Autumn is well and truly here, and you may have already begun preparing to help your rabbits binky through the winter season as comfortably as possible.
With colder temperatures, shorter days and frosty, icy or even snowy conditions, you’ll have to make some changes to your rabbits’ daily routine. A little forward planning will make it much easier for all of you.
We’ve got some steps you can take now, to make sure that you’re ready to hop into winter fully prepared.
Planning to bring them in from the cold
Although many domestic rabbits grow thick winter coats and are able to cope with colder temperatures – so long as they’re not too old, young, or underweight – you may want to have a plan for bringing your rabbits in somewhere warmer if temperatures start to drop towards freezing.
A quiet spot in your house, a cosy shed, or an unused garage are all potential homes for your rabbits to winter in. Make sure garages aren’t being using for vehicles, as exhaust fumes can be very harmful to rabbits.
Moving indoors can be a stressful transition for rabbits, so try and make it as easy for them as possible. You can start helping your rabbits get used to the winter move by bringing them into their new lodgings for short periods, gradually increasing the length of time they spend indoors. Try moving over some of their used but unsoiled bedding too, so they have some familiar smells to help them feel at home.
Making room to run around, even if there’s snow
Your rabbits will want to stay active whatever the weather, so they must be able to exercise freely all year round. Plan some alternative ways to let them have a run around in unpredictable winter conditions, especially if you’re going to be bringing your outdoor rabbits indoors.
If you’re choosing to continue using an outdoor run, make sure there’s a covered section where your rabbits can shelter from the elements – plastic sheeting or tarpaulin over a section of the run can give some protection from the wind and rain. You should also build at least one hiding place per rabbit, and provide plenty of sheltered bedding for them to dry off and get cosy.
Alternatively, you could plan an indoor space for your rabbits to exercise. An indoor pen or ‘bunny-proofed’ room can be a great way for your rabbits to run around and socialise.
Keeping their beds extra cosy
You should be providing your rabbits with a comfortable home all year round, but in the colder season it’s good to make things extra cosy. Although healthy rabbits can cope fairly well with colder weather, it’s really important that they’re kept somewhere dry and draught free.
This time of year, just before we go into the colder weather, it’s particularly important to check up on and carry out any essential maintenance on your rabbits’ home. Make sure that it’s in good condition, properly waterproofed and won’t leak in the rain. You’ll need at least one sleeping area per rabbit that’s protected from the elements.
Get ready to pad sleeping areas out with extra bedding. Dust-free hay and straw on top of layers of newspaper absorbs moisture and provides insulation. Blankets aren’t a good idea as rabbits can chew through them, causing serious stomach issues. If the weather’s really nippy, you could invest in a microwavable heat pad that’s been specially designed for rabbits.
Stock up on water bottles
Consider providing water in a bowl as well as a bottle to help ensure plenty is available. Check your rabbits’ water at least twice a day in the winter to make sure that it isn’t frozen and, if using a bottle, make sure water is flowing through the spout.
An extra water bottle is likely to come in handy during the coldest weather – then if one is frozen you can easily replace it with a spare.
Read more information on meeting a rabbit’s needs in winter, including a helpful checklist of points to consider, by downloading our Rabbit Winter Care Advice factsheet (PDF 428KB). You can find out more about caring for rabbits throughout the year on our website.
Watch some happy bunnies in action!
We’ve put a video together with some extra tips on keeping your rabbits healthy and happy – and it features some special clips of happy bunnies in action, as sent in by our supporters. Hop over to our youtube channel for some helpful advice and plenty of binkies!