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

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JBun

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I'm sure they're wondering what they did to deserve such treatment. Little do they know it's for their own good.

I'm so glad it's going well. It's going to be easier to take care of them as a group(usually). I was really happy when my group was finally all bonded together. Simplified things a lot for me.
 

HalaBuns

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Well we’ve gone backwards a bit, which is my fault. I made the mistake of putting a little rug in one corner, which was brand new, but over the course of the day Lady claimed it / the corner and became more and more volatile towards Gigi, and then everyone started chasing everyone. I decided to put them back in the pen so they could work things out and the biggest fight kicked off (thank goodness for my gloves, I got bitten hard). Once they had settled down, they did fine overnight, no chasing or fighting.

Rufus managed to get the pen open this morning and they all got out. I’ve decided to leave them to it rather than stressing them out trying to put them back in and so far no aggression. 3 of them are very calm together, snuggling and grooming, but Lady has taken herself out of the group rather. I’ve blocked off “her” corner and taken everything out of the area. I’ll see how the day goes, but I think I’ll need to get them all back in the pen again if it continues like this.
 

HalaBuns

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So Lady’s turned out to actually be a little psycho!

In a group bonding of 4, do they fight for the 3rd spot, i.e. so they don’t come bottom of the group? We seem to have Rufus established as top bun, which they all seem to be fine with, but Lady will not stop going after G. She’s totally fine with the other two though, trying to snuggle in with them, groom them etc 🤷‍♀️ (she got herself back in with them yesterday)

Poor G spent most of yesterday evening and overnight hiding in a corner with Lady becoming more and more aggressive with each interaction. I had reduced their space again, but Lady was going for her so relentlessly, I opened it up a bit so G could get away. I almost called the whole thing quits at 9pm, it was horrible 😞. Kiki has been her little protector all night, blocking access to her ♥️

I’m sure it must be a hierarchy thing? not what I was expecting.
 

JBun

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What do you think about opening up more space for them? I know sometimes the confined bonding space can be an issue for certain rabbits, and they need the opposite of usual, and need more space to get away from the other rabbits when they need a break, and for a more gradual bonding process. It's just sounding like more problems are occurring with the current set up. I would be inclined to change things and see if there's any improvement.
 

HalaBuns

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Thanks @JBun. I actually thought the same yesterday, the smaller space seemed to be causing more stress, so I removed the fencing and now they are free in the bathroom again (still a bit of fencing there just to help hold the puppy pads in one spot, I don’t think they’re ready for objects / a litter box yet). Gigi has a spot in the corner behind the door that she retreats to when she feels threatened, but she has been out and hanging out with Rufus and Kiki.

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There has been an improvement in that Lady is no longer actively seeking Gigi out just to nip her, which is what was happening all night on Sunday. As a side note, I slept next to them and it was absolutely fascinating how Kiki was protecting her, she blocked Lady‘s access to her for most of the night so she could get some rest and eat in peace. Best friend you could wish for!

Every time they interact though, Lady will nip her on the face, or on the bum and then chase her after G has jumped in the air. Understandably Gigi is very wary and doesn’t want to get too close to her, although I was able to get them all sharing a pile of veggies yesterday. I did also watch Gigi on the camera run over to Lady, nip her on the bum and then run and hide. Well deserved and I was quite proud!

I guess this is a dominance thing the two of them need to work through? Lady is totally fine with the other two buns, she does not do the same with them.
 

JBun

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I did also watch Gigi on the camera run over to Lady, nip her on the bum and then run and hide. Well deserved and I was quite proud!

🤣 That's priceless!

Yes, it's the whole hierarchy thing getting sorted out. It can also be the two of them just getting used to each others personalities and learning to get along and live with each other in the group setting. So far the progress looks really great 🥰
 

HalaBuns

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I’ve actually put them all back in a pen again now as the relationships deteriorated. By Tuesday evening, whilst the other 3 were getting on brilliantly, Lady had stopped interacting with the group, other than to nip and chase Gigi, and overnight was chaos, with them all chasing each other. After 11 days at home, I also need to go to the office, so I have to be able to separate Lady off from the other 3 in order for me to leave the house, otherwise there will be a lot of chasing and i can’t supervise. It gives G a bit of a break too. When I go out, Lady is still in the same pen but with a partition, so I’m not separating her completely.

