Rabbits/bullying

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Question
cage
cage  
We have three bunnies. Daisy is 10 months old. We had him two weeks before we got lily and clover (brothers). They were all bought from same dealer. Lily and clover are about 9 mos old. Just recently started seeing fur around cage and daisy staying on 3rd story of cage,  not coming down to eat. They all are somewhat skiddish so I didnt think any thing of it or the little puffs of hair until I watched the brothers chase daisy upstairs after I fed them and get on top of him. I feel terrible that I havent noticed before that hes not as big as they are. I think hes been unable to get any food. The rabbits were getting along just fine in the fall and it seems like it just happened after it got cold about a month or so ago. I have now separated the bunnies with the brothers on 2nd floor and daisy on bottom.  Will I be able to reunite them or will I have to keep them separated?  I dont like daisy being "out in the open". Is this common with males? The dominate bunny clover was the most timid one about two months ago...what could change this?

Answer
Hello:

What you are seeing is perfectly normal behavior for mature rabbits.  Rabbits are solitary animals and should never be housed together, or they will fight - as you have seen.  The reason you are seeing the sudden change in behavior is age - they are nearing a year and have reached sexual maturity.  Typical rabbits start fighting at the 7-8 month age, so they are right on track!  I'm sure you had every good intention of having them together so they wouldn't be lonely, but that's a human desire - not a rabbit desire.  In a wild rabbit warren, it is one rabbit per hole and if any others enter, they will fight to the death.  The only solution is to put one rabbit per cage.  Even if you are able to put a divider in the cage to keep them physically apart, the dominant rabbit - which is usually a male, will continue to intimidate the others through body posture and sounds and while he may never be able to touch the others, the fear alone is enough to cause the others to stop eating and drinking.  

Are these rabbits fixed?  If not, you can be absolutely certain that daisy is pregnant, so have the necessary equipment ready.  Putting a female in with two hormonal males typically ends in the result of at least one rabbit, often two.  Males will not share a female and will fight to the death over her.  Once one male has killed the other, it will dominate the female and mate with her several times daily, non stop. What happens most often is that the female gets tired of the males approaches and will castrate him; tear his testicles off and he dies.

Males will mount females to mate and mount other males out of dominance.  The first sign of any mounting should be an immediate separation.  At this point, you cant house any of them together.  Males will fight to the death starting at about the age of 9 months, even if no female is around and a male housed with a female will mate non stop until she fatally wounds him to stop it.

Since Daisy is likely pregnant, it's possible that the fur you are seeing is because she is pulling fur to make a nest.  Females pull hair from their chest and stomach about a week prior to delivering to make a soft area for the kits.  You'll need to prepare for a litter of kits anywhere from 4-14 can be born, depending on the breed and age.

By the way - if all these rabbits were fixed (spayed/neutered), the fighting would be less, but it would still happen.  You can never house 2 males together nor can you ever house males with a female.  The only combination that 'sometimes' works is two females from the same litter in a VERY LARGE cage so they can avoid one another.

Your problem is one i hear of often.  People buy 2 or 3 or more rabbits and they are best of friends one day, cuddling, snuggling, sleeping together then suddenly the mounting begins, fighting begins, fur is flying and the owner is baffled.  The reason is all the same - maturity. One those hormones kick in, rabbits change dramatically and that cuddly playmate is now an enemy.

You're choices are to have each of the 3 rabbits in it's own cage or to re-home 1 or 2 of them.  Do not separate rabbits within the same cage; the dominant rabbit will keep the other in fear and that's no way to live.

Please let me know if you have any other questions or concerns.

Lisa L.

Rabbits

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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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