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Keeping your rabbit warm in winter

Tips for keeping your rabbits warm in winter

Amongst RWAF members and supporters there is a huge wealth of knowledge, so we asked everyone to share their top tips. Some are well tried and tested, and still working well, but others are ingenious and we wonder how we hadn’t thought of them already.

Keeping rabbits warm is important, because in the wild they would live in underground burrows and the temperature changes very slightly between summer and winter. By keeping them above ground we are subjecting them to extremes of temperature changes and we need to help them stay warm and dry. Damp and draughts can be deadly to bunnies at this time of year.

We always recommend rabbits are kept in pairs, and there is no nicer way of keeping warm than by snuggling up to your friend.

Companionship is often overlooked, and can be even more important over the winter months. Naturally, because of the dark nights and poor weather we are less inclined to spend time in the garden, so we see less of our rabbits who are kept outdoors. You must make sure you check them regularly (at least three times a day, but more is always better), and check that the hutch / shed is not leaking, that their bed is dry and that they always have hay and water.

Remember that even in bad weather rabbits will need to exercise every day; it is not acceptable to keep them locked in a hutch because you are not able to provide a protected exercise area for them, so some forward planning now may be needed. A hutch attached to a safe exercise run means the rabbits can shelter in the hutch or exercise in the run when they please. At the very least, add a tarpaulin cover to both to protect them from rain and snow, and a hiding place (one per bunny).

Garden sheds offer a great alternative to a traditional rabbit hutch because they can be well insulated and the rabbits are nice and dry inside and they have more room to move around. It is also easier for the owners to feed and clean out inside a garden shed in wet weather. Exercise runs can still be attached to a shed, and can still be covered by a tarpaulin.

The easiest thing would be to bring the hutch and run into an unused shed, garage (as long as it has a window and you aren’t using it for a car…those exhaust fumes are very dangerous) or a conservatory. Lots of owners bring their rabbits in and keep them as house rabbits over the winter months. It’s fine to have winter house rabbits and summer garden rabbits, as long as you do not embark on this and then abandon it mid way; if you decide to do it, you will have to stick to it because it would be cruel to bring them in and let them moult their winter coat, only to put them outdoors again before spring. If you are going to do this, then first of all bring them into a room with no heating and acclimatise them gradually. Remember that they may find household noises like the TV and washing machine scary so take your time. They will not be used to our artificial lights either, so make sure they have somewhere to hide out of the lights while they adjust.

Top Tip – if bringing rabbits indoors, do it gradually. Bring them into a cold quiet room, and give them plenty of places to hide. Use their own litter tray and toys so that they have a familiar smell.

By cold, we mean if the temperature falls below zero; that is when insulating sheds and hutches and items such as Snugglesafe can be used to best effect – but of course lots of the tips relate to weatherproofing and they can be used in wet and windy weather regardless of the temperature. You will need to use your own common sense.

However, most rabbits live out doors all year round, so if this applies to you then read on!

To stop water bottles or bowls freezing:

For keeping hutches and runs warm:

One final note, this advice is really for rabbits in good body condition, those who are old, or thin may need even more care, and we advise the owners of such bunnies to bring them in for the winter.