Sometimes I think out loud.
If you've ever lost a pet that you just adored, you'll know where I'm coming from when I say that I'm pretty sure I was broken. I may still be broken. I lost my Magnolia on the 24th of August, 2020. As if 2020 didn't suck enough already, it had to take my bunny from me. Mags was just amazing. She loved me more than any bunny I had before her. We had our daily routines that took us years to work out but I loved them. I feel like a piece of me died with her.
Life has to continue as weird as it may feel. And it does indeed feel weird. There was a part of me that enjoyed peaceful sleep, and open space.
I'd like to introduce Faylene
..I just adopted Faylene yesterday from SE PA DE House Rabbit Society.
I've been calling her Fayfay.
She's a Californian weighing in at 12 lbs 12 oz. Big... Girl...
So, Faylene was found as a stray around 2 years ago. Her age is uncertain but I'm going to guess she's probably around 3 years old. Most likely she was either let go by her previous owner, or she got lost. I come to this conclusion because most wild rabbits have a lifespan of only 2 years due to predators, including human interference like hunting and vehicles. They're designed to try to survive in the wild, domestic rabbits are not. The fact she wasn't emaciated when she was found tells me she wasn't a stray for long, but rather got out of her habitat, or was released because she got much bigger and lived longer than the person thought she would. She may have been an Easter gift. 70% of all rabbits purchased for Easter gifts are surrendered within the first year. The cute newness wears off... they grow, and grow... They develop behaviors that people don't understand.
In the first 24 hours with Fay I've learned quite a lot about her personality.
1. She's very curious
2. She loves attention
3. She's food aggressive... we'll be working on this as of this morning.
4. She poops golf balls.
5. She's a big hay eater. Thank goodness.
6. Fay loves toys!
7. She's a chewer...
You saw me say Fay is food aggressive. This came out this morning when I was moving some of her food from her bowl, to an activity ball. She lunged at me once, and bit me after. The instinct here is to pull away (which obviously I did because, ow.) but the behavior still has to be dealt with. We're going to try different steps to see if we can correct it over the next few weeks.
Not in order we'll do these things:
Step 1: Move the food bowl to another part of the pen regularly. This says that I have control over where the food is, not her.
Step 2: Small "timeouts". I want Fay to understand that I control her "free time". Bad behavior means no exploring. Her pen has plenty of room for her to stretch her legs and then some so please don't think she's being cramped and couped up by any means.
Step 3: The bite wasn't a dominance bite, it was a food protection bite. I want her to understand that I'm the one who feeds her. I'll feed her by hand throughout the day so she associates my hand with giving, not taking.
Step 4: Asserting dominance. Fay needs to know that I'm the matriarch here, not her. Rabbits have a hierarchy. You need to be at the top of it or the little buggers will hop all over you. To do this, when a rabbit bites, gently place your hand on the top of their head and gently let your hand have some weight to lower their head to the floor. I stress GENTLY. This should not be an aggressive or forceful action. You're just saying, "No, I'm top bunny... calm yourself."
Step 5: Make a noise at the bad behavior. If they go to chew something and you don't want them to, make a noise to startle them into looking at the noise. If they go to do it again, make the same noise. They'll look again. This conditions them into thinking there will be a noise in response to that action, and they typically won't like it. You can do this with biting too. Maggie was the exception to this rule. She didn't care and did everything she wasn't supposed to do anyway, but Maggie never bit out of anger. She would bite for attention when she got old and that's another situation. Some rabbits are what I like to call "Attention Biters".
I suspect I'll be bitten a few more times during this process but I wanted to share the steps I take when dealing with a territorial bun.
I'd like to stress that food aggression is NO REASON to surrender a rabbit. Imagine being homeless and fighting to survive... Wouldn't you want to hoard everything you're given to eat? Correcting bad behavior can take time but it's worth it.
I hope this was helpful, informative, interesting or something of the sort that got some wheels turning.