Too much room for my rabbits?

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Jolie

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Hi,

I have a neutered male rabbit and a female rabbit both about 8 months old. They love each other so much!! I have their hutch in our sunroom with a rabbit door so they can go directly outside to a large inclosed area of about 18' by 7'. Their hutch is large also with an attached poopie room:). I have handled them from when they were young, although the mail was about 3months old when I got him.

Here's the problem, they act deathly afraid of me. I talk to them gently, sit in the sunroom and try to pet them on the head and the will allow it only for getting a blueberry from me and they take it and turn their backs on me.

They will tolerate me petting them a few times in their pen as long as they are eating. But not for long. Is it possible they have too much room, so they feel more like their wild? I have to work during the day, but when I come home they know they'll be fed and run up to me in their cage for a treat.

Is it possible they are "playing" off of each others' behavior? I just want to pet them and play with them and they could care less about me. Also, could it be that they bonded with each other and don't need me? Please tell me what I should do. Thanks!!!
 

JBun

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With rabbits, it's all about patience and time to form a bond with them. Some rabbits are more shy and slower to trust than others. It's just sitting there with them so that they can learn you aren't a threat, and then become curious about what you are up to. Sit and read, be on your phone, work on a pad or laptop(no chewable cords), and eventually they will grow comfortable with you and start exploring around you, and eventually you and then asking for attention from you. But it's a process.

You could use xpen panels to restrict their space while you sit with them. A large area is less conducive to bonding, because they can just move away and leave instead of sticking around to get to know and feel more comfortable with you. So yes, too much room can be an issue when trying to get to know and form a bond with your rabbits.


 

Jolie

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Hi Jenny,

Awesome ideas! Starting tomorrow, I'm going to try to just sit with them in a small enclosure, daily. Thank you so much! :p Loved the video!
 
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When I got my bunny, he was returned back to the breeder because he was being mishandled and not taken care of properly by children. When I finally got him home, he was very unsure of me and really wanted to be by himself. I spend a majority of my time just sitting in the room with him. I would make sure I did force him to connect with me or pet him. I would get down to his level and lay flat on the floor. This can make you seem less like a threat as well. After doing this for a couple weeks, I bonded so well with my baby. He would come up and groom me and love to be pet. Some rabbits aren't huge on interaction, and that is okay. They are prey animals, and they each have their own personality. I hope this helps.😚
 

Jolie

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Hi Hannah,

Yes! Just hearing that makes me feel so much better. I'm really looking forward to sharing some good news about bonding with both of my buns! It's good to know it's not me. Thanks!:)
'
 

Jolie

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I sat with them and ignored them in an enclosed place. They came up and checked me out, then they started "pushing" me a little with their noses. I've been doing that and letting them come to me for the past few days. Then, this morning, as long as I have a treat, I can pet them a few times. But if I don't and I just go to talk really gently with them. They run into their hutches and stamp their feet.
I know I'm going to have to be patient. But I see other people on this forum who can hold and play with their buns. I want that too. I know different breeds are different, but I guess I'll just have to be patient. :(
 

Mac189

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It took Willa over a month before she chose to sit beside me and have her back petted during our reading time without leaving after a few strokes. She is still not the most cuddly bunny, which is ok. I love how hard she was to win over and how hard it was to win her trust. It makes our friendship so much more special. Hang in there. It will likely take even longer with two rabbits since they will rely on each other more for social interaction.

Make noise around them without asking them to interact to get them less afraid of when you make a sound, they'll start to realize sound doesn't necessarily mean they need to react. It took mine a while to not become alarmed when I laughed, even after they were comfortable cuddling, partially because it's unexpected and partially because I imagine my laugh is jarring to a rabbit. They stop being afraid when they realize that the sound is not directed towards them and doesn't mean they have to be engaged with. Good luck!
 

JBun

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I sat with them and ignored them in an enclosed place. They came up and checked me out, then they started "pushing" me a little with their noses. I've been doing that and letting them come to me for the past few days. Then, this morning, as long as I have a treat, I can pet them a few times. But if I don't and I just go to talk really gently with them. They run into their hutches and stamp their feet.
I know I'm going to have to be patient. But I see other people on this forum who can hold and play with their buns. I want that too. I know different breeds are different, but I guess I'll just have to be patient. :(
Rabbits happily letting you hold them is actually not the norm, even here. Most of us don't hold our rabbits except when necessary, because they just don't like it. Rarely do rabbits like to be held, they're ground dwellers. They like those little thumpers firmly planted on the ground or solid surface, not hoisted up into a predators arms. Which is essentially what we are. There is always going to be the rare exception. I've had a rabbit or two out of dozens, that have liked me to snuggle them. The rest get extremely offended and upset when I have to do it even minimally for health checks.

