Hoppin' Popps' Rabbitry


Winterizing Your Rabbits

It's fall, and time to get your rabbits ready for winter! But how does one go about "winterizing" their rabbits? I hope to describe the process in this article.

Rabbits are quite winter-tolerant, but those in colder climates may need to take some extra measures to keep their animals safe and healthy.

If your rabbits are in all-wire cages, they should already be inside a shelter of some sort. A barn, shed, garage, or lean-to is ideal for keeping your rabbits out of the weather and away from predators. If your rabbits are in wire/wood hutches, then they are already partially sheltered and can be kept up against another building. A tarp or heavy plastic should be used to cover the outside hutch, with a little bit of space left near the ground to allow ammonia gases to escape and to let fresh air in.

Straw can be used to insulate the rabbit's cage, but be sure to remove soiled material right away and replace it with fresh, or you could soon find your rabbit with hutch burn, sore hocks, or other problems.

The most important thing is that your rabbits have as much fresh water as possible. When the water freezes, the animals are in danger of dehydration or even starvation, because when a rabbit can't drink, it won't eat either.

Water bottles are usless in freezing weather. The metal ball and tube which deliver the water to the rabbit become a huge problem when they freeze. No water can exit through the tube, no matter how much the rabbit licks and bites on it. Even if there is fresh, thawed water in the bottle above, it cannot get through the barrier of ice. Some rabbitries use water heating systems, but this is costly and impractical for a small rabbitry or for pet owners. The best alternative I have found has been galvanized metal crocks which clip onto the wire of the cage. When these freeze, you can either put them into a bucket of hot water to thaw, or smack each crock individually on a brick, stone, or other hard surface, until the ice pops out. Plastic crocks are available as well, but these tend to be more expensive and may be chewed to pieces by the rabbits, depending on the kind of plastic used.

The process of melting or breaking ice and replenishing the crocks with new water should be repeated at least 2-3 times a day, or as much as possible. I like to use water that is slightly warm, so the rabbits have a "head start" before it starts to freeze.

I hope you found this article informative and educational! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me.

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