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Forum BONDING Bonding advice. Indoor/Outdoor

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    • swill
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      Hi everyone, apologies in advance for the wall of text.

      I’m after a bit of advice, in case anyone has been in a similar situation before and has any tips or tricks. I’ve tried Googling but there’s nothing that quite covers it, so thought I’d ask!

      Background. We started with a female bunny (Toast) and got her a companion (Honey, also female), I have bonded bunnies before but unfortunately, they just didn’t get along. Toast is really docile but Honey was quite aggressive and despite all our efforts, they would try and seriously harm one another if allowed.  We then rescued a boy (New Boy… yes that name stuck) and he bonded with Toast immediately and those became a pair, they are both indoor bunnies.

      Honey lives outside, she has a massive hutch and the full run of the garden and by all accounts is living her best life, sprinting around, skipping and generally loving life. The only thing is, as an outdoor bunny, sometimes I worry she’s a bit lonely, so once again. We have rescued a male bunny and are trialling bonding them.

      One side note. Weather permitting, we let our outdoor rabbits run around outside (Honey stays in her run when this happens). It seems like she instantly took a liking to our male, there were no signs of aggression, she was binkying and they seemed to really like one another. Unfortunately, he was already bonded with Toast so we didn’t want to confuse things too much and let them get close, or she may get sad when they went back inside.

      So, to today.

      We’ve fostered a male and he’s in a pen inside at the moment. To let him stretch his legs a bit, I put him outside yesterday. He met Honey through the cage and her reaction was completely different to our first male. She was aggressive again and he was simply sitting there. Maybe it’s because the garden is her area and that was a mistake, but the reaction to the first boy was so good we assumed it was just a male/female thing.

      I’ve since tried them both in our bathroom which would be more neutral, however, she was aggressive again and tried to get him through to bars, so I ended the session.

      Aside from sticking them on our driveway or taking them to another house, we don’t really have any fully neutral areas (our indoor rabbits have been in our bathroom before). I feel like although it’s very early days, they have started poorly and I’d almost like to reset. People chat about indoor bunnies and switching their trays for a while etc, but Honey doesn’t have a tray, being outdoor. He did come with a blanket which I have let her sniff and placed in her area for a while.

      • Have I ruined things by letting him run outside and her see him there?
      • Are there any little steps we can take longer-term to help, given our current setup not just being two rabbits in separate rooms?
      • Do we accept that she doesn’t want to bond and is perfectly happy on her own?

      Basically, any advice would be helpful because I’m confused at her reaction to both males being so completely different and having gone through a lot of stress trying to bond the two females. I’d like to make sure we get this right or accept that the early signs aren’t great and maybe she’s not keen.

      Thanks in advance!

       

       


    • swill
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      Update. The blanket of his that I gave to our female had been dragged out of her hutch and when I lifted it to bring it back inside. She attacked it quite aggressively.


    • swill
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      Forgot to add to my original post, sorry.

      All rabbits are spayed/neutered. Honey, 1 year ago. New male, not sure as he’s a rescue and they couldn’t confirm.

       


    • DanaNM
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      I love when animals named Honey are super feisty! My mom had a horse named Honey that was such a brat LOL

      Since Honey seemed to like New Boy, I don’t think she’s a bun that just prefers to be solo. Females in general tend to be more territorial, so I don’t think her acting aggressively towards the new new boy (I’ll call him New 2 to avoid confusion) is that surprising. I don’t think you ruined anything by letting her see them. Usually with indoor buns, you end up moving the new bunny into a pen right next to the original bunny. The original bunny is often VERY upset about this, but they get over it after a couple weeks.

      In general when first meetings don’t go that well, adding some “pre-bonding” can help. Is there any way you can house them side by side? Either indoors temporarily or both outside? If not, maybe you can add a litter tray to the area of her run where she toilets the most, and then swap that with New 2’s litter tray so she can at least get used to the scents.

      If you are still seeing immediate aggression after pre-bonding, I would experiment with the space  you are bonding in (larger or smaller, add some stress, pick an entirely new area). I used to live in a studio apartment and would often do bunny dating at my friend’s house or at the rescue (they would let me bring the buns in and use their exercise pens). My first pair was really hard to bond (they would fight right away), and car rides daily for a few days helped us break that cycle.

