These notes are only based on my own experience and are not set in concrete. They have worked for me and people who have adopted a bunny from
Bethel Bunnies, I hope they will help you too.
We are happy to do the bonding for you on neutral territory, particularly if it means we find a wonderful home for one of our bunnies ! Usually a bonding takes between 1 - 3 days and means you leave your bunny with us for this period, but at least you will hopefully be returning home with a bonded pair.
The easiest way to bond rabbits is to house them together while they are still under 8 weeks, they can easily be brought up together and will just bond naturally as the hormones will not have come into play yet. This is one advantage if a customer reserves their bunnies early.
This part is very important. It can be very difficult to bond hormonal un-neutered bunnies so neutering first is important.
Which sex ?
It doesnt matter if you have 2 males, 2 females or a male/female pair, as long as they are neutered at the correct age and paired up correctly any of the above can work. If you have 2 boys or 2 girls that are growing up together it is important to get them neutered before the hormones kick in, this will obviously depend on your vet but some vets neuter boys as soon as their testicles drop (usually around 3 months) others prefer to wait till they are 6 months.
When to bond ?
Forget all this nonsense about leaving it 6 weeks. The only time you need to leave it that long is if you are matching up a neutered male with an un-neutered female. As long as their stitches have healed there is no reason not to pair them up. I have found very little difference in the temperament of a bunny that has been neutered for 2 weeks from one that has been neutered 6 weeks. Once you have put 2 bunnies together do not separate them, they need to establish their territory and who is boss, separating them even if it is overnight will not help this process.
It is very important to match them up on neutral territory and away from other rabbits. Usually a large run in the garden is best or if they are hoiuse rabbits, maybe the bathroom or a room neither of them has been in before.. Put both bunnies in there at the same time and then leave them there for a few hours. ONLY separate them if they are starting to injure each other. You must expect a bit of chasing, mounting and possibly a little bit of fur flying but this is perfectly normal and will soon settle down. Most importantly, DO NOT TOUCH THEM during the bonding process.
Some of you may find my methods a little tough, but they are the most successful and put least stress on the bunnies. I have many groups and pairs of bunnies here that are all very happy and healthy and I have never observed any squabbles.
Method 1: Put them together and let them sort themselves out in a neutral area where they can be easily monitored, only temporarily separating for a matter of seconds if they were fighting which would cause each other damage.
The 3 most important details for successful bondings are; both rabbits should be neutered to reduce any hormonal behavioural problems, it is much more likely to work if the rabbits are different genders, and neutral territory for face to face meetings.
First day. The rabbits need to accept each other's scent so they will be comfortable in each other's company with the safety of wire between them. The signs you are looking for is seeing them lying side by side at the wire, as close as they can be to each other. They each need a separate hutch for night time. Ideally next to each other so they can continue safe contact.
The next day swap them into the territory the other rabbit occupied the previous day, and at night put them in the other rabbit's hutch.
If you feel the rabbits are settling together then you can remove the wire barriers and try putting them together in neutral territory where neither rabbit has been before. It may be a shed, a garage, utility room etc. Leave bits of food for them to find. The idea is that they will be so busy sniffing around that they will not worry about their companion.
If they ignore each other; brilliant. Do not intervene and try to force them towards each other, allow them to progress at their own pace.
Method 2: Putting them each in a pen next to each other for a day, swapping them over into the other one's pen and then My own thought is once they are put in together they should remain together and left together for as long as possible (ie indefinitely) taking them everywhere including vets visits with each other. The timing of the pairing needs to be done when you have adequate time to do observe them.
The more dominant bunny may put its tail up and lunge or mount the other one. The other bunny may jump over the top of the other. There may be some circling or fur pulling but do not intervene. Obviously if it is more serious you must separate them to prevent injuries. I am sure if a rabbit is hurt by another it will remember and it takes a long time to rebuild their trust in each other. Be careful you do not get bitten yourself!
If it is necessary to separate them continue with the slow bonding ideas swapping into each other's space. Then the next day try the neutral territory again, and so on.
If they are getting on well do not leave them unattended until they are completely at ease in each others company. This means they are lying next to each other, eating from the same dish together, and mutually grooming.
When they return home make sure it is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected if it was the home of one of the pair. This is a crucial part of the bonding. The rabbit who owned the territory may not take kindly to another rabbit moving in and I have had a few occasions where the previous sole occupant has at this final stage decided to attack their new friend.
The above is for a fairly simple straight-forward bonding. However, I have had experience of bondings that take longer than usual 1, 2 or 3 days.
When one rabbit goes into attack you can use a jet of water from a water pistol or garden sprayer to startle them.
I have just paired up a 'difficult girl' with a timid boy, on neutral territory. It is important that the rabbits are a similar age and size as often the larger one will bully the smaller bunny. Also you should take into account whether or not they are neutered or whether the doe has had a litter or not as these things play a part in a successful bonding. One trick I have used is to put a little peanut butter on the bunnies' rumps and then let them lick it off each other. They usually continue licking and eventually bond. If all else fails bring them to me for a few days and I will see what I can do !
Rabbits can easily be litter trained. They are naturally clean animals and will choose one corner of their hutch or cage as their toilet area. Just take some of the soiled bedding from this area and place it in a litter tray. They will soon get the idea and start using it.
Tips & Warnings
· Wipe up some of your rabbit's urine with a paper towel and place the towel under the litter.
The smell will clue your bunny in as to the box's purpose.
· Never hit or punish your rabbit! This will only make your rabbit afraid of you.
· Give this process some time! It will not happen overnight. It could take a week or more.
· DO NOT USE CAT LITTER! Clay-based cat litter can make your bunny sick.
· Pine and cedar chips are also harmful to rabbits.
Bunny lovers don't worry, it will be worth it in the end if you just persevere, to you, as well to them!
Just relax ! If you are stressed the bunnies will be stressed too ........chill !