Step-by-Step Guide to Bunny Bonding
Bunny Bonding is a difficult, but rewarding challenge, and we are here to help.
Unfortunately, not all bunnies get along, but that's okay. Imagine living your life with one other person, and its someone you can't stand. That is why it is so important to do bunny dates before you adopt a new rabbit. Two signs of a good match are either ignoring each other or immediate grooming and mirroring. If they are immediately circling and chasing, then you know it won't be a good match. That being said, there are things you can do to help the companions bond quicker.
Bunny Bonding- The Insta Bond
For these bunnies, life without the other is no life at all. They will be instantly grooming each other, lying side by side, and mirroring each other's movements. You will not see chasing or nipping. These bunnies can move in together right away, but make sure its a neutral territory. If you are using the previous bun's territory, that could lead to territorial behavior.
To make a previous territory neutral, scrub everything down! If you can wash it in the laundry, make sure you use unscented detergent. If you can't wash it, throw it away or put it aside and reintroduce it once they have been bonded for at least a month. When you do introduce it, rub both bun's scent over it and be ready to remove it if you see any territorial behaviors.
Bunny Bonding- A Usual Bond
Most bondings take a minimum of four to six weeks.
The first step is to have 2-4 bunny dates in a neutral area.
The first meeting should be in an open space no larger than 4ft x 4ft with no toys or litterbox. You will want to be in the space with them so you can redirect if you see chasing, nipping, or any aggressive behavior. If you don't have an xpen, you can do these dates in a bathtub with a towel or blanket. Start off with 5 minutes. If that goes well, increase to 10 minutes with a short break. Always try to stop on a positive note. If you have to redirect more than three times, end the session. Give them lots of love and attention before and after each session.
If the first few meetings go well, add in a litterbox. Put both bunnies side by side in the litterbox at the same time. Don't allow one bunny to guard the litterbox. Give them lots of pets as they get to know the new setup. At this point, they should be spending 10 minutes with no chasing. Increase your time to 20 minutes with breaks of at least 5 minutes.
If they do well with the litterbox, Add toys. Make sure these are brand-new toys. You can add small tunnels like willow or hay tunnels, but don't add anything that might trap the rabbit. They should always have an escape route. At this point, they should be together for 30 minutes with breaks at least 5 minutes long. Increase the time in 30 minute increments as long as there are no chasing or nipping.
Introduce high-value foods like pellets and fresh greens only when you are bonding them. This helps the rabbits associate yummy good things with the new bunny.
If at any time the bunnies are chasing and nipping, then you will want to redirect them. If they are having tunnel vision, pick them up and put them in your lap for some one on one loves. You want to calm them down and redirect their focus. You may need to introduce a bonding box. The box should be just big enough for the rabbits to be side by side, and that's it. Add a blanket or towel to the bottom to intermingle their smells. Give lots of head pets, and after both are calm, reintroduce them back into the larger 4ft x 4ft space.
When you aren't actively bonding the bunnies, they should live in pens side by side. The enclosures should mirror each other, with litterboxes next to each other. Then you can swap enclosures or litterboxes every few days to get them used to each other's smells. When you feed the buns, made sure they can see and smell each other.
How do you know when they can live together full-time? If you get sessions up to four hours with no redirecting, then they should be good to live together full time, but keep an eye on them the first few days. You shouldn't see any chasing or nipping. You should see mirroring of body language, and both should be flopping and grooming themselves showing they feel safe.
Bunny Bonding is a lot of work, but it is worth it, so don't give up!
Bunny Bonding- The long bond
So you did everything as usual, but they still did not bond. Don't fret. Some bunnies just take longer to bond. After 4-6 weeks, take a break. Keep swapping scents (ie. litter boxes or enclosures), but take a break from bonding sessions for at least two weeks. Then start the process all over again.
Tips for the Long Bond:
This process could take six months to a year.
Do not progress through the steps too quickly. If you see any chasing or nipping, redirect, and make sure you give them lots of head pets and loves during each session.
Sometimes adding a stuffed toy can be helpful in the bonding box. Put the toy between the bunnies and give head pets. They should get to a calm state before you reintroduce them back into the bathtub or 4ft x 4ft enclosure. If they are wound up, do not put them into the larger enclosure. Separate them until they are calm, then put them back in the bonding box.
Sometimes I put the bonding box on my lap and rock it gently. This should be done very carefully, but it could help redirect them to worry about the box and not the bunny in the box with them.
If they do well in the bonding box, you can also put them in a carrier together and take them for a short walk (no more than 10 minutes). Be very careful not to jostle them too much. Afterward, give them head pets and then put them in the larger enclosure together for a few minutes. Repeat until you can get up to 10 minutes in the larger enclosure
In the end, there are many ways to bond your rabbits. Take it slow, read up on all the possible styles so you can switch things up if they aren't working.
One HUGE benefit of adopting is the support provided by the rescue and foster guardian. Many rescues will help walk you through the process and help answer questions when you have them. Another benefit is that you might be able to do a foster-to-adopt program to see if the new bunny is a good fit. If they aren't a fit, you can help adopt them out and try with another bun. This is a wonderful way to not only find a bunny that is a great match for your current bunny, but also your family and your family's lifestyle.
Don't want to go through the process; you don't have to. Many shelters and rescues already have bonded buns ready for adoption. There are also knowledgeable bunny gurus offering bonding services and classes like Bunny Binkyland.
We have curated some great resources: