In a nutshell, yes. While the risks that come with any rabbit surgery are very real, the numerous benefits of spaying and neutering bunnies are even more immense and worth considering before making any decisions.
Benefits of Spaying/Neutering Rabbits
*Hormonally-induced behaviors subside or disappear.
Some of the nasty behaviors that develop when the bunny matures and the hormones surge include spraying, excessive digging and pawing EVERYTHING, grumpiness (usually in does), mounting your feet or anything that even remotely resembles another bunny or looks like fun to mount, and an overall reduced desire to be a cute, snuggly bunny.
*Enhanced litter training.
While unaltered rabbits can be litter trained, the best you can usually hope for is most of the urine and some of the poop to be in the litter box. Bunnies can't lick their cage and call dibs, so they scatter their urine and poo balls about as if to say, "Mine!" Most of my customers say that this dramatically improves upon spaying/neutering, though it may take a couple months for the hormones to subside.
*Calms your bunny down.
Remember how playful, care-free, and snuggly your bunny was as a baby? It's difficult for that personality to resurface with raging teenage hormones present. Spaying/neutering helps most bunnies to become more mellow and less occupied with finding themselves a hot chick or stud muffin.
*Reduces risks of certain reproductive cancers.
Though conflicting evidence can be found, general consensus (and most veterinarians will tell you) is that spaying in particular helps to reduce the likelihood of reproductive cancer in rabbits.
*Easier bonding with another bunny.
If you belong to the camp that believes a single bunny cannot be happy, then you'll definitely want to spay/neuter the bunnies that you wish to bond. Otherwise, two males will viciously fight, females will often fight unless sisters from the same litter, and male/female pairs will give you more bunnies. I always recommend spaying/neutering one bunny, letting the hormones subside for a couple months, and THEN seeking a second bunny. If the second bunny is a baby, immediate bonding may be possible, but spaying/neutering will usually be necessary once the baby is 5/6 months of age and hormonal. An older bunny can be immediately spayed/neutered and then bonding attempted slowly once the hormones dwindle. It's always a good idea to have two separate enclosures in case bonding never is successful, but the issue of hormones is usually the Achille's heel.
*Prevents unplanned and unwanted pregnancies.
If I had a dollar for every email I received from a panicked bunny owner about accidentally letting an unaltered male and female bunny play "for just a minute" and then having baby bunnies to care for (and find homes for!), I could probably buy a vacation home in Tahiti and be typing this while lounging on a white sand beach and being served sparkling beverages by my personal cabana bunny.
You know the saying, "wham, bam, thank you ma'am"? It truly happens that fast in the bunny world (like 10 seconds or less), and with certain rabbit breeds, they indeed breed like rabbits with babies o'plenty. Let me debunk a common myth about rabbits: they don't have ovulation cycles and can become pregnant at almost any time, even if they are caring for young babies. Another myth is that it is safe to keep the buck (father) with the doe (mother) and babies. Not only will he impregnate her again, but he will likely kill the babies.
It's simple. If you have a male and female bunny, either get one or both spayed/neutered or keep them completely separated in SECURE enclosures, and don't let them play in the same areas, ever. EVER! The only exception is if you purchase two babies at once and are told that they are the same gender. Disclosure: even experienced breeders can get the gender incorrect on an 8-week-old bunny. Bucks with split penises look like little does until they are 3-4 months, which is why I always recommend getting one bunny at a time and only adding a second bunny after the first is spayed or neutered.
"How fast do bunnies really breed?" you are wondering. Let Molly and Sunny Jim (orange buck) show you. Molly played hard to get for a bit and then quickly submitted to Sunny Jim, and he successfully mounted and rolled off of her in under ten seconds. That's all it takes, folks, and then you could have up to 6-8 babies to find homes for in three months when they're ready to be weaned. (Rabbit gestation is about 30 days.)
Risks of Spaying or Neutering a Rabbit
*Anesthesia & Complications
From what veterinarians have told me, it's not the actual spaying or neutering of a rabbit that is the most dangerous aspect of the surgery but the actual anesthesia and administering it to a fragile creature such as a rabbit. Remember that rabbits are prey animals whose systems are easily stressed and thrown off-balance.
It is therefore vital to seek a veterinarian who is experienced at bunny spays and neuters (such as an exotic veterinarian), not a general vet who has few procedures on rabbits under his/her belt. Make sure that your vet does pre-surgery testing to help determine the health of the rabbit and administers pain medication post-surgery for recovery.
