Rabbits are one of the more cold resistant backyard animals, but they still need a little extra care when it dips below freezing. Make sure your rabbits aren’t cold! Although I live in mild Portland, Oregon we usually get a few storms of icy and snowy weather in the winter. If you live in a colder area, rabbits could be a very good livestock choice for you, as bunnies are pretty easy to take care of in the cold. The one caveat is if it gets super duper cold, (as in ten degrees below) their ears can get frostbite. If your area gets that cold, you’ll need more robust shelter for your rabbits in winter than a basic outdoor hutch or colony.
How To Care For Rabbits In Winter
Make Sure They Have Water
The biggest concern for rabbits in cold weather is keeping their water liquid. Most people choose to carry out warm water twice a day to their rabbits.
Crocks stay unfrozen longer than water bottles because the spout on the water bottle freezes quickly. Also, the rabbits can lick the ice in the crock if they really need to.
If you get caught unprepared, large tuna cans will work. Just make sure to crimp or smooth down any rough edges. Do NOT underestimate how important it is to water your rabbits twice a day when it is icy. Dehydration can kill your rabbits extremely quickly.
Give Them Extra Food
Regulating their body temperature in cold weather takes more energy. Give your rabbits a little extra to help them stay comfortable. Rolled oats and black oil sunflower seeds are high energy foods. You can sprinkle them on top of their regular food, or increase their ratio if you mix your own feed.
As always, be careful with the treats because sudden changes in diet can kill your rabbit. You may also want to keep an eye on their body condition to make sure they don’t gain weight. Rabbits in winter can get fat and then have trouble getting pregnant come springtime!
If you keep rabbits in hutches, make sure that they are out of the wind and drafts.
I like to use a deep litter method in my colony and in my hutches to provide extra warmth. A thick layer of hay that you add clean hay onto every day will compost down and create a heat source.
For rabbits directly on the wire, make sure to give them at least a cardboard box stuffed with straw to go into when they get cold.
If your outdoor hutches have lots of drafts you can staple plastic sheeting or cardboard around it for more of a wind barrier, but seriously consider better housing if this is your long term plan.
I have put up cardboard across the open fronts when we have sudden drops in temperatures or unusually high winds.
Obviously, don’t let your rabbit get wet, that’s a great way to end up with a sick or dead rabbit.
Protect Winter Babies
I have had winter litters in our rabbit colony in an unheated garage without problems. I know some breeders breed year round in hutches with minimal losses. If you are really worried about your kits then you can bring them inside and take them out to the doe at dawn and dusk for feeding. (Rabbits only nurse their young twice a day! Some days I wish I was a rabbit).
If you have good mothers they should pull plenty of fur to keep the babies warm even if it’s below freezing. The greatest danger is to newborn kits. Keep a close eye on any does who are due and make sure she pulls plenty of fur and gets all the babies into the nest box.
If you find cold ones you may be able to resuscitate them if you start soon enough.
With just a little extra care you should be able to keep your rabbits comfy all winter. I can’t say the same for your hands when breaking the ice out of their crocks though!
What winter rabbit care tips do you have to share?
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