The Bunny Adolescent / "Teen" Stage
Young Rabbit Stages
Bunnies nurse once every 24 hours until they are 8 weeks old, at which time, they can be separated from their mother. Bunny sexual organs start to mature as early as 10 weeks, which means boys and girls need to be separated at this time! Small rabbit breeds usually reach sexual maturity from 3 to 4 months. Medium to large breeds will be able to reproduce at 4 to 4.5 months. Giant rabbit breeds reach reproductive age at around 6 months. Regardless of size, separation between 2-3 months is important to avoid surprise litters.
Baby bunnies get along well with each other. This is called the "baby bond" and does not last once their hormones start coming in. You will notice males humping females, males being aggressive with others, and females being aggressive with other females.
Teenage Rabbit Behavior
Female rabbits have estrous cycles, rather than menstrual cycles. Unlike menstruation, females reabsorb the inner lining of the uterus if no conception occurs. At this stage, female rabbits may become aggressive and territorial. Intense curiosity and excessive chewing is common at this age. Male rabbits will also begin to court females by spraying urine. Both genders may start to spray urine in all areas of the house to claim their territory. Sometimes their pee will even start to smell more during this phase. Male rabbits, in particular, will start to hump objects or other rabbits they share a space with. Some rabbits, especially females, will start to display aggressive behaviors. They will lunge and bite at anyone who tries to enter their space, protecting their territory. As female rabbits enter sexual maturity, they might also exhibit nesting behaviors. Even if the female hasn’t been in contact with a male, she might experience false pregnancy. During a false pregnancy, she’ll collect nesting material and pull her fur to make a nest even when she is not pregnant.
Rabbits will also begin to develop an increased desire to chew and dig into everything during their teenage years. They are also likely to become more hyperactive and curious, causing them to find new ways to get into trouble all the time. These behaviors decrease with neuter/spay and age. It’s important to take the steps to rabbit-proof your home, to prevent your rabbit from causing too much damage.
Teenage moodiness will manifest itself most specifically as:
aggression (biting, boxing, etc.)
laid back ears
The teenage stage in a rabbit typically lasts until they are 1-2 years old. Rabbits, at this point, will be fully mature.
Teenage Rabbit Diet
As with most stages of rabbit development, teenagers should have access to unlimited pellets and unlimited hay. Acceptable hay for rabbits is Timothy, orchard, or meadow/grass hays. Alfalfa hay is acceptable until a rabbit reaches 6 months old (or is pregnant or nursing). Alfalfa has higher levels of calcium and protein which helps with growth; however, high levels of calcium and protein are not desirable past 6 months. If using alfalfa hay with babies, it is recommended to mix it with some Timothy/orchard/meadow/grass hay so they can transition away from alfalfa more easily.
As rabbits reach 3 months old, you should also start to introduce fresh, leafy greens into their diet. Introduce the greens slowly, one type at a time, to make sure your rabbit’s digestion can handle the new foods. You can find a list of appropriate greens on our website here: aarr.ca/foods.
And, of course, rabbits should have access to unlimited fresh water.
Teenage Rabbit Health Concerns
It is important to get your rabbit spayed or neutered as soon as they reach sexual maturity. In males, this is when the testicles drop, typically 3 months old. Females should wait until 6 months old. Getting your rabbit fixed can correct behavioral concerns with rabbits, and it can also prevent the rabbit from developing reproductive disease. Female rabbits, in particular, are extremely susceptible to developing uterine cancer. There is an 80% chance of female rabbits developing a reproductive cancer in their lifetime if they have not been spayed. Male rabbits also have a high chance of developing prostate cancer if they have not been neutered.
After the rabbit has been spayed or neutered, their behavior will start to improve as their hormone level slowly starts to decrease over the next 1-6 months.