Autumn is the Time to Get Your Rabbit
for Cooler Temperatures
Autumn is here and the beautiful weather offers a great opportunity to take
inventory and start getting your rabbit ready for cold weather. Here are a
few tips that will help keep your rabbit happy and healthy as we head toward
the winter months.
- In the fall, temperatures can swing wildly from day to night and these
fluctuations can stress rabbits. Since a rabbit’s digestive system if very
responsive to stress, a common problem during the autumn months is
enteritis, also known as scouring (diarrhea). You can help relieve stress
by injecting some consistency into your rabbit’s life by feeding at the
same time every day.
- The colder it gets, the more calories rabbits must consume to stay
warm—as much as three times normal. If your rabbit does not have access to
adequate food, he will be hungry, cold, lose weight and get sick. He could
even die of illness or hypothermia. One way to be sure your rabbit is
getting adequate nutrition during cold weather months is to provide a
complete feed such as Purina Mills® Rabbit Chow® Complete Blend.
- Although a rabbit can eat more to help maintain body temperature,
there are limits to how much food he can consume. This is where warm, dry
housing plays an important role.
- Fall is a good time of year to check for leaks in the roof of the
hutch. Your rabbit’s hutch should have solid walls on at least three sides
and a slanted overhanging roof that will allow rain and snow to run off.
- If you use tarps as windbreaks, fall is the time to repair or replace
any tears or missing grommets.
- Winter is just around the corner. Now is a good time to place your
rabbit’s hutch in an area protected from blustery winds and heavy
- Straw or bedding in the hutch will provide extra warmth on cold autumn
nights, but it must be kept clean and dry. Damp surroundings—whether from
rain, snow, urine or a leaky water bottle—are an invitation to disaster in
cool weather. Dampness will contribute to chilling and immune stress that
can easily progress to serious illness.
- Even in cold weather, rabbits need access to fresh air. Without good
ventilation, they can be susceptible to respiratory diseases. An enclosed
box inside a wire cage is a popular design that provides shelter against
wind and rain, but also allows for good airflow.
- Since your rabbit is replacing his old coat with a new winter coat,
fall is a good time of year to step up your grooming routine. Regular
brushing can eliminate loose hair and help prevent hairballs.
- The more a rabbit eats, the more water it needs. Because water is so
important, check your rabbit’s water source several times a day in cold
weather to make sure it is clean and unfrozen.
- Glass water bottles can freeze and break, so autumn might be a good
time to transition to plastic or metal containers. (It’s a lot easier to
change to a new waterer now than to scramble to change bedding and clean
up a burst water bottle in the middle of a cold, snowy night.)
- If you opt for a heated waterer, clean it regularly to inhibit
bacterial growth so that the water will be appealing to the rabbit. Also
be sure to keep the electrical cord out of reach so bunny can’t nibble.
- If you’re breeding rabbits, keep in mind that fertility decreases as
daylight decreases. To maintain breeding consistency, keep the amount of
light constant for 14 hours a day. One solution is to hang a 36-watt
fluorescent tube light about six feet above the rabbits for every 55
square feet of floor space.
- Baby rabbits are not equipped to tolerate cold the way adult rabbits
are, so it’s very important to provide extra warmth if needed. If you
supplement the heat, be sure to monitor the temperature of the nest daily.
If the nest gets too hot, the doe may refuse to nurse the litter.
Remember, a little heat goes a long way in a small nest box.
- If you have an indoor rabbit, remember the holidays are approaching.
Take care to keep your rabbit away from electrical cords around the
Christmas tree, and don’t let him nibble on fallen pine needles.
A little extra care now can go a long way in getting bunny ready for the
extreme weather ahead. Have a great fall.