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:
- 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.
- Introductions must be done on neutral territory (somewhere neither rabbit has been).
- 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.
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.
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.
Reblogged this on Dad's bday poems and commented:
I would recommend reading Fiona Campbell’s ‘Bonding A Trio Of Rabbits! I’ll see u soon, Ava
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
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.
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
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/
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 😀😀
Hi, we are in the process of bonding 3 rabbits (9.5 yr male and two 1.5yr rescue females). I didn’t do it correctly first time and have had one girl separate for the last 7 months. The other bonded straight away so was advised to leave it like that. As a rescue the fighter had issues which she has calmed down a bit. I have been having them in a neutral area for a few sessions and they are getting on well, eating, grooming and laying together. My concern is progressing this, how and when so they can be together her in their normal accommodation. Many thanks for your help.
When you said they are in a neutral area and doing well, is that all 3 of them? If so, then this sounds really positive. Personally, if you have had a few sessions like this then you should be able to progress. What I do is find a weekend where I am relatively free and pop them in the neutral area for a few hours then if they are okay, a few days. I like to have my neutral area to be near the sofa so I can watch Tv, read a book whilst keeping an eye on them. I can also sleep on the sofa if I am really worried/unsure. However, your neutral area needs to be somewhere you can keep them together for a few days to a week. In this time you will need to thoroughly clean our their normal accommodation with a white vinegar to water solution (50:50 ratio) to get rid of any smells/odours and properly neutralise it. Putting the mix in an old spray bottle works well. Good luck, Fiona.
Hi Fiona, we have three male rabbits, all neutered. Pedro, the oldest, came with his brother, who sadly died from gut stasis. Our first attempt at getting him a new friend was a great success – he loved Pippin and they were like best friends. Sadly, he died being neutered. Our next bun died from gut stasis after being here just.three weeks. We rehomed two little brothers, Simba and Bambi. The three have shared an area for several months, with a fence between. They have picked and sniffed and been quite calm with the bars between them. We waited six weeks after they were neutered to put them together with Pedro. The first attempt went quite well, but next time there was full on fighting. Bambi is still spraying and humping. What do you suggest? No one was injured – just a lot of fur flying – but can we try again after this? We are so desperate for Pedro to have a friend!
I’m really sorry to hear things didn’t go to plan. I assume the introductions were all done on neutral territory? Was this recently? It can be harder to bond in springtime, although not impossible.
I have rebonded rabbits after a fight where there were injuries needing stitches, so it can be done but I would advise waiting few weeks before trying again. In the meantime, you are doing the next best thing by allowing Pedro to see them and have some company, even if it is through a fence.
My blog about bonding after a fight is here:
Good luck, keep in touch and let me know how it goes.
Thank you for your reply, Fiona. Yes, this took place on neutral territory. We’ll follow your advice and wait a few weeks before trying again.
Just a couple of questions – will Bambi eventually stop spraying? This seems quite aggressive and territorial. The other thing was – if/when we have had some successful meeting/play times, how long do you think before they will be ok together on their own respective patches? At the moment, as I explained, they have a pen/fence between them, but the plan is to remove it eventually and let them all be together.
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I have three male rabbits who are litter mates. We got them at 12 weeks old and had them neutered shortly thereafter. They are now about 9 months old. After neutering, they began to fight so they have been separated since. We made a couple attempts at bonding, but it quickly turned to fighting. They live in a large outdoor kennel, separated into three sections. The middle one gets along well now through the fence with each of his neighbors, but unfortunately the two on the ends don’t have direct contact. I would like them to be able to share the whole run so they have more room to run around, but I am nervous about trying to bond them again because I don’t want to start all over with them fighting through the fence again. I also can’t bring them inside or leave them unattended in neutral territory, so leaving them together for hours or days isn’t an option unless it’s in their normal space (which could be combined). Would you recommend trying to bond them? If so, would you put all three together right away, or start with each combination of two first? They are large New Zealands, so putting them all in one carrier would not work. I have heard of “stress bonding” in a bathtub, which I could do for a short “date.” What do you think of this?
