Fighting outside run (sorry, long!)
Amber is about 8-9ish, and Elise is about 5-6ish. They've lived together for about 5 years - up till recently pretty happily.
I used to let them out of their house (they have a raised house and a run that is about 5foot by 10foot) into the garden to have a run about and a good nibble. However, this summer Bunny Battle Royal began. They were rolling over and over in their desire to rip each other to shreds, and even rolled down 3 steps as one bundle of very angry rabbit. I had to tear them apart by their scruffs.
I tried it several times, but each time the same thing - out of the rabbithouse they were huge enemies - half an hour later I'd try putting them back in together, and all was sweetness and light again. If you let just one out, she just sits next to the run waiting for her friend (or enemy, I suppose)
Since then they have just been living together in their house and run, and seem to be getting on OK. However, I recently read that the RSPCA suggests rabbits need as much exercise as a small dog - they are clearly not getting that in their run, but I can't think what to do.
Hiya, welcome to the Forum Cycas
I am sorry to hear of your difficulties with your two rabbits, Elise and Amber.
I think that they have sorted out the hierarchy of which is the Boss rabbit inside the rabbit house as they spend a good deal of their time there.
However they (I assume) have less frequent access to the garden, so each time they are fighting over territory.
There are several options, firstly, accept things as they are and just allow one rabbit out at a time, at least this is better than nothing.
Section two areas off within the garden, perhaps with wire mesh panels (Look at the Rabbit Rehome web site for these) so the rabbits can run along side each other in the garden but not actually together just yet.
Swop them into a different run each day so neither sees the wire run as theirs..you are teaching that it is shared territory.
This is difficult on a garden sized scale though
Do they run straight out of the rabbit house into the garden?? or do you lift them out?
Do they fight immediately once in the garden, or do they amble around for a bit before launching an attack??
How often have you allowed them out into the garden? Daily? Once a week?
Sorry for all the questions, but just trying to get a clear picture so I can think of some further ideas.
Ps. It is fairly typical with Does to be extra territorial, have they been spayed??
PPs. Do they have things to hide under and get away from each other in the garden, or is the area all open.
I am wondering that they are feeling vulnerable in the garden for some reason, and perhaps the flight response is triggering a FIGHT one..bunnies can become aggressive through fear..perhaps they need a lot more reassurance that the garden is safe...and providing lots of cover is a good option to help.
Sorry, I'm not sure I made this clear. Their wire run is permanently attached to their rabbit house, and they have access to it all the time. The house is a sort of raised chickenhouse thing that sits on top of the run.
The problem arises if I open up the run so they can hop out of it and run around the rest of the garden (which they can see from inside the run).
In my old garden, which was smaller and better fenced, they used to be allowed free run of the whole garden for an hour or so most days in the summer, and they were trained to go back in when I clapped my hands (Ok, not usually instantly, but after a little while and a few hints!)
In this garden I used to mostly let them out at the weekends, as it's big enough that it can take a while to round them back up if they decide to be naughty. However, since Bunny Battle Royal which was I think in June, they have only had access to their house and run. They can run in their run, so to speak, but it's not long enough for them to really get up speed and start binkying like loons, which is always nice to see.
Thanks Cycas, for clarifying that, I did understand what you meant from your first posting.
The fact they can see the area (from outside their run) is obviously different from being in it.
I think you may have hit the nail on the head by saying that access to the garden is infrequent, so rabbits would be constantly trying to re establish territory each time they go out.
They need to be out for very short times every day so that they see it as normal and part of a daily routine.
It only takes a few days for rabbits to start having to re establish heirarcy in an environment ,even if they have used the area frequently in the past.
I think things will settle down if Amber and Elise have a very short run into the garden every day, totally supervised, and you can always pop one back into the pen if they have a fight.
It is such a shame they cannot enjoy being with one another in the garden, especially as they get on so well elsewhere.
Ok, thanks, that makes sense. I can't really let them out every day at the moment as I am working during most of the daylight, but next spring I will try a daily hop each evening just for a few minutes and see if things calm down a bit.
They aren't spayed. When I got them from the rescue I couldn't find a vet that had rabbit spay experience: now we have moved there is one, but he's reluctant to operate on such an elderly bunny as Amber (8-9 is the youngest she can be: she might be 14 for all we know). I have been wondering whether to get Elise done though.
I did (and I gave them a pear as well, which they liked even more.)
Thanks for all the advice: I think I may try getting on of the mesh rabbit runs as well - if I join the two together that would make quite a large space but maybe not be quite so daunting as the whole garden (not to mention more secure.)
Do you think that would make a large enough exercise space?
They have a football and a plantpot, but they seem to like hedge cuttings and cardboard boxes best. I fill their sleeping house with different sizes of box: some with hay and some with newspaper: that way they don't get damp, and they sleep in some of them and tear them into tiny shreds, which seems to provide considerable entertainment.
Actually, it's just occurred to me that we have a whole bunch of those cardboard tubes from the inside of wrapping paper - must give them those to shred!
Hmm, music, that's an idea! They can have their new run for Christmas - they might have to wait for their birthdays for a radio as well!