      Another option is to try another bunny if New 2 just doesn’t seem to be working out. Does the rescue allow speed dating? Maybe you could take Honey in and let her pick?

      Another possibility is to try for a trio with your two ladies and New Boy. Sometimes having that third bun that both like can be a benefit. It may not work out, but it has happened before.

      I guess it’s all a question of how much time you have, whether there are other bunnies to try instead, and how much you like New 2. Most pairings tend to work out, there is just a big range in how much effort it takes to get them there.

      . . . The answers provided in this discussion are for general guideline purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose or treat your pet. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or a qualified behaviorist.  


    • swill
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      Hi DanaNM

      Thanks for replying. It’s nice to have a second opinion as the way she was acting was similar to when we tried to bond female to female so we were immediately fearing the worst.

      Yes, Honey is ridiculously cheeky, what makes it harder is she’s smaller than the average bunny and when she acts all feisty, it’s hard not to find it hilarious (although she once attacked my leg thinking I was Toast once, and she’s got some bite on her).

      Glad to hear that it’s not ruined. I did set up New 2’s pen alongside Honey’s outside, but she was trying to attack him through the bars so I moved him back, due to thinking I was rushing into it and not wanting to make them hate each other right off the bat.

      In terms of pre-bonding. I did put New 2’s blanket back in Honey’s house and the second time, she didn’t drag it out and it stayed in with her all night. She did chin and pee all over it, though. I’ve put that in with New 2 this morning to try and get them used to one another’s scent.

      Our plan was to do this for a week, switching the blanket every day and then next weekend, put their pens alongside one another in the most neutral space possible for a few hours, which would be our front drive.

      New 2 was the only available male at our local rescue and we absolutely love him already, we’d hate to give him back, but will have to if it doesn’t work. He must have had some love previously, because on the second day we had him, after a few minutes of pets, he started to lick my hand, which took my rabbits several weeks before they did that.

      Would you say that we are on the right path swapping the blankets for a week and then doing a day here and there with their cages next to one another to see if there’s any improvement? I suppose it’s standard bonding stuff, but I was just concerned that we were doing the wrong thing because the back garden is Honey’s area and the entire house is Toasts, so knowing it’s still possible is reassuring.

      Thanks

       


    • DanaNM
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      Honey sounds like my Bunston (the little brown bun in my avatar). He was a false dwarf (we think), and was so feisty! He was super tough to bond with Bertha (the other bun in my avatar), but they were madly in love once they finally bonded.

      I think you are on the right track and doing the pre-bonding will help. It may take a week or more to see improvement, and she will likely be MAD for a while, but this should calm down. If they are being super aggressive through the bars, you can also add a visual barrier (like a towel hung up) to help them get use to scents first. You can also start brushing them with the same brush.

      I think after switching blankets, it would be good to fully swap sides if possible (put Honey in New 2’s pen, and New 2 in Honey’s), and swap every day or two. It can be a huge pain, but it really does seem to help in most cases.

      How does Honey do on car rides?  If they are still attacking on sight after several weeks of pre-bonding, a car ride together may help.

       

       

      . . . The answers provided in this discussion are for general guideline purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose or treat your pet. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or a qualified behaviorist.  


    • swill
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      That’s good to know! Well at the moment we have enough time and space to keep going so we will hopefully see some improvement.

      I like the brush idea, I’ll incorporate that in as well and then build up to swapping their sides over the next few days.

      She’s a little nervous like you’d expect but isn’t totally petrified, we will try a car ride if things haven’t gotten any better.

      Out of interest, do you recall how long it took to bond Bunston & Bertha? Be good to have an example of how long it took for a ‘tougher’ bond.

      Thanks again


    • swill
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      Also, so you can put a face to the names. I’ve paid the rabbit tax and uploaded photos here https://imgur.com/a/YMEZkry

      Order is

      Toast (Grey), New Boy (Black), New 2 (White & Brown), Honey (Brown)

       


    • DanaNM
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      Beautiful bunnies!

