With the weather becoming wetter and colder it’s time to consider our pets. Although rabbits coats will become thicker in winter and they have thick fur pads on their feet, this will only provide them with a small amount of protection from the elements. The rest is down to us to keep them safe and warm in the chilly winter months.
Check Their Hutch
Look out for any holes or gaps that may cause drafts, look at the roof and ensure it is water tight. Also ensure that the hutch is escape-proof and predator- proof (predators will be hungrier in the winter due to reduced food). Remember to treat the hutch on a regular basis with wood preservative to keep it waterproof.
Raise The Hutch Off The Ground
This will prevent the bottom of the hutch becoming wet and rotten.
Consider Moving Their Hutch To Somewhere Warmer
Into a shed or unused garage (remember though, exhaust fumes are harmful to rabbits)
Into a more sheltered area with protection from the wind and rain
Inside the house – if you are doing this you need to be prepared to keep them inside until the spring as they will not develop their thick winter coat. This also needs to be done gradually to get them used to our indoor temperatures.
Insulate The Hutch
Newspaper can be used to line the inside of the hutch bottom and sides – this will act both as insulation and also absorb moisture.
Cover The Front Of The Hutch
This should be opened during the day to allow your rabbits to have light and remember to leave a small area uncovered at night to allow adequate ventilation.
Provide Plenty Of Bedding
This could be in the form of straw and hay. Ensure that this is stored somewhere dry – if it becomes damp and mouldy, this could cause your rabbit to become unwell.
Provide Additional Shelter
Use a cardboard box to give them somewhere to hide and sleep in. Cut an entrance hole and pack with additional hay. This needs to provide enough room to stretch and sleep and if you have multiple rabbits housed together, for them both to go in if they choose.
Microwavable Heat Pads
These can provide additional warmth but you must make sure that they have a cover so your rabbit does not lie directly on to it, as this could risk causing a burn.
Keep Them Clean
During the winter months your rabbit may be spending more time in their hutch so it is important to clean them out on a more regular basis.
Give Them Chance To Exercise
Please still give your rabbit chance to exercise to enable them to stay fit and healthy. There are lots of ways this can be achieved. If they have a separate exercise area consider moving it to somewhere dry, cover part of it and provide areas to hide in. If they get wet when outside rub them dry with a towel. Create an indoor pen either in the house (care needs to be taken that outdoor rabbits don’t overheat inside, and there is nothing they can chew e.g. electric cables) or in a shed.
Check Their Water Bottles
Make sure they haven’t frozen – ensure that the ball in the spout still turns and give the bottle a squeeze to make sure water is still flowing. Covers are available to prevent them from freezing but you could just use bubble wrap or a thick sock!
Don’t Stockpile Hay
Although it may be tempting to stock up on hay in case of bad weather, please remember that if hay is stored for too long it will loose its nutritional value.
Although there are many plants that are poisonous to rabbits there are several that are more associated with the Christmas period – mistletoe, ivy and holly.
Take Your Rabbit For A Health Check
Consider taking your rabbit for a check-up to ensure that there are no medical worries that might affect them over the winter months.
Keep Them In A Normal Routine
Other Worries For Small Furries
For house rabbits you still need to watch out for drafts. Don’t place their hutch near a radiator as this could cause them to overheat when the heating is on. Make sure they still have access to outside over the winter but be aware they will not have developed a winter coat, so will be more sensitive to the cold. Dry them with a towel if they come back in wet.
The most important thing over winter is to make sure you check on your rabbits several times a day. Your rabbit will be used to your company and interaction so don’t just forget about them. Regular checks will pick up any early signs of illness – these can include changes in behaviour, a reduction in appetite, a reduction and/or change in faeces.