Natural Behaviour: Sociable Rabbit Groups

It’s funny how so many have formed an opinion of domestic rabbits living on their own, or at best in pairs. Rarely will you see a single rabbit out and about in the wild – usually when you first see a rabbit grazing at the side of the road, it results in you seeing hundreds more spread out across the verge as you drive further.

The reality is these wonderful animals are a sociable bunch. If they’d access to the technology they’d have more Facebook friends than we could ever imagine! And it’s not just about company, but they benefit from strength in their numbers. The group will care for each other.

We introduced you to one of our groups earlier in the week, and as we watch them I’m still amazed to see how much they look out for each other. We mentioned that we often find two of the three snuggled together whilst the third appears to be sitting away from the group. If we didn’t know better you’d think they had taken the huff with each other. The reality though is that they are harking back to the roots.

This sc enario tends to happen when they are in the run, or an unfamiliar place. What is actually happening is that two are resting and relaxing safe in the knowledge that the third is keeping close guard. The third is listening and looking for potential danger, and will alert the rest the second there’s an unfamiliar sound or presence. Sometimes the behaviour is so subtle you don’t realise their doing it, but with this they’re on constant care duty for each other.

This is exactly how a herd of rabbits behave in the wild, with some of the group on guard for dangers whilst the rest focus on the “busy” life of grazing, relaxing and binkying. This is a behaviour that you will very rarely notice within a bonded pair as the numbers just don’t allow them to rely on a look-out as much. And what about you’re wee single rabbit? With no-one to look out for him, he’s on constant guard duty – no time to properly relax without the threat of something happening to him!

So when do the three snuggle up together? Generally only when they’re in the safety of their hutch area (which for ours is within a large shed setup, away from the constant movements of the outdoors).

Their need to know their group is safe is continued the second one of them isn’t there. We usually ensure that the three are always together, but from time to time we may have need to take one of them out of the group for a few minutes (for their regular health check for example). As soon as the other two notice their buddy’s not there you can see them searching for them – you can literally see them worry about the whereabouts of their wee pal (this is the reason we try to limit any time away from each other, as it can be stressful for them to have all this worry!).

We’ve always kept our rabbits in groups, and when comparing to the singles & bonded pairs in the foster network we’ve noticed that territorial behaviour is almost non-existent. It’s almost as if living in the group has taught them to share and their not going to have an issue with someone new (or perhaps even their owner) entering their environment the same way that singles and pairs can. That’s not say they don’t feel “ownership” of each other, but they just don’t seem as threatened or protective over their food, environment or partners if they’ve bonded into a group setting. (Compare it to the human equivalent of a only-child learning to share toys compared to siblings who always had to share their toys).

If you are considering rabbits for the first time, or perhaps have a single or pair at the moment, we would strongly recommend considering whether you have the time, space and finances to consider owning a small group. Whilst we appreciate keeping groups isn’t for everyone, we think the benefits for the rabbits are great! It’s also a different dynamic that is a lot of fun to watch. Well worth considering 😉

If you would like further advice, or would like to consider adopting a single or pair of rabbits to add to form a group with your existing rabbit(s), please don’t hesitate to get in touch.