*Cessation of Eating Post-Surgery
If you've researching about rabbit health, you probably have come across the term GI Stasis. This basically means that the gastrointestinal system has slowed down or stopped due to a variety of factors, including stress, dehydration, illness, blockage, poor fermentation in the gut, and PAIN. That's right, just like in the wild, a rabbit in pain won't whimper like a dog but will instead hunker down in a meatloaf position, grinding his/her teeth in pain and suffering all the while. He/she will stop eating, drinking, peeing, and pooping.
This is why pain medicine is essential after surgery, especially with spaying since it's more invasive than neutering. You may also have to syringe-feed your bunny to ensure proper hydration and intake of powdered food such as Critical Care or Sherwood's SARx Recovery food. A quiet, stress-free place to recover is also important, and you may wish to make sure someone is with the bunny during the day for at least the first couple days after the procedure.
Final Thoughts on Rabbit Spaying & Neutering
While surgery has its risks, if you desire your bunny to be housed indoors and have some degree of cohesion with your family, then spaying and/or neutering is extremely beneficial in the long run. Finding an experienced veterinarian with good references is key, though such a high level of care could set you back upwards of $400+. However, compare this to the cost of a new iPhone ($800+) that you only keep a few years. Bunnies can live 8-10 years, will provide an abundance of joy and pleasure to your pet-loving family, and they can't accidentally butt-dial your ex-boyfriend or scam you with a bogus free Disney vacation offer.
**Updated April 2018
Though it may sound simple, determining the exact color of a Holland Lop is actually a bit tricky at times, and this is something that I am slowly learning myself and wanted to share in order to help others. Some colors look similar to an untrained eye, and then there's the added confusion of things like smut, rufus modifiers, and other colors in the bunny's pedigree that can further alter the hue just enough to make it difficult to ascertain. If you're getting into breeding Holland Lops, I highly recommend the book About Bunny Colors by Ellyn Eddy.
If you simply want to see pictures of the different colors, scroll to the bottom or check out our BUNNY COLOR CHART page for gorgeous Holland lop photos taken by yours truly. :)
According to the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) and their 2016-2020 Standard of Perfection (SOP), Holland Lops are divided into the following 8 color groups:
Agouti, Wide Band, Self, Shaded. Tan Pattern, Ticked, Pointed White, Broken
Within each group is a collection of similar genotypes (genetic code), but the phenotypes (observable features, such as color) can appear to vary widely. In an effort to make it a bit easier to understand, know that every bunny color is either BLACK (B), BLUE (B_ dd), CHOCOLATE (bb), or LILAC based (bb dd). Blue is the diluted form of black, and lilac is the diluted form of chocolate. Diluted colors as well as chocolate are more difficult to achieve than black varieties since these are recessive traits (a recessive gene has to come from each parent in order to be visible, so the mom and the dad would have to give the baby a dilute "d" gene to make it "dd" and/or a chocolate "b" gene to make it "bb" and appear chocolate). Take a look at the following table listing SOME of the colors within each of the 8 Holland Lop groups and whether they are black/blue/chocolate/lilac based.
*Fawn is simply an orange with a reduced amount of rufus modifiers to make it appear a more pale orange. This color was deleted from ARBA's Standard of Perfection in the 2016 amendment.
Are you totally confused yet? Because of the four color bases, there are SO many different actual rabbit colors, though which colors are officially recognized by ARBA varies by breed.
Let's look at some photo examples of some of these colors.
Remember the 8 different Holland Lop color groups:
Agouti, Wide Band, Self, Shaded
Tan Pattern, Ticked, Pointed White, Broken
Here at Hook's Hollands - Ohio Holland Lops, we work mostly with the Wide Band group colors of orange, cream, and frosty as well as chinchilla (agouti group). Wide Band colors are technically Agouti (A) with the non-extension gene (ee) that doesn't allow the black or dark colors to show. We also work with a bit of self and shaded colors as well as broken patterns of each group.
Below are some photos of our Holland Lops (or from fellow breeders with permission) within the color groups we work.
The Agouti group includes chestnut, opal, chocolate chestnut, lynx, chinchilla, squirrel, chocolate chinchilla, and lilac chinchilla. These bunnies may resemble "wild rabbits" due to the bands of color and dark ticking on their fur. The fur has rings of color when blown into. They have white around their eyes, nose, mouth, bellies, inside ears, and under tail. *Broken variations are included but are actually their own group.
