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Bunny Bulletin

Our regular bulletin board featuring blog articles, updates and advice from our volunteer team.

As part of Rabbit Awareness Week, our Facebook followers asked for some tips & hints on bonding.

We thought we'd start by dispelling some common Bonding Myths, then later in the week we'll offer additional bonding advice.

Same-Sex Rabbits Cannot Be Bonded
Simply not true.  Assuming that all rabbits in the group are neutered, same-sex groups can be bonded quite happily, for life.  It is a little harder than a male-female bond, but not a definite no!

Male-Male Bonds Will Result In Death
I've heard many people say that male-male bonds can't work, because male rabbits will fight each other to the death.

There is a little bit of truth in this, but only a little bit!  Unneutered males are very aggressive to each other, and they will fight for dominance.  There are true stories of rabbits killing each other during this process, and more common is the situation where they do serious physical harm to each other - including castrating their opposition with their teeth to assert their dominance.

However, neutered males will generally not do this.  Neutering removes the excess hormones that cause this territorial behaviour, and allows male-male bonds to exist in perfect happiness.

Speed Dating or ""Love At First Sight"" Meetings are the best way to bond
In my experience, this is not the case.  We find that the love at first sight effect is the least effective, with most rabbits not following this ""perfect"" example.

I have also been asked on numerous occasions to help people with bonding their rabbits after an apparent love at first sight bond has broken with days or a couple of weeks from bringing a new rabbit home.

What we find is often happening in these cases is that the rabbits are initially tolerating each other (appearing to be instantly accepting each other), then after an initial period will follow the typical bonding behaviour exhibited in almost every bond.

You can just throw rabbits into the same hutch and leave them to it
Absolutely not!  It is really important that you supervise the early stages of bonding, and it is beneficial for you to include a number of exercise and tricks to help them get used to each other too.

I put the rabbits together and they were fine, so I can just leave them now
Not necessarily - delayed fighting is possible, so its important to follow the bonding technique even if it looks initially to be going very well.  You want to be confident they will be safe together, not 'hope' they will be ok.

Bonded rabbits need to be the same size and/or breed and/or age
Simply not the case.

My personal pet groups currently each have one giant, one cross-bred and one miniature breed in each bonded group, and are all of differing ages as they were adopted from the rescue service at different stages.

My rabbit is too old to be paired with another rabbit now
In most cases, this isn't true.  The desire for company is so high, regardless of their age, that it is still important to consider getting a new partner even for our elderly bunnies.

Today we tell you about another of our recent rabbits, Luna.  Luna was an expected entrant into the network - we had been asked to take a litter of unwanted babies in, which we agreed to, and when they arrived they arrived with mum.  Bunny Green, FBRC Rescue Manager & Foster Carer, tells the story.

If you can provide support for these babies, and our other rabbits (we currently have 69 in the network and expect this to rise again to around 80 within a week or two) please visit http://www.justgiving.com/fbrc-mar14.

Luna is a young rabbit who entered into the FBRC network with her six twelve week old babies.

Within a day of arriving in the rescue, Luna started to build a nest. We all hoped she was having a false pregnancy, but within a couple of days she had produced a large litter of healthy babies. Luna had entered the network already pregnant.

Luna is a very dedicated Mum and she is taking very good care of her babies, despite being a young bun herself and having only just had a litter a few weeks earlier. Her wee body has had a lot to deal with.

So far we have not had much to do with the kits, Luna is doing a great job by herself and we don't want to interfere.  However once they start venturing out of the nest we look forward to handling them and getting them as tame as Mum.

Luna is incredibly friendly and curious. She runs to her hutch door the minute anyone enters the shed looking for nose rubs. She enjoys being hand fed treats and hay and is so gentle when she takes them. Her mischievous side is starting to become apparent as she has started to jump out of her hutch to have a run about the shed. Though it's not long before she hops back in to be with her babies.

At FBRC, even when young rabbits that are too young to be neutered are adopted into new homes, owners are given a neutering voucher that they can redeem at one of our vet partners (over 20 vets throughout West Central Scotland).  As a result, even each of these babies are expected to cost the rescue a minimum of £100 in veterinary care.