And some of those people that are able to hold their rabbits, have spent months or even years, building that trust to be able to do that. So yes, patience, and lots of it. That's just the kind of pet rabbits are. Ones that require us to patiently earn their trust. But it's so worth it when you see the results and you see it happen.

One thing I would suggest if they're reacting to sudden noises, is to get them used to background noise like music. You can even keep it going all of the time(not too loud though). This can help them learn to tune out noise so when unexpected sounds happen, it's not such a loud and sudden thing to them. Also movement. Sudden movements could be startling your rabbits. You might need to slow down your movements and make things more gradual if you are noticing this being an issue.

We are used to our environment and the way we move and the sounds in our environment. Think of it from a rabbits perspective in the wild. Loud sounds and sudden movements usually mean a predator and danger, and that they need to run and hide.

Nudging you with their noses is really good. It's them showing you they trust you enough to engage in interaction. But unless they're putting their heads down and asking you to pet them, forcing petting before they're ready and want it, is kind of like offending them or going against the proper grooming hierarchy in rabbit body language. Right now they're trying to establish that relationship and hierarchy with you. But because they don't speak human body language and you don't speak rabbit body language, there is this block between you in communication and how to progress to build this trusting relationship and understand yours and their place in the hierarchy. Rabbits are a herd animal, so relationships are all about hierarchy. And there is a proper way to do things in their way of thinking.

Right now, I would hold off on any petting. It's clearly making them uncomfortable and they aren't ready for that part of the relationship. If you want to interact with them use their body language as a guide. Right now they're nose bumping you to get your attention. So try the same in return. When they come up to you, offer your fist to 'nose bump' with them. When they get to the point where they do want head rubs, when you 'nose bump' your hand with them, they will either lower their head to let you know they want head rubs, or may hold their head there waiting for it. Then you can try a gentle finger scritch and if the bun stays there or lowers the head, then you know head rubs are being allowed and asked for.

I think I also should talk about what it is that's meant by 'petting'. I don't know what you do or what you mean when you say you pet them, so I'll go into detail of what 'petting' and grooming means to rabbits. If it's just light head scritching on the forehead that you do, that's perfect, when the time is right and they're ready. But if the 'petting' is more than that, this could be part of your problem with them and would be why they are running away and thumping. Because more than gentle head rubs, especially at this stage, is you invading their bubble, their protected body space, in rabbit talk. Which can be a violation of trust and very upsetting to a rabbit.

Head rubs on the forehead is the rabbits preferred place for mutual grooming, which is what we are doing when we 'pet' a rabbit. When rabbits groom each other, it is most often on the face, around the forehead, eyes, and ears. Some rabbits can be sensitive with their ears, so you don't want to mess with ears at all in the beginning. Some rabbits don't like their cheeks or under their chins touched, so you don't want to go there yet either. And petting the body is very invasive and shouldn't be progressed to trying until you have established a trusting relationship with your rabbit and know what they like and will accept.

The reason full body petting usually is a bad thing and can upset a rabbit, is because in a rabbit colony another rabbit touching the back or hind end of each other is usually either for dominance displays, mating, or to attack. So if you are going for full body petting, this can be seen by your rabbits as you being either presumptuous enough to try and exert dominance/mating behavior, or that you are trying to attack them. And all of those behaviors are going to either be upsetting, offending, or scary to your rabbits.

So when the time is right, stick with a gentle head ''scritch' until you have built up a more trusting bond, then you can try more of a head massage to try and include the ears and cheeks. When you've built that trust, when you understand your rabbits better, then you will know what they like and what they are comfortable with in their relationship with you.

Here's another site to look at on rabbit body language, if you haven't seen it already.

 

NYAngela

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Rabbits happily letting you hold them is actually not the norm, even here. Most of us don't hold our rabbits except when necessary, because they just don't like it. Rarely do rabbits like to be held, they're ground dwellers. They like those little thumpers firmly planted on the ground or solid surface, not hoisted up into a predators arms. Which is essentially what we are. There is always going to be the rare exception. I've had a rabbit or two out of dozens, that have liked me to snuggle them. The rest get extremely offended and upset when I have to do it even minimally for health checks.

And some of those people that are able to hold their rabbits, have spent months or even years, building that trust to be able to do that. So yes, patience, and lots of it. That's just the kind of pet rabbits are. Ones that require us to patiently earn their trust. But it's so worth it when you see the results and you see it happen.

