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Bonding 3 rabbits?!

Discussion in 'Rabbits' started by ChloeyM, Aug 13, 2019.


  1. ChloeyM

    ChloeyM PetForums Newbie

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    Hi. I'm just looking for some advice on bonding trios please

    We currently have a bonded mixed pair (both rescues, male mini lop x nethie and female conti x) but there's a litter of lionheads in our local shelter and we're looking into the possibility of adopting one in a couple of weeks.

    We have the means and space to keep them separated for a while (until neutered, longer if necessary) but long-term we'd like to bond all three together.

    1) any tips, tricks or methods that make this easier? with other bunnies we've always stuck to neutral ground, slowly over a few weeks, "cages" near each other first etc. but is there anything specific to trios that might help?

    and, maybe most importantly:

    2) would it be easier to bond a new male or female? does it matter if we have a mixed pair already and they'll all be neutered?
     
  2. bunnygeek

    bunnygeek PetForums VIP

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    There's is unfortunately absolutely no way of knowing if it will definitely work as it's entirely down to the individual personalities of each rabbit. It might work beautifully following normal bonding procedures, but it might also cause the established pair to divorce and both hate the new one, so you have three rabbits that now hate each other.

    It might be far less of a headache to have a separate pair, if you have the space for two separate pairs of course. Keeping them close together without being able to get to each other can cause diverted aggression between the established pair, fighting with each other because they can smell other rabbits.

    They are such complicated little furballs!
     
    simplysardonic likes this.
  3. Corneal

    Corneal Cornealia

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    I'm writting a book about rabbits, here's what i have about bonding: - Warning, its a lot -

    Bonding can take a long time and a lot of patience, so don’t be in a rush and take a moment to understand how stressful and scary this can be for your rabbits.

    Rabbits being bonded can be any gender or breed, but it is best to bond rabbits of a similar age as they are more likely to get on if they are both equally active and are going through the same stages of aging and growing old.


    If you are planning on adopting a rabbit and bonding it with your current rabbit, then I would highly recommend booking an appointment for an overall health check with your vet before beginning the bonding process. This will prevent your rabbits from spreading any illnesses they may have. Along with this, i would advice that you adopt a rabbit from a rescue that will allow you to return and swap out the rabbit for another one if the rabbits personalities do not meet and the bond is not succesful.


    These bonding sessions must happen every day at around the same time. Rabbits are creatures of habit and would less stressed if they had an idea of when and where the sessions were, as appose to being scooped up at any time of day and being put in a possibly stressful situation.


    1. First off, all rabbits taking part in the bonding must be spayed or neutered. And it must be at least 1 month since either operation. This gives the rabbits a chance to heal from their surgery. This also allows rabbits hormones and testosterone levels disapate.

    2. The rabbits then need to spend at least two weeks in enclosures that are side by side so that they can see and smell each other but not touch or bite.

    3. Once both rabbits have lived side by side, without any negative signs, such as aggression, thumping or lunging, then you may now set up the run where they are to meet.

    4. The meeting must be on neutral territory so that neither rabbit will become aggressive when they see another rabbit on ‘their turf’. The bonding location should be somewhere that neither of them have been before or somewhere that neither of them have been in the last few months. A rabbits’ long-term memory is rather poor so somewhere they haven’t been to in several months, now counts as neutral territory. If you have no neutral territory, then you can make one by thoroughly cleaning and scrubbing an area with water and vinegar to remove all rabbit smells. Or acquiring a rabbit run for the garden and moving it to a patch of grass that neither rabbit has been on recently.

    5. The neutral space should have no hiding places, toys, pellets or veg. If there are places to hide, then they may spend all their time together hiding away and become territorial about their hiding place. Which will distract them from the task at hand and encourage aggression.

    6. Make sure there is hay and water in the middle of the neutral space. This is not to encourage them to move around, it is simply because they must have access to it at all times. If this is placed at one end of the room the rabbit at that end may claim it and not allow the other rabbit anywhere near it.

    7. Place one rabbit at one side of the room and allow them a few moments to settle. Then bring in the other rabbit and place them at the other end of the room.

    8. Allow the rabbits to see each other and walk around. If the rabbits are timid and stay in their corners for a long period of time then sprinkle a few treats around the room to encourage them to move around (if the treats are really nice, they may get territorial, so some ordinary pellets will do)

    9. The bonding session should go on for no more than 1 hour and you must stay with them, in or near the neutral area for the entire time.

