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BINKYBUNNY FORUMS

Forum BONDING Bonding Three Bunnies

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    • Lykan
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      Hello!

      Looks like I’m becoming a regular here! I was hoping for some preemptive advice on a matter of multiple bunnies. I’ve had my boy, Gideon, for about a month now, and just last week I adopted another bun — a girl named Tess. Just yesterday, a close friend of mine (whose bunny I’ve cared for many times now) had an emergency and will need someone to take his rabbit for an uncertain amount of time. She was the bunny who made me realize that I wanted rabbits in the first place, and I was thrilled to help out. I have the space and the time for all three of them, so of course I offered to take her in and am set to pick her up today. Just one concern: I don’t know how to approach bonding with her.

      For one thing, I don’t know if my taking her in will be long-term or not. It could be a few weeks, or it could be months, or it could be permanent. If it were only a couple of weeks, I would just keep the buns separate and not bother bonding them. But since it could be months or years, I don’t think it’s feasible to keep them apart the whole time. Should I try bonding them knowing that my friend might want to take her back after they’re bonded? I know that rabbits do lose their friends sometimes, but I’m sure they would sorely miss her and she would miss them as well. I wouldn’t want to cause heartbreak between them if my friend is in a place to take his bunny back.

      The second matter is that I’ve heard from many different sources that female buns are the hardest to bond. I have one neutered male and one spayed female, and the bunny that I’m taking in is spayed as well. The girls are both extremely docile, and Tess has demonstrated very submissive behaviour. She’s pretty shy, even towards other bunnies. I know that my friend’s bunny is equally docile; in her foster home, she got a pretty nasty scar on her nose specifically because she’s docile to the point of not fighting back. Given that the girls are both spayed and have calm personalities (and the fact that I’m willing to put plenty of extra time and effort into easing them into a bond), do you think that it would be a good and feasible idea to bond my friend’s bunny to my other two?


    • DanaNM
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      Thank you for helping your friend!

      So, I think if there is any chance your friend will take her bun back, then you should not bond them. Separating a bonded group is very stressful for the rabbits and the solo rabbit especially could become very depressed. Not to mention bonding is a ton of work, so it would be awful to do all of that and end up breaking them up.

      Trios are hard, but not impossible. I personally failed at a trio (lol), but there are trio success stories on the forum. Many of them took a lot of work though! It depends a lot on the buns personalities, so if you have a good mix of calm buns, it could work. It would also be OK to just work on bonding your pair for now, and keep the new bun separate until you have more information. Then if it turns out you will be keeping her permanently you could try to add her to the pair and form a trio.

      . . . 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.  


    • Lykan
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      Looks like I’ll be reopening this topic, and thank you for your previous advice! It looks like I will be keeping my friend’s bun (Penelope) along with my two (Gideon & Tess). Gideon is a very calm and patient bun, and since my last update, he’s bonded with both girls. He’s absolutely in love with Penelope, and often likes to sit with his forehead pressed to hers and his eyes closed <3 He and Tess are great playmates as well, and I make sure to give him space to interact with both of them. He’s been a very helpful mediator as I start to bond the girls!

      I was wondering if there was any bonding advice that was specific to bonding a third bunny to the group. Like I said, I’ve been doing it one at a time, so the only pair to work on is Tess and Penelope. But I feel a little clueless when the experiences transition from “bonding” to “bonding a third.” Should I keep Gideon in the room or let the girls have alone time? How do I gauge when to separate them? Gideon always chased the girls around during bonding, but he never had the inclination to bite, and even though I’ve heard that fur pulling is normal, I must admit I was a little spooked to see Penelope pull a lock of Tess’ fur out (Tess is unharmed). DanaNM (and others with this experience), if you return to this thread, I would love to hear how you knew that bonding was a “failure” — the advice I’ve seen has ranged from “sometimes bunnies will just never have complementary personalities” to “it’s not a lost cause until one of them injures the other.” I’m finding it much harder to read the girls than Gideon; he was very expressive with his tail twitches and honking. The girls have lunged at each other through the cage bars (the first few days that they were exposed; I wouldn’t introduce them face to face if they’d done it recently), but have never used body language or thumped at each other at all, and I wonder if it’s because they’re learning to like each other or if they just don’t want to communicate. Yesterday, Penelope was acting unusually territorial while Tess was completely docile, and today it’s just the opposite and Penelope is doing what she did when Gideon would chase her — hiding in the corner.

