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Forum BONDING Bunnies seem equally matched and neither submits yet: it turned into 2 fights.

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    • Ellie from The Netherlands
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      Being first time bonders, we could really use your help after we’ve had 2 nasty fights. It all seemed to go so well until a fight started, and now they are fighting almost immediately! 😥

      Here are the answers to your questions, and thank you very much for any help you can give us…

      Spay/Neuter
      Owen and Molly are brother and sister, and they are the same age (7 months). Both have been fixed, Molly’s spay was 4 weeks ago.

      Housing
      They both have a hutch in the living room and can play outside in turns. They constantly had the ability to see each other and to touch noses through the bars.

      Bonding background
      Did you allow the bunnies to “settle-in”? They’ve lived like this for 6,5 months and are both familiar with the house, each other’s presence and with us.

      How would you describe your bunnies reactions towards each other (answer for each bunny)? 

      Owen: big lovable oaf, tries to be very dominant at the start of the sessions but quickly throws in the towel as soon as Molly makes some attempts at mounting. Then he just runs away from her, but will not submit (yet).

      Molly: used to be a very anxious rabbit, but found some confidence during puberty. She’s still a bit off and on: sometimes she acts like the Supreme Empress of the house, at other times she gets anxious when she hears a hedgehog fart in the garden 😐 In the middle or end of the sessions she tries to be dominant, and she’s way more persisting than Owen. When Owen runs away it causes circling, which broke out into 2 big fights.

      Have you done any “pre-bonding”?  As a pre-bonding step I’ve built a pen around Molly’s hutch so they both have half of the sitting area. I was hoping that this decreased the hype of: “YAY, I’m out of my hutch!!!” They’ve interacted like this for a week, with a lot of grooming through the bars. Their food and water bowls were put in the same place across from the fence, and they shared a pile of hay.

      Have you started sessions yet?
      How long have you been working on bonding your bunnies?
      How frequently do you have bonding sessions, and how long are they?

      We’ve started sessions a week ago, this is our first time bonding bunnies. We try to have one or two sessions per day, and it depends on their behaviour how long they last. As long as there’s no stress or frustration, I let them interact. Some sessions took 15 minutes, others lasted for an hour. They even had a little honeymoon together where they explored the house together ^_^

      Have you tried any stressing techniques?

      Yes, once. Molly has some anxiety, so we read that bonding them in a laundry basket may help. It didn’t, and she was stressed for a whole afternoon. We never repeated this.

       

       

      There are 2 problems:

      • My apartment is tiny and they’ve both been everywhere already, except for the 1 m2 kitchen area.
      • Neither seems to be willing to submit: Owen runs away from Molly. Mounting quickly turns into circling, we’ve had 2 bunny tornadoes now where fur flew. They have not been injured as far as I can see.

       

      This is their journey together, maybe their body language may help a bit:

      March 24-31

      For a week they’ve interacted through a larger grid, this allowed them to groom each other’s heads and share a pile of hay. It all went smoothly, and there’s a lot of mutual grooming. There’s no clear top bunny yet.

      April 2: 

      Their first after-dinner date. They’ve already eaten their pellets so they aren’t super hungry anymore.

      April 3:

      April 4:

      This date lasted for an hour because they were having a lot of fun together and they were calm. They went on some sort of honeymoon together and they explored the whole house. However, none of them seems to have plans to be submissive… 😐

      April 5 session 1:

      Owen starts off all big and brawn, but Molly quickly shows him her rabbittude. Molly is persistent in her attempts at mounting Owen. Today Owen really starts to run away from her mounting attempts every time.

      April 5 session 2: breakthrough! Or break-up?

      They really cuddled up for the first time! It was so cute!

      After 15 minutes of snuggles they explored the room again, and the mounting started. When Owen kept running away from Molly the circling started, and it turned into a bunny tornado where fur flew. Owen had several tufts of fur pulled from him, Molly only one, so I assume she was the aggressor here.

      April 6: a day of rest to calm down the nerves

      April 7: 2 minutes of peace, then 2 fights shortly after each other! There was a lot of fur flying and I saw Molly boxing at Owen. This was a very bad day, but nobunny seems to be injured. This time Molly had more fur pulled from her. This is the aftermath:

       

       

      I hope that anyone can help us, this is terrible… 


    • GlennTheLionhead
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      Awww no sorry you’re having troubles!

