Monday, March 14, 2016

Bunny Fight Club

Rule No. 1 – Never talk about 'Bunny Fight Club.'
Rule No. 2 – What ever happens in 'Bunny Fight Club' stays in 'Bunny Fight Club.'

Ok, so I am not Ed Norton Jr., or Brad Pitt by any means, and it was never my intention to start my own 'Bunny Fight Club,' but I felt I must share my embarrassing moment with other new rabbit owners and breeders. We had only been raising rabbits for about 3 months back in 2014 when I needed to do some maintenance to the rabbitry which required me to empty my three doe cages. Fortunately, so I thought at the time, I had a 2ft x 6ft long rabbit tractor that I could place the does in while I worked on the building rearranging the cages to make it easier to clean and water etc.

I had the first two does out and in the tractor and everything seemed fine and they were busying themselves eating the grass each appearing ambivalent to the other. Then came doe number three, after putting here in the tractor I watched them for a few minutes and everything appeared fine, so I began the necessary work on the rabbitry. Fifteen minutes later fur was flying and blood was let as the 'Battle Royale' began when two of the does took upon themselves to try and dominate the other.

Needless to say someone screamed like a little girl (I am embarrassed to think that maybe it was me), as I ran towards the rabbit tractor in an effort to separate the two combatants. As I approached the rabbit tractor, I could see both had what looked like a fair amount of blood on both the combatants. One's muzzle was completely covered in blood, the other had several patches of blood on it's head and hindquarters. At this point I was not sure if one had bitten a chunk out the other or what wounds they had sustained as the color of blood really stood out on the white of the rabbits fur increasing my anxiety.

With the assistance of my wife I was able to get the rabbits separated and placed back in their respective cages. To be honest, they looked pretty battered and bloody although a quick cursory inspection of each rabbit while transporting them from the rabbit tractor back to their cages left no blood on my hands (other than my own). I remember as I carried them from the rabbit tractor to their cages I could feel their hearts beating at what felt like 300 beats a minute, and I am not sure how fast mine was beating but I know it was quite rapid as well.

As my wife and I watched them in their cages, the girls laid there panting, their chests heaving up and down and their heads rocking back and forth with their eyes slightly closed. The adrenaline from the whole fiasco made the pit of my stomach churn and the only thing I could think was “please do not let my stupidity cost me the life of one of these beautiful creatures.” I wanted to hold them and perform a closer inspection of their wounds at the time, but was afraid to do so. I knew that any additional undue stress upon the rabbits could cause them to die from stress related cardiac arrest due to the over production of adrenaline that can happen when their 'flight or fight' response is activated.

At this point I went into “nurse mode”, I knew from my years as an intensive care unit (ICU) nurse, the only thing left for me to do at this point was to watch and observe the girls and act only if I noticed any changes in their status. Within the hour the doe with the bloody nose was sitting up and grooming and I began to relax just a little, but her opponent laid curled up in a small plastic basket I had placed back in the corner of her cage a few weeks back. This particular doe was the one I was most worried about as she continued to exhibit signs of extreme stress and continued to lay there panting and rocking her head back and forth with her eyes only slightly opened. I was concerned that she was not going to recover from this event, and I chastised myself for being so stupid, especially since my friend Steven Coyne had told me when I purchased the does from him (four weeks prior to this event) that they had just began to become aggressive among themselves and he had to separate them to keep them from fighting.

So why did I not heed Steven's warnings? Maybe I rationalized my concerns away thinking the rabbit tractor was big enough (2ft x 6ft) that they would be to busy grazing on the grass to be concerned with infighting long enough for me to perform the necessary maintenance that was needed. Or was it simply my lack of experience raising rabbits? In truth it was probably a combination of both, but it was not a mistake I will make again.

The synopsis of the 'Bunny Fight Club' is as follows. It appears that doe number 1 took a paw to her nose which bleed profusely like any good punch in the nose will do. She then proceeded to rub her blood all over her opponent (I assume attempting to bite her), making doe number 2 appear as if she had multiple bite wounds that were bleeding. Yours truly, received more than twenty various scratches while attempting to separate the combatants (some which bleed more than doe number ones nose). Within 24 hours both does had recovered and I could find no bite or claw marks upon either doe, and all traces of blood had been groomed from their fur. Four days later, I on the other hand still had scratches that were somewhat tender, especially one on my right hand between two fingers where I received a deep gouge from one of the does powerful back legs. Overall, however, disaster was avoided, and no animal or owner appears to have suffered any permanent damage from this first and hopefully only 'Bunny Fight Club' experience.

If you are new to raising rabbits and you have several does who are 16 weeks or older, or they have began to start fighting among themselves, it is time to separate them from the grow out cages and place them in their own cage. In addition, I encourage you to not place them in the same rabbit tractor even for a few minutes as you may not be as fortunate as I was. Had my rabbit tractor not been placed in an area in which I could observe the rabbits behavior, they may have actually inflicted mortal wounds upon one another, or simply died from an adrenaline overdose related to the prolonged stress of such an encounter.

Update (March 14, 2016): It has been two years since I wrote this original article, but we never got around to starting this blog until now. We currently have over 16 adult New Zealand Whites and Reds in our rabbitry and 18 kits under 10 weeks. I have since learned to keep at least a minimum of 2 cages in reserve for those time when I need to perform cage maintenance. Believe me it helps keep the stress level way down when performing needed work to the rabbitry.

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