This group is my absolute favorite but is a bit confusing because these bunnies have the Agouti markings (white around eyes/nose/mouth/inside ears/bellies) but don't have the dark ticking at the tips of their fur. This is due to the non-extension (ee) gene not allowing the black to extend such as in chestnuts and chinchillas. Instead, they have a wide band of color, usually orange or cream. Basically, these colors are Agoutis without the black color extension (non-extension Agoutis).
To further complicate things, oranges in particular can have "smut" or dark ticking, which are faults if showing these rabbits. Finally, oranges, fawns, and reds are genetically nearly identical (fawn was actually deleted from the ARBA SOP in an early 2016 amendment); it is the amount of rufus modifiers that make the orange color appear saturated or muted. A true red bunny will have a darker tummy and actually has the wide band gene instead of merely non-extension of black. Cream is the diluted form of red/orange/fawn, and a frosty is basically an orange with the chinchilla gene.
Includes red, orange, cream, and frosty.
*Broken variations are included but are actually their own group.
Self-colored rabbits have one solid color on their bodies. Includes black, blue, chocolate, lilac, ruby-eyed white (REW), blue-eyed white (BEW). Whites are actually tricky to work with for several reasons. REWs are albinos, but they are masking their true color identity with the "cc" recessive gene. Breed a REW to a bunny that doesn't carry the "c" gene to find out its true color group. BEWs get their white coat and gorgeous blue eyes due to the recessive Vienna "vv" gene. If you want to breed BEWs, make sure to do your research, as they can ruin a line if careful records are not kept.
Includes black tort, blue tort, chocolate tort, lilac tort, siamese sable, seal, smoke pearl, sable point. Shaded bunnies have darker coloring on their head, ears, feet, and tail.
*Broken variations are included but are actually their own group.
The Broken group can include any of the colors in conjunction with white. Tri-colors are also listed in this category. As you can see, the amount of visible color can vary widely, and in order to be shown, the bunny must have at least 10% but not more than 70% of its body showing color, including around the eyes, both ears, and on the nose. Bunnies having less than 10% color are known as "Charlies" and those with more than 70% are "booted."
Tan pattern showable colors include black otter, blue otter, chocolate otter, and lilac otter. Other very interesting variations of the tan gene exist but are not showable in Holland Lops.
photo credit: Hickory Ridge Hollands
Ticked, Pointed White
Need sample photos! Please email if you have any photos you are willing to provide!
Please understand that this Holland Lop color guide is a result of my months of research and personal experience breeding Hollands. It is a learning process, so this guide is a fluid project - please check back for updates and feel free to consult other sources for more in-depth genetic information about rabbit colors. Again, I highly recommend the book About Bunny Colors, which can be purchased online from Animal Smarties, and if you're going to breed or show rabbits, the ARBA Standard of Perfection booklet is a necessity to help guide you.
What? Back that pony up...I thought you just put the boy bunny with the girl bunny and the magic bunny fairy plops a cute litter of bunny kits into the nest box 30 days later! That isn't so?
When I first started breeding Hollands, that's what I thought too. Those other breeders are just trying to scare me; how difficult can it be? Plenty!! Let's take a look at some of the most common scenarios when breeding Holland Lop rabbits.
Scenario 1: First-time Mom
There are SO many things that can go wrong with a doe who has never kindled before. If the breeding takes, she could deliver her litter flawlessly 30 days later, or they can be born dead, or even worse - be stuck and require assistance just to save the doe or be retained and render the doe sterile. If she has live kits, she can accidentally over-clean them and nip an ear or appendage, her milk might not come in soon enough to keep the kits alive, or she might have too many to care for...and the list goes on.
I was fortunate to have my first first-time doe be a "normal" (non-dwarf) Holland Lop who is definitely a brood doe. Cocoa is such a laid back girl and was my son's 4H rabbit. She delivered a whopping SIX live kits, and since she isn't a dwarf, there were no fatal peanut kits. The only issue was that her milk didn't come in sufficiently, but thankfully I had bred veteran Clementine at the same time and could feed Cocoa's babies on Clementine for the first few days. That was time-consuming!!
