Winter: warm spots for keeping rabbits cosy
Armed with a winter coat and fat, rabbits can now face the cold temperatures without worrying. Outdoor enclosures must meet the following requirements in winter:
• A lot of unobstructed open space for exercise: Exercise keeps rabbits warm, fit and active in winter.
• Partially roofed section of the enclosure: Especially on wet, damp or windy days, rabbits need a completely dry, waterproof area that protects them from the elements. Make sure that the side exposed to the weather is well protected – for instance, with a tarpaulin.
• Warm, frost-free shelter: Rabbits gladly seek out a shelter in winter to warm up, eat, drink and sleep. Suitable options are rabbit hutches, cat houses or a dog kennel.
It is important that rabbits that are kept outdoors are protected inside from wind, rain, draughts, snow and frost. Therefore, you should provide additional protection for mesh doors of the rabbit hutch in winter. For example, with plexiglass or wood. A wool blanket in front of it is also ideal to offer sufficient insulation without restricting ventilation.
- Plenty of hay and straw are important in winter to keep rabbits cosy in their winter quarters. Check every day whether their bedding is still clean, dry and abundant and replace with fresh bedding as needed.
Rabbit food in winter
In order to maintain protective winter fat for the whole season, rabbits need more calories in winter than in summer, which they get from rabbit food rich in carbohydrates and fat. For instance, fatty seeds like fennel seeds or shelled sunflower seeds are ideal. In addition, vegetables rich in calories like celeriac, turnip cabbage, carrots, parsnips or turnips are suitable options.
It is important to provide small portions of fresh food and vegetables in winter and to change them several times a day so that the food in the outdoor enclosure doesn't freeze over. Instead of fresh wild herbs, you can now give your rabbit dried herbs which you can supplement with grain flakes like oats.
Providing water in winter
There should always be fresh drinking water available for your rabbit. Do not use drinking bottles in winter, because your rabbit's tongue could get stuck to the ice-cold metal. A sufficiently large water bowl placed on the floor is ideal.
Make sure that the drinking water doesn't freeze in sub-zero temperatures in the enclosure. The bigger the water bowl the better, since the more water, the longer it takes to freeze. On very cold nights, keep a microwave pillow (SnuggleSafe) under the drinking bowl, which will heat the water from underneath for some time.
Tip: To prevent the drinking water in the bowl from freezing, you can also place a table tennis ball on the water. The wind moves the ball around and the movement of the water prevents it from freezing quickly.
Do rabbits need artificial sources of heat when kept outdoors in winter?
Healthy rabbits don't necessarily need artificial heat in winter. However, external heat sources can be practical in the case of long-lasting frost or in higher altitude regions with abundant snowfall.
Good options include a heated pad for the enclosure or a self-heating thermo blanket. A heat or infrared lamp can also provide warmth in the roofed area of the enclosure. It is important for the heat lamps to be protected from the wind and storms. Also place it high enough to avoid too much heat underneath!