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Thread: Advice on bonding please

  1. #1

    Default Advice on bonding please

    Hi, I have a female bunny, Hazel , that I got from rescue in November, estimated 2-3 years old. I got her speyed in December. She had cancer in the uterus (a separate post about that!) so I was going to wait to get her a friend but the vet said as we have no idea if it has spread and how long she might have left, we might as well go ahead and get her a friend to keep her company.
    So we have just taken home Shadow on Friday night. He is estimated 1-2 years. He has been neutered approx. 5 weeks ago by the rescue. The rescue didn't have any info about him. It is a small rescue and they didn't have much space for him as all their small animal spaces were taken so he has been a bit more caged than they would like. Ideally we would have waited a bit longer after his neutering.

    The set up I have is Hazel has a medium sized room to herself and the large hallway to free roam during the day (shut back in her room at night). The rescue we got her from said she was territorial and aggressive, she has not shown this behaviour with us, she has been a lovely affectionate bunny since the day we got her, she is always licking us. She shows a mix of behaviours, sometimes she will stamp her feet in irritation if she isn't happy about something, stopping her go down the stairs etc. She is very brave and doesn't get frightened easily. But other times she sort of freezes if you come out a room and make her jump and she puts her head down in a submissive way. She has actually seemed to flinch on a few occasions when I am near her as if she thinks I will hurt her but most of the time she trusts us completely, she rolls over and relaxes easily, she met lots of people over xmas coming to the house and she was not shy! I wondered if she had been mistreated in the past by a human or perhaps bullied by a bunny or something. She has never lunged or bitten me, nipped etc (until today). She is a lovely bunny!

    As it has only been weeks since Shadow has been neutered, I decided to put him in another room we used to have as a second bunny room. This room leads off the hallway and has a strairgate across it covered in small mesh so no biting could occur. He was nervous at first when we got him home but soon went exploring. My partner lay on the floor and he jumped ontop of him. He allowed me to stroke him for quite a while and give him a groom.

    My plan was to leave them being able to safely see each other for a week or more, swap some poos from their litter trays, add a bit of hair to each others rooms etc, then if it seemed like they were getting used to each other, try some bonding with them in a neutral area.

    Hazel was very worked up / stressed when she noticed Shadow was there. She kept going up to the gate and watching intently, when he came near she would mirror his movements, he didn't seem bothered, just a bit nosey, she was really unhappy, jumping round in circles, running away and then back again, very frantic. I tried to calm her and stroke her. I was expecting this reaction at first. Most of yesterday I spent time with each of them. Shadow isn't at all worried about her being there, he is pretty much ignoring her. If he begs up at the gate, she scrabbles at it and he ignores her. However he has been making that kind of honking noise they make sometimes and he has circled me a few times making it. So I wonder if that is having an effect on Hazels reaction to him. When I sit with Hazel a couple of metres away from the gate, she is fine and acts like everything is normal, relaxing etc. But on her own or near his gate she is so worked up. Yesterday when I walked through the hallway she kept running up to me then racing back over to the gate as if she was trying to tell me he was there or try to get me to help chase him away! She was shut in her room overnight so couldn't see him, but this morning when I let her out she was straight round to him, and ignored her veg at first that she normally goes crazy for. I spent time with her and it was fine, but when I left her she was staring through his gate again. Getting agitated when he went near. At one point I sat about 2 feet away talking to her gently, she was by his gate, when he came near, she went frantic again, round in circles, ran over to me (I wasn't moving), bit my hand pretty hard and ran straight back over. I dont' think she meant to be bite me specifically, I think she was just so agitated.

    I know it is early on and I was expecting to take time over this, but I just wondered if this is a really bad sign for her to be so aggressive from the start. If she could get to him she would attack him I have no doubt about that. I wondered whether blocking her from getting near the gate for now might be a good idea or putting a piece of board across it so she can't see him at the moment to get so agitated but get used to his smell might help the situation, or whether that might make things worse.

    The rescue have agreed before we took Shadow that this would be a trial and if it didn't work they would take him back as I had trouble in the past with bonding (one bonding I did went amazingly well years ago and the second more recent didn't work out so I don't want to end up with 2 bunnies who can't live together again). My gut feeling was to try for around a month depending on whether there is any success at all or looks like no hope. I am certainly not ready to give up after a couple of days but thought getting some advice would be useful!

    Thanks for reading and for any help :-)

  2. #2
    Forum Buddy Craig 1965's Avatar
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    I'd love to be able to give you some input, but actually your situation in some ways mirrors my cuurent situation trying to bond my doe Lillian (who lost her bonded husbun Henry 3 weeks ago) to a new rescue bun Leo. Lillians behaviour is in some ways reflective of Hazel. Lillian is a house bun and so far seems to be displaying territorial behavior so I will be following your thread with much enthusiasm and hope that everything goes well for you.
    I know some of my fellow RU's with heaps of wonderful bonding experience will be able to give you some excellent guidance for how to work through this.
    Lots of luck and loads of bonding vibes for you and Haze, and Shadow.
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  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Craig 1965 View Post
    I'd love to be able to give you some input, but actually your situation in some ways mirrors my cuurent situation trying to bond my doe Lillian (who lost her bonded husbun Henry 3 weeks ago) to a new rescue bun Leo. Lillians behaviour is in some ways reflective of Hazel. Lillian is a house bun and so far seems to be displaying territorial behavior so I will be following your thread with much enthusiasm and hope that everything goes well for you.
    I know some of my fellow RU's with heaps of wonderful bonding experience will be able to give you some excellent guidance for how to work through this.
    Lots of luck and loads of bonding vibes for you and Haze, and Shadow.
    Thankyou, it sounds like we both have similar problems then, hopefully someone can help us both :-)

  4. #4

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    No advice here either I have a new male bunny to bond to my recently singled female. Also watching the thread with interest.

