Rabbits/fighting

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QUESTION: My boyfriends ex has had his 2 male rabbits for ages and they used to be fine together. She left them behind and kept saying she would get them but never did. One was spayed and one wasn't. The one that wasn't did try and hump the other one when in season only but they got along still. I have now adopted them and I have now got him spayed. When I brought him back from the vets the other bunny started to bite his head then it ended up in a fight. He has never been aggressive before. They have a hutch that stays open and they run around in the yard. I had to separate them so one was in the hutch. When i did this they sniff each other and look for each other. In the morning i put them together again and it turned into a chasing match and then a bigger fight. I'm going to get some cage disinfection and clean everything and ive read about putting them in an area that they haven't been in so nothing smells of either of them. I'm totally stuck on how to stop them fighting as they were such good friends before i got him spayed. Its breaking my heart to see them fight can you advise me on anything else that i can do please.

ANSWER: Hi Lisa:

I found your question in the open question pool. The expert you originally sent your question to either rejected or declined to answer your question and when that happens, the question goes into an 'pool' than any expert in the category can access.  I check the pool daily to make sure no questions go unanswered.

To answer your question:

Male rabbits can never, ever safely be housed together on a long term basis.  It often goes well for a while, but then it happens.... they fight and they often fight to the death.

In nature, there will be one buck in the rabbit warren and 30 or more does which he services.  That one buck will be the only buck for at least an acre, possibly more.  If another enters, he will be driven out and/or killed.

The "humping" you saw between the neutered and non-neutered rabbits was signs of territoriality and aggression.  If one was mounting the other, then that rabbit was the dominant male and wanted the other male out of his cage.  I've heard stories of males living together for 5 years and then one day one brutally kills the other - it happens and it never ends well.

If you have two bucks 'tolerating' one another in a cage and in your case they were only 'tolerating' one another as one was aggression mounting, and you take one of the bucks out for even a day, the other buck will claim the cage and it is absolutely impossible for the 2nd buck to be accepted back in.  The dominant buck has had a taste of solitary rule and he's not going to go back to any other way.

Putting them in a new cage, new area, disinfected area, etc. will not solve the issue.  It has nothing to do with the cage or marking/scent etc.  It's completely un-natural for 2 males to live together long term and not have it result in death.

It you moved them both to a new cage in a new area, they might be fine for a day or two because they will be pre-occupied with the new look, taste, smells, etc. but as soon as that newness wears off, they will fight.  It may be a series of small fights here and there, but eventually it will be the "big" fight that results in one of them being dead.

The only solution is to house them both separately.

By the way - is there any reason you opted to have the males neutered?  In females, spaying is a good idea because unsprayed and unbred females have a higher risk of uterine cancer, however, in males, neutering doesn't change anything.  Males cant live together even if they are neutered.

Once you get a second cage, keep at least 10 feet of space between them otherwise you will end up with 'urine wars'..... The rabbits will spray urine in, on, around their cage to keep a boundary line and it gets nasty.  When they spray urine for boundary marking, they jump up and spin and spray while spinning and most of the urine ends up on the rabbit.... its not pretty.  Keeping them spaced apart resolves that issue.

Best of luck with your bunnies.  Please let me know if you have any follow up questions.

Lisa L.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: The reason i got him spayed was to stop humping the other one and also he flicked his wee everywhere, and the other one didnt. Ive now built a fence so one has a cage and half my yard and same for the other one. Now hes been done and its been a few weeks he doesnt flick wee and has his behaviour has calmed down. They do sit next to each other at the fence but leave each other alone. The other bunny has gone quite grumpy and sometimes grunts at me but hes ok most of the time. Thanks for your answer its very informative, im glad ive separated them.

ANSWER: I'm glad you separated them.  You certainly saved a life of one of them, or at least a very serious injury.

Question?  Did you cover the ground with wire - such as chicken wire or cage wire?  If not, you need to.  Rabbits are prolific diggers; its their finest skill.  They can give a 30 foot long tunnel in under 10 minutes.  Yup - they're that good.

I've known of many instances where rabbits in separate cages, but had access to the ground, dug a tunnel into the other rabbit's area and killed or seriously injured the other one.  I cant tell you how often I get reports of this happening.  

If they are right next to one another, the dominant male (there is always a dominant one# will eventually decide he doesn't like the other male being so close and if there's nothing on the ground to stop him from tunneling, he will tunnel him way in....

The other reason for the wire is to keep wild rabbits out.  If a wild cottontail gets within range of smelling your bucks - (they can smell from 250 feet away) - the immediate instinctual reaction of the wild rabbit will be to 'eliminate' the domestic rabbits to keep the territory for itself.  In an acre of open land, there is 1 wild buck per 30 does.  If another buck enters - it is killed.  Now that you've put the expense of neutering both bucks, you certainly don't want a wild cottontail digging in and killing it.

You can either cover the ground with wire or you can put them in wire cages #which is best for many reasons#.

Best of luck and please let me know if you have any follow up questions.

Lisa L.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I have a paved yard so there is no chance of digging, ive grown some grass for them in trays (one each) so they dig that a little and still have grass to eat.

Answer
Ah, ok - perfect.  Sounds like you've got everything worked out.  As long as they stay calm and don't sit and obsess over one another through the wires, you are fine.  If you notice either of them chewing on the wire, or scratching at the wire, then you'll need to put distance between them.
Great job in getting them apart and keeping them from injuring one another!
If you notice agitation or excitement in both of them, then chances are a wild rabbit or other critter visited during the night and got them riled up.

Lisa L.

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Lisa L.

Experience

I was introduced to meat rabbits at the age of 3. Began working with them on my own at the age of 8 and started my own large commercial rabbitry at the age of 20. I'm 46 now and for the past 26 years I have owned a large herd of meat rabbits and have become well known as the turn-to person whenever a problem arrises.

Organizations
Member of the American Rabbit Breeders Association. Member of the Rabbit Industry Council. Member of the Yahoo - Meat Rabbits Group. Member of the American Council of Animal Naturopathy. Administrators of the FaceBook "Rabbit's as meat" group. Owner of Yahoo - Raising Meat Rabbit's for maximum yield group

Publications
Yahoo Meat Rabbits Group. www.rabbitzinger.com American Council of Animal Naturopathy www.raisingrabbits.com FaceBook "Rabbit's as meat" group. Owner of Yahoo - Raising Meat Rabbit's for maximum yield group

Education/Credentials
There is no formal training for raising rabbits; its all hands on. I have had a steady rabbit breeding operation for 24 years and have read every book there is on raising rabbits for meat. Additionally, I am a member of several rabbit groups and associations as listed below.

Awards and Honors
None - there are none in this field.

Past/Present Clients
I have helped countless people over the past several decades. These have been people I knew personally or those referred to me by one of the many rabbit organizations I belong to.

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