What is the best way to make a room neutral territory for bonding?

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HalaBuns

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I have 2 free-roam adopted buns, but I also foster rescue bunnies as well (I currently have 7 bunnies in a 2 bed apartment 😣).

2 of my fosters (Lady and Rufus) I have had for so long, that I have come to terms with the fact that they are foster-fails, because I am too in love with them to let anyone else have them. So, lord help me, once my other 3 strays have found lovely homes, I am going to try to bond the 4 who are left (Lady, Rufus, Gigi and Kiki).

The ideal bonding area from a space and monitoring perspective is the en-suite bathroom in my spare room. That is currently doubling up as a hay store and Lady and Rufus have access to it, as adjacent spare room is their space at the moment.

I will obviously stop their access to it for a couple of weeks beforehand and wash it down with white vinegar, but will that actually work? Is there anything else I can do to “neutralise” the room?
 

JBun

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It happens to the best of us 🥰 It's hard to let them go once you fall in love and bond with them. It's how I ended up with 10 rabbits instead of 5. I was going to find new homes for the babies of the doe I got that came to me pregnant, but I couldn't bear to part with them when it came time.

If you don't feel that vinegar and cleaning alone are going to neutralize it enough, you can put up sheets to change the look of the walls, and put down a blanket or tarp to change the floor. If you don't have a way to hang the sheets, if you have xpen panels, you can drap the sheets on those. Vinegar and changing the look of the room like this, should be enough to make them think they're in a 'new' space.
 

HalaBuns

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Little Phoebe in my kitchen is a heart bun 🥰. I would lovvve to keep her, but I need to be strong!

The sheets are a great idea! I can put up some of the duvet covers that they’ve already destroyed 😒😂

I can’t wait to have all 4 hopping around my apartment / terrified of the bonding process. I hope they all just get on and it will be easy 😂
 

MeggyM

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I just recently bonded my buns for the first time and read all the hype about a neutral space, cleaned and rearranged, and you know what? It didn't matter! They did just as well in the room I "neutralized" as in a pen right in front of both their pens in the room they'd been living in together with no extra cleaning or change...

Of course what works for 1 or 2 rabbits may not hold up for another due to different personalities. But you may be able to save yourself a whole lot of trouble by testing them out in a non-neutral space and seeing if there is any major aggression unusual to bonding. If there are 4 you are going to have to be extra cautious if you chose to test this out so make sure to have 1 or 2 extra set of hands ready to step in, or already in the pen: all the bunnies and people in the pen together ready to break up fights safely, remove a bun to a carrier, and/or pet and calm them.

Just an option based on one person's experience! ;)
Have you bonded bunnies before?
 

rabbit_friend

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I have gone from 1 bunny to 5 before, through rescuing bunnies, so I know how that goes 🙂. I used to worry about the neutral space (20 years ago), but now I just let the bunnies get used to each other with a fence between them (doubled fence to start if they want to spar or nip through it), then do some territory swapping, then remove the fence for short times, then lengthen the times till fully bonded. Sometimes, I’ve started by putting them side by side on the kitchen counter or a table and stroking them (only because mine are used to being on the counter for toe-clipping and medical treatments).

That said, we do travel with our bunnies, and in several cases, the final “permanent” bond was either hastened, or maybe even made possible, by them playing “musical carrier” in the car, or spending the night in the same pen at the hotel. So I do think it helps to have a totally different space to move bonding along. Not so sure about a separate room in the same house, though, since their hair and smells drift throughout the house anyway.
 

HalaBuns

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I’ve only ever bonded Lady and Rufus (my 2 foster-fails), but that was so easy. The came to me together, completely traumatised after being dumped, then lived separate but next to each other for months. Whilst lady was recovering from her spay, I would let Ru out to roam and they would always snuggle through the bars. Their bonding really only took a matter of days, no aggression, their roles were pretty clear from the outset.

The two pairs are aware of each other, but have never met, other than a couple of accidental encounters. They can hear and smell each other though, I never wash my hands or change clothes anymore after handling them. Kiki is very territorial and does have history of taking out her referred aggression onto poor Gigi with certain fosters I’ve had in the house, so I’m thinking to not introduce them until I start the bonding process.

