to separate them, why did you purchase them? Do you have the heart to neuter the male? (No, not you, the vet.)

Finally, to answer your question: Early mating is not typically fatal, but an immature mini-satin trying to birth a litter of dwarf-gene-influenced, large-headed kits might run into trouble if her birth canal is still undersized. If there are 6 in the litter, the kits will be more likely smaller and able to birth successfully. But if she has only one or two, the chance is greater that the kits could grow too large in the womb, and the first kit could get stuck.

Having said that, each rabbit, each litter, and each pregnancy is unique, and these words should not be taken as a dire prophesy. They do describe a possibility, but the chance of dangerous events actually happening in the case of your rabbits is unknown.

Mar 06, 2016
by: Megan

I have siblings that recently mated by accident since I let them free in the yard. They are 6 months old each and I was wondering if the kits will be fine and the other can safely kindle since the parents are siblings!!πŸ˜‚πŸ˜πŸ°πŸ°πŸ’–πŸ’–

***** Karen Sez *****
If you've seen other posts on this topic on this website, you will have seen that mating siblings is not by itself a problem. Sibling matings however can easily reveal IF there are underlying genetic problems with these rabbits by uncovering negative recessive traits.

Time will tell! Feel free to check back in and let us know how it goes, and thanks. :-)

After this litter, you'd be super-wise to figure out how NOT to keep breeding siblings to siblings. Once might be fine, but the following doubly-inbred generation may create a disaster. It just depends on the underlying genetics (and the wisdom of the rabbit owner).

Feb 20, 2016
Same age
by: Katie

I have two 6 month only rabbits and they mated earlier I was wondering if since the rabbits are the same age would it still be ok for the mother rabbit easily to kindle because in another article I read if the father is bigger than the mother the mother would have trouble kindling. Is this true for the same size rabbits as well?πŸ°πŸ’–πŸ™ƒ

***** Karen Sez *****

6 months old is very likely adult age for your rabbits (as long as yours aren't a giant breed). Adult rabbits of the same size breed and kindle successfully every day. :-)

Feb 18, 2016
Same age rabbits
by: Nikki

Hi, my bunnies are the same age, 4 months. I was wondering that they are allowed to be the same age when breeding or will that cause the mother trouble kindling? Thanks for your help. BTW: this article was very helpful. You did a nice job!!!πŸ˜ŠπŸ°πŸ’–

***** Karen Sez *****
4 months old is really young for intentional breeding. (And I'm assuming these are small breed rabbits?) How about waiting until they are at least 5 or 6 months old? This will be better because it gives the doe a chance to get some adult wits about her, reducing the chance she'll be an airhead during kindling and forget to mother the kits. Good luck and enjoy your rabbits!

Nov 25, 2012
Dwarf rabbits mating
by: Anonymous

We have 2 dwarf rabbits male and female 18 months old. They had been together in the same cage since they were approximately 2 months old. For the last six months the male rabbit was trying to mate her but she's not letting him. Any advice on what we can do?
Thank you.

Oct 23, 2011
by: Anonymous

If a sibling male and female were caged together would they mate or should we keep males and females separated?

****Karen Sez****
Siblings WILL mate. You have until they're roughly 12 weeks old max, and then you'd best find separate housing for females and males. Additionally, as males mature, they tend to start fighting as they would in the wild - the dominance thing. So males should get their own cages.

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