I would suggest you start by swapping them around so that they each take turns in being in the middle section and can all get a chance to get used to each other. It’s very difficult to bond once there have been any serious fights but it’s not impossible. I think your best bet is to swap them around for now (change them every few days) and then when the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted see if you can give a donation to a rescue in return for them helping you bond them. That way you can get them bonded in a totally different and neutral environment. As they are big rabbits, I think the bath tub is probably too small and is unlikely to help in the long term anyway. Good luck!
Hi Fiona, just came across your page. I currently have 2 bonded sisters from the same litter who are about a year old, we don’t really seem to have a full time dominant one and they seem to take it in turns. They never fight, but chase when there is food (I am trying to scatter feed and feed smaller but more regularly to help this and it seems to be, they both LOVE food so its a thing for them haha!). I have been thinking about getting a male to introduce to make a trio- or even a female, but I figured male might be better? I am hoping a third will help them establish a better bond and give them another friend to play with. I would like to hear your thoughts as I have never kept rabbits until this year. My girls currently free roam downstairs but I do have an xpen I can use to put another rabbit in while they bond. Any tips would be great. Do I keep them all penned together for time I am home and can watch them? Do I leave the new bun in the pen to get used to the smells and the girls while they are left to free roam as normal? Is it always best to get a neutered male (I am hoping to visit one that needs rehoming this weekend, but not yet fixed- my girls both are, he is around 7 months old)? I have checked my local rescues and they don’t have a suitable rabbit in at the minute. With is coming up to xmas I will have more time off work to keep an eye on them all, so figured it would be a good time to get another, plus I’m hoping during winter the hormones won’t be so crazy!
Thanks for any help you can provide!
Hi Sam, Thanks for your comment. I think a male would be best, although you never can tell. He definitely needs to be neutered and ideally, a few weeks passed since his castration to allow his hormones to subside. The pen is a good idea but it needs to be in a room where your rabbits have never been before (neutral territory). Personally, I would suggest you look for a rescue that has a male rabbit that will do the bonding for you, it is sooooooo much easier, much less stressful and they have plenty of neutral territory and experience. However, if you want to try it yourself I’d recommend you read this first: https://shop.rabbitwelfare.co.uk/product/bonding-rabbits-by-fiona-firth/ because there are a couple of ways to bond, slow or fast methods. Good luck!
I have three female rabbits at home. They are all lops. One is 1.5 yrs old and she was spayed one year ago. The other two are estimated to be 2 years old and they both were spayed on December 2. I would like to try and bond the three of them. Two of them live in the same room right now (they’ve been in the same room together since December 4) and they get turns playing in the big exercise pen. They leave their poops around, of course, because they want to exude their dominance. Do you think it would be OK to try and bond the three of them in a neutral space? Should I start by trying to bond the two that are in the same room/environment already and then introduce the third or should I try to bond all three right away? Not at all? I appreciate your advice. Thank you.
There is no strict way of doing this, but personally, I think I would try and bond all 3 straight away. Bonding is stressful (but worth the stress if it works) so if you were to bond two then add a third, the first two have to go through two rounds of bonding. They are all spayed which is great and you’ve mentioned neutral territory which is a must, so if you try it give yourself plenty of time and don’t make the neutral territory too big. I would highly recommend you try asking the lady that runs Bunnyjackpot Boarding (see her Facebook page) as she has bonded many more rabbits than I have. She bonds for rabbit rescues, so she might ask for a small donation for any advice. Good luck!
I have 3 rabbits (1 by himself) and (2 in a pair male and female), sadly the female partner for my male died recently. I am really sad for him as would like him to have some company.
Unfortunately the reason I have/had 4 rabbits was because I thought one of the rabbits was a female when first got him and so got a male companion. They were bonded however started fighting and so I found out when “she” went to get spayed to be a boy! Therefore I then got 2 females for them and they were all happy.
Since then (5-6 years ago) the males have always disliked each other, try fighting through their cages etc.
My question is would it be possible to bond the lone male together with the male &!female pair? I think it would be extremely difficult and maybe impossible, but unfortunately I do not want any more rabbits and I hate the thought of him being alone. Really would appreciate your thoughts!
