Aggressive Rescue Bun

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May 30, 2023
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New member here. Yesterday afternoon while driving home in the middle of nowhere, I saw someone had dumped a little Havana rabbit on the side of the road. She was just sitting there utterly bewildered and didn't even know to run in the woods. By the grace of God she let me catch her and take her home, so now I guess I have a rabbit. She's a younger mature adult, quite thin, patchy and dull coat, and some small abrasions on her hocks that aren't bumblefoot just yet but I'm still keeping a close eye on them. She was probably on a wire floor before.

She has a big appetite and is comfortable enough to lay out on her side and sleep so she seems to be settling in pretty well considering the circumstances. She has free choice perennial peanut hay and some alfalfa pellets till I get her some more balanced pellets. Once she gains weight we'll probably go to Timothy or brome since the peanut is high fat. I have it on hand for my senior horse but the fat little mule gets brome.

My main question is about her aggression. She probably isn't spayed and has also had her whole life turned upside down these past couple days so I don't really blame her, but I'm hoping she'll calm down soon and not attack my hand when I go to clean her cage. She has free reign over a massive dog crate with a plastic nesting box in the corner for her to hide in. I'm using clean straw as a bedding since I don't have paper or aspen at the moment. Even at the edge of the large crate she charges my hand, I do my best not to disturb her nest.

She won't be getting spayed till she puts some weight on so do y'all have suggestions to avoid conflict till then? She hasn't bitten me but will growl and scratch. She is alright when being held though, she's just very territorial. Maybe that's why her previous owners (don't even deserve to be called that) dumped her?

I'm just happy she's eating, drinking, pooping normally. I've seen too many stress out and get a respiratory infection or GI stasis and keel over. I have antibiotics on hand but don't have experience with rabbit probiotics. We use those for horses (very similar digestive systems) all the time when they go through times of digestive stress, but I'm not sure about buns.

She did eat some greens from my hand yesterday but is quite aggressive today. She's probably feeling spunky after a good night's rest and good food.
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I had a bunny that would kiss me when I held her and loved to snuggle but when she turned about 7 months she would charge my hand when I would reach into her cage to refill her water bowl. or clean it. she got over it after a few weeks. That was just after we separated her from her other bunny friend because we thought they had mites and were going to take them to the vet. I think some rabbits have territory based aggression from a young age (after they leave mom) and some develop it after a big change/Stress when they are older.

Im so glad you found that bunny! She sounds like she will be very happy!
My suggestion would be to give her some "space." Leave her be, in her crate, for the next 2-3 days undisturbed. Don't try to pet her or pull her out. Don't try to hand feed her. Don't even clean the cage (though I would suggest providing something like a large dishpan to use as a litter box). If you have pelleted horse bedding (since you mentioned your horse), that makes great litter. Put some in the pan and top with hay. Only reach in the front of her cage to refresh food, hay or water.

All these new changes are incredibly stressful and you are a gem for caring for her. The fastest (and least stressful) way for her to get acclimated is to leave her alone for the next 2-3 days. DO, however, go about your normal routine around the crate. Talk to her if you like and let her get used to what will be the new normal sights, sounds, and smells of her new environment.

The following page is for those purchasing a rabbit, but parts would still apply to you having a new rabbit.
Thank you for saving that poor bunny! No peanut hay, that is a legume hay, they should get grass hay -timothy or orchard or meadow or... Ideally more than one variety. Don't clean the cage while she is in it. She probably doesn't have enough space in addition to all the other reasons for aggression. Have a look here for advice on indoor housing: Indoor Housing | Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund (RWAF) Don't grab her unless you really, really need to. Just sit or lie on the floor near her as much as you can. Good luck!
She definitely doesn't have enough space according to those guidelines. I'm working on a plan to build her something, possibly outdoors. If she does go outside I'll be looking into getting her a friend. All that is a ways down the road till she's got some weight on and has recovered from some of the stress. I might be able to use a 10x10 run and bury some fencing to keep them contained and predators out. I think she'd like the extra space and places to dig.

I will be picking up a bale of Timothy today. There's nothing wrong with a little legume hay, it's just so rich she might gain a little too much weight. She does like fruits in veggies in moderation, she voluntarily came up to the edge of the cage and took a blueberry from my hand and a tiny bit of clover.
She'll soon get used to you, she's had a hugely stressful few days, poor little mite.
Thank you so much for rescuing her and not just driving by ❤️
Agree with Blue Eyes and Diane R. All of ours have been rescues, both given to us by "past" owners or from death row at various "shelters". We always let them settle in for a couple of weeks before working with them as they all had to be handled and needed to be non-confrontational for many reasons--nail trims, hutch cleaning, etc. Most were very friendly and seemed to appreciate their new circumstance. A few were biters--drawing blood, not just nipping and had learned that behavior as a defense. Most responded to our care and bribery (usually Cilantro) and would come around and become good citizens--all were also neutered to lessen hormone driven behavior. The extremely aggressive ones would get the "Alpha" treatment--I played the part of an Alpha rabbit and pin them if the bit and drew blood, roll them on their back, and use a harsh voice like the rabbit grunts to let them know I was the boss and there was no "biting allowed. This worked very well with the biters and was never bitten again. Cosmo and Mr Hoppes were both adopted ot 3 times and brought back to shelters in N Calif, and were brought to us from Death Row--they were going to be euthanized as they were deemed to be extremely aggressive. Both became very amenable after one day with us and never bit me again. Cosmo is still with us and is very friendly, likes to be held and wants constant attention when he is out--he's a very friendly and sweet bunny now and comes to our grandson for head rubs. I've told a lot of friends that "either you train your bunny, or your bunny will train you".
Welcome to RO and congrats on your new bun! It's such a wonderful thing you've done in rescuing her ❤️