      With all of this said, they do a fair amount of ignoring each other and coexisting as well, and I’ve recently started swapping them. Just to reiterate, I was wondering: general bonding tips for three bunnies when two of them aren’t bonded? How to read a rabbit’s intent in chasing when they don’t seem to want to communicate? How to tell if a pair won’t get along (and if there’s a way that they could coexist even if they don’t like each other? I would hate to separate Gideon from either of his buddies)? Thank you!


    • DanaNM
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      Nice to see you back!  And congrats on the new bun!

      So if I read this correctly, Gideon is getting a long with both girls, and is still fully bonded to Tess, who he was bonded with before? And Penelope and Tess are not quite there yet? Sounds familiar! haha :p

      You have two options for how to proceed. You could work with all three together (and will need to eventually). If things are mostly calm, and Gideon isn’t stirring up drama, this might work well. Or you can start by just focusing on the girls. You don’t need to get them completely bonded, but you can get them to a point where they aren’t being aggresssive towards each other, and then work with the whole group.

      Group dynamics are dif from the sum of the pairs, so eventually you do need to work with all three at once. This can be overwhelming sometimes when every bun is trying to fight, so focusing on the most difficult pairings first can help.

      In my case, my girls were not getting along when I tried the trio, but I DO think I could have gotten them there eventually. The trouble was my grandpa Bun Jovi (the third in the group) gets these phases where he tries to mount relentlessly, and it kept causing a ton of fighting in the bonding sessions. Bun Jovi was also 12 at the time (now 13), and I just didn’t think it was worth the stress to keep trying, since he was already happily bonded with Myra. In many cases the decision of when to call it quits is very personal, rather than a general rule.  We’ve had a few recent trio success stories on the forum that took over a year!

      Personally, I think if your girls aren’t immediately fighting intensely, I’d keep trying. 🙂 Gideon does sound like a good mediator, which is important.

      Regarding body language, sounds like Gideon’s chasing was all because he wanted to mount. I always look at ear and tail position. Ears back and tail up is aggressive, ears forward and tail down is interest (usually coming in for a mounting attempt or grooming). Head down ears forward is a request to be groomed (which can often be followed by a nip if the request is not met!).

      As for next steps, can you give me a bit more info on how long you’ve been working with them and what kind of space you are bonding in? There are lots of tips and tricks you can try to get the girls passed certain roadblocks. If you haven’t started side swaps, that should also help a lot. Often it’s really just about time and patience though! Remember that when they seem to be ignoring each other that is still a choice they are making. 🙂

      With groups (and pairs even), I’ve always had the best luck in very large, very neutral spaces. I would often use my friend’s garage for bonding because my apartment didn’t really have neutral space, and it worked great.

      . . . 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.  


    • Lykan
      Participant
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      Hi, thank you so much! Regarding Gideon’s body language because that’ll be the quickest thing to respond to: it seems that none of my bunnies are very good with body language?? I mostly get worried because sometimes he goes into what I’ve started calling “torpedo form” — ears not quite pinned back, but noticeably angled pretty far backwards, but nose forward as if he’s curious rather than attempting to charge. He does this when he starts chasing really quickly, but he has never bitten and never looks like he aims to, and even when he’s doing this he always stops short when he catches up to them.

      I’m bonding the girls in the living room. Admittedly, it’s not a very “neutral” space, but since the bunnies all take turns free roaming, I don’t think that there is a neutral space. It’s the room that Tess’ cage is in, though due to some litter training and health concerns, she was not in the living room outside of her cage for about a month and it has since been deep-cleaned with vinegar. Penelope, on the other hand, was never housed in the living room, but she did start free roaming in it about a week and a half ago. I fear that it’s the most neutral space I can provide, so I’ve put a lot more energy into getting them used to each other by swapping them rather than having playdates so far.

