Rabbit Pulling Out Fur or Barbering

Rabbit pulling out fur - barbering
Written by Editorial

What does it mean when a rabbit pulls out fur from itself or other rabbits? Is this a normal tendency or should I be worried? Let us explore the most common reasons why this fur plucking, picking, barbering or overgrooming behavior occurs.

Rabbit hair or fur pulling, plucking, picking or barbering refers to the tendency of this pet to pluck its own fur or from another rabbit. If done excessively, it can lead to fur loss.

This hair pulling, or barbering occurs in both sexes and it can occur to bunnies leaving together or living singly. However, a higher tendency has been noted in those housed singly [1].

Rabbit pulling out fur - barbering
Rabbit pulling out fur – nesting

Barbering should not be confused with normal grooming. These pets are very clean animals who groom themselves. However, sometimes they may overdo it for one or the other reason.

Here are some of the frequent reasons for this behavior in case you notice it happening.

Nest behavior – about to kindle

After 20-25 days of pregnancy, you may notice your female rabbit plucking fur from its dewlap, belly, chest, sides, among other areas and use line inside the nest she is making for her litter.[2] After kindling, the doe may still pull some fur to ensure its kits are warm.

In case your doe is pregnant, this is normal behavior. You can also help it build a nest and provide it with sterilized fur for nest building to ensure the kittens are warm.

Also, check for signs of any broken skin or redness and disinfect them to avoid infection risks.

False pregnancy

Instances of false pregnancies or pseudopregnancies may push some does get into this habit especially after 17-20 days since they began their false pregnancy leaving behind some bald spots. This is often triggered by humping by a fellow doe or a castrated buck that causes ovum release.

Ovum release may trigger some hormonal changes that will make this pet to feel pregnant and possibly begin barbering. Neutering or spaying your does will help reduce false pregnancy instances among other benefits.

Unsuccessful mating

“Some males pull the fur or wool from the shoulder region of the female on unsuccessful mating.” [3] Success mating may be accompanied by a wooing sound and the male falls off to this side or backward.

The hairs are normally nipped off as the buck tries to mount the doe with the neck and shoulder areas most affected.

Trichophagia – pulling other rabbits’ fur

This is a compulsive hair-eating behavior often associated with hair pulling (trichotillomania). Usually, a rabbit pulls fur out of other rabbits and ingest it. Occasionally, they may pull their own.

This can often cause hairballs or trichobezoars in extreme cases. Some bunnies may end up with bare backs as well as bare flanks.

The main causes of trichotillomania include behavioral problems, stress, overcrowding, boredom, poor lighting, genetics, lack of some minerals, low fiber diets, among other causes.

Grooming issues and molting

Self-grooming of matted fur in long-haired rabbit breeds such as the angora breeds may force some hairs to be pulled off and this can be confused for a hair plucking problem.

Also, the shedding season for bunnies that molt or shed may make the affected bunny to appear to have plucked a lot of hairs. You only need to ensure he or she did not ingest it.

Parasitic infestation and skin diseases

Barbering may also be because of infestation by parasites such as mites, ticks or fleas. If you notice this habit, you should try to check if your bunnies have such parasites.

Also, skin disease may trigger overgrooming especially if they cause itchiness and these conditions may be caused by the various parasites we have mentioned.

Hierarchy and dominance

Being hierarchical animals, barbering may also be used to establish dominance where the dominant bunny will pull fur from the subservient.

Treatments and dealing barbering

Prior to treatment, proper diagnosis by a qualified vet is necessary to determine the exact cause of this unwanted behavior unless your bunnies are about to kindle. Some treatment recommendations may include the following:

  • Treating any parasites or skin disease
  • Providing quality grassy hay  to help satisfy their natural chewing behavior as well as provide enough fiber like Oxbow Timothy Hay
  • Provide a balanced diet since lack of some vital minerals can trigger fur chewing [4]
  • Consider various rabbit toys include chewing, tunneling, logic or puzzle, among others to keep your pet occupied, thereby reducing boredom
  • Alter any stressful environments such as getting rid of prey noises and scent, bright lights, sudden noises, and any other environmental factor.
  • Also, provide a clean environment, avoid overcrowding your rabbits and consider neutering and spaying them in case this behavior is triggered by sex hormones such as false pregnancies and dominance.
  • Groom your bunny regularly. This should include things such as brushing its fur to remove any loose hairs and help reduce tangling especially in breeds with long fur.

These are among the most common causes as well as treatments for the barbering problem in rabbits. Your vet will guide you on anything else you may do to deal with the hair plucking problem.

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