- 29 March 2022
With their highly intelligent and inquisitive nature, plus their own incredibly varied and unique personalities, it's no wonder that rabbits are among one of the most popular family pets in the UK – the RSPCA estimates that there are around 900,000 rabbits kept as pets in the UK.
Before committing to a pet, it's vital that you've carried out your research on how to properly care for them. That's not just the initial set-up and day-to-day care; with outdoor animals, you also need to consider the changes in the seasons. Not sure where to begin? Here is our handy guide on keeping rabbits warm in winter.
Why do we need to learn how to keep rabbits warm?
Before we look at how to care for rabbits in the winter, it's worth delving into why keeping rabbits warm outside is so important. As an animal that also lives in the wild through our harsh British winters, it would be easy to think that they have evolved to be used to those sudden, frosty temperature drops. However, in the wild, they have their snug underground burrows to protect them from the elements.
Meanwhile, our domesticated bunnies live above ground, where we are leaving them exposed to the cold, wind, rain and snow that they would naturally hide away from. Making some changes to your rabbit care in the winter months is vital to keep your furry friends happy and healthy.
How to keep rabbits warm in winter
Feed them good quality hay
One of the easiest ways to ensure that your bunny is kept nice and warm is by feeding them high-quality food. There are things you can do to help them out, but for the most part, they are relying on their natural body heat to help them through. Switching to premium feeding hay will give them a natural boost at generating body heat - it creates heat when it is digested, keeping them warmer in winter. As well as helping to keep their temperature up, a premium quality hay is great for keeping their overall health in tip-top condition.
Keep their bedding warm and dry
You may not feel like going out in the cold to clean out the hutch, but could you imagine living out there? Your rabbit can, which is why you'll need to up your cleaning regime throughout winter to ensure there's always plenty of fresh, dry bedding. Don't be stingy either; just like you might switch out your duvet for a thicker one, they'll need some extra layers to keep warm as they sleep.
Ensure the hutch and run are warm and protected
To help keep the hutch as clean and dry as possible, you may need to keep it covered when the weather gets bad. Either a tarpaulin or old blankets over the top will add an extra layer of insulation. Just make sure that there's still some ventilation and that your fluffy-tailed friend can't reach it to nibble it!
It's not just the hutch you need to weatherproof. Rabbits need to get enough exercise every day but it's not easy in the cold and wet weather. Ensure that your bunny run is also covered so they can safely get their daily run around.
Make sure their water doesn't freeze
Once we get into the depths of winter and the temperatures drop below 0, your bunny's water supply will likely freeze up, leaving them with nothing to drink. Adding extra insulation to the hutch will help, but you can also wrap the bottle in an old thermal sock or glove.
Give them a bunny buddy
Rabbits are social creatures and love companionship, so we always advise that you get two rabbits so they have a friend. If this isn't already the case for you, consider getting another so that they have each other to cuddle up to on those cold days and nights. Plus, they will be happy to have a playmate.
Don't forget about them
The chilly weather and dark nights mean that our gardens don't get used often in the winter. However, don't forget about your bunnies outside. It's best to pop out a few times a day to see how they're doing, that their water hasn't frozen and their bedding and hutch and warm and dry. They'll miss spending time with you too, so remember to give them some love and attention while you're there. If your furry friend is older, it may even be worth bringing them inside for a few months to keep them safe. Plus, they'll be close by for cuddles whenever they want them.
Just a few extra steps in your daily routine can mean so much to your pet, ensuring that they are warm, comfortable and, most importantly, safe throughout the cold, harsh winter months. Now that you're armed with our top expert tips on keeping rabbits warm in winter outside, it's time to get started on putting them into action. The best place to start is by upgrading to premium quality feeding hay such as Newhay Timothy Hay and boosting their health (and warmth) from within.
As the country moves into the colder months, it’s important to keep your rabbit warm and cosy, and by following all our top tips above, you can be confident of a happy bunny who is well-prepared for the winter season.
Find out more about how to care for your rabbits' health and wellbeing in our rabbit feeding guide.