Hi Gemma, how they act through a barrier is often really different to how they would act if properly bonded together. I’ve not done many group bondings but there is a wonderful lady in Bath who does them all the time. I would recommend you ask her or join one of her bonding webinars. The next one is 9th July. This should be the link:https://www.facebook.com/bunnyjackpot/posts/pfbid02DZiBNUKXWhh5P2k3yKbWe7U9mMDkPz9Jqw3LRNtR1jmwqA59Yamng63A9HsanJ5rl?__cft__%5B0%5D=AZUlFnQXIjfNy4glGncaj7zgeZRw0fqS1xDjjXScUPi6wEGFtmpQ2VP11_snoJBtLVjNYDPHmhDm0AIGAZE4fiHObtGkslpNFC_VbDiqGJEvJyytdR_ZcEViAVz3DlLmJ04VG2_MWXZltIlK-DIImEF6&__tn__=%2CO%2CP-R
If the link does not work email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hi Gemma, often rabbits will behave differently when bonded compared to how they would through a barrier, however I am not very experienced in group bonds. I would highly recommend following Bunnyjackpot on social media as she is very experienced at bonding groups. She has a bonding webinar on 9th July too. Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/bunnyjackpot/posts/pfbid02DZiBNUKXWhh5P2k3yKbWe7U9mMDkPz9Jqw3LRNtR1jmwqA59Yamng63A9HsanJ5rl?__cft__%5B0%5D=AZX941nRUR4g0gTHMdYnQyxP2dBuRAsBmPx7ZIkTGaxvL4OfWiZIKkyWxkySvViJuz9XTgJCZuToc2oewEPzp89sdzP9i09yXQmPg3OParIApsjikWzWU5JWOYcUpYJsaXs&__tn__=%2CO%2CP-R
Hi Fiona, I just came across your website and am very excited to try your bonding technique. I know you’ve only done it a couple times, but I was wondering if you had any advice for my situation. I just adopted a bonded pair of males, just neutered about a month ago. There’s a big shy skittish boy who gets humped/chased by the less shy one several times a day. I have a female who lost her partner about a year ago. She’s always been passive and skittish but loves love from any animal or person. She’s done very well with other potential bunnies she met before but was a little aggressive when she saw these buns which surprised me. I’m debating on separating all 3 since the two males were neutered not long ago. They’ve been together for 3 years before that but I guess the rescue group were still able to bond them after. No worries if you don’t have advice, I will also look into Bunnyjackpot that you recommended for the previous commenter. Thank you for a great post!
Hi, is your female neutered too? Females can be aggressive if not neutered, and it can be difficult to bond them. Even if they are neutered, some owners find it harder in spring to bond due to circulating hormones. So it could be a combination of things. I know the Bunnyjackpot foundation actually have a bonding seminar coming up on 25th March so it might be worth getting in touch with them about that.
Hi, I wanted to ask you for advice. I have three females, they all being spayed. Initially I bonded two of them together and they were doing great ( this was right before one female got spayed) when I took the one girl to get spayed she was separated from the other bunny for a little while but in the same room and by the time we let them together again they started fighting and we separated them. We rescued another female and spayed her and now after a while we want to bond them all together. They all three have been living in the same room for a while and they can see each other all the time. We took them on a car ride and they did great. No fighting or anything at all, they even “flopped” next to each other. Now there is one of them (moonshita) she keeps on biting and chasing the other two, tombolina ans wigga. We have them in a small cage all together but moonshita seems to only attack wigga (which is the one that was rescued and introduced to them later on) they both don’t don’t anything to tombolina but wigga and moonshita keep fighting, not too bad just biting and chasing with some humping. What do you think I should do ? Keep them in there for longer.? Send them back to their room and try again ?
Any advice will help us out a lot
Hi David, Females (even spayed) can be tricky to bond. It’s thought to be harder during springtime too, so it may not be the best time of year to start. A little nipping – if they are not breaking the skin and humping is normal and nothing to worry about. However, anything worse than this and they need to be separated immediately as they can cause serious damage. I assume you are also trying to introduce them in neutral territory, which is essential for this to work. I’ve not personally tried three females so I’d recommend asking someone with a bit more knowledge than myself. The Bunny Jackpot foundation have great bonding advice and do regular seminars which might help. Or I’d reach out to your local rescue for advice. Good luck.