Bonding a trio of rabbits

Rabbits love company. But they are fussy about what friends they keep and fights (causing severe injuries) can break out if you don’t introduce rabbits properly. This introduction is known as bonding. There are many different methods and techniques used to bond rabbits. This is just how I did it. However, there are three golden rules to any bond:

  1. All rabbits – yes both males and females MUST be neutered. Castrating the male only will stop unwanted pregnancies but hormonal, territorial females can be very angry and they usually need to be neutered too for a bond to be successful.
  2. Introductions must be done on neutral territory (somewhere neither rabbit has been).
  3. Be prepared!

My book ‘Bonding Rabbits’ explains how I bonded my very first pair. However, today I’m going to talk about bonding a trio. This is only the second attempt I had at a trio (the first was also a success). It should be noted that, if you already had a neutered pair which have a close relationship, you should think very carefully before adding a third rabbit. The introduction of the third can sometimes upset the current pair and may even cause the original bond to break down. I already had a pair; George (neutered male) and Hazel (neutered female). However, the relationship was not as close as I’d seen in some of my previous bunnies and George could be a bit of a bully towards Hazel. I decided to try adding in another rabbit to see if this would change and improve the dynamics of the group. I could have chosen a male or a female. At this point it is the personality that matters most (whereas a male-female pair is best when bonding two rabbits). I decided on a neutered female (Daisy).

STEP 1. Preparation. Before bonding I made sure I was fully prepared. I’ve learnt from experience to have everything ready BEFORE you put the rabbits together. It is much less stressful. So a bonding run is prepared – not too big or rabbits can sit in corners and make the corners their ‘territory’ and not too small so they can’t sit apart either. To start with, no litter trays or toys or anything that may smell of one or another rabbit and again the reason for no trays initially is so no-one can claim territory. No water bowl for first 30 mins so it doesn’t get knocked flying in the initial fighting chasing but you can put a few bottles around the pen. Big gloves at the ready in case you need to separate fighting buns. I have big welding gloves that I use for messing around with the fire so they can’t bite through them. And a water sprayer – some people don’t advocate this (as it is not very pleasant for the rabbit) but it can be useful to squirt a bit of water in the face of a rabbit which seems to be repeatedly starting scuffles. It stops them in their tracks and makes them stop and groom their face which is a calming behaviour. The timing of the squirt of water must be exact for this to work. If unsure – don’t use it. And the ‘squirt’ should be a light spray/mist from the same sort of bottle as you would mist plants with (clean and unused obviously). I did not need to use the sprayer when bonding this trio.

My bonding pen is usually in the livingroom (neutral territory). I put newspapers down to protect the floor but I prefer it in the lounge because I can watch TV and keep an eye on them. Also if the bonding seems to be taking a while, I can choose to sleep on the sofa next to them in case a fight starts. For this reason you should always leave yourself a spare weekend to bond rabbits. It cannot be done in a rush.

The bonding pen

The bonding pen

STEP 2. Car journey. I got my husband to drive the car and I sat in the back. I put my pair in an open topped cardboard box and after starting the 10 minute journey I popped the single bunny in. You don’t have to do this stage you can go straight to the bonding pen but my personal previous experience shows this works really well. The bunnies don’t like the car much and huddle down – the third bunny then huddles into the pair. A few minutes is enough. For very nervous or elderly rabbits this step (known by some as stressing) is probably not suitable.

STEP 3. The bonding pen. Put all three rabbits into the pen, get the gloves on and stand by. Some chasing, fur-pulling, humping, nipping and ignoring is normal. But full on fighting (eyes shut, kicking, rolling around together biting) is a very bad sign and rabbits should be separated immediately.

Initial meeting between Daisy (white & grey), George (Brown lop) and Hazel.

Initial meeting between Daisy (white & grey), George (Brown lop) and Hazel.

After a while they settled down and George and Hazel ignored Daisy.

After a while they settled down and George and Hazel ignored Daisy.

As things progressed i added in a litter tray, more hay and a water bowl and Daisy squeezed herself in between George and Hazel.

As things progressed I added in a litter tray, more hay and a water bowl and Daisy squeezed herself in between George and Hazel.

Eating together is a very good sign that things are going well.

Eating together is a very good sign that things are going well.

The Outcome Introducing Daisy to George and Hazel was my easiest bond yet! I think by being prepared for the worst it made things seem very easy. There were some initial scuffles. Chasing and fur nipping but only by the new-comer Daisy and George my existing male. Poor Hazel just hid in the corner and froze but after a few hours the three of them were soon eating and lying together. One and a half years on and they are all still great together.

