What is best for rabbits in winter?

Rabbits 2018

It can hard for rabbits to keep warm in winter if they are unable to move about and exercise.

So what is best for these pets in winter: to be indoors or outdoors, or a bit of both?

The answer is that it can be one, or the other, but definitely not both!

Rabbits have evolved to adapt to cold weather. They can grow a thick warm coat, and special fur on their paws to cope with sub-zero temperatures. When they live in the wild, they have cosy underground burrows where whole families can cuddle up in a nest to keep warm. But they still come out to graze and move around, even after a snowfall. You can see their little footprints in the snow if you are the first one out and look carefully.

But in captivity the conditions are not the same.

One thing a rabbit cannot do is to take their warm winter coat off and on, as we do as we come in or go out. So it is important at the beginning of each winter to decide on one environment for them, or the other, and stick to it.

They will adapt to being indoors with you and the lovely central heating. They can play around the rooms and up the stairs, just ensure that there are no dangerous chemicals, or electric cables they may chew whilst exploring.

But if you have them indoors as the days cool down, do not suddenly switch them to outside. They literally may not survive the stress of the change.

Alternatively, it is fine to decide on an outdoor winter for your buns. But they still need daily free access to their run to get a stretch and a graze, even in freezing weather. Their coats will moult to a lovely thick warmth. Their hutch or enclosure needs to be well insulated, as if it were underground, and sheltered from wind and rain.

The bedding area needs to be packed up to the roof with straw and hay, with a thick layer of wood shavings at the bottom so that their feet don’t get chilled. Ideally pet rabbits should be kept in pairs or more, so they can cuddle up for warmth.

9th January 2020

Category: Advice