The nipping and chasing has been consistent for 5 days now with no sign of improvement and it’s very stressful for Gigi. Do I need to just keep going and let them
work this out, or is there a point where I need to call it a day for Gigi’s sake? I’m concerned that she’s not eating drinking enough because of the stress.

I’m going to try taking them to my friend’s and put them both on her counter for forced cuddles, in the hope that a new environment my help bring them together
 

HalaBuns

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Maybe I could also split Lady away every few hours if she’s being intense, to give G some recovery time? The other 3 are getting on so well, always snuggling together.

I really don’t know whether a small space or larger space is best, neither seem to be working out great.

I don’t want to give up completely if I can help it, I don’t think I would attempt it again.
 

JBun

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You may need to take a break then, Either way might work and is worth a try. You don't want to force it and end up with a bunny in GI stasis from the stress. They may just need to have some time to all calm down and get used to at least being next door to one another. Then maybe with some time and a break(short one or longer), they may be ready to bond.

Though there is also the chance they just aren't going to mesh. I had two female buns that I never was able to bond, because they just wouldn't get along no matter what I tried. And one female bun that I couldn't bond into the big group, until she was old and blind from cataracts. Then she could no longer chase after the little ones because she couldn't see where to go 🤣
 

HalaBuns

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Awww haha!

The silly thing is, prior to Sunday, Gigi and Lady were glued to each other, it’s like Lady had a personality transplant over the weekend. She’s such a loving bunny, but that side of her is nowhere to be seen at the moment. She’s not really even grooming the other two anymore.

I don’t think she wants the top spot because she’s not like this with the other two who are the dominants of the group, so I can’t really work out what she’s after.

Could moving the pen into a different room help, or make matters worse? The only space I have available though is Rufus and Lady’s old room. They’ve not been in it for 11 days, would that be enough time for them to forget it’s their territory?
 

HalaBuns

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4 extremely happy bunnies. I couldn‘t bear their sad little faces anymore and G was on total hunger strike. Binkies within 2 minutes. Couple of days to reset and then will try again but with shorter sessions. They’re all actually really easy to catch and pick up if I’m wearing my big suede bonding gloves 🤣 so it’s not actually that time consuming.

I tried keeping the 3 together, but Rufus wasn’t happy about that at all, so he’s in with his woman.

I wonder how much of Lady’s behaviour was driven by pure misery and frustration.
 

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JBun

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Sometimes they need a break... and sometimes you need a break 😌 Bonding can be hard work, and stressful.
 

HalaBuns

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You’re not wrong there. I didn’t sleep a lot for the days they were in together. I’m pleased for all of us that we’re trying a different approach.

We started again yesterday and did 4 hours. Lady was tormenting Gigi for the majority of it, but otherwise they were all quite calm. I’m still hopeful we can get there, I just wish I could get into Lady’s brain 😂. She’s not overly aggressive, it’s like she’s trying to provoke a reaction by nipping her, but not getting what she wants. G is just scared of her now, understandably, she leaps in the air before she’s even touched her.

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HalaBuns

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6 days into our second bonding attempt and Lady finally laid off Gigi and demanded grooming this morning. G doesn’t trust it one bit. It was later followed by a nip on the bum, so her instincts are spot on.

Taking it very slowly this time. The hierarchy is still very much up in the air, but making progress I feel.

G hates every minute of it, so sticking to 2-4 hour sessions, because she doesn’t relax enough to eat. Hoping that will change when I expand the space a bit, but I want all negative behaviour to stop before I do that. There’s still been some aggressive body language and nipping (ears back, tail up), a bit of chasing and Kiki took a swipe at Lady earlier, but I’m taking a positive from that. I’m pleased they’re interacting, because they need to sort themselves out (finally).
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