Housing rabbits for the winter
As we’re bundling up for colder temperatures, your rabbits are wondering what the big deal is. They’re hardy critters, and it’s fine to leave them outside in their hutches as long as they’re protected from rain, snow, and wind.
Bob Bennett raises rabbits and has also written several books about them. He says a cozy winter rabbit hutch will be made of wire with a roof, sides, and a cover in the front for when the weather is bad.
You might be tempted to put wood shavings or straw on the floor of the hutch for extra protection, but Bennett says bedding is not a good idea.
"First of all, it get wets from urine, and then it gets mixed with manure like a big manure-urine pancake and it freezes to the floor. What happens is the rabbits start sitting on it. Their feet are warmer and they start to melt it," he says. "And when they melt it, you’re starting to get foot problems and they wind up sometimes with sore hocks."
Rabbits need extra food in the winter since they’re expending energy to keep warm. Bennett says to handle the bunnies to make sure their body composition is in good shape and not getting too fat or too thin.
They also need water, and it can be tricky to keep it from freezing. Bennett says there are several options, including a metal pan with tabs that hook onto the side of the hutch.
"A good way to do this is to fill it about half-way up in the morning. Put some warm water in there. It’ll soon get cold and it’ll freeze, but they can lick some ice until evening when you come and you fill it up the rest of the way," says Bennett. "And so then, that’ll freeze overnight, and then in the morning you can do the same thing."
Rabbits are most comfortable in temperatures around 50-degrees. Keeping them in a shed or barn would be perfect. However, don’t close them up too tight because it’s very important to have adequate ventilation.