    10. If the rabbits chase each other, growl, lunge, hump, mount, or nibble at each other then leave them alone. This is good as it means they are working out their differences and hierarchy. However, don’t allow your rabbits to mount the head or face or hump excessively.

    11. If the rabbits bite or attack each other, then you should intervene. Do this by picking up one of the rabbits using a towel and stroke them on your lap to calm them down. Check them over for injuries and cuts, if you find a cut treat it using your first aid kit if you don’t have a first aid kit assembled yet, then simply sooth the wound with cotton wool and warm water. If the fight was brief and caused no wounds, then simply pull both bunnies apart and place them back on opposite ends of the neutral space. However, if one of the rabbits is injured allow a few days for the rabbit to heal before beginning the bonding process again. If neither rabbit is injured then simply place them on your lap, calm them down and then place them back on the floor to continue the process.

    12. While separating the two from a fight, they may turn their anger on you; so, I would suggest that you wear a long-sleeved top, bite resistant gardening gloves and socks/shoes to protect yourself from bites and scratches.

    13. If your rabbits seem to be getting along you can add a food bowl of pellets and/or veg and see if they are willing to eat together.

    14. As well as feeding them together you can try stroking them together. Place them side by side and stroke them both simultaneously. This should help them bond as they both experience comfort and positive reinforcement at the same time. However if they are not used to this kind of attention they may hop away.

    15. Once both rabbits have started to groom and cuddle with each other, time spent together can be increased and the daily feed can be added to the bonding session.

    16. When you increase the amount of time together, you can also start expanding the play area and adding toys, cardboard castles and tunnels. I would be wary with adding toys they have seen before as they may have a claim to it and become territorial, so I would suggest adding toys and equipment that they haven’t seen before or haven’t been thoroughly cleaned.

    17. If they are being cuddly and getting along one minute, and start mounting and humping again the next minute, don’t worry, this is fine, they are just working out the pecking order. However, if this carries on then I would suggest separating them and possibly continuing the bonding sessions at later date when you can be sure that all their reproductive-focused-hormones have dissipated.

    Some books suggest using water pistols to give them negative reinforcement, but I wouldn’t condone using spray bottles or water pistols as this is a bad habit to get into, needlessly upsets the rabbits and should be avoided at all times. It could also be seen as a game and fun by small children who then want to have water fights with their pets which could traumatise them as they get picked on by someone more than twice their size that they thought they could trust.

    18. After several successful plays the rabbits can be temporarily moved into the intended shared living space; this must happen while under constant supervision.

    19. If their first night together was successful and they remained friendly then you may now begin to leave them alone in their new home without supervision. Every few hours I would check up on them and keep an ear out to listen for squabbles or fighting. But if it is looking promising and the bond seems to have worked then you may leave them alone overnight and leave the house trusting that they will not fight and are bonded.

    20. If your rabbits are comfortable living with each other, but not comfortable making the final leap then you could try one or more of these circumstances.

    · Place both rabbits in a pet carrier and take them for a walk around the house.

    · Place the rabbits on the back seat of your car and go for a short drive while someone is supervising them.

    · Place them in an empty bath and allow them to slip around.


    These circumstances will cause your rabbits to be stressed. This joint stress will help the rabbits to bond over a shared experience as appose to argue, fight or ignore each other.

    Below are indicators and signs that your rabbits are ready for this stage:

    · They are grooming each other

    · They are comfortable eating, drinking and grooming themselves while around each other.

    · They can spend several hours without any fights or signs of aggression

    · They are lying down and relaxing next to each other

    · They are actively seeking out each other’s attention

    · They have reached a point where separating them will have a negativeeffect on them (this stage is entirely based on your opinion)


    21. The next step is leaving them alone over night for the first time.

    You can choose how alone you leave them. You can either leave them completely alone with full trust that they will behave, or you can sleep nearby just in case there is a fight or bullying in the night.

    If you look in on them the day after their sleep over and you find scraps of fur and fluff lying around, don’t worry this is fine, as long as they don’t have any cuts or injuries, and seem settled, then they will be fine. They are just continuing to work out the pecking order and getting to know each other.

    If months or years pass and the rabbits appear to have fallen out, then unfortunately you will need to start from the beginning and re do the bonding process all over again. You can tell if they have fallen out by witnessing them avoid each other, aggression or violence, and if you haven’t witnessed this you may find loose fur lying around or speckles of blood.

    However, if they seem at ease with each other and have appeared to make up then you can leave them together and begin monitoring them until they have clearly made up and gone back to their previously friendly selves.

    More often than not you are better off leaving the rabbits together and letting them sort out their spat themselves rather than interfering and possibly damaging the relationship.