      The girls were able to smell and hear but not see each other for about two months, give or take a week (before I knew if I was keeping Penelope or not); I introduced Penelope to Gideon two weeks ago and they quickly fell in love. For a week and a half, Penelope has been able to roam the living room, and I have nose guards so that she can come right up to Tess’ cage. Initially there was some lunging from Tess while Penelope sprawled indifferently just outside her cage, but they seemed to have moved past that since. There were a good few days of them ignoring each other, or occasionally coming up to sniff each other without any negative reaction. Since the playdates, they’ve started taking turns getting defensive over “their” cages (whichever one they were in last, since I’m swapping them), but that only happens very occasionally. For the most part, they just ignore each other or stare at each other with no communication between them.


    • DanaNM
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      Neutral space is very important in bonding. Bathrooms are very popular for bonding when the buns have roam of the house, maybe you could try them in there? It can really change the dymanic a lot, and if the space isn’t neutral enough, it can be really hard to make progress.

      Alternatively you can start asking friends if they want to have a bunny-sleep over in their kitchen. 🙂

      . . . 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.  


    • Lykan
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      I think it’s time for another update!

      I ended up bringing them to the kitchen as neutral territory — with the layout of my house, they needed to be brought in carriers, but with that and a drop-cloth for traction it became a good bonding zone — or so I thought! Penelope was even more aggressive in the kitchen even though she’d never been there (or on the drop-cloth), whether I provided distractions like toys and food or not. I am absolutely a believer in your advice about neutral territory, and I’m still genuinely perplexed as to why they do so much better in the room that they’ve all considered their territory. After a couple sessions with no improvement, I decided to listen to my buns and go back to the living room, where Penelope already ignored Tess at least some of the time and where there was furniture for Tess to climb up on if she needed to get away from Penelope (there’s a 5-lb difference between them because Penelope is a California Giant, so Tess is a bit more nimble, to say the least). With careful monitoring, longer sessions/less interference in chases that didn’t seem to get too intense, and even more frequent swapping, things improved quickly. Shared meals still get a little tense at times, but the girls can at least share a meal now without Tess getting chased off.

      Penelope (and Gideon, who I think just likes being included) still chases Tess occasionally, but they go hours now between chases and any chases that do happen are both short and less intense. Penelope and Tess had a really good day yesterday with very few chases (all of which were very short and involved no fur-pulling), so I made the decision to let them overnight together (since Tess has shown no aggression to Penelope since their first day and can slip between the bars of the baby-gate to my room if she needs to get away, while Penelope cannot). While I would have waited longer before overnighting with any other combination of personalities, these three are very docile and Tess has been a complete pushover with the other bunnies. I ended up staying awake most of the night to listen in on them and make sure they were doing alright, and it seems to have worked some kind of miracle. This morning, the girls were laying only a couple feet away from each other. Penelope came right up and sniffed Tess without any chasing ensuing. They even sat side by side in the same litterbox!

      I’m going to wait a while longer before moving all three of them into their forever cage together, but letting them free roam in the living room seems to be working well at the moment. I just wanted to make sure that this process (while being a little unconventional) is okay. Tess and Giddy bonded in the same way and had their bond break when Tess’ hormones fluctuated, so I’m wondering if there’s any chance that this method of bonding contributed to a flimsier bond (though they had been doing very well together and had moved into the same cage for around a month before anything happened). Also, while the girls are doing better by the day, is skipping over the neutral territory putting them at risk of hitting a “road block” at some point even though the worst of it seems to have passed? Is it okay to keep overnighting them since they seem to do better with it or is that just a disaster waiting to happen? Lastly, would this be considered “skipping over the neutral territory” or is it possible that the few days of antagonizing Tess in the neutral territory were enough for Penelope to see that she was still top bunny?


    • DanaNM
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      Thanks for the update!

      Some bunnies do weirdly do better in less neutral territory, so this isn’t completely unheard of! The fact that you are seeing improvement is great, so I would stick with what you’re doing. The only real rule in bonding is to stick with that’s working, and ditch what isn’t. Overnights in general can be a source of breakthroughs, so the fact that they didn’t fight overnight is awesome. Sometimes they just need that time together to really accept each other.

