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When intros go as planned

Let’s start at the very beginning…

Flynn is a 2-year-old black badger. He was previously living with his British blue agouti brother, Butler. Prior to that, we’d introduced both of them to Beck and Hendrix but, after being together for nearly 5 months, Flynn tried to bite Hendrix’s tail off and Butler was becoming an increasing bully, intimidating Beck and Hendrix (without actually facing off to them or biting them – he’d huff and puff at them from outside the basket but never venture in). So we removed Beck and Hendrix, leaving Flynn and his brother together.

Sadly, we lost Butler in February (that’s another long and rather sad story), leaving Flynn on his own. Around the same time, we’d introduced new boys to Beck and Hendrix – Freddie and Floyd, two cheeky variegated boys from Black Lupin Rattery. Increasingly, Beck began repeating the behaviour he’d learned from Butler – huffing, puffing and intimidating. Unlike Butler, Beck progressed to biting, drawing blood on both Freddie and Floyd (though nothing too bad and neither Freddie nor Floyd seemed too bothered by his attentions), and he wouldn’t tolerate them on the floor in the rat room.

It culminated in Beck attacking Floyd and biting through his scrotum, creating a 1″ cut that required stitching. Annoyingly, Hendrix really enjoyed the company of Freddie and Floyd, but it was obvious that Beck couldn’t stay in the group. At the same time, Hendrix was being treated for a severe upper respiratory issue which, amongst other things, caused him to choke on dry food (so we were syringe feeding him). Despite medication, dedication and Hendrix’s determination, his symptoms continued to worsen – 2 months after his symptoms started, we had to say goodbye to him. This meant both Beck and Flynn were now on their own – anyone who keeps rats knows that, as social creatures, this was a far from ideal situation.

The most obvious solution? Try Beck and Flynn together again – they knew each other and Flynn’s previous aggression seemed solely centred on Hendrix.

So, we tried them in a neutral space – on our bed. For about 30 seconds, we were hopeful of positive resolution. But then Flynn got Beck pinned between the pillows on the bed, there was a kerfuffle, a squeak and Beck shot out, minus a chunk of fur. Nothing major really, but Beck was very upset and he was wimpering and shaking. Flynn then emerged and made a beeline for him – a definite aggressive charge – so I scooped Beck up (who was still wimpering) and that was the end of that.

A change of approach was needed; maybe Flynn would accept younger bucks he’d never met before (Freddie and Floyd)? Freddie and Floyd were, by this point, nearly 8 months old, so not exactly kittens. But both of them were extremely happy-go-lucky chaps so we thought we’d risk it.

Again, we tried the bed as the Neutral Zone (this time removing the pillows). Things were fine. So we progressed to putting them together in the carrier. There was a little bit of a kerfuffle but it seemed to be mainly Freddie complaining about Flynn’s over-enthusiastic grooming – they mainly positioned themselves at opposite ends of the carrier and tried to ignore each other.

We repeated this procedure over the next week or so, just to be sure that Flynn was, indeed, being good about it all. There was one night where Freddie and Floyd were a bit hormonal and they decided to have a humping session, but Flynn didn’t want to play (despite Freddie’s attempts). He put up with it for a while then suddenly ran across to Freddie and Floyd, humped them both, power groomed them then ran back to his corner, before curling up and falling asleep. Both Freddie and Floyd were somewhat shocked, and the attempted humping ended there and then.

They spent all of last night together in a small cage and as they were all curled up together this morning, I risked opening the cage door and letting them out into the top half of the Explorer cage (which was previously Freddie and Floyd’s home). A quick sniff about and they all made for the top hammock, curled up together and went back to sleep! Result!

They are now enjoying a run around the rat room – Flynn’s got a skip in his step and the fact that Freddie and Floyd are both happy to run about on the floor with him can only be seen as a positive.

Now we just need to sort something out for Beck… we’re leaning towards castrating him (with the permission of his breeder) and letting him retire with the girls (Weeny, our smallest doe who is most definitely alpha, will not tolerate any bossy shenanigans).