Rabbits

How To Help Rabbits In Winter? Everything You Need To Know.

How To Help Rabbits In Winter Everything You Need To Know.
Written by Mehwish Imtiaz

Rabbits are among the most famous pets among pet lovers due to their social behaviors and endearing habits. However, these little furballs need a lot more attention than the more giant mammals, including dogs, cats, etc. Rabbits are warm-blooded animals and cannot adjust their internal body temperature by themselves. Though rabbits have a lot more capacity to cope with colder temperatures than hotter ones, more death cases of pet rabbits are reported in winters. Why does this happen? Rabbits in the wild protect themselves by various means, including making deep burrows. Also, rabbits are not native to freezing weather. Therefore, you need to input extra effort into protecting your rabbit from extreme weather.

How would you protect your bunny in extreme winters? Are there any means to ensure that your little bunny does not feel uncomfortable? The answers to all your questions regarding severe weather conditions are given in this article. In this article, we are going to discuss:

First thing first. It would be best if you keep in mind that rabbits are warm-blooded mammals. They cannot maintain their body temperature like those of your cold-blooded pets, such as Bearded Dragons. Rabbits do have developed some natural mechanisms and have instincts to protect them in extreme weather. However, in extreme cold, for pet rabbits, these are not just enough.

Our negligence in taking care of our rabbit may result in detrimental effects on your little bunny’s health. So, you cannot just rely on what you have heard for a better understanding of a pet rabbit’s lifestyle and needs. Look into the Guide for pet bunnies, note every vital point, and focus on how their needs differ from the wild ones.

Do Rabbits Feel Cold

Yes, rabbits feel cold. For rabbits, the cold feeling intensity is much more than humans due to their smaller size.

Rabbits have thick fur on their skin. However, this only helps them manage themselves in mild to moderate changes in weather conditions. Extreme weather conditions can harm your pet easily due to their inadequate insulation and weaker body to cope with the change. So, as a parent to this little creature, you have to take adequate measures so your bunny stays safe during the season.

Can Rabbits Die From Cold?

Yes, rabbits can die from cold.

Rabbits are too little to cope with extreme weather conditions. Moreover, they have not developed such natural mechanisms as cold-blooded animals to cope with a change in weather conditions. Therefore, when the weather gets a more horrible form, the temperature of their body fluid s may get so low that it starts slowing down and eventually stopping the whole metabolism.

All the situation sounds horrible, right. J Espinosa et al., in their study of Causes of Mortality and Disease in Rabbits and Hares: A Retrospective Study, also labeled the extreme cold as one of the significant causes of mortality in bunnies.

However, there are a lot of protective methods that you can quickly adapt to protect your little friend from brutal weather.

How Can I Keep My Pet Rabbit Warm?

There are some simple ways you can adopt to protect your bunny in winters. These are given as:

  1. Keep your bunny cozy with straw
  2. Provide your bunny a comfortable bedroom area
  3. Better use Pet carriers
  4. Insulate areas of the hutch
  5. Cover up
  6. Keep out the draughts
  7. Provide heat
  8. Watch their water

Keep Your Bunny Cozy With Straw:

Straw is one of the best insulators. So, replace the hay from your rabbits’ home and stack dry and cozy straws in there. One of the best practices is using 60% straw and 40% hay to ensure your rabbit eats all it wants and stays warm at the same time. This method will also provide better insulation and fill up the voids and spaces.

Provide Your Bunny With A Cozy Bedroom Area:

In winters, always avoid placing your rabbit’s sleeping area directly on the floor. When you put it on the floor, the cold will penetrate inside no matter wet, and there is a high chance that all the insulating material gets humid in no time. Hideout can be of cardboard boxes, wood, or anything else you prefer. You can also go for compressed cubes of alfalfa and straws of barley. Make sure anything you use for your bunny is of high quality and is not dusty and spiky.

You can go for ready-to-use cozy hideouts for bunnies from the market. They are made considering the weather conditions. Your little friend will feel great in them

Better Use Pet Carriers:

A DIY hack is to convert your pet carrier into the coziest place for your bunny. Pet carriers are primarily used for taking your rabbit for a regular vet visit. However, you can also make it a pet’s regular hideout. Just ensure it is nice and warm and has an adequate amount of hay inside.

Insulate Areas Of The Hutch

Insulate Areas Of The Hutch

In the above graph, we have categorized the most popular insulating materials on the basis of priority.

Cardboards are great for insulation. Some pet owners also start using polyester foams. Polyester is one of the best insulators, but on the same side, it is pretty toxic for your bunny.

