Keeping your bunny warm when living outside
If your furry friend lives outside year-round, he or she is going to need a little protection from the worst of winter’s bitter cold and biting winds. In this article, I’ve shared nine ways that we keep our outdoor rabbits warm in the winter months.
Let’s start with why rabbit winter protection is so important.
Why do you need to protect your outdoor rabbits in the winter?
A rabbit that gets too cold will suffer from hypothermia. Hypothermia occurs when the rabbit’s core body temperature drops below the normal range of 38.5 to 40 degrees Celsius (101.3 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit). This is a very dangerous situation for your rabbit.
The symptoms of hypothermia include your bunny’s ears feeling very cool to the touch and perhaps appearing more pale than normal. As hypothermia advances, your bunny might get more lethargic and might even seem confused. If you see signs of hypothermia, get your rabbit somewhere warm pronto.
If your rabbit seems to be in a stupor or has very shallow breathing, wrap your bunny in a warm blanket and get him to your veterinarian right away as death is quite possible.
The good news is that your bunny has a natural defense against this condition: fur.
While your bunny is naturally protected from cold weather by his heavy fur coat, domestic bunnies are not as hardy as their wild cousins.
The biggest advantage that wild rabbits have over your pet rabbit is that they usually live in underground burrows where they are better protected from cold winds.
One of the tactics that we’ll use to help your rabbit during the winter is to mimic those underground dwellings.
9 Ways to Keep Your Rabbit Warm in Cold Weather
#1 Weather Proof your Rabbit Hutch. The #1 thing that you can do for your bunny is making sure that their hutch is ready for winter. Make sure that the roof is watertight. Cover at least three sides of the hutch to give your rabbit protection from the wind. Consider even temporarily covering half of the 4th side to create a safe space for your bunny within their hutch.
#2 Move your Rabbit Hutch. Moving your rabbit hutch to a more protected space might be the easiest solution. Be careful putting the hutch in the garage, as the fumes from the cars are not good for your little friends. However, moving them to a place where the front of their hutch is protected from the predominant winter winds in your area (in our area winter winds flow mostly from the NorthWest) can make a big difference. Also look for places where the winter sun, which tends to be lower in the southern sky can shine down on your bunny for mid-day warmth. Besides, it’s super cute to see your bunny spread out soaking in the sun on cold winter days.
#3 Nesting Box. You really have to have a nesting box for your outdoor rabbit in the winter. With a properly sized box, your rabbit will be able to get away from those winter winds in the safety of their dark box (almost like an underground burrow…but we can make it better.) You can easily build your own nesting box, but if you want to get one ready-made, we’ve included a variety of them available on Amazon in the links below. These are affiliate links, and when you make a purchase through these links we make a small commission at no additional cost to you.
#4 Double Door or Flap to Nesting Box. An underground burrow will have twists and turns to keep the winter wind from driving snow into a wild rabbit’s nest. If you add either a double door (two doors offset so the wind doesn’t blow straight into the nesting box) or a flap made from an old blanket to help seal the door, you will mimic this situation. You can also face the nesting box door towards a solid wall (with room for your bunny to get to the door) in the hutch to protect it further from the wind.
#5 Add Extra Straw Bedding to the Nesting Box. Straw is a naturally insulated bedding for your rabbit. When it’s really cold, give them a warmer bed.
#6 Change the Straw Bedding Regularly. The straw in your nesting boxes will get moist year-round, but it gets wetter in winter through condensation and your bunny choosing not to go outside to use the bathroom. That wet straw gets really cold at night, so change it regularly. Check it at least every other day, and replace it with fresh straw as needed.
#7 A Woven Bed. If you want to spoil your bunny, ours love these woven beds (here is an affiliate link to the ones we get on Amazon). We don’t put these in our bunnies’ nesting boxes, but instead, put it in the protected portion of the hutch. Our bunnies seem to enjoy a warm comfortable place to sit at night (After all, they are mostly nocturnal.)
#8 Water Heater. If your hutch has access to electricity, consider purchasing a water heater (here is a link to an example on Amazon). The warm water will not only assure that your bunny always has access to water, but that water will be warm to drink even on the coldest night. If you don’t have a water heater, give your rabbit a warm drink of water at least two times a day!
#9 Heated Pad. And if you want to take the spoiling of your furry friend to the next level, go with a heated pad specifically designed for rabbits (like this one on Amazon). We don’t have any of these, and if we did get one I don’t think we’d put it in with the straw. Instead, we’d use it outside like we use the woven bed in #7.
In closing, don’t worry too much about your bunny.
They are built for winter, and while years of domestication have weakened some of their natural winter hardiness, it still resides in their tiny bodies. They just need a little help from you to thrive through the colder days and now you know what you can do to help them.
Have fun and say “Hi’ to your bunny from the team here at RabbitPros.com!
P.S. If you have tips that would help other bunny lovers, please leave them in the comments below. We are all rabbit lovers!