Separating a bonded pair

by Sylvia
(London UK)

We've had 2 females and a male living happily together since we brought them in at 8 weeks old. They are Lionhead and Netherland Dwarf. At 6 months old the females started making nests so we separated all the rabbits. The does gave birth around the same time. One had a litter of 5, the other had 3 much larger babies. Unfortunately we lost 2 babies of the larger litter on the second day and fostered the third smallest to the other doe, as I suspect the first does milk came in late. The kits are now around 10 days old. They are all doing well. The cages are close together and the male can run around them. When we keep him away he is not happy and pining. One of the does is not happy when he is away either.

This would all work but I'm worried that his presence is annoying the other doe. He makes a lot of squeaking sometimes until he settles down next to either doe! We would like to breed the does one last time in a few months when they have recovered from their pregnancies, and then neuter and spay the 3 parents and babies that we are keeping. We have family waiting to receive the other babies.

What would be the best caging arrangement while the does are nursing? I want all my rabbits happy and don't want to separate the bonded. Should I put him in a cage so that he is able to see the other does but not able to get too close to them?

***** Karen Sez *****
In our opinion, the best housing for nursing does is each in their own cage. But, it's really good for us (and others) to not get too dogmatic about what is *best* for rabbits. For example, we think it is best to house rabbits separately when lactating because of the danger to the kits if two rabbits fight. But, maybe your rabbits won't fight. Remember, too, that in the wild, a dominant pair rules the warren, and bosses the other pairs and youngsters around with claw and tooth.

If you can decipher the social structure of your rabbit 'community,' it might help you determine for yourself what a good set up would be. If you find you were wrong, you can always rearrange it.

As to whether the buck is annoying one of the does, well, she has cage wire between him and her. It won't take her too long to figure out that he's all squeak and no pester.

The buck is probably anxious to rebreed both does. This may be what all the squeaking is about. In the wild, they rebreed immediately after kindling, over and over throughout the spring and summer, until her condition is so poor she begins resorbing her kits before kindling. (It looks like a missed pregnancy.)

Hope this helps, Sylvia. For me, knowing the underlying details of rabbit-life helps to illuminate their behavior in my barn and in our homes.

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May 10, 2012
Separating a bonded pair update.
by: Sylvia

Thank you for your reply Karen. My caging arrangements ended up being forced by a surprise pregnancy after Lila escaped her cage one afternoon. The cages ended up filled with babies and my buck has the run of the hallway, has plenty of exercise jumping up on Lilas cage and can nuzzle her all he wants. He enjoys running around with my kittens and has tamed up a lot. He is due for his neuter op next week, until then he is delegated to the bathroom when the does and babies are having a run around.

I have tried placing the other doe Hazel's cage in the hall with the other rabbits after they were weaned, but she really didn't seem happy to see the buck, Hazel made such growling noises and lunged at him through the bars that I placed her cage away from him once again. I think I will leave reintroducing them all after they have been neutered/spayed.

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