My second first-time doe (Saynora's Giuliana) kindled two normals and a peanut, all live, but this is more the exception than the rule. With only two kits to feed, she is doing well so far (she is on day 3 as I type this). I suspect that her awesome Saynora genetics and a nice wide bootie helped to achieve success!
Scenario 2: Veteran Mom with a Good Track Record
So you bought a proven doe and babies should just pop out of this girl like Pez candy and earn her the Mother of the Year title. Well, maybe.
There are a lot of factors that can affect whether her breeding will take and be delivered successfully. If she's too hot, too cold, too stressed, too old, has underlying health issues, has a big butt ruffle, or she's just not "feelin' it" with that particular buck, the situation becomes complicated. The babies could also grow too large to be delivered live, or the doe might not be able to deliver them at all, and this can be deadly for her.
The first veteran doe that I bred was Campo's Clementine, who had previously been residing with my breeder friend Wendy at Hickory Ridge Hollands. She was a great mom for Wendy, and she did the same after I bred her with Campo's Sunny Jim. I caught her just as she flawlessly delivered 5 live Holland Lop kits into her nesting box. Although a bit moody with me, she was a great mom and produced some cute babies!
Scenario 3: Veteran Mom on Strike!
Your gorgeous new proven doe is finally settled in, and it's time to breed her. You light the candles, put on a little hip-HOP music, and the buck seems to enjoy all five seconds of the act and squeals in appreciation. Ten days later, you're not sure if the doe feels pregnant, so you wait. After a month, your doe begins to nest and pull fur or may do nothing at all, and no babies come. She has missed. Yep, she probably ovulated if she nested at the correct time, but the mouse didn't take the bait so to speak, and no babies result. Now you feel like complete crap for both the doe and your ego as a breeder. Even worse, miss after miss keeps happening like a broken record....for months.
This is what happened to me with my beautiful broken lynx doe, Campo's Envy. When I bought her in July, she was flown from Washington to Ohio and had just come off a litter and was also bred prior to leaving her old boyfriends. She miscarried as a result of the tumultuous move (I found a bit of blood near her shortly after she arrived, so I am guessing she miscarried at that point).
For the next several months, I continued to try to breed her, using the table-breeding method so I could hold up her gigantic "tutu" (ruffle/skirt around her plump rump). One month, she pulled lots of fur on day 29, so when kits didn't ensue in the next couple days, I took her to the vet to check for retained kits...there were none.
I was beginning to worry that too much time had passed since her last litter (if you don't breed a doe for more than six months, it can be very difficult or impossible). The breeder I bought her from suggested I try a different buck and let them live together in a pen for a couple days. Long story short, this worked. Sort of.
It was so exciting to feel Envy's plump tummy and wiggles on day 30...but it wasn't so fun on day 31 and 32. Finally, on the afternoon of day 32, I found a stillborn kit on the floor of Envy's cage. It looked normal size, and I knew she had to have more inside her still.
Envy is so special to me that I wanted to try anything I could to help strengthen her contractions and get any remaining kits out. I gave her a couple Tums and fresh kale for the calcium, brewed her raspberry leaf tea, picked her fresh parsley from the garden, and moved her to a heated exercise pen on the floor so she could move around if needed. The next morning, I gritted my teeth in anticipation when I opened the door to the garage, fully preparing myself for the worst. Thankfully, she passed a second kit on her own, and a few hours later came the placenta. As I write this, I am hoping everything is out. I don't feel anything else remaining (fingers crossed that I am right)! Who knows whether I will ever get a live litter out of her, but I'm going to keep trying.
I'm sure there will be many other frustrating situations that I will encounter, but these are just a few of the reasons why breeding Holland Lops in particular can be tricky. So, the next time you find your jaw dropping at a $100+ price tag for a Holland Lop bunny or need to explain to your significant other why a Holland Lop costs so much more than that cute pudgy white bunny on Craigslist, keep this page bookmarked. There's more to it than a quick visit from the fertile bunny fairy! ...but these adorable floppy-eared fuzzy balls of cuteness are worth the time, effort, and cost in my opinion. :)
Hook's Hollands is a small hobby rabbitry on our Ohio farm and is operated by me (Diane) with the help of my family. We have a small herd of Holland Lop rabbits and focus on raising colorful bunnies with the best type and temperament possible.
This blog serves to spotlight various bunny care topics and share a bit about my experiences raising bunnies.