When I was nine years old, I had a pair of Flemish Giant rabbits. They mated, and the doe gave birth to an amazingly large litter of 17 big baby bunnies.
Unfortunately, the mother rabbit died a few days later. I panicked. My parents had gone off to work early. Not knowing what else to do, I gave the little rabbits dairy milk from the grocery store from a bottle.
I put nine of the bunnies in a cage with my Florida White male to keep them warm all day, and eight with another Flemish Giant female.
I didn’t have a rabbit run, a place where my rabbits could safely play outside their cages when I was not home.
When I got home from school that day, all 17 of my little rabbits were dead.
It isn’t hard to introduce a young, weaned rabbit to an older rabbit. It is even possible to persuade a mother rabbit to adopt another rabbit’s kits for foster care. But there are some things I did not know when I was nine years old that are essential to a successful new rabbit relationship.
Introducing Baby Rabbits to Older Rabbits – Quick Guide
As we will explain in more detail later in this article, it is always important to go slow when introducing a baby rabbit to an adult.
Also, certain pairings work better than others.
- The ideal match is a younger neutered male rabbit housed with an older spayed female rabbit.
- Older neutered males will also get along with younger spayed females.
- A sexually intact female may become very territorial with a younger neutered male.
- A sexually intact male will seek to mate with any other rabbit in its cage.
- Two neutered males in the same cage can usually learn to get along.
- Two sexually intact males in the same cage will almost always fight.
- Two sexually intact females will divide their territory.
- A reproductively active female with a reproductively active male will be constantly pregnant. Female rabbits can become pregnant even while they are nursing their babies. However, the pair will be bonded and friendly.
- If you are keeping multiple rabbits in the same cage, it is best that they are all approximately the same age. Keep in mind that siblings may mate, passing recessive traits to their offspring.
Foster Care for Baby Rabbits
If you are breeding rabbits, it is always best to breed two does at the same time, so one will be available to foster babies if needed.
Baby rabbits need foster care when they lose their mother.
They need fostering when the mother rabbit cannot produce enough milk to keep her babies fed. Foster care can keep kits alive long enough to start eating solid food.
Here is what you need to know about how mother rabbits nurse their babies:
- Female rabbits may not start producing milk until 48 hours after they have given birth.
- Mother rabbits usually nurse their kits late at night.
- You can tell whether a newborn rabbit has nursed by feeling its stomach. A baby rabbit that has had an opportunity to drink milk will have a plump tummy.
You will need to have the baby bunnies in the right place at the right time. This means you will have to get up early to watch the mother rabbit nursing her young.
Let the mother rabbit nurse her own bunnies first.
Place the mother doe in her nesting box, and place the box on a steady surface.
Then place the orphaned kits next to the mother rabbit. Cover the rabbit and the box with a towel, so she does not see which kits are nursing.
Come back in 15 minutes to make sure the foster kits have had a chance to nurse.
If the foster rabbits look shriveled and feel cold, they have not nursed. Take the mother rabbit out of the nesting box for two hours.
Then try again, placing just the unfed bunnies in the box. If this does not work, you will need to find another foster mother or feed the baby rabbits by hand or seek assistance from your local animal shelter.
Remember, baby rabbits only need to nurse once every 24 hours.
Introducing Weaned Rabbits to Older Rabbits for Living Together
It’s fun to watch bonded rabbits spending time together. They play together. They take naps together. They groom each other.
The best matches are adults of the opposite sex. It is easier to introduce rabbits that are about the same age.
But that doesn’t mean that baby rabbits cannot have a happy experience about being introduced to older rabbits, just that you need to take additional steps to introduce them.
The baby bunny needs to be weaned
Rabbits that are still dependent on mother’s milk are too young to introduce to older hutch mates.
Wait until the baby rabbit is at least eight weeks old. Keep baby rabbits you are fostering in their own warm nest when you are not placing them with their foster mother to be fed.
The older rabbit needs to be spayed or neutered
Reproductively intact female rabbits are extremely territorial when they are in heat—and they are in heat all the time when they are not pregnant.
Females instinctively defend their space in a cage or a hutch to provide nesting space for their babies, especially against other reproductively intact females.
Male rabbits that have not been neutered will hump almost anything.
That could be a female rabbit, a male rabbit, a baby rabbit, the furniture, or your leg. They can injure baby rabbits when they attempt to mount them.
Two reproductively intact males will fight for dominance in a small cage. You need at least 45 square feet, 5 feet by 9 feet of floor space (about 4 square meters) for two unneutered males.
But it is best just to have your rabbits “fixed.” Males can be neutered at the age of three months, females at four months.
Introduce your rabbits on neutral territory
Simply sticking a rabbit in a cage with a new cage mate is a recipe for disaster. The older, more powerful rabbit may bite, scratch, and chase the younger rabbit until it is exhausted and submissive. Injuries and death can happen.
Instead, place the two rabbits in cages next to each other for a few days. (Don’t forget to give each rabbit its separate out-of-cage play time every day.)
