4 Simple But Imperative Elements to Winter Rabbit Keeping

I have not grown beyond my one rabbit, although that may be on the horizon if we keep building gardens since my garden depends on Hazel, my rabbit for natural fertilizer.  But this post is not about expanding a rabbit population, this is about taking care of the one...or two...or three you have during the winter months, so that once the growing season arrives, shall you choose to use rabbit pellets as awesome fertilizer, you will still have a rabbit to produce it for you.  
  • Warmth:  A rabbit's body temperature hovers between 101° - 103°F.  Once the rabbit's temperature drops below 90° it could be in too much hypothermia trouble to be able to recover from the extreme cold, so consider:
    • Adding an extra layer layer of hay to the hutch. Your rabbit will borrow into it much like it would if it were living in the wild and having to rely upon it's own methods for survival.  
    • Line the walls of the hutch with cardboard to keep out cold drafts. But make sure the top of the hutch is still very well ventilated. As with anything, proper air circulation is a must for the health of your rabbit.  
    • Some folks, and I think mostly extreme northerners, use heat lamps in the hutch it the temps drop into single digits. I have seen this method come at a sad price way too many times when not done correctly.  I have seen pictures of burnt rabbits and scorched fur way too many times to allow me this option.  If you do use a heat lamp, PLEASE do a lot of research on how and when to use this method to keep your rabbit warm.  I am sorry I do not have details on how to use a heat lamp properly.  I think if our temps here in Tennessee got cold enough to need a lamp in Hazel's hutch, I would just bring her indoors for the night.  I do realize though some do not have this option.  Just be careful, way careful if you use a heat lamp.   
  •  Dryness: It is imperative that your rabbit stays dry during the extreme cold. A rabbit literally has a winter coat that is designed with it's own water repellent.  With this coat and the rabbit's instinct to stay out of water in it's natural habitat during the winter, it does do quite the job. But in a hutch where your rabbit is dependent upon a human to keep it's living standards high it may not be able to avoid a bad leak in the hutch or water blowing in from a drenching rain.  Take note of the hutch regularly to ensure that it is water tight and there is no danger of your rabbit becoming drenched and suffering hypothermia.  Some rabbit keepers even line the outside of their hutch with plastic during the winter months. 
  • Food Availability:  Eating actually helps your rabbit to keep it's body temperature up in the cold conditions, so you may notice her eating more than usual.  She also stores a bit more fat too.  But keep in mind, with the cold and wetness of winter there may be more moisture in the air, so not only keep a bit more quality food, but keep it fresh by making sure it is placed in a safe area of the hutch where moisture is least likely to dampen it. 
  •  Fresh Water:                                                                                                    
    • A five pound rabbit can drink up to five ounces of water per day. That's a lot of water for such a little hopper! Water during winter is most frustrating. Most rabbits easily learn how to use a water bottle.  In the freezing temperatures it is impossible to keep the bottle and the metal sipper from freezing. So during the winter, plan to get a few more water bottles to keep in rotation. And realize, even if the water seems as if it is not frozen, the sipper can be so the water that appears to be accessible is really not.  
    • Another idea to keep water from freezing is to use a freeze proof water bottle.  I have not tried this so can not attest to the convenience or practicality of it.  It is an electric water bottle to so requires an extension cord.  For me, that is not an option, but may be worth checking out if you have a way to get electricity to it. 
Although keeping rabbits during the winter is not as much fun as in the spring and summer when you can play in the warm grass with your bunny.   But nonetheless, your rabbits needs are imperative to be met.  Many times I look out the chilly window to Hazel's hutch as I dread weathering the freezing rain to make sure her hutch is still nice and dry and to change out her frozen water. But it's my responsibility to keep her safe and healthy, so on go my boots and hat.  I am sure you are willing to do the same for your beloved furry bunbun!  I hope it helps you to know what to do and what not to do for your outdoor rabbit's habitat during winter time changes.

Happy Rabbit Keeping, and just know, Easter will be here soon enough!,
  
 
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