Bonding/re-bonding help!

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NotaCocoaPuff

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Advice needed!... I adopted my male rabbit, Oliver over 2-3 years ago. He's free roam and recently lost his bunwife a few months ago. She was very submissive to him, probably because she was unknowingly very sick. We recently adopted Piper, spayed female. We went through the usualy bonding process and they were succesfully bonded and free roam for the past 8 weeks. Piper is more dominant than Fiona, so bonding was a little more involved and longer but successful. Oliver is the king for sure and they do have little disagreements but nothing unusual or too aggressive. That being said, 4 days ago my husband found them locked on each others neck fighting to the death no doubt. He separated them causing injury to his hand (not he knows a better way to break them apart). We let them cool off for a few hours and then put them back together as usual. The next morning I woke up to a bomb of Piper's fur throughout my house, although Oliver had two small wounds on his back and shoulder. They were immediately separated as I have a 12hr shift to work. Saturday morning I took them for a long car ride in a carrier to Hope Depot for some home Reno supplies. They also spent a wee bit of time on the dryer. We are now back to bonding 101, in a 3x3 cage with only a carpet, water dish and hay in the middle. They have been acting like they usually do, intermittent snuggling/grooming but just kind of ignoring each other. What I have observed is that when I add the litterbox and hay bag Oliver becomes very protective and Piper is pissed she's not allowed in. Going back 5 days before the fight... they had 2 litter boxes with 2 hay bags next to each other (see picture). I'm wondering where to go from here because they are not really bonding (humping, grooming, etc) a lot, just here and there but this may be because they are already used to each other. When I first bonded them together there was a lot of humping, chasing, grooming, snuggling, etc. I'm wondering if they can co-exist free roam by just giving them their separate litterbox/hay in separate spaces or would Oliver try to protect both? Do I just continue to leave them in the small 3x3 enclosure regardless of bonding behaviors? I'm worried their bond is broken and they may never re-bond. I don't have a way to give them their own separate rooms unfortunately.
 

Blue eyes

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Reading over your description a couple times, I'm suspecting that they might've been given too much roaming space too soon after their bonding. Once a pair is bonded, the real test comes when they move back into what will be their home base. That move will especially test their bond if one of the rabbits already "owns" the space. The expansion from their home base to free roam then should be done very gradually.

It is common for two newly bonded rabbits to begin having territorial disputes if given a lot of free roam in too short of a time.

My suggestion would be to try to re-establish their bond in the smaller space. However, I would make it at least 4 x 4... enough to provide 2 litterboxes and a hidey box (or 2). [I didn't see a picture posted of your setup.] I'd put the hay right on top of the litter in the boxes and skip the hay bags. [[ Side note: what sizes are your litter boxes? Could both rabbits easily stretch out in one at the same time?]]

Having fought already, it may be a difficult journey but it sounds like there is hope. Just consider that each step in the process should be given plenty of time. Rushing it can cause setbacks. For example, once they've been bonding well without incident in this new bonding setup area, they should remain in that area for a full month. Don't start counting the month until after there have been no incidents.

The next step would be expanding that space in increments (within whatever will be their normal roaming area). If the original 4x4 bonding area is not within their normal roaming area, then it should be moved to that area before expanding.

The attached photo shows an example of mine. After bonding the pair upstairs for more than a month, I moved them down to the cage and kept them in there for maybe roughly a week. (Yes, the cage is too small for permanent housing, but this would just be for the week.) The cage was new to just one of them but well known to the other (who had shared it with a prior mate).

After the week, I setup the ex-pen as shown. This was then their new roaming area for another week or so. This is how to incrementally expand their space to prevent territory disputes. This is especially helpful when the space is well-known to one rabbit and new to the other. By expanding slowly, it gives them both time to get thoroughly accustomed to the other's presence in those limited areas, step-by-step.