Let them see each other. Let them sniff each other. If you rabbits have toys, place one rabbit’s toys in the other rabbit’s cage so they can have a happy experience with the other rabbit’s scent.
Give your rabbits at least 48 hours and preferably a week to get used to each other.
Place both rabbits in a large, escape-proof space
The next step is to let both rabbits play in the same space at the same time.
Put both rabbits in a space where they can interact, but they can also run away from each other if they are afraid.
A play space with a rabbit tunnel or a hidey house indoors is ideal. You do not want your rabbits to have the ability to run off your premises. You might have a lot of trouble getting them back.
Some chasing is to be expected. Usually, the adult will chase the baby. Just make sure the baby does not get hurt.
After a couple of hours of supervised play, put the rabbits back into their separate cages or hutches. Repeat shared play time for about a week.
Making your rabbits feel at home
If everything goes well during these two weeks, you can try placing both rabbits in the same cage.
Ideally, this cage would be new to both rabbits. That makes it neutral territory. Neither rabbit will regard any part of a new cage as “mine.” Give the two rabbits new food bowls and new toys.
For the next two or three days, keep an eye on how well your rabbits get along in their hutch or page.
Once they start grooming each other, you can assume they are bonded. But if your rabbits fight, remove the little guy to keep it safe.
Also read: Can 2 Week Old Rabbits Drink Water?
Monitoring Behavior and Interaction
When introducing a baby rabbit to an older rabbit, it’s crucial to closely monitor their behavior and interactions to ensure a successful bonding experience.
If done correctly, rabbits can be great companions for one another.
However, they may also exhibit territorial behavior or aggression, which could lead to fighting.
Understanding rabbit body language and addressing any signs of aggression or dominance will help create a safer environment for your furry friends.
Understanding Rabbit Body Language
Rabbit body language is an essential aspect of monitoring their interaction when introducing a baby rabbit to an older one.
Check for signs that indicate each rabbit’s feelings towards one another. Friendly behavior may include grooming, sniffing, or gentle nudging.
On the other hand, if a rabbit flattens its ears against its head, lunges, or growls, these are signs of aggression or fear.
In addition to body language, keep an eye out for subtle changes in their behavior as well.
For instance, excessive scratching, thumping the hind legs, or trying to escape can also signify discomfort.
Addressing Aggression and Dominance
When introducing rabbits, it’s crucial to address any aggression or dominance issues as early as possible.
Spaying and neutering are fundamental steps that help reduce hormones-driven aggression and territorial tendencies between rabbits.
Make sure both rabbits are fixed before starting the bonding process.
If you notice any sign of aggression or dominance, like lunging, chasing, or biting, it’s vital to intervene immediately.
You can separate the rabbits using a barrier or by using a distraction method, such as spraying water on them from a distance.
After this, reduce their interactions for a while before attempting to reintroduce them again under close supervision.
It’s important to remember that patience is key when bonding rabbits.
Properly monitoring their behavior and taking any necessary steps to address aggression or dominance will help ensure a safe and comfortable environment for your bunny companions.
Identifying Warning Signs
One key aspect of avoiding conflicts is recognizing warning signs before the situation escalates.
Some common warning signs that your rabbits are feeling annoyed or hostile include:
- Nipping: A rabbit may nip or bite at another rabbit to express frustration or assert dominance.
- Chasing: If a rabbit is repeatedly chasing another, it may indicate frustration or an attempt to establish dominance.
- Growling or thumping: Rabbits may show aggression through growling, hissing, or thumping their feet in warning.
Being aware of these signs and intervening before a conflict escalates can help prevent a full-blown attack and ensure the safety of both rabbits.
Frequently Asked Questions About Introducing Rabbits
Is there an age at which rabbits are too young to place with older rabbits?
A. Rabbits that get used to each other before the younger rabbit has gone through puberty will often fight once the younger rabbit becomes reproductively active.
The older rabbit may not recognize the scent of the younger rabbit after it goes through puberty, and the younger rabbit will become more aggressive.
Are certain breeds of rabbits easier to keep together than others?
Of these breeds, the Standard Chinchilla rabbits will be the most relaxed around people as well as around other rabbits.
How many rabbits can I keep together?
In nature, rabbits live in groups of 10 to 15, with a single dominant male.
You can follow the instructions in this article to introduce new rabbits to larger groups, but keep in mind that females can continue to be fertile for 10 days to 2 weeks after they are spayed, and males can still reproduce for 2 or 3 weeks after they are neutered.
What are the potential dangers of pairing adult and baby rabbits?
Pairing adult and baby rabbits without proper bonding can lead to aggressive behavior, injuries, or even fighting to the death.
Adult rabbits may become territorial and see the young rabbit as a threat. It is crucial to follow appropriate bonding steps and monitor their interactions closely to avoid any potential dangers.
Can two rabbits share a litter box?
Rabbits that are comfortable enough to groom each other will share the same large litter box.
It is usually better to give your rabbits the largest litter box for which you have space.
Let your rabbits continue using the same litter box for the first three or four weeks that you have them together.
I want to raise a foster bunny. Where can I find a baby rabbit to adopt?
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