The Bunny Bonding Process
When they are ready and have been consistently demonstrated relaxed behaviour, you can start to slowly introduce them.
Prepare a neutral space for the introduction, somewhere that neither rabbit feels is “their” place. This should be a safe space that has not belonged to either rabbit before. Make sure the area is as large as possible, broken up with various obstacles and perhaps a few favourite vegetables to act as distractions. Cardboard boxes and tubes make fantastic places to hide bunnies become nervous.
Allow the potential pair to enter the area simultaneously.
Rabbits should NEVER be left unsupervised during the bonding process. If they get upset or stressed, you need to be there to either separate them.
What happens next really depends on the pair. Sometimes after a little ‘eyeing-up’ and perhaps a little chasing the rabbits may lose interest in each other and do their own thing. Often, you’ll find that one of the pair shows far more interest with the other seemingly indifferent to their new follower!
In the most common scenario, one of the rabbits will take the lead and approach the other, sniffing and circling them and trying to mount them. This is a common dominance behaviour and is the rabbit’s way of figuring out who is going to be the “boss”. A submissive rabbit will let this happen, putting their head on the ground, while a less submissive rabbit may nip or run away. Stay with the rabbits at all times and intervene if you feel one or both rabbits are becoming too stressed.
Occasionally the ‘introduction’ may culminate in fighting. If this happens split the pair immediately and try again in a few days.
Be patient and allow them time!
Providing fighting has not broken out between the pair allow them 10-20 minutes of interaction before returning them to their respective cages. Repeat this process daily, and increase the interaction time.
Rabbits will eventually stop taking notice of each other and become curious about their surroundings instead. This is the turning point when it is usually safe to let the rabbits roam free together, however, continue to separate them when you are not there to supervise.
When the rabbits start to lie down together or groom each other, the bond is made and will continue to deepen with time. At this stage the pair can be put into the accommodation that they are to share together to see how they react. Remember to regularly observe for any potential tension.
Remember to never rush this process.
Bunnies need to time adjust to one another and be given the freedom to do this in their own time. If you see that one or both bunnies are becoming distressed or are showing aggressive behaviors – stop. Go back a step and start again.
Once a bond has been formed, rabbits should never be separated for any length of time.
If one has to visit the vets – they will both need to go. If one comes out to be groomed – they both come out. They should at all times be kept together.
They once bonded, are inseparable and are dependent on one another. Separating bunnies causes them stress.
For more information on rabbits, why not check out our busting bunny myths blog?