Barks & Bunnies are thrilled to have the RWAF writing for us about how to care for your bunnies this winter. Packed with great advice for you this is a must-read blog and don’t forget that we have a fantastic range of Gift Boxes we have put together for your bunnies with selected products raising funds for Camp Nibble.
Rae from RWAF
Keeping rabbits both warm and dry over the winter is important, because in the wild they would live in underground burrows where the temperature changes only slightly between summer and winter. By keeping them above ground we are subjecting them to extremes of temperature changes and we need to help them stay warm and dry.
Damp and draughts can be deadly to rabbits at this time of year. We always recommend that rabbits are kept in pairs, and there is no nicer way to keep warm than by snuggling up to your friend. Companionship is often overlooked, and can be even more important in the winter months. Naturally, because of the dark nights we are less inclined to spend time in the garden, so we see less of our rabbits who are kept outdoors.
You must make sure you check them regularly (at least 3 times a day, but more is always better) and check that the hutch or shed is not leaking, that their bed is dry, and that they always have hay and water.
Here are some tips, shared by our lovely Facebook community:
To stop water bottles or bowls freezing:
- Cable tie a plant pot to the inside of the hutch and put the water bottle in there. Once the hutch is insulated it reduces the risk of the bottle freezing.
- Lift water bowls off the floor of the shed or hutch, and place a Snugglesafe underneath to stop it freezing.
- Wrap bottles with bubble wrap, a thermal sock or glove.
For keeping hutches and runs warm:
- Use a tarpaulin with eyelets so it can be secured in place over the hutch and run.
- Put old blankets or duvets over the hutch and run, but under the tarp for extra insulation. (Make sure the rabbits cannot nibble any of it)
- Buy a Snugglesafe heat pad to use overnight.
- Use silver backed beach mats to insulate the hutch and run.
- Put wind breaks up around the hutch and run.
- Line sheds to create a double wall and an extra layer of insulation.
- Add Perspex sheets to the front of hutches and runs to keep them weather-proof, but allow the rabbits to see out. If you do this make sure there is still good ventilation; perhaps leave a small gap along the top.
- Add a cardboard box with a small hole to the bedroom area and fill it with dry straw or hay.
- Add a low wattage heater to a shed, but make sure the rabbits cannot chew the cable!
- Make sure bedding is kept warm and dry. Straw is warmer than hay so makes a better bedding, but nothing is warm if it’s wet.
- Your cleaning schedule needs to be scrupulous in the winter and don’t be stingy-make sure you provide a deep bedding of something like Megazorb under the straw.
Remember, that even in bad weather rabbits will need to exercise every day. Plan ahead now so that you can attach a safe exercise area to the hutch and weatherproof everything.
This advice is for rabbits who are in good body condition. Those who are old, ill or thin may need even more care and we advise owners of such bunnies to bring them in for the winter.
You can find out more about the RWAF here. http://www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk/