WINTERIZING YOUR RABBIT
Keeping your bunny comfy in the winter takes a little extra care.
Mother Nature helps by putting a heavy winter coat on your bunny but there are ways you can make Bun-Bun's life more comfortable.
One common mistake is that when the first chill is in the air our instinct is to cover the cage but that defeats the rabbit's natural instinct to put on a winter coat. They can handle cold into sub zero temps as long as they are dry. Protect them from driving rain and wind and they will do fine.
Nest boxes made of wood are hard to keep clean in winter because they don't dry readily. I find that plastic flower pots (the type plants come in from the nursery) turned on it's side makes an excellent little winter house. The round shape holds heat in and if bunny pees in the box (cause it's too cold to go outside!) It runs out the holes in the bottom of the bucket. These plastic buckets are easily hosed out and dried with a paper towel. Presto! Ready to use! Placing a thick bed of hay or straw under the bucket adds extra warmth. If you put the hay in the bucket it is likely to get peed on leaving the bunny with wet fur that can cause lots of other issues. Some rabbits enjoy chewing on the plastic, but most are content to leave warm places well enough alone.
Speaking of flower pots....... Please remember that Poinsettias and Holly are POISONOUS PLANTS. Keep them out of reach of your house or yard bunny! The consequences can be deadly!
Christmas trees are another deadly attraction to a house rabbit.
They may chew on light cords or pick up dried pine needles from the carpet. Fire retardants on trees can be toxic to small animals so let your bunny enjoy the Christmas tree from the safety of his cage or your lap.
RABBITS DRINK MORE WATER IN COLD WEATHER THAN IN HOT. BURNING CALORIES TO KEEP WARM CAUSES THEM TO DEHYDRATE. So be sure to check the water supply frequently.
Freezing temperatures can play havoc with water for your outdoor bunny.
If you use a water bottle, placing a heavy sock over the bottle will help reduce the likelihood of freezing. If you use crocks, only fill them half way so there is room for expansion if the water freezes (otherwise the crock will break). We have an automatic watering system made of pvc pipe which we wrap with insulating foam. The problem is that the brass fittings in the waterer itself freezes. There is nothing worse than broken pipes in a rabbit barn. After years of mistakes, we found that it was safer to turn the water supply off to the barn all together at night when temps are expected in the 20's and below. In the morning, we go out with several gallons of warm water and fill the cups and turn the water back on during the day.
Protect outdoor hutches by creating wind blocks with plywood or tarps (out of reach of curious teeth). If your bunnies are in a barn be sure to protect from drafts but allowing good air flow at the bottom of the building to reduce ammonia build up. Keeping floors and trays cleaned every day or two is important to reduce ammonia as well in winter.
If you have other tips and tricks you use, please let us know!