      It sounds like you were making some good progress.

      I have successfully bonded 2 pairs of buns with lots od useful help and info from this forum. So to relay some of the great info, theres a couple of things that I’d say might help.

      a- I would give them more time in the pre-bonding stage, generally a minimum of 2 weeks is recommended up to about 4 weeks if you want to be on the safer side so I would probably revert to pre-bonding for some time before resuming any dates.

      b- early dates are generally better if you do not add things like food and toys etc, also smaller spaces can work well for early dates, often small bathroom/toilet areas with no food hay or toys with lots of petting can keep them calm and allow them to relax around eachother, you can then gradually increase space and time together. I personally wouldn’t add any food ect till they are flopping/loafing in eachothers presence. Also bonding them in the lounge will possibly make things quite difficult so if you can use the bathroom or kitchen that may help. My last pair had about a month of bathroom dates before we progressed to anything further – but how long you spend in a certain area is highly dependent on the pair and there is no one rule for all.

      As a last note there is some guidance on how to handle buns that have had a fight, I’m not too familiar with this so hopefully someone else can advise but if they do have a true fight I believe its generally recommended to seperate them out of sight if possible for quite some time for them to cool down and ‘forget’


    • DanaNM
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      Oh those dwarf personalities! Such a joy during bonding! 😆

      So a couple things jump out to me!

      First is that you haven’t done side swaps, from what I read. Even though they know each other well, they have staked their territories in the house, and know each other as neighbors for the most part. I would start swapping who is in which cage every day or two, and continue that during the whole bonding process.

      The next thing that jumps out is that you don’t really have neutral space. Neutral space really is important, so if there is a shortage of it in your home, you can create a neutral area by placing a new tarp or shower curtain on the ground, setting up a pen on top of it, and then covering the pen walls with blankets so they can’t see where they are. If you can do this in an area that isn’t right next to their litter boxes that would be ideal, since buns can smell when they are at “home”.  You definitely should not do sessions in an area where they normally roam together. Bathrooms and bathtubs are really popular bonding locations for this reason, as even free-roam buns don’t spend time in the bath tub, and it’s easy to wipe down a bathroom to make it smell less familiar.

      I would completely stop letting them interact in each other’s pens (through a barrier is OK, but watch out for nipped noses). Since they’ve had some tussles you might see a bit more nipping through the fence, which can lead to some hard feelings and make things tougher. You might need to add a second barrier to be a buffer zone, or add some small mesh panels as “nose guards”.

      Some scuffling might be unavoidable, but your job is to prevent the fights. So at this point, mounting attempts and circling are leading to fights, so you’ll want to stop those immediately. There may be a while where you basically are intervening constantly, but you will then get to a point where they are more calm together. Make sure to wear thick leather gloves that cover your wrists, and/or use a dustpan to separate them. I’ve also worn oven mitts on my hands in a pinch.

      More pre-bonding (side swaps) and a neutral area should also help, because they may feel a more strong urge to mount because they are not in fully neutral space, and the other bun smells more interesting to them.

      All of that said, the fact that they didn’t fight immediately in a non-neutral space is actually a great sign! I’m sure you’ll get there with some tweaks to the bonding space!

      . . . 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.  


    • Ellie from The Netherlands
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      Thank you so much for your input, Glenn and Dana!

      @Glenn: thank you, we’ll try to keep food away from them once we find an appropriate neutral space! ^_^ They do well in the pre-bonding pen: they’re often mirroring eachother’s behaviour and they eat and sit together.

      @Dana: your comment about not fighting in a shared space made my day! It gives me a lot more hope. Bas will be so happy to hear this too: he’s used to bonding dogs and their bonding is a bit rough but very short and efficient. He was getting a bit frustrated, but we’re going to need more patience to bond bunnies.

