Well it happened, winter showed up again. I knew it was coming, it does every year about this time and yet i’m never quite fully prepared for it. I remember our first winter with rabbits and a few things caught us by surprise. Perhaps it snuck up on you too and you have rabbits for the first time going into this season. So how do you care for them when the temperature drops below freezing.
Rabbits Need A Proper Shelter For Winter
This wasn’t really an issue for us since we were raising them in a colony in and old garage. The important thing is to keep them out of the wind and dry. Rabbits love cold weather, as a matter of fact they thrive in it. I’ve noticed my rabbits being more playful and busy when things get cold. If your keeping rabbits outside in a colony or cages make sure they have a place to go to be protected from the elements. You can use tarps to surround your cages to accomplish this and eliminate any draft that can get in and keep them dry.
While rabbits do adapt well to the cold weather, they do this in large part by using nesting material to stay warm and stay dry. Your rabbits need plenty of straw or hay to nestle down in when they get cold. I keep a layer of pine chip bedding on the floor to keep the urine soaked up because it is a cement floor under them, then I put lots of straw over that for them to lay on and tunnel through, this seems to work really well though it is amazing how quick a few small rabbits can compact that straw so I find myself fluffing it up or adding more just about daily.
Feeding Your Rabbits Is A Little Different In Winter
Rabbits burn more calories in the winter trying to stay warm so they will eat more while not seeming to put on much weight. Make sure you increase the amount of feed your giving your rabbits. I increased the amount by about twenty percent in there bowls and give them all the hay they want to eat, To keep them from wasting the hay I made some large hay holders out of 2×4 stock fence, I just rolled it into a cylinder and attached it to the side of the pen and filled it full of hay, as they eat it I just push it down, this simple little holder works great! (For some reason I’m proud for thinking of it). 🙂
Watering Our Rabbits Was The Biggest Cold Weather Challenge
Here was the challenging one for us starting out! This is where we really weren’t prepared, we were using some standard cheap water bottles and they were freezing within thirty minutes every time In this below zero weather we’ve been having. Both my wife and I work full time jobs so it was a challenge at first keeping water available for them. Finally though we took the plunge and invested in a few heated water bottles and now life is better.
I do want to make you aware of using these water bottles, the directions say not to use an extension cord with them but as you can see the cord is not very long so we had to use an extension cord. At first we plugged them into a standard 18 gauge cord and they would’t get hot enough to keep the water from freezing so we had to use some heavy duty shorter extension cords to plug them into and now they work great.
These water bottles are thermostat controlled, they only kick on and warm the water when it’s below thirty five degrees which saves a lot of unnecessary use of electricity. Something else I really like about these bottles is you don’t have to remove them to fill them up. We just take a pitcher of water out and top them all off, this is much quicker although you should remove them occasionally and wash them.
I hope what we’ve learned and shared can help you take care of your rabbits in the cold weather and maybe make your homesteading life a little easier.