Now that winter is coming, you should take the time to make sure your rabbits are prepared for the coming cold.
The top tips for preparing your rabbits for winter include raising the rabbit hutch off of the ground, checking the roof of the hutch to make sure it is in good condition, providing plenty of bedding for the rabbits, making sure your hutch is placed in a sheltered area, watching out for flystrike, checking that the rabbits are eating regularly, making sure your rabbits have plenty of food, considering how you want to give them water, giving the rabbits a windbreak, giving the rabbits black oil sunflower seeds, putting apple cider vinegar in their water, and being ready just in case your rabbit has babies in the wintertime.
Continue reading to really give your rabbits their best chance for lasting through the winter.
Raise the rabbit hutch off of the ground
There are many different types of hutches you can have and/or build for your rabbits.
Some of these hutches are pretty big and some can be pretty small.
Which one you have probably depended on your situation.
Whatever it is, you are going to want to make sure your hutch is lifted off of the ground.
There are a few reasons for this.
The first is that if you are in an area that gets a lot of snow, the rabbits are going to be right in it if they are on the ground.
This means that they are right amongst the snow.
And that isn’t going to be good for them.
The second reason is to protect your rabbits from any predators.
While having them on the ground is nice during the spring and summer, during the winter they become very susceptible to any animals that might be desperate for food.
This means that they are right in the action and could be very vulnerable to a fox, wolf, mountain lion, or any other animals in the area.
So lift them up off the ground so they can be safe and warm.
Check the roof of the hutch to make sure it is in good condition
Now that you have the hutch off of the ground, you will want to make sure to check the roof is in good condition.
A few things to look for:
- There are no holes or cracks
Holes and cracks are going to make it hard to keep your rabbits dry during the winter.
These make it so water and snow can seep through and then land on the rabbits or their straw and bedding.
So first check the roof for holes and cracks.
And if any are found, fill them in as necessary.
Wood glue should work perfectly fine so filling the holes and cracks in.
Make sure things are dry outside first and then the wood glue will work for you.
- That the roof is sloped enough
If you have a flat roof, then any snow or rain that falls on it will stay there.
Especially if the wood isn’t treated, this could end up warping the wood and making the roof not as effective.
So if your roof isn’t sloped, then you need to purchase some wood and give the roof a slope.
Provide plenty of bedding for the rabbits
Rabbits can be very sensitive when it comes to their surroundings.
If you leave them out in the sun for just a little too long, they could end up dying.
So you’ll want to make sure they are comfortable during the winter season so you don’t go outside and find that they died.
And one of the ways you can make them comfortable is by providing plenty of bedding for them.
In the case of rabbits, they love to have straw for their bedding.
The straw does a few things for them.
First, they can pile up the straw to make a bed for themselves.
This will give them a nice warm surface for them to sleep on and in.
Second, it is also good if you plan on having your rabbit’s mate.
The female will use the straw to create coverage for their baby rabbits and to keep them safe during the winter weather.
The rabbits can also use the straw to eat, though it doesn’t have the same nutritional value as hay.
So it shouldn’t replace the hay, but can be used as something a little bit extra for the rabbits.
Make sure your hutch is placed in a sheltered area
So far we’ve got our hutch off of the ground and have it filled with straw.
This is a great start for your rabbits.
The next thing you will want to do is get the hutch into a sheltered area.
A sheltered area gives your hutch some protection from the outside elements.
That way, you don’t have to worry about whether or not your rabbits are wet or warm enough.
One place we have visited had all of their rabbits inside of a barn.
This is a great idea, but they probably are not getting the most sunlight that they need to be healthy.
So it is preferable if you can have them in a place that is sheltered but that also gives them plenty of sunlight throughout the day.
A small shed might be good or maybe you can set up a mesh table cover to put over them.
That way they are out of the elements and can stay nice and warm.
Watch out for flystrike
Before getting into the winter season, it’s a good idea to have your rabbits checked for flystrike.
Once they get into winter, if they are suffering from flystrike, it may be harder to get them cured and they might die before you have a chance to do anything about it.
According to PDSA.org.uk:
Flystrike is when flies lay their eggs on a rabbit’s fur, which then hatch into maggots and burrow under the skin to feed on flesh. Flystrike is a very serious and painful condition, which can quickly cause serious illness and even death.
Flystrike tends to occur in the Spring and Summer (when flies are most active), and is most common around the bottom (and any other warm, wet areas). Flystrike is made more likely by anything that attracts flies and allows them to lay eggs on your rabbits, such as:
A dirty living space
Wounds, especially if they are infected.
So be on the lookout for symptoms of flystrike and get your rabbits treated before it becomes the winter season.
Signs of flystrike include:
- Fur loss
- Slow movement
- Less eating
- A bad smell
- Open wounds
If your rabbits show any of these symptoms, contact your vet and get them treated right away.
Check that the rabbits are eating regularly
At the change of the seasons, some animals change their habits.
We as humans naturally want to wake up later when it starts to get colder outside.
