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It’s recommended that you keep domestic rabbits in a constant temperature between 10 – 20 degrees Celsius, though they can cope with lower.
The natural reaction to cold weather would be to bring a bunny indoors for the winter, as you wouldn’t want them to suffer or freeze. However, it’s best to leave rabbits in a constant environment, as abrupt changes in temperature can actually be more harmful, and the transition can be stressful for them. Rabbits are used to living outdoors and will adjust to the temperature by growing a thicker winter coat. Moulting is how rabbits control their body temperature, so moving a rabbit indoors, when it‘s used to being outdoors, means it will acclimatise to being inside and feel the cold more when taken back out. Also, if you’re thinking about bringing your rabbit inside, you’ll need to take time to bunnyproof your home to stop them chewing through electrical wires, or encountering other hazards. This can be an added expense, but bunnyproofing is essential to keep your rabbits safe indoors.
The ideal living space for a rabbit would be as close to a natural environment as you can get, by providing them with the means to live outside comfortably and safely. Rabbits can actually withstand colder temperatures better than higher ones, as long as they have somewhere warm and dry to rest. A fully insulated sleeping area is a must for year round use, and ideal for replicating the natural environment of a burrow, which is what rabbits would have in the wild. Like a burrow, it doesn’t generate heat, but will retain it far better than any traditional hutch with only thin timber walls. So if you pack the area with straw, and even add a suitable chew proof heat pad, any heat generated inside will remain longer. A design with the entrance to the sleeping area being from underneath is better at reducing heat loss than if there is a hole in the side.
If your rabbits live outdoors, make sure you provide ways for them to keep warm and dry when temperatures dip or go below freezing. A cold wet rabbit can easily become ill and suffer, or even die in extreme conditions. Try lining their sleeping areas with newspaper and fill with plenty of straw and extra bedding. To keep their living accommodation protected from the weather, you can cover it with a tarpaulin, plastic sheeting, or a duvet cover, but remember to ensure it’s kept well ventilated. In the wild, rabbits will huddle together to keep themselves warm. Make sure your rabbit’s sleeping area is large enough for them to all sleep together and that they have room to sleep separately if they wish. Your rabbit’s sleeping area shouldn’t be touching the floor, as it will get too damp, make sure that it is raised at least 4 inches off the ground.
Regularly check your rabbit’s accommodation for any damage or leaks. The timber should be treated regularly with a safe preservative, or better still, buy accommodation made from pressure treated timber, as it will last for years without you needing to reapply treatment.
Be careful if using heaters or heat pads, make sure that all electrical wires are kept away from where your bunny can chew them, and be sure that your rabbit’s home doesn’t become too hot, as rabbits can become stressed and ill at high temperatures.
It’s important that your rabbit still gets their daily exercise, but be sure to include sheltered spaces and hiding places in their run area. Rabbits don’t hibernate for the winter, so if they appear more lethargic than usual it may be a sign that they are unwell.
Rabbits need access to clean drinking water, and their supply should be checked at least twice every day to ensure it doesn’t freeze. Ensure they have enough food, but try not to over feed them, and regularly check that your rabbits aren’t suffering in the cold.
During winter, foxes and badgers get even hungrier, spurring them on to be bolder than usual. Ensure your rabbit accommodation is strong enough to survive persistent attacks from a predator.