Never use polyester foams for insulation!

If you are using it, ensure your bunny can not reach it in any way. You can use cardboard to make a very comfortable sleeping compartment and then stuff it up with straws, hay, and other essentials for the rabbit.

Cover Up

So, what else can we do along with cardboards to cover the rabbit’s accommodation? When the wind is high and rain and snow are relentless, you need to give your bunny a lot more protection. A DIY hack is to cover the hideout with shower curtains, tarpaulin, and stall covers.

You may also use cozy blankets or duvets to cover the whole area. However, they may end up gathering a lot of moisture. So, if you are keeping your rabbits indoors, it is one of the best choices. You can also use newspapers and all the extra papers from the house to keep the surface nice and warm. The blanket should preferably cover the roof. You may then want to cover in an outdoor trap to retain heat and avoid sow and wind reaching the place.

Always make sure to take care of ventilation along with insulation. You don’t want to suffocate your rabbit!

Keep Out The Draughts

When you insulate the hideout, make sure to keep out all the draughts. Whether it is a nest box, cardboard or wooden hideaway, or a pet carrier covering the top with the blanket works best in every case. You may also use bubble wrap and stuff it in small holes and voids. However, make sure to cover them entirely so your rabbit cannot approach them in any way possible.

Provide Heat!

Only insulating the place for your little bunny is not enough to protect it in this extreme weather. You need to provide an additional source of heat to cope with the extremely cold weather outside. There can be multiple ways of doing that

  1. Using snuggles safe is one of the most popular and effective ways to provide that extra warmth to your rabbit. Thye is quite economical yet very practical for pets. You can install one in the hay of your rabbit’s home to have the desired effects.
  2. Another method is putting a heating pad or hot water bottle in a plastic enclosure, e.g., a food storage container, water bottles, etc. You may then place it inside the hay. Using a plastic container as an extra protection tool is always the best way to avoid your rabbit nibble the hot water bottle.
  3. You may also pack a hot water bottle in a plastic enclosure and then place a warm thick blanket on it. Your rabbit may them lay and rest on the top on it.
  4. If using the hot water bottle, make sure you check it from time to time to ensure the water inside is still hot and is providing warmth.

Watch Their Water

You have to take care of your rabbit’s water bowels in the winters much more than usual. The water and most probably the water bottle freeze, providing “no water” to your little bunny. Any negligence can result in extreme dehydration in rabbits and fatigue. Moreover, frozen water is becoming an extra hotspot of cold in the shelter. So, it would be best if you were cautious about that. You can take the following steps to ensure that your rabbit stays hydrated:

  1. Check water resources three to four times a day. If they freeze, you need to replace them promptly.
  2. Insulating the water bottles is one of the best ways to avoid them from freezing. Wrap the water bottle with a towel or an old blanket to prevent them from having the effect of heat.
  3. Another way is buying specially designed bottles for winters. Moreover, certain bottles in the market come with ready-to-use covers for winter to keep the water warm inside.
  4. Make sure you have a lot of spare bottles so you can replace them from time to time. Remember, in extreme weather, plastic can crack so easily. You do not want your pet to live in wet and humid conditions or go without water, right.

Now, you know how to protect your rabbit in winters, let’s get straight into the most frequently asked questions.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Following is the questions we are asked mainly by the worried pet owners in winter:

How Cold Is Too Cold For Rabbits?

Temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit or -6.67 degrees Centigrade are too cold for rabbits.

Most healthy rabbits can tolerate and feel comfortable at temperatures up to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or4.44 degrees Celsius. Some rabbits can even feel comfortable below these temperatures. However, 40-degree Farenhite is the temperature you should consider the limit for a healthy rabbit and take extra precautions if the weather goes further cold. Moreover, if your rabbit is week or is suffering from any disease, you need to take extra precautions even at 47 degrees Fahrenheit. 

In short, the tolerance of rabbits for cold mainly depends on their health and immunity.

Can Rabbits Be Outside In Winter?

Yes, rabbits can be outside in winter.

It is excellent to keep rabbits indoors in extreme weather conditions. However, if you cannot, that’s fine. It would help if you took extra precautions, insulate your rabbits hutch fully, and provide an adequate amount of food and water. If you do that, your rabbit will feel equally stable and cozy outside as inside. However, always check your rabbit from time to time, so it is not left suffering in the cold if something terrible happens without knowing anything. Also, it is best to keep a weeker or sick rabbit inside than outside.