If you can't have her out of her cage/pen while you clean, I would recommend a sturdy glove :) Spaying can sometimes help curb hormonal aggression, but even spayed rabbits can still be territorial about their established area. A few things that might help is giving her a hidey box that she can go in to feel safe, and/or covering her cage with a light sheet to help her feel she has a more protected space(leave front part open for air flow). There are some good videos in this link below, of how to work with aggressive rabbits, that you might find helpful.
One of the main issues with legume hays and rabbits, is some rabbits are prone to the high calcium in the hay causing bladder sludge issues, which excess can also have an affect on their kidneys. So if you notice your bun having any signs of thick creamy or pasty urine, then your bun is prone to this and needs to be on lower calcium foods and hay. But otherwise, as long as she isn't gaining excessive weight and isn't having excess calcium in the urine, a little legume hay may not be a problem. Though if in doubt about any potential medical issues, it's always best to consult with a knowledgeable rabbit vet.
I was on the fence about keeping her because of space reasons, but I spent all day yesterday constructing a rabbit proof 10×10 pen. The roof isn't finished yet and I'm working on the decor, needing to build some hidey holes and such. Till I finish the roof she's not out of the smaller cage unsupervised. I don't trust the barn cats or hawks. The new pen/coop is in a super nice shaded part of the yard. Honestly it's gonna be bunny heaven when I'm done with it.

I will keep an eye on the calcium situation. Peanut is lower than alfalfa in calcium. I did get some orchard hay from work but will also feed Timothy when I get a bale next week. She loves the orchard, but I'm very allergic to it.

I'm going to have to ask the exotic people in my area who they use for vets. I'm a licensed vet tech, but my experience is mostly large animal. My favorite clinical rotation was at a clinic with a ton of exotics. I may use that place, but they have since changed management so I'm not sure. I'm very picky about my vet care since I've been in the industry and seen very good examples of how *not* to practice medicine. I know all the horse vets, just not the bunny vets. I can hopefully get her to where I can trim her nails myself. She did very well when I first found her when I did a little exam and was able to sex her and check her teeth and feet. But she was also exhausted and hungry and didn't have the energy to fight back. Different story now with all that good food on board.

Poor bun seems to be gaining a little weight but getting used to being outside is stressing her I think. But she's better today than she was yesterday and is taking pieces of carrot and blueberry out of my hand without trying to take my hand along with it. I tried to have something especially yummy on hand whenever I have to feed her or do anything near her so she starts to associate me with something good. Again I have no idea how she was treated before. She's only offered to bite me once and I don't even think it was on purpose. I find it odd that she does not give the warning stomp, just pins her ears back and tries to box with her front paws and growls.

Trying to limit interaction to only spot cleaning the cage and feeding. She does get goodies when I have to do that so it's a better experience. She will come for food so hopefully when I get the run set up she can have a big space to hide and explore and we'll be able to interact on better terms.
Are there any safe bug sprays for buns? I know like cats, most chemicals can kill them. It's just mosquitoes and a few gnats. I'm planning on getting a zapper or traps to hang a distance away to attract and kill them but I'm in Florida and they're bad in the shade where she is. Strong essential oils are generally a no go for pets as well. I just don't want her to catch an illness or get too bitten up by these bugs. I'm very particular about using appropriate bedding and cleaning her litter area to keep flies almost non-existent and decrease any chance of fly strike. They're bad this year, my horses are suffering from it too. Luckily we have some cattle egrets take up residence and they eat the big flies, but not the gnats and skeeters

I've discovered letting her out to run around in the pen and then coaxing her back in the cage with a carrot or blackberry is the calmest way to clean everything and avoid the boxing match. She is better about that though and allowed me to check a small bald patch on her paw while eating a carrot top. She is significantly nicer when she realizes I'm not taking her food from her. Someone let her go hungry before judging by how thin she is. You can see her hip bones poking out if you look closely. It makes me wonder if she's maybe a little older than I first thought.

(Don't worry, the chain link is covered in a finer mesh to prevent escaping or bad critters getting in. It also covers the ground. Working on a substrate to go over it so she's not walking on wire 24/7)
She is now free to roam in the 10x10 and is having the time of her life. I need to make more furnishings but she has 3 hiding spots/shelters so far. Her favorite thing is a big pile of clean (relatively lol) bug free dirt in one corner. She digs in it and takes dirt baths and lays in it when it gets a little hot.

She so zippy and is definitely getting exercise but is still a bit cranky when I bring food in and enter *her* territory. It's a walk in pen and she's offered to box my legs a few times of she feels like I'm moving in her direction. Hopefully she'll get over this in a few weeks. She's quite friendly when she's eating from my hand, but if I move too fast or look like I'm trying to take her food away she gets upset. a lot of her aggression is food related.

I'd like to get her a friend at some point but she seems to defend her space aggressively and might not like another rabbit anywhere near her. She doesn't seem depressed or anxious and has a fantastic appetite so I don't worry too much, at least till she's settled in.

Now I need to find her a name.

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