Preparing rabbits for winter
As cold weather approaches, most people begin to worry what will happen to their rabbit herd in freezing temperatures. Rabbits are most comfortable with temperatures in the low- to mid-60′s. But they will usually be just fine with very little interaction from us in temperatures as low as 20°F. Rabbits, like many other animals, put on thick winter coats as cooler temperatures approach and may need extra brushing during the winter due to their thicker coats.
What is most important to remember when preparing your rabbit housing for the cold is to eliminate drafts and prevent cold winds, rain or snow from entering the rabbit cages. But you don’t want to make the housing airtight or you will also harm your rabbits.
Some people will just place plastic sheeting over the sides of their hutches or cages to keep out the elements. Others may want to build a lean to or structure over all of their cages and then frame it in with plastic sheeting to block some of the cold. It really depends on how your rabbitry is built in the first place.
You can also place a box inside your cages for your rabbits to burrow into for warmth, but do make sure that these boxes are staying clean because they might be mistaken for a toilet. All you really need is an enclosed box (even from cardboard) with a hole big enough for your rabbit to get though and some bedding material.
If you are planning for litters in the winter, always be sure to provide plenty of extra bedding for the nest box. And this is also a great time of year to add in extra fur you may have collected throughout the year. Some will even add CLEAN fur from other pets in extremely cold conditions, but do make sure that your doe has this fur ahead of time and gets used to any unusual smell it may have.
Keeping your water supply fresh and thawed can also be a challenge. Mini-heaters, heated water bottles and crocks placed on a heating pad are a few standard options. Do be careful with any sort of cables running into or out of your cages and try to keep them tucked away so your rabbits aren’t able to chew on them. Replacing your water bowls multiple times during the day is also an option or a simple step like putting your water supply near a light bulb is sometimes a sufficient low cost solution.
One easy way of keeping water lines in an automatic watering system is by using a heating coil which one would usually use to keep pipes thawed. If you are running your water from a main water tank, you might also be able to use a bubbler for an aquarium or a small aquarium or pond heater.
Be sure to check them for any signs of coughing, obstructed breathing or mucus discharge around the eyes or nose. Rabbits can get colds and will need to be treated. If you rabbits become lethargic and limp, they are too cold. Get them inside a warmer space immediately and get their body temperature back up.