You will need ......
☼ Neutral Territory
☼ & Neutered male & preferably neutered female rabbits
Before you even consider starting to bond your rabbits you need to have all four of the above in place. If you don't then don't start and wait until you do....................
With regards to the neuter status of your rabbits; if your male is not neutered then we would not recommend you bond him with another rabbit, male or female, as he will fight with another male and pester a female until her patience snaps. If your female is un-neutered then we would highly recommend neutering her first although un-neutered females can live with neutered males but generally un-neutered females will fight. Not only does the neutering op protect her from possible future cancers it also reduces her hormones, makes her less territorial and easier to bond.
There is no set time for how long a bond will take, some take hours some take days but as a minimum time scale we would suggest that you put aside two days at least where you can be with the rabbits 24/7 to err on the side of caution. Be prepared to sleep next to them and be on hand to ensure everything is going well.
Neutral territory is the most important factor to take into consideration. Rabbits are territorial animals and will not accept an unfamilar rabbit in their territory. Neutral territory is somewhere none / neither of the rabbits involved in the bond consider to be their home or turf. It should be completely new to all the rabbits involved with no familiar items such as litter trays, toys or dishes. You need a small penned off area or an indoor cage where there is enough room for them to move around and have some space from each other but not enough that they can carry on and ignore each other or so big that should a disagreement arise they have room to have mad chases and allow situations to escalate beyond a bit of a scuffle. The area should be clear of any items that could be named and claimed such as litter trays, newspaper down with hay to munch is the best set up.
Other things you might like to have on hand are an oven glove (if scrapping does occur you want to be able to intervene without accidentably getting scratched or bitten) a water squirter (sometimes a quick squirt of water from a well washed bottle can put rabbits off fighting and they soon learn to recognise it and will stop in their tracks when they see it) a book or laptop and a cuppa (if no-one else is home you could be settled for a while).
When you have your neutral space gather up your rabbits and put them in together. Often they are initially more interested in their strange surroundings than each other but be prepared. Humping, nipping, chasing, grooming and sulking is normal bunny behaviour so let them display these as it is all part of sorting out their relationship - be ready to intervene but only do so if necessary. Rabbits very much go on smells so they need to get to know each other and each others smells and develop their relationship as a pair or group. If you are constantly there stroking them and being a part of that process it doesn't allow them the freedom to do this so sit back and let them do their bunny thing.
The time you may need to step in is if the nipping and chasing become frantic or if humping is occuring and the bunny on the receiving end turns and attacks. This is not the time to split them up but to push them apart and let them calm down. A stern "no" can also reiterate the fact their behaviour is not acceptable and this could also be the time to give them a quick squirt of water to reiterate. (Some rabbits hate water and this will work as a brilliant deterant, others really don't mind it so it will be a learning curve for you) A sudden noise can also startle them out of trying to hurt each other so a loud clap or stamp can act as a deterrant as well.
Remember ... Just because your rabbits have had a fight does not mean they will not get on, so don't give up! The worst bond we had here was two french lops who belonged to someone outside of the rescue. They took 5 days to accept each other and initially they couldn't be in the same cage together without fighting. By the time they went home they were playing together in the garden like two, 3 year old kids!
Once your rabbits are settled and you feel confident you don't have to watch them constantly move out of the immediate area and keep an eye from a distance. Even if you have had to have little involvement with the initial bond they will know you are there and some of their relationship will be based on this. By moving away you are giving them more space to develop their relationship and get to know each other. Don't move too far and however well it is going for at least the first 24 hours keep them in earshot at the very least.
Once you are happy they are getting along ok gradually increase their space either with puppy panels or by giving them a small room to explore. Don't rush the amount of space you give them or you will end up back at square one. Slowly and surely will get them there. This is not the time to throw them back into one of their old hutches / accommodation / home living area. This is the time to continue to keep an eye on them and make sure they are happy with the additional space and if they are then now is the time to blitz the home they are going into if one of them used to live there.
(The following is for anyone bringing a new bunny home too) - If you have adopted from Fat Fluffs or we have started the bonding of your bunnies for you then the above will be covered but you will still have the responsibility of bringing them home and making sure they are happy and settled.
White vinegar is a great smell killer and a 50:50 mix with water works really well. Give the whole home a good scrub, let it dry and then scrub again. Litter trays are in biggest need of neutralising and new ones are probably the best idea. Wash anything that can go through the washing machine and move things around so the home is as unfamiliar as possible.
If you have a two tier hutch then shut off one of the levels initially. You don't want bunnies claiming levels but to get used to sharing their new home. Introduce the rabbits to the hutch together and keep a close eye on them. If you have an adjoining run shut that off too - again small and slow is the key. If you find they squabble in the hutch bring them back into the neutral area and allow them more time to settle together first.
Once you are happy they are happy together in the hutch then open the run and let them out to explore and again keep an eye on them and if any problems occur take them back a stage. At no stage do we suggest you split the rabbits completely (unless it is the intial stage and you find you cannot leave them in the smallest neutral area) as there is always a step back you can give them, to where they were happy together and take more time there to work with them.
Bonding can be a very emotial time, more for the owner than the rabbits. Remember they are not humans and that the emotions you are feeling are most probably not what they are feeling. Don't put human emotion on your rabbits as they communicate and establish relationships very differently from how we do. If you are having trouble bonding your rabbits we are on hand if you need a word of encouragement or have a question as to what the next step might be for you and we do offer a bonding service where we will have the bunnies stay with us for a while to start the bond for you. Not all bonds work but a majority do so stick with it and take a deep breath .....