The approach I am thinking is straight in with 24 hour bonding in a small pen in the bathroom when I have a free weekend, and expand the space out slowly into by spare room, and eventually beyond. The reason being is that only 1 bunny will willingly get in a carrier, so a short 15-30 min bonding session will actually take 2 hours by the time I’ve enticed them all in. Not sure I really have time for that messing about every day. I’ll obviously have to separate them if I need to go out, but hoping that if I start with longer sessions, the process might not take as long. And I can work, study and sleep from my spare room, so monitoring them is quite easy
 

MeggyM

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There's a good bit of needed info on bonding before you start so just do some research, if you haven't already! ;)
I spent so much time looking into what option was best suited and didn't realize until I started that the bunnies we're going to dictate the process! So I became flexible with the process, used instinct and pulled bits and pieces from all the methods I read about. In the end it totally worked, so I recommend being ready to try different things if the buns don't quite go along with your plans! You sound bunny experienced enough to go with your gut and I think you're gonna do great bonding them!

For bonding I bought a cheap used carrier that opens from the top which made getting them in and out monumentally easier, but I was able to pick them up fairly easy, and I'm not sure how yours are on being picked up...

Look up table bonding, where you hold them side by side and pet them, I found this REALLY helped move the process along.
 

HalaBuns

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Thank you! I’ve looked at a few things online and have joined a bunny bonding advice group on facebook, but I’m fairly certain things won’t go as planned. I have a fair idea which ones are going to be hard work, but they could all take me by surprise haha.

Rounding them all up and getting them in the bonding pen actually gives me more anxiety than the actual bonding itself, so I’d prefer to get them in there and keep them there, even if it does mean sacrificing and few days / nights of my life 😂.

Gigi is easy - you put a carrier in front of her and she just gets in it. Kiki is too clever. Rufus used to be fine, but now will do anything to avoid getting in. Lady can be enticed, but won’t stay in unless her boy is in there with her. So I either have to spend ages enticing them in of their own accord (which I prefer, but would take hours), or speeding up the process, which makes them stressed. They all hate being picked up, so I avoid that too if I can, particularly Lady, she hates being handled at all.

Let’s see though, I won’t really know until I put them all together 🤞🏼. If they can all just agree that Kiki runs this entire house, then all will be well 😂. That chick will not back down to anyone!
 

HalaBuns

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I’ve just finished setting up the bonding pen for tomorrow and I’m so apprehensive. I actually feel a bit sad and guilty about it, because they’re all so relaxed in their respective areas of the house and relationships, and I’m going to mess it all up for them. Has anyone else felt that way before bonding a group?

I know it will be better for them long-term, particularly for Rufus because he’s fed up being confined to a room, but it’s going to be hard seeing them stressed and potentially aggressive towards one another. I’m hoping the fact they have been used to each other’s smells for such a long time might help (but probably wishful thinking).
 

JBun

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Oh yeah! I was so nervous when I first tried bonding my little bunny group, and they were even all related :p You just don't know what's going to happen or how it's going to go. But it all worked out for them. Though I did have another group that was much harder, and didn't work out, so had to keep them in pairs.

You just never really know until you take the plunge. Though don't be afraid to change tactics if how you start out just doesn't seem to be flowing right. Like if you try bonding the whole group together all at once, and it just doesn't seem to be going well(sometimes it's just an intuitive feeling). Then you may need to go to one on one bonding, like starting with getting the harder ones bonded before adding in the others. Or the other way around, starting with the easier ones.
 

MeggyM

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I think it's so worth it in the long run, and like JBun said, you really don't know until you try, it could go much very smoothly, ya never know!

Have you tried picking them up with towels? Putting one over then rabbit and scooping them in snugly with it so they cant squirm? I find they actually like this much better because they feel safe, secure and not like they are going to be dropped. Sometimes you just gotta be able to pick them up and put them in a carrier, etc... my female hates it but if I continue after her she will eventually submit, lay down and let me scoop her up for a quick transfer.
 

HalaBuns

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Thank you, I’ll let you know how it goes! I do have a good feeling about it, but as you say, I won’t know until a put them together.

@MeggyM I can pick them all up if I really need to, they just don’t like it very much. So if I were moving them every day, they would be expecting it and just wouldn’t let me get near them, so doing that with 4 by myself would take so much time. I’ve tried putting Lady in a burrito before and she goes crazy, I actually feel there’s some trauma there, the poor love. She loves head pets and back rubs, but will leap away if she feels smothered or restrained. Nail trimming time is interesting!
 

MeggyM

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Yeah it's so tricky, they're all so different! What is comforting to one can be terrifying to another..!
Doing that with 4 does sound like a lot of work! Do they hop away from you for a very long time? Like I said my girl loves pets too but hates being picked up and will run from me immediately if she knows I am trying to but if I am persistent and don't back down she will submit and lay down within just a minute or 2.
 

HalaBuns

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Well I ended up having to pick up 2 of them, because they were all impossible to get into a carrier.