      Bunston and Bertha took me about 3 months. I made some mistakes in the beginning for sure that probably set things back a bit as they were my first bond. I had another pair take 4 months, and they were almost more frustrating because they would get along for hours and hours and then fight in the evenings. I did eventually bond them as well!

       

      . . . The answers provided in this discussion are for general guideline purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose or treat your pet. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or a qualified behaviorist.  


      • swill
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        Hi DanaNM,

        Thanks for the above. I just wanted to update you and ask what your thoughts were, given you’re experienced in this scenario!

        We have set up two indoor pens for Honey and New 2 and they have been living in each for around a week. I’ve swapped them over every day and have been brushing with the same brush etc etc.

        Honey will nip New 2 through the bars but it’s nowhere near as aggressive as she would be with Toast. Yesterday, I put them in the same pen with a bowl of veggies each and they sat near one another eating. Eventually, when they finished, they went over to investigate one another, had about a minute or so just sniffing and checking out but then Honey bit him, he reacted and a fight broke out, so I broke it up and separated them again.

        They are now back in their separate pens but can see/interact with one another still.

        I wondered what you think any good next steps would be. Did I make a mistake letting them eat next to one another (because the fight broke out) or should I continue to do little things like that every so often? They didn’t fight immediately, which was positive.

        I know there are options like car journeys, I think I’ll explore that if we have no progress in a few weeks, but at this earlyish stage. I wondered what your thoughts were, based on the above.

        We aren’t pressed for time, but they are taking up an entire room at the moment and we have guests staying in a couple of weeks!

        Thanks

         


    • DanaNM
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      I think you are taking great steps, and I love the set up, but I would do pre-bonding side swaps for longer before doing sessions. More challenging pairings benefit from longer pre-bonding, so I would wait until you don’t see any aggression through the bars if possible (at least another week or 2). Also make extra sure they can’t actually nip each other, as any nipped noses with cause some grudges that make bonding harder.

      For the sessions, it sounds like it was great, but you just went a little too long. In pairings like this, there is always a temptation to wait a bit too long. I find it helpful to set really short time goals (even as short as 30 seconds, 1 min, 2 min, etc), and always be sure to end on a good note. So if something good happens, I will end the session there, before it turns bad.  Neutral is OK too, you just don’t want to end a session after they fight because then they learn that fighting “worked” and made that “other rabbit” go away.

      The sharing food was great, I would just have stopped the session as soon as they finished eating. The fact that they didn’t immediately fight and felt safe enough to eat is a great sign.

      Depending on how long your guests are staying you could always take a little break from bonding, but I know it’s alway a pain to rearrange bunny set ups!

      You really can never tell how long a bond will take, because it’s usually not a linear process. I have found that when I rush or try to stick to a timeline I usually end up pushing the rabbits too hard and things back track. Whenever I’ve pushed a session a bit longer than planned because I’m hoping for some break through, they usually end up fighting.

      . . . The answers provided in this discussion are for general guideline purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose or treat your pet. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or a qualified behaviorist.  


      • swill
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        Thanks very much, this is incredibly helpful information 🙂


    • swill
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      Hi DanaNM,

      I just wanted to thank you again for the advice in this thread. In a time when I would question the smallest thing, knowing that the steps we were taking were the correct ones and what not to do helped massively.

      After a few weeks of them living alongside one another. We decided to turn our bathroom into a neutral zone and placed some hay, toys and treats around the room. We let them bond in this space for 5 minutes, then 15, up to an hour, in the longer sessions, they began to groom one another 😎

      Yesterday I removed the cage separating them in their main setup where they were living.  I was able to leave them the full day (with frequent checks on our rabbit cam). All was well, so I decided to leave them overnight and they were absolutely fine. It now looks like we have a fully bonded pair.

      Once again, thanks for your advice. It really does help.

      Bonded


    • DanaNM
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      Oh that’s wonderful! Thank you for the update, and you’re welcome!

      They look great together!!

      . . . The answers provided in this discussion are for general guideline purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose or treat your pet. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or a qualified behaviorist.  


    • prince dorian the bun
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      Just wanted to add my congrats for the bonding!  Such a cute couple!

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Forum BONDING Bonding advice. Indoor/Outdoor