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Ten top tips for keeping your bunnies happy and healthy this winter.

Although rabbits have evolved to survive in the UK’s winter weather they still require some special care and consideration throughout the colder months. A thick fur coat and specially developed fur pads in the bottom of their feed provide excellent insulation. The blood supply to the ears, nose and surface of the skin is also reduced over winter to reduce heat loss. Wild rabbits will also spend extended amounts of time in their deep burrows over winter.

Here are ten important factors to consider as the weather gets colder:

  • Ensure the hutch is out of the wind and rain, ideally the hutch would be placed in a shed or garage to provide protection from draughts but at the very least needs to be in a sheltered part of the garden. Never place the hutch into a greenhouse or a garage where a car is stored as both of these places may be detrimental to the rabbit’s health.
  • Check the hutch does not need any repairs before winter to ensure they are watertight and able to withstand the winter weather. Felting on the roof perishes over time and may need replacing, it is also important to remember that and damage the rabbit does to the hutch by chewing may affect it’s over all integrity.
  • Remove wet or soiled bedding daily. Rabbits will spend longer in a smaller area, which will lead to their bedding getting dirty more quickly. Regular cleaning is essential to prevent infections and foot sores.
  • Ensure your rabbit still gets exercise during the winter. Exercise in a run on milder days or in a safe area such a shed or garage is essential to your rabbit’s wellbeing. Lack of exercise can lead to obesity and hock sores as well as boredom which can cause behavioural issues such as aggression.
  • Make sure you increase food rations for outdoor rabbits over winter. Rabbit’s require more calories over winter in order to stay warm, however these extra calories should still be provided in a balanced diet consisting of good quality hay, pelleted food, fruit and vegetables. Feeding fresh food around midday will also prevent it freezing before it can be eaten.
  • Regularly check that your rabbit’s water hasn’t frozen. There are a range of bottle insulators on the market that may help with this but an easy way to tackle to problem is to keep spare water bottles that can be switched around.
  • In extreme weather conditions you may need to provide your rabbit extra protection. This may involve covering the hutch, adding extra bedding or provided an artificial heat source such as a snuggle safe. Just make sure the rabbit can decide how hot it wants to be by being able to move away from the heat source.
  • Make sure you still spend quality time with your rabbit. Rabbits will get bored more easily without regular access to a run or human affection, spending some time each day with your rabbit will provide mental stimulation whether it’s by grooming, training or feeding.
  • If your rabbit becomes ill it may need to come inside while it convalesces. Sick rabbits are more prone to the effects of hypothermia make sure you have a plan in place that would allow you to keep your rabbit inside is necessary.
  • If you plan to keep your rabbit inside over winter ensure it is in an area with regular air circulation and they don’t become too hot. With their thick fur coats rabbits can succumb to hyperthermia if they are not allowed to move away from heat sources, rabbits like a temperature between 15 and 20°C.