Even though rabbits have dense fur, low temperatures can cause health problems for the sensitive animals if they are kept outdoors.
Therefore, you should definitely take appropriate steps to winterize the rabbit hutch.
How to do this, we tell you in this article with 7 simple steps.
What dangers lurk in winter for rabbits?
When keeping rabbits outdoors, there are a few things you need to keep in mind all year round.
Especially in winter, the animals need appropriate protection. What is important is primarily the prevention of freezing in the hutch, an adaptation of the feed and the avoidance of moisture.
Because just as with humans, conditions are different in winter when it’s below zero or there’s constant precipitation.
But while you can take your jacket off and put it back on, or warm yourself on the heater, this is not possible with rabbits.
You should therefore carefully consider whether you want your animals to stay outdoors during the winter months and make the necessary changes.
Winterize the rabbit hutch: The step by step guide
If your rabbits were able to physically prepare for the winter in the garden, you still need to consider the hutch. If this is not yet adapted, you should urgently make up for it.
The necessary costs and working time should not be underestimated.
Many details are necessary, which you will learn below:
- the floor space and subdivision
A very large, spacious hutch is also ideal for two to three rabbits. The more space is available, the more harmonious is the cohabitation. The animals can move well even on very cold and wet days and withdraw or play with each other.
Different levels that are connected by stairs are ideal. This way you can heat one level separately. If it gets too warm for the animals, they can move to another floor.
In addition, offer “cozy corners” in the form of sleeping houses. These small, enclosed spaces also heat up faster due to the animals’ body heat. Here they can sleep next to each other while keeping each other warm.
- the ground
Frost penetrates not only through the air from all sides, but especially through the ground.
If the ground is frozen, the cold can penetrate the stable persistently.
It is therefore better if the floor is well insulated. A raised floor with a layer of polystyrene or other insulating material between two wooden boards is ideal.
Place the stable on pallets or a suitable foundation. This will also protect the building material from moisture and frost and will therefore last longer.
You should also fill in a thick layer of bedding. At least ten centimeters of wood chips and straw are ideal.
- lattice areas
You should protect the areas separated by fence or lattice fence from cold wind in winter. Unfortunately, it is always recommended to shield them with blankets, towels or other textiles.
Please do not do that!
The problems that arise: The wind, but also precipitation hitting the textiles. They become damp as a result, can freeze and also be eaten by the rabbits.
Therefore, it is better to use boards or sheets of Plexiglas. These are more durable, keep out snow and rain, as well as wind, and in the case of Plexiglas panes also allow light to pass through.
They also have similar initial cost but longer life and do not freeze.
The outdoor enclosure should be completely covered in winter.
This will keep out rain and snow. This prevents the rabbits from getting wet. Since fur is slow and difficult to dry due to low temperatures, this is crucial.
Mud or sheets of ice on the floor can also become a hazard.
Therefore, a canopy performs well in many respects. It is important that this is stable and can be easily freed from a layer of snow or ice so that it does not collapse.
- water supply
Since water naturally freezes when temperatures go below zero, the supply of water becomes difficult.
Water in bowls or bowls may freeze.
Water in drinking bottles expands and can cause them to burst. In addition, the metal tubes and the ball inside can freeze.
Appropriate insulating covers are available for this purpose.
Nevertheless you have to check several times a day if there is still fresh and liquid water available.
- adaptation of the feed
During winter all active creatures consume more energy.
They need to keep warm, which already requires more calories. Warming the air, water and food is also responsible for consuming more food.
Rabbits can dig up greens, roots, and bark in the wild or scrape them out from under snow, but in the hutch and outdoor enclosure, the opportunities for this are naturally limited.
Therefore, provide more food for your rabbits.
Hay, green fodder, small amounts of fresh fodder and also some grain fodder may be present. The quantities should be much larger than in summer. Although there is a risk of freezing, there are no insects and spoilage is much slower.
- free run
Allow your rabbits to run free.
The movement warms them up and exercises the muscles, which also protect your animals and keep them warm.
In the outdoor enclosure, make sure the rabbits are safe and don’t get wet.
For one thing, in the winter you must expect many hungry wild animals that consider your animals prey. For another, the fur dries miserably in winter. This can lead to hypothermia and thus health problems.
Frequently asked questions
Can rabbits tolerate cold?
Although rabbits originated in warmer climates, they are surprisingly adaptable. However, they need the right conditions and preparation to do so.
If your rabbits are to hibernate outdoors, they need to live outside as early as spring.
Otherwise, the organism can not sufficiently adjust to the temperatures.
Animals that live permanently outside lay down a thicker layer of fat, which warms them better and serves as a reserve. In addition, the coat develops in such a way that more undercoat is formed.
Thus, in autumn, a kind of natural winter coat is formed. This change in the coat is also necessary to keep your rabbits healthy during the cold season.
Only if this initial situation is given, wintering in outdoor housing can be ensured.
Are all rabbits allowed to hibernate outdoors?
No, certain conditions should be met for this. These are:
- sufficient acclimatization to outdoor temperatures and temperature fluctuations
- good health
- appropriate age
- adapted coat
Pregnant, sick, very young or very old animals should not be left outside.
What if your rabbit gets sick in the winter?
If a rabbit becomes ill, you should have it treated immediately.
In addition, it should no longer be exposed to outdoor temperatures. Not only can this delay healing, but it can lead to death.
If you must bring it indoors, avoid rapid and extreme temperature changes. Out of the garden into a warm room stresses the animal.
A frost-free but unheated room, such as a hallway or garage, is better.
Why should temperature changes be avoided?
They put an enormous strain on the circulation. From an organic point of view, this means stress. The heart and blood vessels are therefore affected.
Therefore, avoid abrupt and significant changes and, if possible, take a gradual and gradual approach to acclimatization.
Are there any disadvantages to wintering outdoors?
Yes, definitely: feeding, watering, health control and also occupation with your rabbits will be more difficult. Already the effort for the correct protection of the hutch and run is enormously high.
It is therefore often better to keep the animals indoors during the winter.
They have more human contact. The care is easier and the strain on the body is much less.
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