Caring for your rabbits in the winter

Rabbits can struggle in extreme weather temperatures so you need to make sure their housing stays warm and comfortable and protects them from the elements. Rabbits do not hiberate, so if your rabbit looks limp or sleepy and isn’t really reacting to anything then you need to bring them to us ASAP. If you have just got a rabbit and he’s been kept indoors or is a baby, don’t put him outside until the weather gets warmer, as the sharp change in weather can kill.

Indoor rabbits should be fine but do check for draughts and if they are around hard floors or wooden floors then beware that this kind of surface can get very cold.

Changes in your rabbit’s body during winter months
Rabbits will eat more in winter as they naturally think food will become scarce. The extra food also provides them with more fat insulation, but this alone does not keep them warm enough. Their fur coat will also get a bit thicker, but this only helps them slightly and they’ll still rely solely on you to keep them safe and warm!

Move the hutch somewhere warmer
If possible, bring your rabbits indoors for the winter, or move their hutch to an unused garage or shed. If you have no shed or garage, move the hutch to somewhere sheltered such as by some trees, facing away from the wind. Location is very important and always check for potential hazards including fumes from mechanics such as cars, generators etc.

Look for gaps in the hutch walls
Check there are no gaps through which rain and wind can get in. Make sure the wood isn’t damp or rotting, and reapply a rabbit-safe wood protecting coating every few years. You can also line the inside walls with newspaper and other adequate proofing.

You can use clear perspex or a plastic sheet over a large portion of the front of the hutch so your rabbits can still see out and the light will come in, but wind and rain can’t blow in. Be sure to leave enough room for fresh air to come in so your bunnies can still breathe! You can also buy waterproof hutch covers which can be a better option, be sure to select the right one and always have a back up option in case you need one in an emergency.

Check the roof
Check the condition of your hutch roof, it might need replacing and usually it is every few years, if their is any damage cover the roof with a plastic sheet or tarpaulin to stop the rain from getting in. Put sheets of newspaper and a warm blanket between the roof and plastic sheet for added insulation, and let it hang down the sides and back as well as it covering the roof.

• Line the floor with layers of newspaper and add lots of extra hay and straw for your rabbits to bury themselves into, ensuring all wet hay and straw is removed.
• Blankets and fleeces are also useful for them to snuggle into or to line the floor with
• If you have an old cut off of carpet, lay this down for insulation
• Get a cardboard box, close all 4 sides and cut a hole big enough for your rabbits to get through, and fill the box with hay. This will give them somewhere a bit more insulated to sit. If you have 2 rabbits make sure the box fits 2 rabbits in at once. Make sure they still have enough room in the rest of the hutch to stretch out.


Raise the hutch off the floor
Raise your hutch by placing bricks underneath, or by attaching long legs. This will help to prevent damp from the ground affecting the bottom of the hutch, and also stop ground frost freezing the base. It will also protect a hutch in an area that is likely to flood a little. Having hutches on long legs also helps prevent predators from accessing the hutch.
Check a few times a day that your rabbits’ water bottle or dish of water hasn’t frozen over. You can buy bottle covers that help to prevent this, or a thick sock over the bottle can also help, but still check the water and the spout have not frozen, if you have any doubt then you can run warm water through the bottle to ensure any frozen water is completely melted.
Toilet area
It’s very important to keep this area clean as their urine can freeze and be very uncomfortable for them if left there. Bedding needs to be kept clean and dry and checked daily. Sitting on wet bedding can make them ill.

Keep your rabbits in pairs
Rabbits can get very lonely on their own, so by keeping them in pairs not only will they have a friend, they will also snuggle together to share body warmth.
Rabbits still need exercise in winter so bring them indoors for a run around, or let them have a short time in the garden but make sure they don’t get wet. If your rabbits get very wet, dry them with a towel and let them warm up naturally indoors (do not put them by a heater which they can’t move away from). Do as much insulating of their run as possible so they can still go in it, and try and move it somewhere where it will get some winter sunshine.


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