    Just so you know:

    · Their forever home should include toys, tunnels, treats and other enriching furniture, this will help to keep them occupied and help prevent boredom which could lead to bullying.

    · If one of them is possessive over food, then provide them with separate food bowls or feed them at different times.

    · Maintain the same room layout, changes may cause the rabbits to become territorial over newly moved furniture. In addition, if toys, tunnels or other permanent items of furniture become destroyed, ruined or eaten, make sure you have a replacement available so the old can be switched out with the new simultaneously.

    · Take them everywhere together, if one goes to the vet, they both go, if one comes out for a cuddle, they both come out, if one comes out for a manicure or grooming, they both come out, etc. This is because you don’t want to disrupt the bond or bring one rabbit back to the shared space smelling of vet or something new. This could cause the rabbits to break up, be fearful or aggressive towards one another. The only reasons for separating them, is if one has a disease that the other could catch, if they have broken up or if they have caused serious harm to one another.

    · During their first few weeks of full time living together, avoid keeping them near other rabbits as this make your newly bonded rabbits feel threatened and their sense of security is in trouble.

    Remember:

    · Don’t rush them, let them take their time, professionals are able to do this within a couple of weeks, but they have decades of experience.

    · Don’t host more than one session each day. Leave 24 hours between each of the early bonding sessions.

    · Don’t separate them, once they are bonded keep them together at all times.

    If you wish to avoid the bonding process then you should adopt baby rabbits from a breeder, rescue or individual, this is because baby rabbits are born bonded to their brothers and sisters. Another option is to adopt a mother and baby as they will also being bonded. Rescues, like RSPCA often have rabbits that are already bonded, and you can adopt a pair that may not be related but are the best of friends. In addition, some RSPCA branches will help you bond your rabbit to one of theirs, they do this by taking your rabbit to their branch and holding onto them for a week or so and doing all the bonding for you.


    The speed of the bonding is entirely up to the rabbits, this could take days, weeks or months. However, if this drags on for an excessive amount of time you must make the decision of whether this is putting un due stress upon them and decide whether to continue.


    Bonding More Than Two

    Bonding two rabbits is hard enough, but bonding three or four together can be a nightmare. But it is possible.

    The bonding process for more than two is very similar to bonding two rabbits.

    Start off by finding and bonding two rabbits with very similar personalities. Very calm and friendly personalities is best. Follow steps 1-21 above then allow this pair of rabbits a month or two to strengthen their bond.

    Ensure that rabbit number three has a very similar personality to your other two rabbits. A forceful, bossy or boystrous atitiude will only slow down the bond and could tear apart the bond your two rabbits already have. As you introduce rabbit number three follow the
    Bonding Session No. 2

    Bumble, Barnaby and Fluff.

    instructions from 1-21. However, this bonding trio will require more attention and supervision and the near third rabbit can easily be bullied and vicous fights are more likely when the relationship of three rabbits are being tested.


    Luckily, when I attempted to bond three rabbits i just happen to have three that where perfectly suited to each other. I hadn’t planned on introducing a third rabbit to this group and only considered it after rabbit number three failed to bond with another of my rabbits. From day one, all three rabbits adored each other and there has never been any sign of aggression, humping, chasing or dominance
     
    Ellie Lovatt likes this.
  4. ChloeyM

    ChloeyM PetForums Newbie

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    I'm not sure how but the idea of having 2 pairs didn't even occur to me :Shamefullyembarrased I'll definitely look into that instead!
     
  5. ChloeyM

    ChloeyM PetForums Newbie

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    Thank you so much for all your helpful advice :) Most of it is in line with what I thought but there's some very useful tips that I've picked up. Good luck with your book, sounds great so far!
     
    Corneal likes this.
  6. simplysardonic

    simplysardonic Moderator
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    We have just successfully bonded a trio- a pair (neutered buck & spayed doe- although the woman rehoming thought they were both does) with our resident lone neutered buck.

    We used our hallway as neutral space & bonded there, starting with a mesh divider between them, then allowing them to swap living spaces, by the end of the week they were in together.

    There was a bit of chasing & humping but no serious fights.

    By the end of the week they were settling together, I am aware that this was a very easy bond & that there is a lot of potential for it not to go as smoothly so please bare that in mind when making your decision.

    Once they'd been together a week we did a full clean of their enclosure, fixtures, fittings, enrichment etc & put them in together, where they have now been for just over a week.

    In a nutshell, it's dependent on multiple factors as to whether a 3 way bond is successful.
     
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