  5. #5
    Wise Old Thumper joey&boo's Avatar
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    I don't think behaviour through bars is indicative of how they'll interact face to face so I'd not worry too much. Hazel is threatened by a bunny so close to her territory which is totally normal. I agree with your idea to block Hazel from being able to see Shadow til the times right for bonding. When I attempted group bonding last year I used an enclosure as a room divide & only 1 out of the 4 bunnies behaviour through the bars was predictive of how it worked out

  6. #6

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    Hi! Your situation and bunnyís reaction seems somewhat similar to my femaleís initial reaction to my male when we initially brought him home. But safe to say they are a happily bonded pair. My female was also very aggressive at the beginning (I could almost be 100% she would have attacked and seriously hurt him if she was given the chance at the start - she would lunge and go to bite him if I would have let her, not to mention was very unsure of his smell at the beginning). In this case, I think it was because she is a very dominant and somewhat territorial rabbit and since she was also a free roam house rabbit, as well as being a single rabbit for nearly a year previously, I think she felt she needed to protect her territory which is understandable. It took nearly 4 months to bond my pair (mainly because of my femaleís dominance and me not wanting one of them to get injured and so I was probably over-cautious because I know she would be capable of hurting him if she wanted to), so possibly donít be disheartened if it doesnít seem to be working in bonding after a month depending on how often you do it as I believe my bunniesí bond is as strong as it is because it took time to create and for them to establish their different dynamics. I wouldnít be too put off by your bunnyís initial reaction but would possibly start off with stress bonding (eg putting them both in a washing basket for example and moving them around a little - gently of course, or taking them on a car ride in the same carrier, but make sure that you would be able to intervene if one bunny went for the other). I think that in this situation stress bonding would allow the bunnies to find comfort over one another as opposed to fighting and seeing each other as a threat. But obviously reduce the stress and increase the space you are giving the bunnies slowly providing it goes well. Bonding takes time so make sure you donít give up too soon, as from experience I can tell you that it can work out even if it doesnít look too promising from the start. Hope it helps!

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by mismatchbunnies View Post
    Hi! Your situation and bunny’s reaction seems somewhat similar to my female’s initial reaction to my male when we initially brought him home. But safe to say they are a happily bonded pair. My female was also very aggressive at the beginning (I could almost be 100% she would have attacked and seriously hurt him if she was given the chance at the start - she would lunge and go to bite him if I would have let her, not to mention was very unsure of his smell at the beginning). In this case, I think it was because she is a very dominant and somewhat territorial rabbit and since she was also a free roam house rabbit, as well as being a single rabbit for nearly a year previously, I think she felt she needed to protect her territory which is understandable. It took nearly 4 months to bond my pair (mainly because of my female’s dominance and me not wanting one of them to get injured and so I was probably over-cautious because I know she would be capable of hurting him if she wanted to), so possibly don’t be disheartened if it doesn’t seem to be working in bonding after a month depending on how often you do it as I believe my bunnies’ bond is as strong as it is because it took time to create and for them to establish their different dynamics. I wouldn’t be too put off by your bunny’s initial reaction but would possibly start off with stress bonding (eg putting them both in a washing basket for example and moving them around a little - gently of course, or taking them on a car ride in the same carrier, but make sure that you would be able to intervene if one bunny went for the other). I think that in this situation stress bonding would allow the bunnies to find comfort over one another as opposed to fighting and seeing each other as a threat. But obviously reduce the stress and increase the space you are giving the bunnies slowly providing it goes well. Bonding takes time so make sure you don’t give up too soon, as from experience I can tell you that it can work out even if it doesn’t look too promising from the start. Hope it helps!
    I agree with most of this but I am in the camp against stress bonding. It has usually taken 3 days to bond rabbits but of course the bond deepens over time. Your female may just be excited at the presence of another rabbit, she might not necessarily want to attack him. You won't really know until you put them together.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by tonibun View Post
    I agree with most of this but I am in the camp against stress bonding. It has usually taken 3 days to bond rabbits but of course the bond deepens over time. Your female may just be excited at the presence of another rabbit, she might not necessarily want to attack him. You won't really know until you put them together.
    I agree and I also donít agree with a lot of stress bonding. I would always recommend keeping it to a minimum and only use when necessary. I know that in my case a small amount was needed to allow my rabbits to find comfort in one another as otherwise my female would have attacked my male as stated before.

  9. #9

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    Thanks everyone :-) So Hazel has calmed down with Shadow being around, I have been swapping poos from their litter trays and some toys. Tomorrow we are going to try the first bonding session, fingers crossed!

  10. #10
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    Good luck for tomorrow. Try to remain calm and matter of fact, pop them together with something to eat and remember they need a friend and it is only a small percentage of rabbits which don't want or like other bunnies.

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