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Tinsel
24-02-2012, 06:17 PM
Several people have asked for more info on big groups on my Pascale/Falcon thread, so here goes! It would be great to hear from others with big groups too. :wave:


My rabbits free range during the day and almost all go into the shed or in hutches at night. During the day the free ranging tends to involve them in separating into two mini colonies, each with 6/8 buns. The colonies have been chosen by the buns rather than me, and tend to be based on type. Most of my uppy-eared buns (and 1 bossy mini lop) have claimed what I believe to be the "best" half of the garden ie the half nearest the house (the kitchen door opens regularly so there's chance to sneak in for extra noms or to look appealing on the doormat until some appear). Furthest away from the house is the lop group (two exceptions, both quite gentle).

When new buns are introduced they usually get chased (not attacked) mostly by one group and eventually find haven with the other. Once that happens the chasing stops. It only happens after that if they stray into the "wrong" half of the garden, and then it stops once they've left that half.

In order to join a group a bun has to behave in a certain way, ie to be very submissive and to loiter on the edges, hiding in any available cover. Falcon got this wrong the first time he went out and got chased much more than is usual, which concerned me (we know he's not been socialised normally as he's a neglect case). However, today he took his cue from Pascale and they sat near each other hiding next to the fence. By the end of the afternoon they were sitting very near each other eating and Elf (who had chased earlier on) was sitting quite near them eating too. This is the usual pattern at the start of the acceptance phase. They should gradually become slightly bolder as time goes on and will evoke less and less reaction until they are fully accepted.

Falcon is now back indoors but once I put some of the rabbits away for the night I will let Pascale have an extra hour to enjoy the garden in relative freedom and I'll also let him out before the others tomorrow morning. This seems to help the integration as the normal barriers disappear when there are only a few rabbits out. The three out-all-nighters are from different ends of the garden but group together in either space and even share feeding bowls/sit together once everyone else has gone away for the night; they revert to their normal chasing of each other if they set foot in the "wrong" territitory once the rest rejoin them, though.

There's also a protectiveness about the groups; when one rabbit got scared (I wasn't there at the time) and was just lying down still, her group stood round her in a circle stamping their feet until she recovered and hopped away normally a few minutes later.

On summer evenings they spread themselves out over the whole garden but all graze facing the same way, which is really odd but it happens a lot.

Although I can't observe them for health issues as closely as if they were in a smaller area, it is normally easy to spot a sick bun simply because they stand out. When they mimic each other's behaviour so closely - all grazing/sleeping/eating hay at the same time, anything different is really obvious. This has meant I've often spotted things wrong before there are clinical signs.

I also think they normalise behaviours within the colony. They're not afraid of the dogs, and new rabbits copy that. They run after me for food in the evenings to let themselves be put to bed, and newcomers copy that too, even from day 1 or 2. Groups will also support each other against an intruder, joining in chasing them out of their patch and stopping the chase as soon as the offending rabbit has left the area.

It's fascinating watching them and I'm very lucky to have the space to make it possible. It does mean, though, that I would always need someone to visit/house-sit if I went away, as they're so used to their environment they'd hate to leave it.

Hope that's of interest to anyone who is group-curious! :wave:

Sky-O
24-02-2012, 06:22 PM
I'd be so interested to see what Hope would do in your group (not that he will get a chance obviously :lol:). He has always been an anomaly. When the others are sleeping, he will be eating. When they are playing, he will be sleeping, etc. I wonder how he would conform in your group.

I love your garden. It's such a wonderful bunny place. :love:

Georgeypudding
24-02-2012, 06:26 PM
amazing :D they behave almost as a wild colony would do!

How did you first come across this way of keeping rabbits?

Pebblesetc
24-02-2012, 06:32 PM
:D That sounds amazing :D I want to be one of your bunnies!
It's so lovely :)

Tinsel
24-02-2012, 07:54 PM
I'd be so interested to see what Hope would do in your group (not that he will get a chance obviously :lol:). He has always been an anomaly. When the others are sleeping, he will be eating. When they are playing, he will be sleeping, etc. I wonder how he would conform in your group.

Yes that would be really interesting. I suspect he'd either conform or struggle but that's pure guesswork. It also covers most bases a bit like saying to a woman who's pregnant well I reckon you'll have a girl or a boy.. :oops:

I love your garden. It's such a wonderful bunny place. :love:

Aw thank you! They seem happy there :love:


amazing :D they behave almost as a wild colony would do!

How did you first come across this way of keeping rabbits?


Yes I love the fact we get "wildie" behaviour sometimes. It wasn't really a conscious decision, it just evolved. I realised what a nice life my original buns had and kept thinking others would enjoy it too... :D


:D That sounds amazing :D I want to be one of your bunnies!
It's so lovely :)

Hehe, thank you! :lol: I have a few buns now who are almost four and have lived their whole lives here, including Dorset George who stops out all night regardless of the weather. I tried to get him in during the recent snow but he just hid in the burrow they've dug under the shed. I like to think they're getting quality of life but with a number of nearly fours who've known nothing else since babyhood they seem to be getting quantity too, fingers crossed...

Snowberry
24-02-2012, 08:02 PM
How do you protect them from foxes? If they go back into separate sheds at night then how do they not fight during the day? I know if I let Snowdrop and Strawberry out on the garden at the same time they would kill each other!

