Struggles with bonding

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joyc

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I have two boys about 5 yrs. Baxter had a partner for a few years who passed away last nevember. Benny was introduced before she passed but I couldn’t get the 3 of them to bond. Baxter and Benny always seemed to be at odds and so spent a year living with a puppy own between them. Recently I decided to give the bonding one last go with a marathon bond starting in a tiny space in my bedroom which is neutral territory. Over seven days I watched them heron themselves, flop next to each other and Benny began grooming Baxter (side note: Baxter has never groomed another rabbit even his bonded lady). As I watched the positive progress I slowly increased their territory until they had full run of the apartment. But two weeks later a huge fight broke out and I had to start again. Thinking I finally had it, I let them have free run again. And now they’ve just had another fight and I am rebonding again! I’m feeling quite exhausted and concerned that I can’t leave them. They have always been free roam so cages would be cruel. But I also don’t want them living alone with a giant puppy pen dividing my living space. I also do not have the ability to get two more rabbits so they each have a partner. It’s too much. Any advice or similar experience out there? Baxter seems to be scared of Benny now and Benny will follow/chase him around. Thanks in advance for any tips!
 

JBun

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What do you mean by fight? A serious squabble that looks like it could escalate? If it's more minor nipping and chasing that ends quickly, this can be normal with bonded rabbits, as long as it ceases quickly and both rabbits back off and settle back down. If it is a more serious squabble that is escalating, then I think the issue might be that their space is being expanded too quickly. Sometimes too much space can mean they aren't spending enough time of close contact together, to better get to know each other and iron out the dominance issues.

Before rebonding you may need to give them a little break from each other to be able to settle down and feel comfortable again. Then when you do rebond them, for now I would wait on the free roam and keep them in a smaller sized pen for at least a month. The pen area can still be a decent size for them to hop around, you just don't want so much space that they aren't in close enough contact with one another.
 

John Wick

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It may be helpful to think if there is an antecedent to the fights. For example, do they tend to happen in the evening or around food times? Food aggression is not unheard of, even in bonded rabbits.
 

joyc

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What do you mean by fight? A serious squabble that looks like it could escalate? If it's more minor nipping and chasing that ends quickly, this can be normal with bonded rabbits, as long as it ceases quickly and both rabbits back off and settle back down. If it is a more serious squabble that is escalating, then I think the issue might be that their space is being expanded too quickly. Sometimes too much space can mean they aren't spending enough time of close contact together, to better get to know each other and iron out the dominance issues.

Before rebonding you may need to give them a little break from each other to be able to settle down and feel comfortable again. Then when you do rebond them, for now I would wait on the free roam and keep them in a smaller sized pen for at least a month. The pen area can still be a decent size for them to hop around, you just don't want so much space that they aren't in close enough contact with one another.
The fights seem pretty severe, fur flying a bit of tornado action. They’ll be fine one minute and chasing the next. Benny is the chaser. Never at meals but different times of morning and evening. The tough part is that the initial bonding started in my only neutral territory. So I wonder if I can do the same thing or if I’m in trouble cuz I need new neutral territory to rebond?
 

John Wick

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Based on the back and forth of free-roam and rebonding, it sounds like things are moving a bit too fast. Rabbits who are not bonded are not going to constantly fight each other in most cases-- it's just not wise for them to do that, so no fighting for a long period of time, while positive, is not necessarily a sign to move forward quite yet. One guideline is no issues occur for 24-48 hours straight when in a restricted space before expanding it more. You may also need to try and "neutralize" that free-roam space more, whether it be putting down some sheets temporarily or really trying to clean it.

See here for some guidance on bonding and general recommendations, in case your "rebonding" is not following 'standard' procedure to get the rabbits acclimated to each other progressively: Bonding Archives | BinkyBunny
 
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