How Do I Know If My Rabbit Is Cold?

The symptoms of a cold for rabbits are very much like that of other pets. Usually, when the rabbit is cold:

  1. Its ears are pretty cold to touch.
  2. Has runny nose and sneezing
  3. Has runny eyes.
  4. It becomes clingy
  5. It looks for hideouts, shrinks itself, and lays with its feet tucked under its abdomen.
  6. Has fatigue and lethargy

So, if your rabbit is lethargic, sluggish, and a lot more sleepy than usual, you need to contact your vet as soon as possible. Take it inside and provide the warmth to boost its metabolism.

What Should Rabbits Eat In Winters?

Rabbits eat a lot more in winters than in summers. In winters, rabbits prefer binging on Timothy Hay to fasten their metabolism and keep them warm. So, you should ensure the unlimited supply of Timothy Hay for your bunnies. Moreover, also dig into all the Foods A Rabbit Should Eat to keep its immune system and metabolism healthy and robust,

How Do Rabbits Survive In The Winter?

During extreme winters, rabbits dig deep burrows to avoid the cold from outside. Rabbits eat more wood-based products, including twigs, tree barks, and conifer needles to keep themselves warm. Rabbits also make their generous spaces in the rock piles, hollow logs, and brush piles… all to ensure their warm and comfortable winters.

Moreover, physiologically they also get a faster metabolism during winters to produce that extra body heat to maintain their temperature according to the external temperature. Rabbits also grow thick fur and deposit excess fat to provide themselves with an extra layer of insulation. Moreover, they tend to live in groups and snuggle to equip themselves with the body heat and warmth

Do Wild Rabbits Have Babies In The Winter?

Yes, wild rabbits are much willing to breed in winters than in other seasons.

Having babies in winters is part of the natural rhythm of bunnies. So, you better go for breeding your pet rabbits between October and December than in all the other months… especially in the case of mixed breeding. There are then high chances that they have a beautiful littler.

Do Rabbits Like Blankets?

Rabbits love blankets a lot!

They will roll and play with them. Bunnies adore the warmth and softness of the blanket material. Blankets can not only provide heat to your rabbit and protect its cute little paws.

Blankets allow your bunny to dig all he wishes!

However, before selecting a blanket for your pet, make sure the material is suitable and safe for the bunnies. It is because there are high chances that your bunny will start chewing it. Polar fleece is the only safe blanket fabric for bunnies. This fabric has tiny fibers that effortlessly glide through your pet’s digestive system and come out in feces. The yarn is too long and can cause severe constipation and the gut’s blockage as for other threads. So, e careful while investing in your blanket for your bunny.

Should I Cover My Bunny’s Cage At Night?

Yes, you should cover your bunny’s cage at night.

As the temperature goes further down at night, covering the cage will increase its protection and warmth. Moreover, rabbits only sleep where they feel entirely safe and dark. So, to help them with this, covering will provide them an additional cozy and secure environment. Therefore, it is always a great idea to protect your bunny’s cage with something at night. In extreme conditions, using a blanket to cover the top will be the best choice.

Do Rabbits Get Cold At Night?

Yes, rabbits do feel cold at night.

At night the temperature goes down by 5-10 degrees from the day. Moreover, rabbits need to rest and slow down their metabolism at night. Therefore, they may feel cold at night. Furthermore, rabbits need a very comfortable and cozy environment to relax. If they are feeling cold at night, they will not be able to sleep properly. This unrest will cause constant fatigue in your feet and weaker immunity and decreased capacity to fight the diseases and cold.

Does A Rabbit Grow Thicker Fur In Winter?

Yes, rabbits grow extra thick and fluffy fur in winters.

A rabbit develops a thicker fur in winter as compared to summer. The hair mainly grows a lot of rabbits of five months or older. Actually, when the rabbit feels a change in weather, his body may secrete multiple rushes of hormones that cause an extra growth of the coat. Moreover, as winters are the breeding season for rabbits, female rabbits also tend to produce extra fur around their abdomen and sides to provide additional protection to the fetus. Moreover, the color of the coat also fades off in winters. As the days got shorter, there is less melanin production in the rabbit’s hair and skin. Therefore, the fur is more white and fluffy.

Therefore, you need to pay attention to the grooming of your rabbit during this season. On a clear day, better trim off the extra fur for your rabbit. Otherwise, your rabbit will swallow a lot of extra hairs, which can ultimately choke its gut.

