It is quite important that rabbit owners do everything in their power to make sure that their pets are warm and safe during the cold weather. This is because unlike their wild counterparts, domesticated rabbits are not as great in keeping themselves warm.
If you are wondering about keeping rabbits warm in winter outside then it is important to remember that wild rabbits normally live inside burrows underground. They’re usually in groups so as to keep themselves warm. Wild rabbits also have thicker fur – which makes them more equipped to deal with colder temperatures.
On the other hand, not all hutches don’t have the same kind of protection or insulation as burrows. This is because they’re not on the ground and are often susceptible to rain and wind.
An outdoor rabbit hutch is necessary, as a basic rabbit hutch left exposed to the harsh elements in winter, the rabbit can start to suffer from severe hypothermia.
When Is It Too Cold For Rabbits?
In spite of their frail look, young and old rabbits are actually pretty great at coping with chilly weather. A rabbit would always prefer to be cold than too hot.
A healthy rabbit’s average body temperature is usually between 101 – 103°F. This temperature can be sustained in winter temperatures of 32°F – and it can even go lower.
Ensure to regularly check the body temperature of your rabbit throughout the winter season. If the temperature is above 101°F, your rabbit is doing alright. However, if it drops to 100°F or below, it means that your rabbit hypothermic. This will require swift action.
Ways To Ensure That Your Rabbit Stays Warm In Winter
- Use Straw To Keep Them Comfortable
Hay is not as warm as straw, so make sure you stack your rabbit’s hutch with nice dry straw. Also, remember to mix it with hay. This will ensure that your rabbit still has something to eat.
- Cover Up
By making use of tarpaulin, market stall covers or even shower curtains, you can protect your rabbit’s hutch from the cold weather. Note that if you intend to cover the rabbit’s enclosures with duvets or blankets during the night, ensure that they aren’t damp.
This is because if they’re damp, they could potentially draw out the warm air from the enclosures. Place a waterproof covering (like tarpaulin) over the top of the hutch. When doing this, ensure that you make accommodation for air pockets.
- Provide Heat
One way to ensure warmth is provided for your rabbits is to place snuggle safes amongst the hay. This way, they can escape into a warm place when it becomes extremely cold. You could also decide to place a hot water bottle within a plastic container (such as a food storage container) and position it amongst the hay.
The plastic container will prevent your rabbits from nibbling on the water bottle. You can also decide to place multiple hot water bottles within a larger storage container (such as an under bed storage container). After this, put a blanket on top of this container so that they can lie on top and feel the heat underneath.
- Provide Comfortable Bedroom Areas
Cardboard boxes, hideouts and nest boxes can all be used as a comfortable area that your rabbits go to and feel cosy in. If it’s possible, lift their sleeping areas from the floor and line the bottom of these areas with newspapers.
- Make Use of Pet Carriers
Most times, pet carriers just sit in garages and are only made use of when visiting the vet. These carriers can become very comfortable areas that your bunnies can snuggle up in. To ensure this, put the carriers inside their hutches and fill them with hay and straw.
- Use Cardboard to Insulate the Areas
Make use of cardboard to establish insulation within the walls of your rabbit’s hutch. Utilize this in areas such as their nest boxes, sleeping compartment or cosy hideouts.
- Keep out Draughts & Cold Air
Put blankets or duvets on the sides and over the top of their nest boxes, pet carriers and hideouts to ensure that any draught is kept out. You can also make use of bubble wrap to keep out the draughts. Stuff it in any small gap in your rabbit’s hutch. Just ensure that your rabbit won’t be able to reach it.
- Watch Their Water
Ensure that you have multiple drinking water bottles and water bowls for your rabbit. This is so that if the others become frozen, you can easily swap them. For water bottles, ensure to check if your rabbits can get to the water. This is because the ball and metal could be frozen – even if the water isn’t. To keep the water from freezing, you can put thermal socks over the water bottles.
Winter Care Tips
The following are tips that are helpful in keeping your bunnies warm and cosy in the winter.
- Keep a watchful eye on the weight of your rabbit. However, some rabbits actually need to be fed more during the winter season – mainly to help them cope with the additional calories they burn in the process of keeping warm. Also, try not to overfeed your rabbits.
- Ensure to brush and check your rabbits on a consistent basis throughout the winter period, this is also important if you have rabbits that do not have a mother rabbit.
- Regularly check if your rabbit’s behaviour is normal. Any change to its behaviour might indicate that your rabbit is ill. The earlier you notice any change, the better for all parties involved.
- Get a lot of toys for your rabbits. Also, move items around within their hutch to keep them lively and entertained.
- Ensure that you don’t place their food in only one place. Try to scatter the food all over the hutch to make sure your rabbits are kept busy and forage for their food.
- Check the bedding in the hutch and make sure it isn’t damp. Remove any damp straw or hay from the hutch and replace them with dry and fresh ones.
- Provide ample time for your rabbits to exercise – even when the weather is so cold. This is because exercise is very important in generating body heat.
- Try to spend a lot of quality time with your rabbits – even when it’s dark outdoors. You can purchase a head torch or an LED light to use in spending time with them.