We put our 3 bunnies in their condo cage this Friday night. They explored, there was a little dominance behavior, but mostly, things were calm. Everybunny spent the night in their respective cages, and on Saturday morning, we put them back in the condo together.
On Saturday there was much less dominance behavior and most of it was based on mixed signals. (AKA Lookout puts her head down to be groomed, Echo gets scared, Echo chins Lookout’s head tentatively then runs away, Lookout chases her till she’s in a different part of the cage.) The buns spent most of the day in their condo together and we got the pleasure of seeing Beanbag curled up enjoying the sun, Lookout standing on the top floor watching the world go by outside the windows, and Echo dancing and kicking her heels up all over the rug on the top floor.
When it came time for us to head out to dinner (with fellow HRN members Erica & Andy) we put the buns back in their respective cages. Upon returning from dinner, we looked in on the bunnies and noticed that Echo was acting strange. We watched her for a few minutes and determined that her behavior was based on loneliness. She sat as close as she could to the divider between her and the other bunnies and she was acting rather sad watching them together. Interesting suprise…
On Sunday morning, we plopped all the bunnies back in the condo again to see what they would do. This time, there was no dominance behavior. Echo and Lookout are still cautious and wary around each other, but they are getting along even having occasional grooming moments together. If nothing else, we saw everybunny comfortably loafed up in different spots on the same floor of the condo enjoying the sunshine. We left them together all morning and when it came time to get ready to go out for our plans for the day, we couldn’t bring ourselves to separate them. Everyone was behaving well, so we decided to take a chance and leave them together unsupervised.
We got home after being out of the house for about 5 hours and found that Beanbag and Echo were trading grooming while Lookout watched from the litterbox. Matt stayed home with the bunnies for an hour while I went out for a meeting. When I got back, he said they had all been good as gold the entire time. We got ready to go out for dinner again, leaving the bunnies together in the condo unsupervised for the second time that day. When we came home 4 hours later, everybunny was napping. There were no stray tufts of fur to indicate any fights, most of their pooping and peeing had been done in the litterboxes, but they had made a mess with their hay. We swept up the hay and the stray poops, sprayed down the one spot where they had peed outside a litterbox, and generally tidied up a bit while keeping the bunnies on the upper floor. When Echo and Beanbag came back to the floor I’d cleaned, they decided that it smelled all wrong. Echo promptly peed right outside the litterbox, she and Beanbag both stepped in the puddle with their rear feet, then they zipped past the front of the cage and flicked their feet, spraying both Matt and I with pee. Gee, thanks guys, memo taken, don’t change the smell of “your space” when you worked so hard to get it to start smelling like home. Sigh, that’s gratitude for you!
In the end, the bunnies spent the night together last night in their new condo. When I got up this morning, Echo was loafed up in the middle of the second floor and Beanbag and Lookout were loafed up side by side at the other end of the floor. Everyone looked happy and contented with life and there were no new puddles to be cleaned up.
While they still have a bit farther to go to integrate everyone into the dynamic of a three-way bond, I believe we are now safely at the point where we will begin to dismantle the divided NIC condo. With Lookout and Beanbag, even once they were bonded enough to start sharing a cage, it took another month or so for some of the herding behavior to stop. I’m sure we’ll see more development of their dynamic as the summer goes by. I don’t think we will be putting them back in separate cages again. Hopefully, the dynamic between the three bunnies will continue to develop in the direction its been heading so far. Lookout seems to be taking her role as “top bun” seriously; she watches over the other two and tries to herd them to safety when she perceives danger. Beanbag and Echo seem to be equitably sharing their roles at the bottom of the pecking order. Beanbag has become a bit more active and outgoing since we added Echo into the mix. With a 3rd bunny to change the dynamic, Beanbag seems to bear less of the burden of Lookout’s need to keep the bunnies in her warren safe. Beanbag seems to be getting bullied less and because of it he’s been coming back out of his shell again. He’s such a gentle soul that dealing with a bunny who is really dominant makes him stop doing everything without permission. Echo seems to be giving up her scaredy-bunny routine and becoming more social. She is still feeling her way in the relationships with both of the other bunnies, but she is definetly motivated and wants to become friends.

I guess I wouldn’t call us done with this bonding process yet. But I can safely say that we have reached a major milestone.