How much cold can rabbits tolerate? And can rabbits live outside in winter? These are the questions that linger in the mind of most outdoor rabbit owners. The short answer is, yes, they can. Rabbits adapt well to cold temperatures since they naturally grow thick fur to keep their bodies warm. This article looks in-depth at everything you need to know about keeping rabbits outdoors in winter.
What temperature is too cold for rabbits?
Temperature below 30°F is considered too cold even for adult rabbits. In other words, they can tolerate cold temperatures between 40 to 32°F, only if their hutch is properly insulated and protected from winter storms. The ideal temperature for rabbits is normally between 50 to 75 o F. Therefore, your pet’s outdoor hutch should be well insulated to keep them warm in cold temperatures.
Can rabbits die from cold?
Although rabbits cope well with cold temperatures, that’s not to say that their hutch condition should be draughty. Quite often rabbits that are cold or wet, easily fall ill, more so, old rabbits tend to suffer from arthritis when exposed to extreme cold, damp or wet conditions. It’s therefore advisable to keep their hutch dry, ventilated, and with extra bedding. Alternatively, if the temperature outside is freezing cold, then you might want to consider keeping your rabbits indoors or preferably in an outhouse.
How do I keep my outdoor rabbit warm in the winter?
Keeping your bunnies warm under extremely cold temperatures is fundamental when it comes to their overall well-being. Below are some of the essential factors you need to consider if you want to keep your outdoor rabbits warm throughout winter.
It’s always advisable to provide your bunnies with extra bedding, especially during the cold season. More so, they should have materials that provide insulation and also absorb moisture. Typical examples are straws and hay which you should place somewhere dry. The key is to ensure that their bedding is entirely dry.
On the other hand, as warm as blankets feel, it’s not a good idea to give your rabbits one. This is because rabbits tend to chew stuff and they’ll most likely nibble on the blankets which can be detrimental to their health.
Another method to keep your rabbits warm in winter is by covering the top of their enclosure using tarpaulins. Additionally, also ensure that the side or top of the pet carriers, hideouts, or nest boxes are properly covered to prevent draught. Lastly, see to it that the covers are well-ventilated and out of reach for your bunnies.
Warm sleeping area
In winter, another great way to keep your rabbits comfortable is by providing them with hideouts and areas they can snuggle up. It’s always recommended to place hay or newspapers underneath their hideaway.
Use cardboard as an insulator
Another way to keep your outdoor bunnies warm in winter is by using cardboard to insulate the enclosure walls. Conceal the sides of their nest box, hideouts, and sleeping areas to beat the cold weather.
The use of a low-wattage heater is another effective way to keep your outdoor rabbits warm in winter. Although rabbits are good at regulating their temperature, extremely cold weather conditions can be life-threatening for those housed in a shed. However, as a preemptive measure, make sure that all the heater cables are properly insulated to prevent any injuries or damages.
Keep your rabbits indoors
Lastly, another alternative is to keep your rabbits indoors temporarily when the weather is chilly. This is ideal if you have rabbits that are young, old, or with thin fur. Place your pets in a quiet, secure room, that’s rabbit-proofed. Also, adjust indoor lighting to resemble the natural environment. This in turn enables your rabbits to moderate their biological clock. Additionally, create a sleeping area that mimics a wild barren, preferably a tunnel they can retreat at their own pleasure.
Finally, when it comes to returning your pets outdoors after winter, make the process gradual. You can start by taking them outside to play and letting them sleep indoors when the temperatures are low until they fully transition to their outdoor environment.
Winter rabbit care tips
Cleaning their habitat
Keeping your pets in a clean and dry environment is essential, especially if the rabbits live outside in winter. On a regular basis, remove any leftovers, and spot-clean their mess, water bottles, and food bowls. Then once per week do a thorough cleaning of their entire habitat. Replace their bedding and also disinfect their cage.
Feeding your bunnies healthily is essential not just for their overall well-being but also if you want them to grow a thicker coat. Since outdoor rabbits are less likely to eat green plants from the backyard or garden, feeding them fresh leafy greens and hay is key. Also, avoid feeding your rabbits frosty greens or vegetables since it tends to cause health concerns.
Always make sure that your rabbits have sufficient drinking water. In winter, have a couple of drinking water bowls or bottles you can easily swap throughout the day. This typically helps since frozen water is usually replaced. Alternatively, you can also use heated water bottles that come in handy during the cold season.
Exercise and mental stimulation
Daily exercise and mental stimulation are essential for your bunnies not only in winter but throughout the year. The play or exercise area should therefore be spacious and dry. However, if your rabbits get wet from playing outside, wipe them with a dry towel and also ensure that their beddings are clean and warm when it’s time to sleep.
Ideally, cover their play area with a tarpaulin or a plastic sheet to protect them from rain, wind, or snow. In case the exercise area has wet grass, move your bunnies into an outhouse or paved dry area. Additionally, you can also equip your rabbits with mentally stimulating toys such as tunnels, willow tents, treat and chewable balls, etc.
Since rabbits are prey animals who are instinctively good at hiding their illness, it’s recommended to occasionally check on their overall health. A rabbit that’s ill or in pain is most likely going to lose its appetite or have abnormal droppings.
Also, a change in behavior is a tell-tale sign of a sick or suffering bunny. For example, a rabbit that’s lethargic after getting wet or damp from playing in the snow is most likely ill. Whenever they display any signs and symptoms, do take them to a vet as soon as possible.
What age can a rabbit live outside?
Kittens are ready to live outdoors when they’re around four weeks old. Forbye, young rabbits can also live outside in winter. However, it’s essential to keep them in a warm and dry hutch.
However, it’s worth pointing out that they shouldn’t be left unsupervised, in the backyard regardless of age. The outdoors or backyard is usually filled with potential dangers such as extreme temperatures, lurking predators, or poisonous plants.
Do rabbits get cold at night?
Rabbits are animals that are well adapted to living outside in winter, let alone on cold nights. They are able to handle temperatures as cold as 30oF provided that their hutch is well insulated to help them cope with near-freezing temperatures.
Can rabbits live outside all year round?
Yes, bunnies can live outdoors all year round, however, just ensure that their environment is habitable, spacious, and secure. It’s worth pointing out however that rabbits need to first adjust to the cold weather especially if they weren’t accustomed to such conditions. For example, it’s not advisable to take your indoor rabbits outdoors in winter, or purchase them during the cold season and then place them in an outdoor shed.
Take your rabbits outside early preferably at the start of fall to give them time to gradually adjust to the drop in temperature. In other words, it gives them time to replace their thin fur with thicker winter coats. Lastly, it’s equally important to ensure that their food and water bowl aren’t frozen during the cold season. This is essential when it comes to preventing dehydration and starvation.
How to tell if a rabbit is cold
A rabbit that’s cold often curls up and also regulates its ear temperature to conserve heat on its body. In other words, in winter, a rabbit tends to reduce heat loss from its entire body, its ears included. Therefore, in near-freezing temperatures, your bunny is likely to have cold ears and also tends to be more lethargic.
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