If you can provide support for these babies, and our other rabbits (we currently have 69 in the network and expect this to rise again to around 80 within a week or two) please visit http://www.justgiving.com/fbrc-mar14.

Of our 29 (and counting) rabbits this month, our two latest may well bring with them our biggest challenge, emotionally, physically and financially, as Lhanna, an FBRC foster carer, explains:

I love rabbits and while I have my own I also love to foster them, as it is so rewarding to help sick and neglected rabbits return to health and learn to trust humans again.

But it can be heart breaking, too and as I write this I do not know whether my two new beautiful foster bunnies, Leah and Lucy, will even survive this coming night as they are so very sick.

I am trying hard to be positive that I can nurse them back to health but the vet has warned me that help might have arrived too late for these adorable little sisters, who have been starved almost to the point of death. Tragically, it was certainly too late for their sister - she died before her life had hardly begun.  Her surviving sisters are just 16 weeks old and instead of getting up to mischief like young rabbits do they are fighting to stay alive.

In five years of fostering I have never seen such severe malnutrition in a rabbit since I fostered Smokey last summer. He was found abandoned in a crisp box and urgently needed not only food but dental care, too. He had never seen hay and it took me six months to nurse him back to health. It was distressing at times and many tears were shed but there was a happy outcome and Smokey now lives with my group of rabbits.

I am desperately hoping that the girls’ future will be just as happy, particularly since they have had such a sad beginning to their lives. They were unwanted by their original owner and were offered to a neighbour who felt obliged to take them on but she was unable to look after them and so they came into rescue.

When I collected these poor girls it immediately became clear why their sister had died. They are so horrifically emaciated that I can feel every bone, joint and internal organ and their stomachs are inverted. Amazingly, however, they are both heartbreakingly trusting towards humans and extremely protective of each other.

When I rang the vet for advice on what to feed them I was advised to bring them in as soon as possible. When head vet Neil McIntosh lifted Leah and Lucy from the carrier he was so shocked that he let out a gasp of horror as his hand was able to reach right round their tiny bodies. He weighed them - Leah is just 1.4kg, and already has the start of dental spurs and some scarring on her cheek from them. Lucy however, is only 1.2kg and she also has dental spurs as well as conjunctivitis and is now on eye drops.

The sad thing is that the girls need to have dental operations but as they are so malnourished we have been told that they would not survive them. Until they are fit for surgery the vet has advised that they are given 72g of Excel a day each, unlimited hay and a small cup of veg, which will hopefully help their teeth. I will do my utmost to get these bunnies well but Neil has warned me that Lucy may not survive and in fact we will need a lot of luck for both of them to pull through.

These girls have only been on earth for just 16 weeks and yet their life now hangs in the balance and they have already witnessed the loss of their sister. Looking after them is going to be both physically and emotionally challenging: their severe malnutrition has caused not only their muscles to virtually waste away but their bones are so fragile that they have to be kept on a soft, padded surface to prevent fractures. They can’t even play outside because if they suffered fear - say from a sudden noise like a bang or a dog barking - it could cause shock and kill them.

I cannot tell you how heart breaking it is to see two young rabbits, who through no fault of their own have endured such neglect in their short lives. Who knows whether they will ever have the opportunity of discovering the joys of hopping and binkying across grass or whether like their sister they will die because a human failed them.

I will do my utmost to show them that not all humans are the same. Leah and Lucy will have the best help and care that anyone can provide.

If you can help, please consider donating at http://www.justgiving.com/fbrc-mar14, or by purchasing something from our Amazon Wishlist

At home, Tianna & Snow White are very affectionate towards each other. When out playing in the run, they are very independent of each other, and enjoy investigating alone - only touching base with each other occasionally.

Tianna is very gentle, inquisitive and affectionate. She will confidently come for nose rubs, and takes treats very gently, and eat them next to you.

Snow White is the opposite! She is very nosey, cheeky but loves a cuddle. Snow will take a teat then hide it. Really, you would never guess that Snow was blind and deaf, as it is never an issue - she's always the first in line for a treat!

If you think you could offer these lovely bunnies their much needed forever home, please visit http://www.fairlybelovedrabbitcare.org/adopt.