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Rabbit fighting is a scary thing and you have to move quickly to stop them. But more than that you are going to have to become a detective to figure out why your rabbits are fighting all of the sudden.
I have raised rabbits for two decades and I don’t believe in sugar-coating things. I am going to share the whole truth and what I find to be true even if it goes against what is popular. Deal?
Rabbits can start fighting for a number of reasons but first, let me give you a list of the most common reasons why rabbits will start to fight and then get into the details of how to fix it. Or I will share the problem with that living situation all together and why it doesn’t work.
Top Reasons Rabbits Will Fight
Three categories of reasons rabbits will fight.
Hormonal Behavior – Hands down this is the most common reason rabbits will fight for either sexs.They are not fixed and are starting to reach sexual maturity.
Even young rabbits in the same litter get a bit older and need their own space because they are showing signs of aggression toward each other. Rabbits are territorial animals. ( I have had does as young as 9 weeks old fight each other the image below shows the doe that got a bit lip and a split in her hear because her sister went after her.)
Bucks (unneutered male rabbits) that are still so young they don’t even know what to do with a doe (female rabbit) will start fighting each other.
Does (female rabbits) will fight over territory for raising their kits?
Rabbits Are Not The Social Animals People Like To Think Now before you blow me off and think I’m crazy hear me out. Think of rabbits in the wild. They do not run in packs or herds. They are only together for mating or you are seeing a momma with her kits. By the time they reach sexual maturity, they are on their own.
Even colony-raised rabbits have their own neutral space they can go to that is their own. I will go into more detail in a bit.
New rabbits and deciding whos’ boss. – Even young rabbits will start to boss each other. I remember the time I had a litter of 8-week-olds in the rabbitry. I brought a new rabbit home that I had bought. It was just the same age and I thought I would see if the litter would accept him just to see what would happen. NOPE.
I stood back and watched but stayed close so I could intervene if necessary. The litter of rabbits was being very rough on him and the top bunny in the litter was bossing him quite often. So yeah I removed the new rabbit from the litter of babies.
Rabbits Are Not As Social As Some Would Have You Believe
There are a lot of researchers out there who love to promote that rabbits are social creatures… WRONG! Rabbits are like an introverted person who likes the OCATIONAL interaction and after a few minutes, they have had enough.
The only way rabbits will have any chance of getting along is if they are fixed and that is not a natural thing. It doesn’t happen in the wild. So you can’t pretend that fixing them and pushing them to live with another rabbit is a good thing when it tampers their hormones and then they are willing to tolerate another rabbit. Simply to push a feel-good agenda of having a “bonded pair” of rabbits.
Rabbits Are Not In Big Groups In The Wild So Why Expect It Of Our Domestic Rabbits
Think about it. You don’t see rabbits in herds in the wild. You see them together for one reason. Mating. OR you see a momma with her babies. That’s it. Even with the rabbits that live in colonies have their own space to go off to. They aren’t like dogs that eat sleep and work together so why are we going to expect our rabbits to behave in a way that is not natural to them?
Rabbits only have so much “energy” as it were for interactions. So why do you want to use it up on another rabbit? You will have much better-behaved pet rabbits if you are the place it gets their attention from.
Sexual Maturity Can Cause Sudden Fighting
What age is your rabbit? Most rabbits are able to mate at around 6 months old.
(This doesn’t mean they should be bred at this age)
But once a rabbit is about 4 months of age they are going to start driving other rabbits out of what they think is their area. When I have litters in the rabbitry I do my best to have them separated no later than 12 weeks old if they are taking time to get to their new homes.
This is often why rabbits will seem fine for a while they all of the sudden start fighting.
Never Put Unfixed Rabbits Together
NEVER EVER put unfixed rabbits together!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am not trying to sound mean but I want you to understand the seriousness of this.
Rabbits will fight to the point of causing severe injuries or even end up killing each other. They can tear skin and cause serious infections and health issues like abscesses that go to the bloodstream.
- Mother rabbits get sick of their babies and start trumping at them at a certain point. (some sooner than others.)
- Rabbits from the same litter will start fighting as young as 9 weeks old.
- Adult rabbits that you put together that are the same gender will almost immediately start showing aggressive behavior to each other and start fighting for dominance. THEY WILL NOT WORK IT OUT!!!! It will be a serious fight ending in one of them being severely damaged.
If you have done this don’t feel bad. You didn’t know. There is a lot of miseducation out there and I am here to fix that.
Why I Am Not A Fan Of The Bonding Process Or House Rabbits
Getting rabbits to be “friends” is basically us humans trying to force nature to work in a way that it wasn’t designed. You will also end up with a much friendlier rabbit if you let it bond with you instead of another rabbit.
I don’t know about you but I would much rather have a rabbit be easy to handle and a great pet rabbit.
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How To Stop Rabbits Fighting While They Are Still Going At It
So your rabbits are in mid-fight and you need to stop it.
The first thing you need to do is suck in your emotions and get confident. – The second your rabbits sense your stress levels and fear or lack of leadership they are going to keep fighting or take it to the next level and totally ignore you.
Grab one or both by the scruff and put them in neutral territory where they can’t reach the other rabbit. If you don’t have two separate cages or rabbit pens put one on the couch and one on the floor. Just some space where they can’t each other.
You don’t have time to be nice about it. You have to stop the fight now.
First Signs Of Aggressive Behaviour
The most important thing you can do to as a rabbit owner is to learn their natural behavior and rabbit body language. This is something a lot of rabbit owners know nothing about. They associate the rabbit’s behavior with dogs or some other animal that they know. And it could not be further from the truth.
The play bow that a dog will do to start playing means let’s fight to a rooster. So you see how important it is to learn each animal on its own. DO NOT assume one action means the same thing across different platforms. I am such a nerd about this with all my animals and speaking their language is going to be the best thing you can do when keeping animals.
