Winter rabbit care: Hopping to stay warm
Keep your rabbits safe and healthy this winter!
Winter is upon us! Because rabbits may experience trauma from the cold, now is the time to consider how you will winterize your rabbits. Michigan State University Extension reminds you that changes in the environment can be stressful on animals, no matter their size. If you don’t “winterize” your rabbits and their hutches well enough, they won’t breed, gain weight or show well. Winter-related stresses to your rabbits may be related to:
- Temperature: The normal rabbit body temperature is 102 to 103 degrees Fahrenheit. Their “comfort zone” (the outside temperatures at which they process feed most efficiently and gain weight the easiest) is 60 to 65 F. Outside temperatures of 20 to 60 F aren’t usually too much of a problem for rabbits, but even in those relatively mild temperatures, you must protect them from direct contact with cold winds, snow and rain.
- Ventilation: Proper ventilation is just as important to rabbits in cold winter weather as it is during the warmer summer months. Unfortunately the measures you take to try to stop heat loss may also cut off air flow in the hutches. This can make the pens damp or even wet, and can let foul odors and ammonia fumes build up.
- Nutrition: Rabbits need more energy to survive Michigan’s cold winter temperatures than they do in the warmer summer months. You’ll need to provide plenty of the proper feed and clean water to help your rabbits maintain their body heat in the cold.