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How to Take Care of Rabbits in the Winter

Last Updated: 16.07.19

 

Have you ever wondered how a rabbit burrow is made? Our article on this topic might help you out. In the wild, rabbits live in a wide range of habitats and their burrows can be found almost anywhere. Forests, woods, grasslands, meadows, and even desserts are all places one can find a rabbit burrow.

What about winter time? Rabbits have different needs during this time than in the rest of the year. If winter is about to come and you want more information about how to care for your rabbits, this article will help you out.

 

What Do Rabbits Do in the Winter?

First of all, rabbits stay in their home territory and do not move too much. Therefore, during the winter, they will not travel to other areas. In the cold season, rabbits find places that can shelter them from the weather. This can be a thick tangle of conifer trees, somebody’s garden, a secluded burrow, or a cavity in a tree.

The season’s cooler temperatures, as well as the lack of vegetation force wild rabbits to spend more time searching for food. Since the abundant food supply from the warm seasons is decimated, rabbits have to resort to eating woody plant parts which include the bark, twigs, and the buds of trees and bushes.

Moreover, a rabbit’s year-round habit of consuming its own pelleted feces becomes even more necessary in the winter months. They do this to extract additional nutrients as their digestive systems are not particularly efficient.

 

 

The cold season is not tough on wild rabbits just because the food is scarce. This is also the period when animal predators and even humans target them as prey. For example, house cats and bobcats, as well as owls and hawks hunt rabbits.

If you add people with shotguns, we can clearly say that rabbits face a wide range of threats, and their chances of surviving are lower in the winter than in the rest of the year.

With no vegetation during the cold season, the bushes and thickets where rabbits usually hide are reduced — it is tough to hide just among twigs and stems. Hollowed-out stumps, logs, and brush piles become effective refuges during this time.

There are rabbit species that change color in order to blend with the white and gray environment. To conserve energy, rabbits also stay put in cold weather.

 

Taking Care of Domestic Rabbits

It is very important to mention that rabbits do not tolerate extreme weather temperature changes. Therefore, you need to make sure that their housing remains warm and comfortable in the cold season.

Also, these animals do not hibernate, so if you notice your rabbit looking limp, sleepy, and unresponsive, you should take him or her to the vet immediately. In case you just got a rabbit that has been kept indoors, or if it is a young bunny, do not put him or her outside until the weather gets warmer. Sharp changes in weather and temperatures can be fatal to them.

Since the temperature in your home is regulated for yourselves, indoor house rabbits should be just fine. Still, you need to check that their living area is not in a draught. In case the temperatures drop very low during the night, you should provide them with a pet-safe hot water bottle to keep them warm.

Another thing you should know is that rabbits eat more in the winter because they instinctively think that their food will become limited. Therefore, the extra food will provide them with more insulation but this alone will not keep them warm enough.

During the cold season, their coat also becomes a bit thicker. However, this helps them only slightly. They still rely on you to keep them warm and safe. You need to consider that wild rabbits live underground in drought-free and dry burrows, snuggled up with warm groups.

If you have the possibility, you should bring your rabbits indoors during the cold season. You can also move their hutch to an unused shed or garage. It is not recommended putting the hutch in the garage if you park your cars there. The exhaust fumes are very dangerous to the bunnies.

In case you do not have a garage or a shed, and you cannot bring them inside, try moving the hutch to a place that is sheltered like by some trees and facing away from the wind.

 

Hutch Protection

Some specialists state that rabbits can withstand the cold much better than excessive heat. This is good news for domesticated rabbit keepers who keep these pets in outdoor hutches. Temperatures hovering at the freezing mark of 32 Fahrenheit degrees are easily tolerated by rabbits.

They can withstand temperatures even below the freezing point, provided they are protected from wind and wetness. You should use extra straws or other bedding in order to completely insulate the section of the hutch where your bunnies are protected. You must be careful not to insulate the entire hutch as rabbits require fresh air as well.

Another thing you should do is to check that there are no gaps through which wind or rain can get in. Also, make sure that the wood is not rotting or dimp and reapply a pet-safe wood protective coating every few years. You also have the option to line the inside walls with newspaper.

Once in a while, it is also important to recover the hutch roof and cover using a plastic sheet or tarpaulin to prevent the rain from getting in. It is also recommended putting sheets of newspaper and a warm blanket between the plastic sheet and the roof for added insulation.

There is another very important aspect you should keep in mind. Keeping this area clean is essential. The rabbits’ urine can freeze and it can become very uncomfortable for them. That is why the bedding should be kept clean, dry, and checked frequently. Moreover, sitting on wet bedding can make your bunnies ill.

 

 

Other Details

According to specialists, moderately cold temperatures actually invigorate rabbits and brings out their naturally playful behavior. It is also recommended providing a variety of toys in order to engage your rabbits.

There are many types of toys available in pet stores but you can also make some yourself. For example, you can cut a few holes in a cardboard box and place it in your bunnies’ enclosure. Then, just watch how they hop through the holes. Also, providing your rabbits with a box filled with shredded paper or hay is suggested in order to allow them to practice their digging habit.  

You also need to consider that rabbits can get very lonely if they live alone, so it is best to keep them in pairs. This way, not only will they have a friend, but they will also snuggle together and keep warm easily.

Even if it is winter, rabbits still need to exercise. For this, you can bring them indoors to run around. You can also let them in the garden for a short while, just make sure they do not get wet. In case the bunny does get wet, dry him or her with a towel and make sure he or she dries up naturally indoors.

 

 

 

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