      The thing to look out for and be very certain of is that you are seeing lots of positive behaviors between all combos of bunnies, not just an absence of fighting or tolerance. So you should see at least some cuddling and grooming between each pair of the trio, as well as lots of relaxed behaviors around each other. In a trio especially, you don’t want to see one bun as the odd bun out.

      I think you are OK to keep doing overnights with supervision. I wouldn’t leave them unsupervised until they’ve been together for 48 hours and you’ve seen no aggression during that time and plenty of positive behaviors.

      . . . 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.  


      • Lykan
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        Thank you for the advice!

        How would I fix the problem of there being an odd one out? Tess certainly is. She has always been extremely flighty in general, even more so since I introduced her to Penelope. Now that chasing has subsided, she’s very slowly improving, but I need to put emphasis on “slowly.” She still runs away when Penelope and Gideon approach her, even when their body language is friendly (though Gideon’s habit of sprinting straight at anybody he wants to greet isn’t helping).

        The markedly positive behaviours I’ve noticed are as follows:

        • Tess is willing to share space with and approach Penelope now (mostly in sharing the litter box, where they eat side by side)
        • Tess and Penelope will come up and sniff each other, though this usually only happens when the one being sniffed is distracted by something (begging me for treats, for example)
        • All three of the bunnies stretch out and purr pretty close to each other; the two bigger buns have asked for grooming
        • Tess no longer sleeps on her perch (the shelf that she can jump up to where the others usually leave her alone) and instead opts for the carpet
        • All three of them have started mirroring each other, and it seems like their schedules have synced up — before, I’d get only two of the tree doing something at any given time, while the third seemed to be in the mood to do the opposite
        • They’ve been binkying more recently, which I’m hoping means they’re less stressed around each other since they haven’t done much of that since I introduced them all
        • When short chases do happen, Tess doesn’t thump anymore and the others don’t pursue her for more than a few seconds
        • Giddy shows affection by pressing his forehead against the other buns’ foreheads; he just did this to Tess for the first time since their bond broke

        The areas that need work are:

        • Tess still runs away from the others pretty often even though they aren’t chasing (which has sometimes prompted a chase) — as I was typing this, Tess approached Penelope, but even just Penelope moving her head to smell Tess was enough to send Tess bolting even though Penelope was completely stretched out and in no way indicating that she was agitated
        • Penelope and Giddy love to snuggle up, but Tess doesn’t cuddle with them; she’ll cuddle with me, and she used to cuddle with Giddy before their initial bond broke, but as of now the closest she’ll get is being near them (currently they’re all stretched out within 2 feet of each other)
        • The girls still mark — less than before, but pretty frequently, especially Tess
        • It’s certainly getting better, but I would say that Tess still seems a bit afraid of Penelope and sometimes of Gideon as well

        Tess has been really quick to dash away from things since the day I got her. She’s the smallest of my rabbits by a good amount (she’s around 5 and a half lbs, Gideon is almost 9, and Penelope is just shy of 10) and the only one who has never really liked being touched by human or bunny. Because of this and the still-very-recent end to Penelope’s and Giddy’s chasing, I’ve been working under the assumption that the areas that need improvement will just need some more time for Tess to get used to. There are certainly more positive behaviours, but the areas of improvement are pretty glaring. Is there anything I can do to help the situation along aside from just letting Tess connect the dots on her own that she doesn’t have to be so ready-to-run anymore?

         


    • DanaNM
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      Aside from giving them more time (which may be the most important), you could try making the space a bit smaller if it’s large. I do tend to like large spaces for bonding, but you don’t want the space to be so big they can claim opposite sides and not interact (especially at this phase).

      Also, try not to be too involved at this point in terms of comforting them and interacting with them. Of course supervise and prevent fighting, but try not to hover if you can.

      If after several days of solid bonding Tess is still tense and flighty, it could mean that they won’t bond as a trio. It is not uncommon for there to be a pair that forms that doesn’t fully accept the third bun. Not saying you should lose hope just yet, just mentioning that it does happen sometimes.

      . . . 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.  


      • Lykan
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        Thanks so much! I’ll be sure to update again soon!

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Forum BONDING Bonding Three Bunnies