One thing I would suggest if they're reacting to sudden noises, is to get them used to background noise like music. You can even keep it going all of the time(not too loud though). This can help them learn to tune out noise so when unexpected sounds happen, it's not such a loud and sudden thing to them. Also movement. Sudden movements could be startling your rabbits. You might need to slow down your movements and make things more gradual if you are noticing this being an issue.

We are used to our environment and the way we move and the sounds in our environment. Think of it from a rabbits perspective in the wild. Loud sounds and sudden movements usually mean a predator and danger, and that they need to run and hide.

Nudging you with their noses is really good. It's them showing you they trust you enough to engage in interaction. But unless they're putting their heads down and asking you to pet them, forcing petting before they're ready and want it, is kind of like offending them or going against the proper grooming hierarchy in rabbit body language. Right now they're trying to establish that relationship and hierarchy with you. But because they don't speak human body language and you don't speak rabbit body language, there is this block between you in communication and how to progress to build this trusting relationship and understand yours and their place in the hierarchy. Rabbits are a herd animal, so relationships are all about hierarchy. And there is a proper way to do things in their way of thinking.

Right now, I would hold off on any petting. It's clearly making them uncomfortable and they aren't ready for that part of the relationship. If you want to interact with them use their body language as a guide. Right now they're nose bumping you to get your attention. So try the same in return. When they come up to you, offer your fist to 'nose bump' with them. When they get to the point where they do want head rubs, when you 'nose bump' your hand with them, they will either lower their head to let you know they want head rubs, or may hold their head there waiting for it. Then you can try a gentle finger scritch and if the bun stays there or lowers the head, then you know head rubs are being allowed and asked for.

I think I also should talk about what it is that's meant by 'petting'. I don't know what you do or what you mean when you say you pet them, so I'll go into detail of what 'petting' and grooming means to rabbits. If it's just light head scritching on the forehead that you do, that's perfect, when the time is right and they're ready. But if the 'petting' is more than that, this could be part of your problem with them and would be why they are running away and thumping. Because more than gentle head rubs, especially at this stage, is you invading their bubble, their protected body space, in rabbit talk. Which can be a violation of trust and very upsetting to a rabbit.

Head rubs on the forehead is the rabbits preferred place for mutual grooming, which is what we are doing when we 'pet' a rabbit. When rabbits groom each other, it is most often on the face, around the forehead, eyes, and ears. Some rabbits can be sensitive with their ears, so you don't want to mess with ears at all in the beginning. Some rabbits don't like their cheeks or under their chins touched, so you don't want to go there yet either. And petting the body is very invasive and shouldn't be progressed to trying until you have established a trusting relationship with your rabbit and know what they like and will accept.

The reason full body petting usually is a bad thing and can upset a rabbit, is because in a rabbit colony another rabbit touching the back or hind end of each other is usually either for dominance displays, mating, or to attack. So if you are going for full body petting, this can be seen by your rabbits as you being either presumptuous enough to try and exert dominance/mating behavior, or that you are trying to attack them. And all of those behaviors are going to either be upsetting, offending, or scary to your rabbits.

So when the time is right, stick with a gentle head ''scritch' until you have built up a more trusting bond, then you can try more of a head massage to try and include the ears and cheeks. When you've built that trust, when you understand your rabbits better, then you will know what they like and what they are comfortable with in their relationship with you.

Here's another site to look at on rabbit body language, if you haven't seen it already.

Fascinating info thank you for sharing! My bun loves his head, cheeks and chin rubbed other petting he can give or take. But it did take time for him to be trusting and open to that
 

Jolie

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It took Willa over a month before she chose to sit beside me and have her back petted during our reading time without leaving after a few strokes. She is still not the most cuddly bunny, which is ok. I love how hard she was to win over and how hard it was to win her trust. It makes our friendship so much more special. Hang in there. It will likely take even longer with two rabbits since they will rely on each other more for social interaction.

Make noise around them without asking them to interact to get them less afraid of when you make a sound, they'll start to realize sound doesn't necessarily mean they need to react. It took mine a while to not become alarmed when I laughed, even after they were comfortable cuddling, partially because it's unexpected and partially because I imagine my laugh is jarring to a rabbit. They stop being afraid when they realize that the sound is not directed towards them and doesn't mean they have to be engaged with. Good luck!
 

Jolie

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Thanks so much! I LOVE the idea of making noise around them. Right now I'm so quiet and tip-toe because they are afraid of any kind of noise. Great idea!
 

HalaBuns

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One of my buns is super sassy, but the other has pretty much always asked for head rubs, so it really depends on their personalities too.