Sometimes this happens with rabbits as well.
So it is important to make sure that you are keeping an eye on the rabbits to make sure they are continuing to eat and drink on a regular basis.
This is important to their body to make sure they are getting the sustenance that they need.
If they aren’t eating regularly, then it is possible that they have flystrike.
So keeping an eye on how much they are eating will tell you how healthy they are.
Make sure your rabbits have plenty of food
In addition to making sure they are eating regularly, also make sure you are giving them plenty of food.
Normally, you would give your rabbits about 1 cup of their food eat a day.
When winter comes, you will probably want to increase this to 1 1/2 to 2 cups of food.
This is because their body is expending more energy and they need the calories to keep doing this.
Consider how you want to give them water
Typically during the spring and summer, you will be giving your rabbits their water in a rabbit water feeder.
These water feeders are great because you avoid wasting a bunch of water like you sometimes do when giving it to pigs or ducks.
The rabbit water feeder gives the rabbit only the water that they want and if you are careful, you only have to fill it up every day or every other day.
When it gets to the wintertime, though, you have something you need to think about.
Because during the colder weather, the little metal spout the water comes out of sometimes freezes over.
The water in the water feeder can also freeze over as well.
This means that you are either defrosting the water multiple times a day or you are refilling the water feeder a few times a day.
And this can be exhausting if you have to keep going out there.
So, to replace the normal water feeder, you could get a heated water feeder for your rabbit.
On the plus side, this means you aren’t going outside multiple times a day just to check if your rabbit is getting the right amount of water.
The downside to this is you have to have the hutch close enough to a plug to keep it plugged in.
And as you might have learned about heat lamps in chicken coops, this can sometimes lead to fires and other problems.
If you do go this route, you will have to figure out a solution to keep your water feeder from catching on fire.
Another option is a water bowl, which doesn’t need a plug.
The water bowl might freeze over like the water feeder, but in the case of the bowl, the rabbits can at least lick the water to get what they need.
This isn’t the most optimum option but should give you what you need.
Give the rabbits a windbreak
Depending on where you are keeping your rabbits, this may or may not be an issue.
If you keep your rabbits in a shed or barn, this probably going to be an issue since you have enough walls to keep the wind away.
If you have one of the hutches we recommended previously, this will have a place for the rabbits to stay out of the wind.
But if you built a homemade hutch for your rabbits as we did, then you are going to want to create a windbreak for them.
In our case, the hutch was small enough that we could attach some plywood on one side and that would be enough.
We will probably get some more plywood and attach them on the two sides of the hutch so we can have three sides covered in case of rain.
Depending on your situation you might have to do something different, but that is for you to figure out.
As you cover your hutch for a windbreak, your rabbits will be able to stay a lot warmer during the cold season.
Give the rabbits black oil sunflower seeds
According to RiseAndShineRabbitry.com:
Black oil seeds have thinner shells and are more nutritious. Black oil sunflower seeds contain high levels of protein are rich in vitamin E, linoleic acid and provide a good source of fiber. Rabbits benefit from this snack seed as a high source of energy during cold temperatures.https://riseandshinerabbitry.com/2012/11/25/feeding-rabbits-black-oil-sunflower-seeds/
Black oil sunflower seeds are great for rabbits in the winter because it gives them more protein and also fiber.
This will provide them with more energy and they can stay warm during the cold season.
It is not recommended to give it to them during the spring and summer because it can lead to problems with their digestion.
Put apple cider vinegar in their water
Apple cider vinegar is great for rabbits to have.
First, it helps to cleanse the water that is given to them.
This is important to the health of the rabbit’s body.
The apple cider vinegar can also be used to calm rabbits during times of stress.
And it seems like winter would be a time where a rabbit might have a lot of stress.
If you do decide to give your rabbit water, 1 tablespoon per quart of water is going to be plenty for your rabbits.
Be ready just in case your rabbit has babies in the wintertime.
You are probably keeping rabbits because you plan to use them for meat at some point.
They are great for meat because they can have babies so often, that you can also have an endless source of meat.
Because they are so proficient at having babies, you might end up having a litter of rabbits during the wintertime.
Make sure that you are prepared for this just in case it happens.
This means that you have the male separated from the female.
Males don’t always take kindly to having babies in their area, so it is important to keep the male away.
Also, make sure to provide plenty of straw to the female rabbit.
She will use the straw to create a bed for the baby rabbits and may even cover them up with the straw.
Also, make sure the edges of your hutch are covered since this is where the female rabbit will most likely be keeping her babies.
So get the edges covered so they can stay warm and away from rain and snow.
There is so much you can do to make sure your rabbits make it through the winter.
Most of this means that you are preparing their hutch for the cold weather and providing for the rabbits all they need.
This includes a water feeder that won’t freeze over, more food provided than in the spring and summer, protecting them from the cold, wind, and snow, and providing them more nutrients to help them.
And as you do so, they will be as prepared for the winter as they can be, and you will all be happy come the spring season.