Ok moving on…Rabbits have different personalities so some are going to react more severely than others when it comes to a deliberate attack or some kind of aggression. Some rabbits will give a warning while others are not so kind.
If rabbits don’t like something they will often hide their forequarter (front half) away from whatever is annoying them. Often pushing themselves against whatever they are next to whether it is their cage wall or something else.
You are going to be able to tell if it is aggression or them not feeling well is the face they are making.
If their face is furrowed and looking just like they are frowning then they are starting to get mad.
The First Sign Of Aggression Is Grunting.
It could be small or very clear. It will sound very much like a cat. It is coming from the inner chest and belly.
The Second Sign Of Aggression Is Lunging.
Rabbits will lung toward the thing they deem a threat with both front feet. They want to make that thing they deem a threat go away.
The Third Sign Of Aggression Is Biting.
Rabbits will nip and not break the skin as a warning. Some may bite hard enough to leave a bruise or they may also break the skin. Either way rabbit bites hurt.
How To Tell If You Have A Naturally Aggressive Rabbit
If your rabbit is showing any of the signs above then your rabbit could be acting out because of the current situation. That doesn’t mean it is naturally aggressive or a dominant rabbit.
The key way to tell if the rabbit is naturally dominant is how they look in their face and eyes.
They say the eyes are the window to the soul. Well, it’s true with rabbits.
If a rabbit’s eyes are wide and open possibly with the third eyelid protruding. Then this is a good sign they are acting out of fear and is much easier to fix. Sometimes rabbits need time to get used to new owners or there is something in the environment that you have not picked up on that is scarring them.
If your rabbit looks like the face on the right here in this picture. He is ticked that I am making him sit there. His face is scrunched and the brow is forward.
It takes time to learn the facial expressions because they are subtle but they are there.
How To Tell If You DO NOT Have A Submissive Rabbit
A rabbit that is not a submissive rabbit will not give in to you.
If your rabbit is not wanting to do what you want it to often you will be met with kicking, scratching, and even thrashing if you try to pick them up or stop them from doing something.
In this case, place the rabbit on a solid surface like a table with a piece of carpet to prevent them from slipping and hurting themselves.
Then firmly hold the rabbit by the scruff while they are still sitting with all four feet on the solid surface.
Place a firm hand on their shoulders and scruff area like you are holding them down by the shoulders. Do not grab the loose fur that is their scruff or they could interpret that as you are trying to eat them. And no rabbit is going to sit calmly for that. You have to remember that they are prey animals so grabbing them by the neck area is where they could get grabbed by a wild dog or predator.
When you are putting pressure on their shoulders or back you are mimicking what another rabbit would be doing if they were bossing each other. (Be careful not to put too much pressure so you don’t break their back)
If you have a submissive bun they should hold still and relax slightly after a minute or less.
What To Do When You Get A New Rabbit For The First Time
Let me be clear that I do not think you should put two rabbits together whether they are fixed or not. But if you are set on doing it I would rather help you do it in the safest way possible. Does it mean I agree with it? No.
Before you put your new pet rabbit with an existing rabbit here are some things you need to consider.
What was the rabbit’s previous living environment?
Think about any sudden changes in the rabbits life. What type of living style are you are bringing the rabbit from and what you are bringing the rabbit to? Not to mention how stressful a car ride can be if they have never been in one before.
Here is a perfect example of a rabbit going to a drastically new place.
I recently let go of one of my herd bucks (breeding bucks) that was used to living outside in his own cage in a quiet space with just me coming down to see him for his whole life.
The buck went to a new place that had him in a temperature-controlled garage, young children, lots of new people, and a new home in a new state. That’s a lot of changes. He got grumpy with them and it took a lot of time before he was ok with the new living arrangement. Rabbits like consistency and they can get pretty grumpy if things are not what they are used to.
Some things you can’t control but the thing you can wait on, its best for the rabbits if you wait. If you don’t have to put your new rabbit with one you have already wait until they get used to living with you first then let them see the new rabbit and have slow introductions.
Great Tools To Use To Create A Neutral Area For Rabbits
Keep in mind neutral area means neither rabbit has lived or been in the space for long and does not deem it as “their” space. If you are trying to get rabbits to meet each other for the first time then you NEED TO take them both to a space in the house or patio where neither of them has been.
Using things like:
Are great for keeping rabbits contained but keeping them in a space where neither of them thinks they are the boss.
How To Keep Multiple Rabbits So They Don’t Fight.
The best thing for rabbits is to have their own space. They are not fans of constantly being in the company of other rabbits.
If you want more than one rabbit. Getting a couple of rabbits and keeping them in their own pens and bringing them out at different times.
Mating Or Fighting?
This only applies if you were trying to breed your rabbits and you thought they were starting to fight.
Something that can be mistaken for fighting is the natural way rabbits flirt with each other while mating.
This will only happen between bucks and does.
If the doe is in the mood to breed she will sometimes mount the buck herself and hump him. (She is not particular about the body part. It could be the side, back, or even the face.) They will sometimes chase each other in circles while keeping a hold of the other’s back.
See what is going on below.
The doe can seem quite aggressive and come up to the buck, push on him with her front feet, grunt, or even nip him and run away. This is why is important to keep his “undercarriage” out of her face just incase she decides to be fussy and nip his junk. I have heard of bucks getting permanently damaged because he was humping the wrong end.
If you want to learn more about the rabbit breeding process you can read this post.
If your rabbits have started fighting and you are not set on keeping them together. Which I highly recommend you don’t. Then get them each their separate hutches and get them out at separate times. It is totally fine and you will start to see that they are going to start behaving better with you after you separate them.
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