Miss sassy pants took a long time to win over, particularly after she needed some antibiotics for a week. We went right back to square one and at one point she would only come out from under the bed for food. It got to the point where I restricted her access to my bedroom to force her to spend time with us, so my other bun didn’t get lonely. It was like dealing with a stroppy teenager.

I think hand feeding food was probably the most effective thing for me. And I do have the luxury to spend a huge amount of time with them as it’s just me and them in the house, so I would sit with them for a few hours a day. I also nose bump them with my actual nose and have always made sure I stop to do that whenever I pass them if they let me, so as not to cause offence. Sometimes they will stop in their tracks to do that to me too (or at least give me a nudge on the ankle) it’s very cute.

I remember having a breakthrough moment with her when she was laying on my bed and she let me stroke her head and ears gently for about 10 minutes. I actually don’t think anyone had done that for her before and it was quite emotional. Later, I also discovered she loves being brushed (not all buns like it) and doing that for her really cemented our bond.

Now, she tells me off if I don’t stroke her enough. I’ll get a forceful nose nudge or even a nip. And quite often she’ll join me on my bed for strokes in the morning whilst I drink my coffee and doesn’t stop purring away. She even has a favourite position she likes to be in.

I went through a period of trying to pick up my buns to get myself and them used to it and also in the hope they would sit on my lap, but frankly they hate it and it makes them stressed and not want to be near me. They will never be lap rabbits and I will mostly have to give them attention when I’m sat on the floor, but that’s ok. Since I stopped trying to handle them, they have been much calmer around me and more trusting.
 

Donna Standar

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Rabbits happily letting you hold them is actually not the norm, even here. Most of us don't hold our rabbits except when necessary, because they just don't like it. Rarely do rabbits like to be held, they're ground dwellers. They like those little thumpers firmly planted on the ground or solid surface, not hoisted up into a predators arms. Which is essentially what we are. There is always going to be the rare exception. I've had a rabbit or two out of dozens, that have liked me to snuggle them. The rest get extremely offended and upset when I have to do it even minimally for health checks.

And some of those people that are able to hold their rabbits, have spent months or even years, building that trust to be able to do that. So yes, patience, and lots of it. That's just the kind of pet rabbits are. Ones that require us to patiently earn their trust. But it's so worth it when you see the results and you see it happen.

One thing I would suggest if they're reacting to sudden noises, is to get them used to background noise like music. You can even keep it going all of the time(not too loud though). This can help them learn to tune out noise so when unexpected sounds happen, it's not such a loud and sudden thing to them. Also movement. Sudden movements could be startling your rabbits. You might need to slow down your movements and make things more gradual if you are noticing this being an issue.

We are used to our environment and the way we move and the sounds in our environment. Think of it from a rabbits perspective in the wild. Loud sounds and sudden movements usually mean a predator and danger, and that they need to run and hide.

Nudging you with their noses is really good. It's them showing you they trust you enough to engage in interaction. But unless they're putting their heads down and asking you to pet them, forcing petting before they're ready and want it, is kind of like offending them or going against the proper grooming hierarchy in rabbit body language. Right now they're trying to establish that relationship and hierarchy with you. But because they don't speak human body language and you don't speak rabbit body language, there is this block between you in communication and how to progress to build this trusting relationship and understand yours and their place in the hierarchy. Rabbits are a herd animal, so relationships are all about hierarchy. And there is a proper way to do things in their way of thinking.

Right now, I would hold off on any petting. It's clearly making them uncomfortable and they aren't ready for that part of the relationship. If you want to interact with them use their body language as a guide. Right now they're nose bumping you to get your attention. So try the same in return. When they come up to you, offer your fist to 'nose bump' with them. When they get to the point where they do want head rubs, when you 'nose bump' your hand with them, they will either lower their head to let you know they want head rubs, or may hold their head there waiting for it. Then you can try a gentle finger scritch and if the bun stays there or lowers the head, then you know head rubs are being allowed and asked for.

I think I also should talk about what it is that's meant by 'petting'. I don't know what you do or what you mean when you say you pet them, so I'll go into detail of what 'petting' and grooming means to rabbits. If it's just light head scritching on the forehead that you do, that's perfect, when the time is right and they're ready. But if the 'petting' is more than that, this could be part of your problem with them and would be why they are running away and thumping. Because more than gentle head rubs, especially at this stage, is you invading their bubble, their protected body space, in rabbit talk. Which can be a violation of trust and very upsetting to a rabbit.