       

      Owen and Molly were getting along so well, so the severity of the fights was really shocking. Owen has always been so kind to her in his big oafish ways. While she was recovering from her spay she was wearing a medical suit and it stressed her out. It made him protective over her: he frantically licked her nose through the bars, and he even made little attempts to charge at us. He stopped halfway before he reached us, but his little grunts were very impressive. Or at least: that’s what we told him 😉

      From what I understand the lack of neutral space is the biggest problem, so we may have to wipe down the bathroom or create a bonding pen for them. (In my tiny kitchen they’ll basically be nose-to-tail, so that isn’t going to improve matters)

       

      I think that this is our plan for the coming weeks:

      • Switch hutches every 2-3 days and let them interact through the pen, only when supervised, for a couple more weeks
      • Think about our best options for a neutral space. They’ve already been in the bathroom, but we can wipe that down with vinegar. Or we can build a mystery pen 🙂
      • Keep neutral space free from things to fight over, such as food
      • Involve Bas in our bonding dates: he can separate them a lot quicker than I can. This is where my disability really hinders me: I move slowly because my joints and muscles are so stiff. Normally this is amazing for dealing with bunnies: slow movements are predictable and this relaxes them. But when you want to stop circling, I’m not very useful.

      Once again: thank you so much!


    • DanaNM
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      That sounds like a great plan of action! And I agree, it can be so alarming when they suddenly fight. Also keep in mind that Molly had been recovering from her spay before, so her hormonal fluctuations were likely influencing how they interacted with each other.

      And yes bunny bonding is so different from with other animals, it can really be surprising to a lot of people!

      I tend to do a lot of petting during the early bonding sessions, especially when I am worried about fighting. Whenever the buns approach each other, you can be right there and start petting their heads so they think they are being groomed. This will keep everyone calm (including the humans!) and can help break a cycle of fighting and chasing. Eventually you do need to ease off the petting, but it helps a ton in the early sessions.

       

      . . . 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.  


    • Ellie from The Netherlands
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      Whoo, they are not thanking us for switching hutches… Time to bring up our family motto: “There’s nobody who’s more autistic than a bunny…”

      Molly is anxious and Owen is just angry that he has less space to run around in. He dragged the fence across the floor and tipped over his water bowl in the process.

      I was afraid that he was going to climb or tip over the fence, so Owen is confined to hutch for the night. Molly’s hutch is open if she wants to go out and explore. She’s pooping like mad and thumping at every sound. I think she’s more anxious than we initially thought.

      We’ll switch again within 2 days. I hope that they’ll have enough poop stored for the next switch, because they’re planting little flags all over.

       

      Thank you both so much for the tips!


    • DanaNM
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      That is super normal behavior! And a sign that switching hutches should help! 🙂  It should help with Molly’s anxiety to be able to really get used to Owen’s scent. I know they have been around each other, but being able to smell the litter box up close is…. different. LOL  On that note, I also usually try to time the swap so the litter boxes are at least somewhat dirty.

      I like to wait to start face-to-face sessions until they seem unfazed by the side-swap and you see lots of relaxed behaviors again.  It usually takes around a week for them to adjust, but I’d say people do about 2 weeks of side swaps on average. And you are right to worry about him jumping the fence, I’ve never seen a bun jump or climb as high as during bonding when they are trying to “get at” the other rabbit or get out of a strange pen.

      . . . 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.  


    • Ellie from The Netherlands
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      Yes, the boxes had seen a little use already. I cleaned them in the afternoon and switched the bunnies late in the evening.

      Owen dug in Molly’s box as if he was trying to go to China, and Molly was so uncomfortable using his box that she did most of her business in the other areas of the hutch. I saw her use his box for the first time this morning, and I praised her as if she’d just won a Nobel prize.


    • Ellie from The Netherlands
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      Okay, I’m convinced: hutch swapping was the best step to take. They accidentally broke loose today and there was no fighting! After I’d fed them I went to the bathroom, and when I came back somebunny had found a way to open the door in the fence 😯

      They just switched hutches and started to chew hay, instead of turning into a bunny tornado like the last 2 times that they saw each other. Whew…

      I’m off to buy some more panels, without doors this time…


    • DanaNM
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      That’s 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.  

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Forum BONDING Bunnies seem equally matched and neither submits yet: it turned into 2 fights.