Tinsel
25-02-2012, 07:14 AM
How do you protect them from foxes? If they go back into separate sheds at night then how do they not fight during the day? I know if I let Snowdrop and Strawberry out on the garden at the same time they would kill each other!


With regard to foxes, the fences are all solid, and because it's a rural area with horses in the fields behind we don't actually get any, touch wood. When there was snow recently I checked for paw prints every day in the surrounding fields but there was nothing. A guy down the road has kept chickens for years and has never had problems with them either. Dorset George has already had almost four years of sleeping outside and I'm hopeful he can carry on doing so safely. There is a bolthole under the shed as an added safety mechanism but so far we've never needed it.

I think they don't fight during the day because they tend to stay on their own "turf". I guess it's like neighbouring colonies in the wild. As a species they have to tolerate other groups and in fact there are one or two cross-group friendships, eg Scamper is in the high status group during the day but sleeps in the shed with some of the lop group at night. They'll normally be fine sharing carriers for vet trips between groups too.

I think that what makes a lot of pet rabbits aggressive towards others is to do with possessiveness about what they see as their own territory, and mine are all used to sharing that territory so they don't perhaps have the same intensity of feeling about it. :? It was shared before they arrived so it's never been exclusively "theirs", if that makes sense.. There's never any humping either, which also suggests the aggressiveness/territory thing is quite weak here...

missFloppyears
25-02-2012, 10:20 AM
I have a group of four (well three now :evil: ) but they hopefully will be bonded back too four soon.
i love bunnies in big groups its by far a better social setup for them, if not far more destructive on my furniture:lol:

when me and andy have our own place we want to bond all 7 together:love::love::love:

Alibunmum
25-02-2012, 10:21 AM
It just sounds wonderful! I do think we need a picture of them all out together!:thumb:

Vita
25-02-2012, 12:14 PM
What a fascinating post :D. I've often thought that there must be a lot of rabbit behaviour that would happen in a wild-sized group that you don't fully see with a pair - and here it all is! Though they must be a lot more peaceful than wild rabbits due to being neutered.

Forming a circle round the scared bunny is amazing.
How do they treat unwell rabbits? Do they shun them, look after them, or does it vary?

It would be brilliant to see a video of them.

parsnipbun
25-02-2012, 12:42 PM
My largest groups are 7 and 8, with others of 4, 4, 2 and 2 (soon to be 4), 2, 2, and a 1 (recently turfed out by the 7 - who were eight)

The groups are relatively new in some instances (within the last 3 months) and there is still some jockeying.


The 8 was made out of a 4 and a 5 - and they promptly ganged up on one, who had to be removed, leaving eight

The 7 were an amalgam of 2s and again decided to get rid of 1 (they started as an eight).

It was amazing how any general squabbling between other members of the groups calmed down as soon as the one who was actually being picked on was removed in both instances. It was as though having one who the head buns disliked resulted in the whole groups being tetchy.

Unlike Tinsel my groups feel they own the lawn and so have to be let out in turns . . but the lawn is smaller (my garden is about the same size as Tinsel's but as a Garden Historian etc I DEMAND that at least half of it is devoted to flower borders and fruit trees!!!.

We are still looking for something with much more land (we also have 3 allotments right now) so hopefully one day they can all be let out to graze together.

Tinsel
26-02-2012, 06:55 PM
My largest groups are 7 and 8, with others of 4, 4, 2 and 2 (soon to be 4), 2, 2, and a 1 (recently turfed out by the 7 - who were eight)

The groups are relatively new in some instances (within the last 3 months) and there is still some jockeying.


The 8 was made out of a 4 and a 5 - and they promptly ganged up on one, who had to be removed, leaving eight

The 7 were an amalgam of 2s and again decided to get rid of 1 (they started as an eight).

It was amazing how any general squabbling between other members of the groups calmed down as soon as the one who was actually being picked on was removed in both instances. It was as though having one who the head buns disliked resulted in the whole groups being tetchy.

Unlike Tinsel my groups feel they own the lawn and so have to be let out in turns . . but the lawn is smaller (my garden is about the same size as Tinsel's but as a Garden Historian etc I DEMAND that at least half of it is devoted to flower borders and fruit trees!!!.

I ran this idea past my buns and there were words like "mutiny and "revolution"... *sigh* :roll:

It's fascinating to hear the shifting dynamics of other groups - I wonder if 7/8 is a significant number in wild colony terms...:?


It just sounds wonderful! I do think we need a picture of them all out together!:thumb:

Will see what I can do!


What a fascinating post :D. I've often thought that there must be a lot of rabbit behaviour that would happen in a wild-sized group that you don't fully see with a pair - and here it all is! Though they must be a lot more peaceful than wild rabbits due to being neutered.

Forming a circle round the scared bunny is amazing.
How do they treat unwell rabbits? Do they shun them, look after them, or does it vary?

It would be brilliant to see a video of them.


The neutering must help a lot and most were neutered quite young.

They tend to ignore ill bunnies so it was odd they were so protective in that particular instance.

I haven't mastered video but will try for pics :)

Jenova
26-02-2012, 07:05 PM
This is brilliant. I would love to have a big outdoor colony. :love: