Most people who have pet rabbits keep one, two, or at most three rabbits together in one cage.
But how many are too many?
How Many Rabbits Can Live Together in One Cage?
There isn’t an arbitrary limit on how many rabbits can live together in the same cage as long as you provide each rabbit with the following:
- Enough space,
- Enough food and water,
- A clean environment,
- Appropriate separation, and
- Calm, slow introductions for the rabbits you add to the group.
In nature, rabbits live in groups of 10 to 15 individuals. Usually, there will be three bucks (breeding males), and five does (breeding females), plus some of their older offspring.
But that doesn’t mean that keeping 15 rabbits in the same large cage is necessarily a good plan.
Further in this article, we will tell you about the downside of keeping a large number of rabbits together in a “natural” arrangement.
Then we will tell you what you need to do to keep any number of rabbits living together healthy and happy in the same cage, hutch, or rabbit run.
Also read: 10 Most Affectionate Rabbit Breeds
How Wild Rabbits Live Together?
Wild rabbits, of course, don’t live in cages. What they do share is the same territory.
In the wild, there are usually more does (the breeding females) than bucks ( the breeding males) in the same rabbit colony.
Most baby bunnies fail to survive to reproduce.
Rabbit colonies are extremely hierarchical. There will be a “boss rabbit,” usually a male.
Both males and females that are higher in the hierarchy will be extremely aggressive toward males and females of lower social status.
Wild Rabbits Are Aggressive Toward Each Other
If you get close enough to observe a wild rabbit colony, you will see signs of dominance and submission among the rabbits all the time.
When a rabbit is around other rabbits of its same social status, its ears will point forward.
But when a higher-status rabbit approaches a lower-status rabbit, it will turn its ears so they point outward, scientists writing for Discover Wildlife say.
A rabbit that turns its ears to point backward is annoyed. Thumping its feet is a way of letting other rabbits know it is ready to fight over food, over water, and over the best nesting space.
A rabbit will turn its back on the losing rabbit in a fight to signal that the fight is over, and the losing rabbit will hop away.
Wild Rabbits Mark Their Territory
There is an easy way to tell which rabbit in a rabbit colony thinks it is the boss.
Dominant rabbits constantly patrol their territory.
They will run along the boundaries of their territory, constantly scraping the ground.
They will mark trees, stumps, and other conspicuous objects in the area they consider to be their own with their pheromones. They release these chemical markers of ownership by rubbing their chins on the objects they wish to claim.
Sometimes, males will pee on challengers to mark the other rabbits as their own, too. More often, male rabbits will resolve boundary disputes by fighting.
The male will use its hind legs to kick the other male in the belly. They will claw each other with their front paws, and bite each other on the back.
Older females will be similarly aggressive toward younger females seeking a nesting spot.
Also read: Why Do Rabbits Suddenly Start Fighting?
Pet Rabbits Instinctively Display Wild Rabbit Behaviors
If you try to keep 10 or 15 pet rabbits in the same cage—a mistake I made with my elementary school rabbit project—they will fight the same way wild rabbits fight.
Rabbits in close quarters may injure or even kill each other.
I once came home from school to find nine baby bunnies dead in a cage with two does.
But you can avoid these problems and keep even 10 or 15 rabbits together in the same cage if you provide them with space, food and water, cleanliness, and cage dividers, and you take the time to introduce rabbits before you house them together.
Have Ample Space for Multiple Rabbits
Rabbits need space to stretch out for rest. They need space for play.
Rabbits need easy access to their source of hay, and an easy way to use their litter box inside their cages.
For most rabbits, 12 square feet (that’s a little over 1 square meter) is enough.
Floor space of 3 feet by 4 feet (or 1 meter in both directions) is fine for all but giant rabbits. Dwarf rabbits might be happy with a little less, as little as 2 feet by 2 feet (60 cm length and width).
Each rabbit also needs overhead space adequate for hopping around in its cage without brushing its ears. For most breeds, 14 inches clearance (about 35 cm) will do.
It’s critically important to remember that these figures only refer to the cage, hutch, or kennel space rabbits need for resting and overnight safety. Rabbits need a larger outdoor space for 2 or 3 hours of exercise every day, too.
A domesticated rabbit needs at least 100 square feet (about 10 square meters) of playspace.
It is usually not a good idea to let your rabbits out in your backyard.
Larger rabbits can climb over a 4-foot (1.3 meter) fence. If your backyard is open to the street by a driveway, rabbits can find their way into traffic, or neighborhood dogs and cats can find their way into your backyard.
Any playspace for rabbits must be enclosed on all sides.
Most rabbits would like to play early in the morning and just before sundown. (English Spots like to play at night.) This is also the time predators are active, so any early-morning or late-afternoon outdoor playtime must be supervised.
What kind of cage is best for rabbits?
The most important thing to remember about any cage for rabbits is that bigger is always better.
The more space your rabbit has, the happier it will be. Extra space is especially important for keeping rabbits calm when they live with two, three, four, or more rabbits.
It’s entirely up to you how you house your rabbits, but generally you have three choices:
- Hutches – These are two-story structures that serve as an all-inclusive home for your rabbits.
- Cages – Usually made of wire, these structures are similar to hutches except that the walls allow more ventilation. Cages with metal wire floors can injure the toes of smaller rabbits.
- Pens – Baby gates can create a pen on any floor inside your home, giving your rabbit lots of room for play.
If you choose a hutch or cage for your rabbits, make sure the different floors are connected by ramps, not steps.
For older rabbits that have arthritis, steps can be problematic. Forcing young bunnies to hop up and down steps can aggravate hip dysplasia.
If you choose wire cages, simple cages with a single level are better than expensive, complicated cages that have multiple levels.
Predators can more easily get inside a cage with multiple levels including a ground floor than they can get into a single-level cage elevated off the ground.
Give Enough Food and Water to Each Rabbit
In colonies of wild rabbits, certain rabbits will bully others away from food and water supplies.
Domesticated rabbits will be competitive, too, unless you make sure each rabbit has its own water bottle and its own source of hay.
Don’t throw hay on the ground or on the floor and expect rabbits to gather around it. Instead, stuff hay into a feeder that allows each rabbit to grasp individual straws, mulching away without worry of not getting its share.
The more food and water locations you have for your rabbits, the less they will compete with each other to get their share.
Also read: 10 Tips to Keep a Rabbit Cage from Smelling
Keep their Living Area Clean
When you have multiple rabbits living together, there are certain cleaning tasks you must do every day.
- Clean the litter box. You do not want a litter box to get full of feces and urine. Line the box with hay that you change every day.
- Put new pellets in food bowls. Pellets should not be more than about 10% of your rabbits’ diet, and you should not let them get stale in the bowl.
- Fill water bowls and water bottles with fresh water. This cuts down on the rate of saliva-borne infections among your rabbits.
- Vacuum or sweep around the cage. Poop has a way of rolling out of the litter box. You don’t want it to accumulate on your floors.
There are also cleaning tasks you will need to do once a week.
- Wipe down every surface inside the cage with water or a natural cleaning product labeled as safe for pets. This prevents corrosion of the cage caused by urine or poop.
- Disinfect the cage. This prevents the spread of harmful bacteria, especially those that cause respiratory infections.
- Remove, wash, and dry any bedding. This keeps rabbits from swallowing their own hair, which can cause painful hairballs.
- Wipe down all toys with a safe cleaner. This prevents the spread of disease, some of which (like E. coli and Salmonella) can spread from rabbits to humans.
- Wash food bowls and water bottles. This prevents the formation of stubborn films of bacteria.
- Change your rabbits’ bedding. Hay and straw will do, but wood pellets and aspen shavings (the kind you buy from a pet store, not the kind you get from a lumber yard) absorb more urine, feces, and odors.
You can make your own rabbit-safe cleaning solution from equal parts of water and vinegar.
If you need to remove a stubborn stain, make a paste of baking soda and water and then wipe with your water-and-vinegar solution.
Separate Male and Female Rabbits
There is a very simple reason for keeping females that have not been spayed and males that have not been neutered in separate cages:
Rabbits multiply (fast).
Reproductively intact female rabbits are always either in heat or pregnant. They can get pregnant even while they are nursing their babies.
And you need to know that rabbits can mate through a fence. Solid separation is a must unless you want baby rabbits.
Also read: Can Male Rabbit Stay With Their Babies?
Make the Introductions Slowly
Rabbits need about three weeks to feel comfortable around a new member of their colony.
For the first few weeks, let the new rabbit play with the rest of your rabbit colony, but make sure it spends most of its time in its own cage.
When the rest of the colony no longer shows any aggression toward the new rabbit, it is safe to leave them together 24/7.
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