We are now 2 1/2 hours in to the bonding and everyone is thoroughly miserable. Lots of foot stomping happening. 90% of the fighting has been between Kiki and Gigi, who were already bonded. G is usually very calm and not the dominant of the two, but has been aggressive to everyone. Lady is just keeping herself to herself, wondering what the problem is with the 2 idiots next to her and Rufus is understandably not wanting to interact with G and Kiki, as they’re being such mean girls. He’s just looking at me longing to get out ☹️. Poor little chap.

I sort of feel that Rufus and lady can’t relax until the other two have calmed down. I’m going to sleep next to them and I hope they settle over the next few hours. I know it’s early days and I have no intention of giving up, but is there a point where you realise that it’s just not going to work?
 

MeggyM

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Don't over think it, and don't ask that question yet! lol 😜
Bonding is super stressful but it will not last forever and will be great to not have to worry about a bun getting out and attacking another, etc...

My best advice is to go with your instinct moment by moment. You are the only one who knows all 4 personalities and can take that into account when deciding what to do next or if something needs to be changed.
Tension and some aggression are part of the bonding process but you can use your gut to do whatever is needed based on the buns reactions, different bonding methods and suggestions from people here, JBun had a great point above.

One method I went back and forth with was using different sized spaces - sometimes keeping my distance and using a small space REALLY sped the process along and they liked each-other after the forced close contact. Other times they were stressed and needed some space from each other but I did not want to separate them so I expanded their pen and hoped in with them to pet and calm them. It may stretch out the process but it also gave them the experience of being calm and relaxed in the same space. So, in my opinion do not hesitate to hop in there with them, hand feed them, give treats, place them together and pet, comfort them, read a book, or just hang out! Since there are 4 you also may want to have some sort of divider if someone is too stressed. This doesn't have to fully separate them, just put a little stopper to help make the others feel less scared. You can also add a hidie hut if you are in there with them so to make sure more than one does not get in and start a fight. Or a hide that has 2 open sides so there is no chance for one getting trapped in by another.

Lastly, check out this thread:
 

HalaBuns

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Haha! At one point last night when we first started last night and they were all so stressed, I just felt so mean.

Overall, I think it’s going ok, i’m not having to break up fights all the time which is great. Gigi has totally taken me by surprise by being aggressive towards everyone, she’s usually so placid and dopey. I literally have no idea who is who in the hierarchy at this point.

So much foot stomping going on overnight, but only had to break up a couple of tussles and pleased they’ve been interacting more. Gi’s been trying to groom Rufus a little, but he’s not having it yet. He’s not loving the process, he mostly sits with his back to everyone, stomping his little foot, longing to get out (he actually jumped out at around 5am, so I’ve had to put a blanket over the top of the pen) But he’s eating and grooming himself fine, so I think he just needs to trust that Gigi’s not going to terrorise him.

I made the pen as small as I could, but I still actually feel they could have done with a smaller space initially. If we have a calm day today with no aggression, then I’ll expand it out a little. It’s 6am at the moment and everyone’s quite relaxed, other than the odd foot stomp.

image.jpg
 

JBun

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I hope the bonding is going well(or is finished). It sounded like it was progressing in a good direction.
 

HalaBuns

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Still going well! We’ve had a power shift from Kiki to Rufus, which has been interesting. I had a single client call this week, and 10 minutes in, he decided to go on a humping rampage 💪🏼 🤷‍♀️😂. I could see it all happening on the camera and everyone could hear them crashing about 🙈. Lady is used to it, but Gigi and Kiki were a bit shell shocked. He thought he was a little rock star for the rest of the day and would throw himself between them, despite them making it clear that they thought he was an absolute nuisance. I expanded their pen, so the girls could get away from him when he was a bit much.

Kiki was doing a bit of aggressive nipping and chasing yesterday, but only when I left the room and would stop as soon as I came back in and told her off. I’m not sure why that would be, but I’m trying to spend less time in the room a monitor them on camera so she gets used to me not being there.

Little Lady has been the glue really. That little bun just wants everyone to love her and get along. From day one she would hop from bun to bun asking for love, getting rejected and then bullied at one point ☹️. They’ve all come around now though.

Today everyone is very settled, but I’m still not totally certain that the hierarchy is decided. I feel Kiki may be plotting a takeover. Overall, I’m really happy with how it’s going 😃

3BEB6F59-7B1A-482C-9BB6-6F8E320AFB34.jpeg 492F1766-380D-48C8-B106-AEBE33257C63.jpeg
 

Catlyn

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Wow, what a venture!
Good to read they've decided to start getting along.
Could you please remind me again who is who in the photos?
 

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