Do Rabbits Fatten Up For Winter

When the winter approaches, rabbits start eating a lot. All this to store as many energy deposits in their body as possible to cope with the lack of food and water in winter. Moreover, this extra food adds a multipl layer of fat under their skin, which provides insulation against the cold weather outside.

Do Rabbits Migrate In Winter?

No, rabbits do not migrate in winter.

Rabbits have the exceptional ability to tolerate the cold. They also take on various means to protect themselves in this weather. Therefore, they stay at the same place throughout the year.

Do Rabbits Hibernate In Winter?

Rabbits do not hibernate!

Yeah, it is a prevalent opinion that rabbits hibernate in winter and cannot be seen anywhere. Actually, wild rabbits dig deep burrows in extreme weather, live in groups, and come out only when needed.d Therefore, they are sited less, which creates the opinion among people that they hibernate. However, rabbits have active metabolism throughout the year. Even winters are the time of peak metabolism for rabbits as they eat a lot, breed, and grow extra fat and fur at this time.

So, make sure to provide all the extra food your bunny need during this time of the year.

Should I Feed My Rabbit More In Winter?

Yes, rabbits need more food in winters.

Rabbits have the instinct to eat a lot more than usual as the winter season approaches. Doing this will keep their body’s natural metabolism fast to generate heat in the process of digestion. Moreover, they also start depositing a lot more fat to insulate their vital organs from the outside environment’s cold. So, to compensate for their needs, you need to ensure that your rabbit must have an unlimited supply of food throughout the season.

Winter Care Tips

Here are some general tips for your rabbits. Consider them before designing the winter care for your rabbits:

  • Some rabbits are obese and are already above their ideal body weight for bunnies. So, you do not need to feed them extra. Providing them extra calories will do more harm than good. So, make sure not to overfeed your rabbit.
  • Always check the vitals of your bunny from time to time. Moreover, brush the teeth and trim off the fur regularly.
Parameter Normal Value
Rectal Temperature
103.3-104F/ 38-40C
Heart Rate/ Pulse
130-325 Beats Per Minute
Respiratory Rate:
32-60 Breaths Per Minute

Do not use a regular thermometer or an ear thermometer for measuring rectal temperature.

  • Always have a close eye on the feeding and behavioral patterns of your rabbit. Contact your vet immediately if you find something unusual.
  • Help your rabbits kill their boredom. Always have the rabbits in pairs or groups in winter. They will not only snuggle but also interact with each other to stay active. Moreover, you can provide your rabbit with toys to keep them engaged and entertained during the whole season.

Do not place the food stacked in a place. If you provide a vast moving space for your rabbit and spread the food all around, your rabbit will have to move to get the food. Doing this will keep it active and healthy. 

  • Your rabbit can urinate on the bedding. There is nothing worse than damp bedding in winter! Therefore, check the hay and straws if they are wet. Change them instantly if you find them moist. Moreover, you can also have a separate urinating area for your rabbit and train it for that before winters. Believe me; it works best!
  • Provide a lot of exercise time for your rabbit. On a relatively clear day, you may take out your rabbit with you and play with it.
  • If your rabbit is sick, consider them keeping indoors or at least in the garage. Once you bring them inside, do not rapidly take them outside. A sudden change in the temperature is worst for your rabbit. Moreover, if your rabbit is never out before, never put it outside for the first time for winters.
  • The wood, cardboard, or plastic can get bad in extreme weather quickly. So, always check for the holes and voids n the cabinet, especially the roof and floor. Ensure it is ultimately waterproof. If you find anything wrong, fill it up and insulate it properly, as described in the above section.
  • The best way is to keep your rabbit’s cabinet off the ground. Rabbits outside are very easy prey to multiple predators. So, make sure you camouflage the existence of your rabbits and keep them out of the reach of predators in any way.

Conclusion:

Rabbits have an excellent natural capability to deal with low temperatures. However, for pet rabbits, you need to give extra care and food. Make sure their hutch is entirely insulated and warm for them. Moreover, they have an adequate supply of food and toys to keep them busy during this extended time of the year. It is always the best idea to keep them in pairs and let them enjoy the weather. If you have any questions, you may drop down the comment or contact us through email for any detailed discussion.

       

  All the information in this article is from

  1. Rabbit Feeding and Nutrition by P.R. Cheeke
  2. Rabbits Health, Husbandry & Diseases by V Richardson
  3. Textbook of Rabbit Medicine by Frances Harcourt-Brown
  4. Day to day experience and record from clinical practices
  5. Things and hacks that work for me