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Winter Rabbit Care

By: Margie Wilson

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In the chilly winter, rabbits need some help in keeping warm, and when temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, rabbits are more prone to illness. If you work through the day, make sure someone comes home midday to make sure your outdoor rabbit has enough straw to keep warm and the water is not frozen.

Special Outdoor Concerns

  • Housing. For outdoor winter care, if possible, bring your rabbit inside at night for warmth. If you cannot, then provide him a box inside his cage stuffed with lots of straw or hay in which to burrow and keep warm. Even though predators are primarily a risk in warmer weather, there is still a risk in winter. If you cannot bring your rabbit indoors at night, double-enclose your rabbit's cage by placing it inside a dog run or even a barn where your horses are secured for the night. Make sure the cage is free of leaks, has a sturdy roof and sides, small mesh wire without any sharp areas, wood without splinters, and a sturdy lock. In the daytime, the hutch should be placed in an area that provides some sunlight for warmth.

  • Bedding. Provide soft bedding and a large litter box. Use litter such as Carefresh or similar paper litter, or even straw. Provide an area that allows your rabbit to get off the cage wire, or he will end up with sores on the bottoms of his delicate paws. Bedding and litter should be changed frequently to reduce the risk of illness associated with accumulated feces or ammonia. Lots of straw/hay is necessary for the rabbit to burrow in and keep warm. Blankets do not work well with rabbits, since they have a tendency to chew them and this could result in an intestinal blockage.

  • Diet. Provide plain rabbit pellets, plenty of hay (timothy and oat hay), fresh water and vegetables, changed daily. Remove any vegetables not eaten in a few hours. Water is a critical item in the winter. Your rabbit must have constant access to fresh clean water. Freezing of the water is a common problem in the winter and must be addressed by frequent changing of the water or using water warming devices.

  • General. Go out often and check on your rabbit. Look at his demeanor, his droppings and food intake. Be quick to notice any changes. While outside, groom him as well and check for injuries or any abnormalities. This is a great time to bond with your outdoor rabbit.

    Special Indoors Concerns

  • Housing. Rabbits enjoy chewing so keep your electric cords or cables safely hidden or covered with hard plastic. Keep your rabbit in the warmest area of the house but avoid overheating. Rabbits prefer temperatures between 50 to 80 F.

  • Diet. Provide plain rabbit pellets, plenty of hay (timothy and oat hay), fresh water and vegetables, changed daily. Remove any vegetables not eaten in a few hours. Your rabbit must have constant access to fresh clean water.

  • General. Rabbits are most active at dawn and dusk, preferring to sleep during the daylight hours. Play with him early in the morning or as it begins to get dark. Your experience will be more rewarding if you keep to his schedule. Be very careful with space heaters or heating vents. Keep your rabbit away from these to prevent serious injury or burns.

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