Head rubs on the forehead is the rabbits preferred place for mutual grooming, which is what we are doing when we 'pet' a rabbit. When rabbits groom each other, it is most often on the face, around the forehead, eyes, and ears. Some rabbits can be sensitive with their ears, so you don't want to mess with ears at all in the beginning. Some rabbits don't like their cheeks or under their chins touched, so you don't want to go there yet either. And petting the body is very invasive and shouldn't be progressed to trying until you have established a trusting relationship with your rabbit and know what they like and will accept.

The reason full body petting usually is a bad thing and can upset a rabbit, is because in a rabbit colony another rabbit touching the back or hind end of each other is usually either for dominance displays, mating, or to attack. So if you are going for full body petting, this can be seen by your rabbits as you being either presumptuous enough to try and exert dominance/mating behavior, or that you are trying to attack them. And all of those behaviors are going to either be upsetting, offending, or scary to your rabbits.

So when the time is right, stick with a gentle head ''scritch' until you have built up a more trusting bond, then you can try more of a head massage to try and include the ears and cheeks. When you've built that trust, when you understand your rabbits better, then you will know what they like and what they are comfortable with in their relationship with you.

Here's another site to look at on rabbit body language, if you haven't seen it already.

Great advice!! Well said.
 

Jolie

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One of my buns is super sassy, but the other has pretty much always asked for head rubs, so it really depends on their personalities too.

Miss sassy pants took a long time to win over, particularly after she needed some antibiotics for a week. We went right back to square one and at one point she would only come out from under the bed for food. It got to the point where I restricted her access to my bedroom to force her to spend time with us, so my other bun didn’t get lonely. It was like dealing with a stroppy teenager.

I think hand feeding food was probably the most effective thing for me. And I do have the luxury to spend a huge amount of time with them as it’s just me and them in the house, so I would sit with them for a few hours a day. I also nose bump them with my actual nose and have always made sure I stop to do that whenever I pass them if they let me, so as not to cause offence. Sometimes they will stop in their tracks to do that to me too (or at least give me a nudge on the ankle) it’s very cute.

I remember having a breakthrough moment with her when she was laying on my bed and she let me stroke her head and ears gently for about 10 minutes. I actually don’t think anyone had done that for her before and it was quite emotional. Later, I also discovered she loves being brushed (not all buns like it) and doing that for her really cemented our bond.

Now, she tells me off if I don’t stroke her enough. I’ll get a forceful nose nudge or even a nip. And quite often she’ll join me on my bed for strokes in the morning whilst I drink my coffee and doesn’t stop purring away. She even has a favourite position she likes to be in.

I went through a period of trying to pick up my buns to get myself and them used to it and also in the hope they would sit on my lap, but frankly they hate it and it makes them stressed and not want to be near me. They will never be lap rabbits and I will mostly have to give them attention when I’m sat on the floor, but that’s ok. Since I stopped trying to handle them, they have been much calmer around me and more trusting.
 

Jolie

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Thank you! I agree. I should not try and pick them up. I love the name, "Miss Sassy Pants" LOL!!! My girl rabbit is the same way. I appreciate all of the information. It's really helped a lot!
 

Jurisfiction

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Thanks so much! I LOVE the idea of making noise around them. Right now I'm so quiet and tip-toe because they are afraid of any kind of noise. Great idea!
Mine did take time to do more than a head scritch- but he loves noises. If I drop something he comes running! He loves it when I have to move furniture - he’ll run around and binky around! He doesn’t even care if something falls by him. The first time he did- a picture frame fell off the wall and he jumped and ran but now he barely flinches If something falls near him. (It’s not like a drop things all the time, don’t get me wrong!) My theory is that he was incredibly bored when he was in that cage in that room all alone for all that time with his prior owner that he loves anything going on. I’d expected him to have some trauma and be timid and take time to get used to all this. But maybe it’s also his personality. I can pick him up but he hates it so I don’t.
 

Jolie

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Mine did take time to do more than a head scritch- but he loves noises. If I drop something he comes running! He loves it when I have to move furniture - he’ll run around and binky around! He doesn’t even care if something falls by him. The first time he did- a picture frame fell off the wall and he jumped and ran but now he barely flinches If something falls near him. (It’s not like a drop things all the time, don’t get me wrong!) My theory is that he was incredibly bored when he was in that cage in that room all alone for all that time with his prior owner that he loves anything going on. I’d expected him to have some trauma and be timid and take time to get used to all this. But maybe it’s also his personality. I can pick him up but he hates it so I don’t.
Interesting! I love the fact that he likes noises! Ha ha ha! I'm putting on the TV and hopefully that will help. Thanks!
 

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