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6 thoughts on “Bonding a trio of rabbits

  1. Hi we have 3 female rabbits. Two came bonded but recently started fighting so we had to seperate them. They live next to each other and can see and smell each other. They can be in the same room together but do fight when they get near each other. These two are not spaded yet (we have this booked in) and they are 4 months old. Our 3rd female is 1 year old and is spaded. Is it possible to bond these 3 females once they are all spaded. We did have a bonded pair who are now seperated due to fighting and a 3rd who was bonded to a male until he died.

    We know that it will take time for the grief etc. But i think it is going to be impossible as our spaded female has already biten one of the others

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    • Hi Jenny, Unfortunately bonding females, especially unrelated ones can be pretty tricky, especially once they have already fought. If you want to try it then my advice would be to keep all 3 separate for a couple of months to let the hormones settle after they have been spayed and so that they can become less stressed from being around each other. After a couple of months I would then start swapping them all about, so each day you swap them into each others cages/hutches/rooms so that they can all get used to each others smell without having the actual rabbits meeting each other. After a few weeks like this you can put them all in the same area so they can see and smell each other but not get to each other – however it needs to be somewhere none of them have never been before. They might try and lunge or bite at each other through the barriers but keep feeding them either side of the barrier so that they are all eating together and see the other rabbit (s) as a good thing (tasty food happens when I see her etc). If they calm down and accept the presence of the other rabbits in this way then you could try bonding them but there is still no guarantee. You could also ask your local rescue for help too as they may provide you with some neutral territory and help with bonding for a donation. Or you could talk to them about the possibility of swapping one of your females for a neutered male. If you want to keep all 3 females you might have to keep them as two separate pairs/groups and introduce males to help settle the dynamics. Just take everything slowly and make sure they have all had time to get over being spayed.

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  2. Hi I plan to try this as we have just got a little boy mini rex who is 8 weeks old. Today we put them in a run but sadly my boy turned on our girl who he is already bonded with and it broke my heart x we left them a few minutes and the dear little baby was petrified bless him and I wonder if he is a little too young at 8 weeks. My 2 are both a year old and neutered with the male being the more dominant one. My older female jumped out of the run so we had to abort it. I am doing a lot of research and plan at the weekend to try the car ride and then putting them in an indoor cage which is all we can do due to space. If you can give me any other advice that would be great as the last thing I want to do is break the bond my 2 buns already have x

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    • Hi Sarah, you can bond babies, I have done it but they can easily get injured. If you try again then ideally have some small tubes or hideouts that the baby can hide in but the adults cannot fit into. I would be tempted to do a slow bond with the baby, until the adults realise he is not a threat. So try and put them in runs/cages side by side so they can all see each other but cannot bite each other. Once they are all happily, lying, grooming and eating side by side (which could take a few weeks) and your adult male and female are not attacking each other or trying to escape you could try them all in together. However, you will need to put them all in neutral territory, somewhere none of the 3 have been before. So you could set up a pen in your kitchen or lounge, where you can easily supervise. Unfortunately, there is never any guarantee that the existing bond won’t break down and you will have to try and time things well as once your baby boy starts to hit puberty it could cause other issues. The alternative is to house them side by side until he is ready to be neutered (usually from 12 weeks onwards, depending on your vet) and then assuming they have been all living near each other (but not with each other) amicably you could then introduce them. If you introduce them successfully before he is castrated then you will need to take all 3 to the vets when he has his operation as this could break the bond they have and you might have to reintroduce them – see what happened when mine did not go to the vets together here: https://ficampbell.com/2018/01/07/breaking-the-bond/

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      • Hi well thanks for the brilliant advice !! I have done exactly as you have said and they are currently side by side in their runs outside during the day and any time we are home. The older 2 no longer bicker and the female has become quite accepting of the baby x Flake the boy is a little bit less tolerant but hopefully with time he will settle. I put their food bowls near each other yesterday and they seemed okay. Ash the baby has had time exploring their side of the run and in their hutch yesterday while the others were in the garden and he loved it x. It’s only 1 week since we got him and hardly been out due to the rain so will spend a lot more time out now. I am hoping we can get them together in the next 3 weeks as Ash is only 9 weeks and still so small which I hope will work but all is not lost if it’ doesn’t happen. I didn’t realise you still had to do it on neutral territory if they had been side by side ? Does that mean I will have to through all the nasty nipping and stuff or should it not he as bad ? Also would they have to be in neutral territory for days ? As it would be very hard due to space restriction. Hope that makes sense 😀😀

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