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Top Tips for Bonding Rabbits
Wednesday February 8th 2017
Introducing bunnies for the first time takes preparation and commitment and should be done with care. Here are some handy tips for bonding your rabbits….
Make sure both are neutered
The term “multiplying like rabbits” is an indication that rabbits are renowned for their reproductivity. If an unneutered male (buck) is housed with an unneutered female (doe) then you will end up with a litter of babies to look after.
Rabbits usually have litters of between 4 and 14 babies (kits) and only carry their pregnancy for 28 to 31 days. They can also get pregnant immediately after giving birth. This means your doe could give birth to over 200 kits in just one year.
Neutering your rabbits is the best way to do this and you should leave enough time to recover from the procedure.
The RSPCA advises that female rabbits should not be bonded straight after being neutered, while male rabbits can take up to six weeks to become sterile after the operation.
Take it slowly
Gradually introducing your bunnies means they are less likely to feel anxious, and more chance to get used to the idea. It’s also a good idea that they have a safe space to retreat to if they feel threatened,
House your rabbits in side-by-side enclosures with a barrier in between. This gives they a chance to see and sniff each other, and a place to go and hide if it all becomes too much.
It’s normal for there to be a period of unrest as the hopping soon-to-be friends become used to the other being around. This could last about a week but will usually die down as familiarity with one another grows.
• Once your bunnies start to get comfortable with each other, try introducing the other’s toys and nesting materials. You could wrap each in a blanket and then add the blanket to the other’s bed.
• Adding this unfamiliar scent will add another layer of familiarity and your bouncing bunny is less likely to react aggressively when they eventually come nose to nose.
Create neutral ground
Rabbits can be very territorial. Challenging this is likely to prompt aggression in your doe or buck.
If the space is familiar to just one of the bunnies, then it’s likely it will feel dominant and the other will sense this and could challenge it aggressively.
Every animal needs a home to call its own and so creating a new environment – one that neither rabbit is familiar with – will provide a blank canvas for introducing your rabbits.
The area should remain free from toys or obstacles until both rabbits are used to each other.
Start with short periods of time
Start by introducing the rabbits for short periods of time in the new environment. You can get an idea of whether they’re getting on and increase the duration or frequency as they become happier and more relaxed in each other’s company.
Sit down with them and keep an eye on their behaviour while in each other’s company to make sure aggression doesn’t escalate.
Look out for:
Mounting each other (particularly mounting the head)
• Unusual noises, such as grunting
If you notice any of these signs – or any other signs of aggression – you should separate the rabbits immediately.
When is the right time?
• Once you get to the point that you can leave both bunnies together and they behave positively for two hours daily, they are probably becoming bonded and are now ready to start sharing the same space.
Tell-tale signs that your rabbits are content are…
• Binkying - jumping excitedly
• Chinning – rubbing its chin on the other rabbit
If your rabbits are not getting along despite every effort to encourage them to be friendly, you should contact your vet and get some expert advice.