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Advice needed from experienced rabbit owners: Housing/fighting  RSS feed

 
Tony Zwink
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Hey all,

We have 2 female (unspayed) french angora rabbits (for fiber) from the same littler that are 9 months of age. I've got them in an 8x3' hutch and have recently been exhibiting some unwanted behavior in which they will take turns mounting each other. When they do this however, they will bite onto each others neck hair and rip each others 4" fiber out. No blood or wounds but it being the middle of winter it is a little concerning. We have noticed that the tousling comes and goes particularly with spouts of warmer weather. In any case, we have looking into spaying but the nearby vets were asking $300 per animal or wont perform it at all. From a financial aspect this is uneconomical and makes keeping these animals problematic if this behavior continues to escalate. So I have done a fair amount of research and it seems that most information is based on either 1) Rabbits as pets which just spay/neuter regardless or 2) Are raised for meat and do not reach the hormone growth stage. I've seen rabbit fiber farms in which they all house the animals in cages but this also seems somewhat cruel (both from a  social aspect and also on their footing)?

So my questions are
1) What are the odds this will continue to escalate with age or will the hormones calm down after adolescence to a point of reasonable behavior with an occasional spat?

2) Any ideas hutchwise? Debating hutch modifications like including some wooden hiding tunnels/multiple feeding areas and nests ect. OR just dividing the hutch and separating permanently. OR is this behavior from not getting to blow off enough steam in the winter. We typically get them out 1-2 a week to run around inside. 
 
Andie Carter
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It's been ages since I had rabbits, so I'm sure someone else will chime in soon.

I do remember being able to keep members of the same litter together, but you do need more space for a pair. Rabbits naturally live in colonies with one another, but colonies typically had more space per rabbit than humans tend to allow (which leads to grumpier rabbits). So that be my first step. Giving them other things to chew on/distract themselves with/hide from each other in also seems like a really good idea- maybe even giving each a nesting box even though you're not breeding them. At nine months, I don't think it will continue to escalate due to hormones, but rather due to territoriality.
 
Ferne Reid
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Location: SW Tennessee Zone 7a average rainfall 52"
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Hi! We've raised rabbits for close to 15 years now, and this has happened to us too.

The bottom line is that some rabbits can be raised together, and some can't. Just like people, they have their own temperaments, and some just prefer their own space. This is more common with does, who tend to be more territorial. We've successfully raised colonies of rabbits, but it seems like there's one in every bunch who wants her own apartment.

Andie has already given the advice I'd give ... first and foremost, more space. They might settle down if they have room to get away from each other. Make sure they don't feel like they have to compete for resources. Give them plenty of things to chew on so they're not tempted to chew on each other.

If that doesn't work, you will have to accept the fact that these girls just don't want to live together and either divide the hutch you have, or get separate housing for one of them.
 
Craig Dobbson
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I've raised rabbits for a few years and I think the easiest thing to do is to separate them once they start being aggressive and dominating.  With sisters, they can sometimes be housed together, but my experience is that once they get to breeding age, they start to want their own space.  It's understandable, I guess. 
Males are worse for sure.  They will actually try to castrate each other if kept in too close of quarters after about eight weeks of age.  When I was expanding my herd, I would keep sisters together up to about four months of age.  After that, they got their own space large enough for them and a litter of kits.  It was just easier on my mind, knowing that no matter how much foot stomping I heard at night, everyone was safe in their own space.  I never had it happen to me but I have read about people waking up to find one rabbit has killed the other. I imagine one rabbit could eventually just wear the other one out with stress if it had the conviction.

Mounting and hair pulling (usually from the back of the neck) is how a male holds on during mating. It's also a universal sign of dominance among either gender.  It's hard to say if it will get worse, but if there is a way to give each doe her own space without being bothered by the other, that would probably reduce their stress and yours. It is possible that they are doing some damage by hair pulling, biting and scratching.  Over time that damage adds up. 

It sounds like they would have plenty of space if you just added a divider to the space they currently share.  4'x3' of space is good.  Maybe they could be separated when you aren't watching them, but you could let them play together as long as you have an eye on them.  If crappy behavior starts again, everyone goes back to their own space.  You might even be able to teach them to play nice.


Good luck
 
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