Whether you have an indoor rabbit, an outdoor rabbit or one that enjoys the best of both worlds, it is important to make sure that their husbandry needs are met when we are experiencing unusually cold weather. While rabbits that go outdoors can generally do very well even during the coldest winter snap, they do benefit from some extra attention.
Many of the plusher coated, larger breeds of rabbit are designed to thrive in the cold, but we must still exercise caution, as bunnies that are not used to freezing conditions may find it hard to cope. Sadly, it is not unheard of for an owner to check on a rabbit after a cold night to find that they have passed away unexpectedly in their hutch. Luckily, there are plenty of things that can be done to prevent this type of tragedy from happening.
Keeping your rabbit warm
It is recommended that rabbit’s should be moved to a warmer, indoor area like a garage or in your house over the colder months of winter. However if this is not possible, here is our advice on keeping your rabbit warm in their hutch outdoors.
Instinctively, many bunnies will spend their time hunched up in the corner of their hutch during the day, when really they should be moving about to get their metabolism going and their blood pumping. Encouraging exercise and play-time can get them warmed up and prevent boredom and obesity in the winter months.
It is critical that their home is as snug and cosy as can be, full of lots of fresh bedding. Extra straw and hay can even be used to insulate their hutch and run and act as a barrier against chilly winds. Large towels and blankets should be placed over the entire hutch or run on very windy or snowy nights to add extra protection. Tarpaulins also work well for this purpose.
Whenever possible, these social creatures should be housed with a friend or two. Often, bunnies will snuggle up together for warmth, a behaviour that can help to strengthen their bond. They should also mutually groom each other, another behaviour which can keep them happy and warm.
One purchase that every rabbit owner should consider is a ‘snuggle safe’ or two. These are protected ‘hot water bottles’ that are essential for the colder nights. They are multi-purpose and can be placed under bedding for extra warmth, or under water bottles or bowls to prevent the water from freezing over. As they keep their warmth for hours, they are a great tool to use overnight.
For indoor bunnies, there is a real risk of over-heating in houses that have log fires roaring and the central heating cranked on high. The luxurious fur coat of the rabbit adds such good insulation, that they can be at real risk of heat-stroke. These bunnies should be placed in an area of the home that is not artificially heated.
Remember, a rabbit is not an animal that hibernates and they should actually be a little more active in the winter than in the summer. As rabbits are prey animals, they will only start to show any signs of being unwell if they are very ill. At the first sign of anything being unusual (a runny nose, runny eyes, snuffly breathing, lack of appetite, lethargy etc.) you should book an urgent appointment with your vet for a general check-up.
As always, make sure your rabbit has plenty of access to water and a good quality, roughage based diet – consisting of 90% hay/grass. For further information on diet and nutrition for rabbits >