Caring for your rabbit during winter

Just like humans, rabbits like to keep cosy during the colder months. If you have an outdoor rabbit, here’s what you can do to help them out and keep them warm.

In the wild, rabbits are conditioned to cope with the colder months. They will generally grow a thicker coat and dig themselves a burrow to stay warm in during winter. These burrows protect them from rain and wind to help keep them warm.

In captivity though, pet owners have to provide this environment for them; one where they can burrow to keep themselves cosy and which protects them from the rain and shelters them from the cold wind.

So, if you have an outdoor rabbit, here are 5 tips on how to care for them during winter.

1. Provide extra bedding

Providing extra bedding in the form of newspaper, hay or straw provides extra insulation that your rabbit can burrow into when it’s cold outside. Make sure this bedding is kept dry, as wet bedding will leach away the warmth your rabbit is trying to contain. You can also line their sleeping area with extra blankets for insulation.

2. Keep the hutch in a sheltered place

If your rabbit’s hutch is normally in the middle of your backyard, it’s worth moving it to a more sheltered area where it’s protected from the wind or rain. If you have a carport, shed or other enclosed or semi-enclosed space this would be ideal (just not in the garage, where you park your cars).

If moving the hutch isn’t an option, you could partially cover it with a tarpaulin to help keep out the wind and rain and provide an extra layer of insulation. But also make sure there’s plenty of ventilation to prevent overheating.

3. Keep the hutch clean and dry

It’s important during winter months to keep up your regular cleaning schedule to make sure your rabbit’s home doesn’t get too wet or dirty. Regularly check the bedding to make sure it’s not wet and, if it is, swap it out with dry bedding.

4. Keep up with regular exercise

While it may be tempting to let your rabbit stay burrowed in their nest, it’s still important that they get regular exercise. If their hutch isn’t big enough for this, take them out for exercise like you would normally would during warmer months.

5. Make sure they’re eating and drinking

Keep an eye on your rabbit’s feeding habits during winter and make sure they’re getting enough food. They may need a little bit extra, to build up a little extra insulation. Also, make sure they still have access to plenty of clean water. If you live in one of the super chilly areas in New Zealand, make sure the water hasn’t frozen!

You can, of course, also bring your rabbit inside during the colder months. If you decide this is the best move, just make sure you rabbit-proof the areas of your home they’ll have access to so they don’t do any damage, and there’s less chance of them hurting themselves.