Welcome ASG!! You've gotten some good advice. The fact you are asking all these questions means you care and want your bunnies to be happy. So I also echo other posters who encourage having bunnies inside. Check out the our "cool habitats" section to see how people have their bunny's inside. Is there any particular reason you wouldn't want to bring them inside. Do you think they would be messy or destructive, smelly??? Let us know, because those of us who have them inside can help you with your concerns.
Are your bunnies spayed/neutered?
EXERCISE: The first thing I want to say is to find a way to make sure they can't escape by getting a pen or two (to make it bigger) and putting them in there for exercise time - like an xpen and use that for exercise right now. Giving too much freedom to fast may ruin their litterbox habits - if they are good at that, and if they aren't this is a way to train them. Slowly allow more freedom in time, and once they are able to have full run again, use the xpen or something to block off the area they can escape.
WHEN TO FEED: Rabbits can eat once a day or twice or day or three times - of course the portions are then split if you feed them more than once. Rabbits typically eat in the am and pm. Whatever you decide, try to keep a schedule on time as it does help a rabbit, which a creature of habit, feel secure. This predictability will also help them warm up to you.
It's very important though for them to have unlimited timothy hay throughout the day. They need hay to keep their digestive system moving. A rabbits digestive tract should always be working, otherwise if it slows down or stops it can actually be fatal. So that is why the hay should be available to them all the time.
DIET: I follow the HRS (House Rabbit Society Guidelines at http://rabbit.org/faq/sections/diet.html)
- High fiber timothy hay based pellet - 1/4 to 1/2 cup pellets per 6 lbs.
- Dark Leafy greens like Parsley, Dandelion, Cilantro, Romaine Lettuce - Minimum 2 cups (chopped) per 6 lbs
- Timothy based Hay (unlimited - available all the time usually in a hay rack of some sort)
- Unlimited Water of course
- Fruit - very very small amounts - no more than 2 tablespoons per 6 lbs. Fruit is high in sugar (so are some veggies like carrots), so this can cause digestive problems if given too much.
Regarding Training. It's not to late at all. It's actually better that they are older. Babies take much longer!
TRAIN TO KNOW THEIR NAME: Many bunnies know just begin to know their name just from us saying their name, but one way to concrete that in is to say their name when you pet them, when you feed them, when you scold them. So for example, I say, "Jack..Treat Treat!" "Jack...No!" "Jack...I love you" There are formal ways to train through clicker training, but right now you have just the basics to get down
TRAIN THEM TO GO BACK TO THEIR SPACE: Every single time you put them back in their space, use a term like "home". Also, if you can herd them back to their space while saying the word "home", they will EVENTUALLY understand what that word means.
If part of the problem is that you have to basically spend forever getting them out of the yard, then surround their hutch with an xpen so they don't have so far to go, and as soon as they get in their hutch, you stop saying the word, and say "good" and/or offer a treat, OR if they are nervous bunnies, then the reward is to leave the alone. They will soon associate being left alone with "home" and know to go there. Just remember, don't chase, don't scare, just gently walk behind them while saying the word. They will find this annoying, but not terrifying, and they will find peace in their space.
Bunnies can learn and do understand. Many people don't give them credit because they don't have the open expressiveness that cats and dogs do, and so maybe the people before them just didn't know much about training rabbits.
Just warn everyone around you, you are going to look like a kook and sound like a broken record. But it should work.
BONDING WITH YOUR BUNNY: This takes time with shy bunnies. IF you get an xpen. Just get a book and sit with them. Ignoring in bunny language means "I mean no harm" So ignore them at first. Don't try and pick them up, don't even try to pet them if they shy away from you right now. Just let them sniff and explore you. Do this for a week.
Then the next week, bring some treats and when you reach for them offer a treat. Then the next week, once they've been in with you for 10 minutes, reach to pet them on their head. Bunnies have poor eyesight and a blind spot right in the front of their face, so it's best to approach them from the side and slightly above. If you go to low, you may be actually asking them to groom you in bunny language, which can be interpreted as a challenge - which then will make them turn away or be aggressive. Once they trust you, you can usually approach in any way. I actually scratch the floor in front of my bunnies nose and they come over to get groomed. But if I did that with another bunny I didn't know, I could get bit or get rejected. (bunny turns his back toward you)
You can speed up this process if you sense they are trusting you, but if not, don't worry, just take your time.