1664128346010.jpeg
 

NotaCocoaPuff

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Advice needed!... I adopted my male rabbit, Oliver over 2-3 years ago. He's free roam and recently lost his bunwife a few months ago. She was very submissive to him, probably because she was unknowingly very sick. We recently adopted Piper, spayed female. We went through the usualy bonding process and they were succesfully bonded and free roam for the past 8 weeks. Piper is more dominant than Fiona, so bonding was a little more involved and longer but successful. Oliver is the king for sure and they do have little disagreements but nothing unusual or too aggressive. That being said, 4 days ago my husband found them locked on each others neck fighting to the death no doubt. He separated them causing injury to his hand (not he knows a better way to break them apart). We let them cool off for a few hours and then put them back together as usual. The next morning I woke up to a bomb of Piper's fur throughout my house, although Oliver had two small wounds on his back and shoulder. They were immediately separated as I have a 12hr shift to work. Saturday morning I took them for a long car ride in a carrier to Hope Depot for some home Reno supplies. They also spent a wee bit of time on the dryer. We are now back to bonding 101, in a 3x3 cage with only a carpet, water dish and hay in the middle. They have been acting like they usually do, intermittent snuggling/grooming but just kind of ignoring each other. What I have observed is that when I add the litterbox and hay bag Oliver becomes very protective and Piper is pissed she's not allowed in. Going back 5 days before the fight... they had 2 litter boxes with 2 hay bags next to each other (see picture). I'm wondering where to go from here because they are not really bonding (humping, grooming, etc) a lot, just here and there but this may be because they are already used to each other. When I first bonded them together there was a lot of humping, chasing, grooming, snuggling, etc. I'm wondering if they can co-exist free roam by just giving them their separate litterbox/hay in separate spaces or would Oliver try to protect both? Do I just continue to leave them in the small 3x3 enclosure regardless of bonding behaviors? I'm worried their bond is broken and they may never re-bond. I don't have a way to give them their own separate rooms unfortunately.
 

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NotaCocoaPuff

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Reading over your description a couple times, I'm suspecting that they might've been given too much roaming space too soon after their bonding. Once a pair is bonded, the real test comes when they move back into what will be their home base. That move will especially test their bond if one of the rabbits already "owns" the space. The expansion from their home base to free roam then should be done very gradually.

It is common for two newly bonded rabbits to begin having territorial disputes if given a lot of free roam in too short of a time.

My suggestion would be to try to re-establish their bond in the smaller space. However, I would make it at least 4 x 4... enough to provide 2 litterboxes and a hidey box (or 2). [I didn't see a picture posted of your setup.] I'd put the hay right on top of the litter in the boxes and skip the hay bags. [[ Side note: what sizes are your litter boxes? Could both rabbits easily stretch out in one at the same time?]]

Having fought already, it may be a difficult journey but it sounds like there is hope. Just consider that each step in the process should be given plenty of time. Rushing it can cause setbacks. For example, once they've been bonding well without incident in this new bonding setup area, they should remain in that area for a full month. Don't start counting the month until after there have been no incidents.

The next step would be expanding that space in increments (within whatever will be their normal roaming area). If the original 4x4 bonding area is not within their normal roaming area, then it should be moved to that area before expanding.

The attached photo shows an example of mine. After bonding the pair upstairs for more than a month, I moved them down to the cage and kept them in there for maybe roughly a week. (Yes, the cage is too small for permanent housing, but this would just be for the week.) The cage was new to just one of them but well known to the other (who had shared it with a prior mate).

After the week, I setup the ex-pen as shown. This was then their new roaming area for another week or so. This is how to incrementally expand their space to prevent territory disputes. This is especially helpful when the space is well-known to one rabbit and new to the other. By expanding slowly, it gives them both time to get thoroughly accustomed to the other's presence in those limited areas, step-by-step.

View attachment 62545
I totally forgot to upload the photos, sorry about that! See my reply for photos of their setup pre-fight.
So if I expand their pen a little more would you have both litter boxes in it? I have large litter boxes, they lounge in them from time to time. This is partly why I added another... my buns are big, 8lb and almost 10lbs so Olive takes up a lot of real-estate. But both were often sharing a hay meal with each other in the same box. They currently are content just sitting in opposite corners of the pen. No cuddling or grooming for most of the day thus far
 

JBun

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And you may want to have some separation with the litterboxes, so that you don't have one rabbit trying to be territorial of both boxes and preventing the other rabbit from being able to use at least one of them.

Though if you find the litterboxes being in there is a source of contention, I would remove them completely for now and just put down some sort of waterproof absorbent padding, along with several separate piles of hay and separate water bowls.

A tarp with towels on top could work, or puppy pads(not the disposable ones if your rabbits are chewers). You just don't want anything in there while rebonding, that either rabbit tries to be territorial over. Continued territorial behavior will just complicate the rebonding and could cause the rebonding not to be successful.

The other thing to consider with this sudden change of behavior and aggressiveness, is the possibility it could be caused by an underlying painful medical issue. So if you suspect this could be at all possible, it would be good for both rabbits to have a thorough exam by your experienced rabbit vet, including a thorough dental exam.
 

NotaCocoaPuff

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I have a partition between their boxes and that has seemed to help sa far as the guarding of the litterboxes and Oliver chasing her. He really can't chase her now because there is not enough room. There is still no interaction from either of them, they are just ignoring each other and keeping to the respective sides of the pen. I guess it's going to be loooong bonding process :confused:
 

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